For many people, the first thing that comes to mind when mentioning South Padre Island in Texas are the wild Spring Break parties. During this time of year, you will see many college students enjoying booze cruises and other shenanigans. However, this beautiful resort town is more than your average teenage hangout destination.
With its pleasant climate, clear tropical waters, and water activities such as surfing, snorkeling, and scuba diving, South Padre Island is an excellent destination for both families and couples on a romantic vacation. Whether you wish to go on peaceful walks along the powdery sand, explore nature centers and wildlife refuges, or enjoy dolphin sightings and horseback riding, this list of things to do in South Padre Island has got you covered.
1. South Padre Island Birding And Nature Center
If you are into bird-watching, a visit to the South Padre Island Birding And Nature Center is one of the must-do activities in this fabulous resort town. Located along the Laguna Madre Nature Trail, this world-class birding destination is home to a variety of both coastal and migratory birds. Pay a visit to the butterfly garden, or admire the beauty of birds such as great blue herons, white ibis, and brown pelicans. Not to be missed is the auditorium where visitors can watch short documentary movies about birds.
2. Sea Turtle, Inc.
Travelers looking for family things to do in South Padre Island should head out to the Sea Turtle Inc. This facility rescues, rehabilitates, and releases injured sea turtles. During your visit, you will have a chance to see turtles that are in rehab, as well as other turtles who are permanent residents because of their disabilities. Make sure not to miss the most famous resident Alison, a turtle that survived a predator attack and unfortunately lost three of her flippers. Luckily, the staff managed to design a prosthetic for this cute sea turtle.
3. Largest Outdoor Sandcastle in the USA
No visit to South Padre Island is complete without spending an afternoon at the Largest Outdoor Sandcastle in the USA. This permanent installation is one of the best family-friendly attractions on the island. Apart from visiting the country’s largest outdoor sandcastle, you can even learn how to build your own sandcastle at Sand Castle Lessons. They can rent you the tools and lessons for groups available.
4. Isla Blanca Park
Located on the southernmost tip of South Padre Island, Isla Blanca Park is an extraordinary place and a must-visit destination for families traveling with children. Within the park, expect to find a number of recreational amenities, as well as a wide range of outdoor activities including surf fishing, snorkeling, diving, parasailing, and much more. There is even a full-service marina on-site and a mile-long pristine beach. In case you get hungry, the park is home to many restaurants and concessions. Isla Blanca Park is without a double the best South Padre Island adventure park.
5. Laguna Madre Nature Trail
Nature lovers who wish to explore the island’s wild side should look no further that the Laguna Madre Nature Trail. This 1.1-mile boardwalk that stretches all the way from the South Padre Island Convention Center to the Laguna Madre wetlands allows visitors to meet the island’s local wilderness and enjoy the local flora and fauna. With over 200 species of birds, the loop trail is also an excellent spot for bird-watching. Want to hear more good news? Taking a stroll along the Laguna Madre Nature Trail is free of charge.
6. Gravity Park
Once you get tired from all the water activities like swimming and building sandcastles on the beach, head out to the lovely Gravity Park in South Padre Island. Situated in the center of the town’s entertainment district, this local adventure and amusement park houses a wide range of attractions for the entire family. Hop on the Rocket, one of the largest reverse-bungees in the world. You can also take your kids to the Skycoaster which offers magnificent views of the island from up above. Some of the other family-friendly attractions at the Gravity Park including an arcade, climbing wall, and a trampoline.
7. Andy Bowie County Park
Located on the north side of the island and just a short walk from the South Padre Island Convention Center, Andy Bowie County Park is an amazing beach park with two large picnic pavilions where travelers will find everything from BBQ areas and restaurants to a swimming and fishing area. Vacationers can also look forward to RV sites and beach equipment rental concessions. The area is also home to a variety of accommodation options ranging from condo developments to a flagship hotel.
8. Port Isabel Lighthouse
The only lighthouse along the Texas coastline that is open to the public, the Port Isabel Lighthouse is a popular spot for travelers who enjoy scenic views of the island and snap some cool photos. The lighthouse is perched 50 feet above the ground and can be reached via winding stairs and short ladders. Whether you wish to enjoy the views, prepare a picnic, or watch a movie on the lighthouse screen in the summer season, visiting Port Isabel Lighthouse is a memorable experience.
9. Southern Wave Sailing Charters
Take advantage of the pleasant South Padre Island weather and go on a cruise with the Southern Wave Sailing Charters. This comfortable and modern Catamaran offers an unforgettable sailing adventure with spectacular sunset views of the breath-taking South Padre Island. There is live music entertainment, as well as professional chefs onboard preparing tasty food delicacies ranging from jumbo grilled shrimp to burgers and hot dogs. Private charters for special celebrations like birthdays, company meetings, and weddings are also available.
10. Queen Isabella State Fishing Pier
Situated in the park in Cameron County, Queen Isabella State Fishing Pier is a great place to visit and see local fishermen catch a variety of fish including croaker, speckled trout, and sand trout. An interesting fact is that this old fishing pier used to be a part of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and served as a causeway until a new bridge was built 50 years ago.
11. Wyland’s Whaling Wall
Admire the beauty of life-size paintings of orca whales at the Wyland’s Whaling Wall in South Padre Island. The main aim of these life-size marine murals is to change the way people feel about marine conservation. The worldwide Wyland’s Walls campaign managed to create marine murals in 79 cities around the world to raise awareness and South Padre Island is proudly home to one of the lovely murals.
12. South Padre Island Convention Centre
Located in the downtown area, the South Padre Island Convention Centre is a large facility that hosts a number of events including everything from college basketball events to the South Padre Island Invitational. It can accommodate up to 2,500 spectators and boasts state-of-the-art audiovisual facilities. Make sure to check out their Sunset Terrace where you can unwind with a drink or two.
13. Dolphin Research & Sealife Nature Center
Vacationers visiting the lovely South Padre Island with the little ones should definitely check out the amazing Dolphin Research & Sealife Nature Center. The nature center offers boat tours where you can even see a couple of bottleneck dolphins. You can also touch a starfish or learn how to feed rescued giant turtles at the center. There are kid-friendly touch tanks that have native species like hermit crabs, as well as nature presentations on dolphins and other sea life. The entrance to this fabulous center will set you back $3.
14. Schlitterbahn Waterpark
If your idea of having a good time includes thrill-inducing slides, seaside pools, surfing machines, and tidal wave rivers, make sure to spend a day at the amazing Schlitterbahn Waterpark. This 25-acre aquatic adventure land, waterpark, and beach resort hotel has enough attractions to keep you and your kids entertained for at least a week. While the kids are playing the giant sandcastle area or enjoying both indoor and outdoor water slides, adults can unwind at the swim-up cocktail bar with a refreshing drink or two. Not into water activities? No worries! Schlitterbahn Waterpark also offers carnival rides including a carousel and the almighty Twister.