Hello Beach! Here we come!

South Padre Island sits just off the southernmost point of the Texas Coast between the shallow Laguna Madre and the Gulf of Mexico.

The soft powdery beaches, warm turquoise waters, diverse eateries, and an exploding art scene have given South Padre Island traction to become the perfect year round vacation destination for families.

Here are some of our favorite places to stay, visit, eat, and relax.

Where to Stay

With many lodging options on the island, our pick for families is the Courtyard by Marriott South Padre Island. The newest hotel on the island boasts large rooms, modern amenities, a resort style pool, direct beach access, and is centrally located to many attractions making it an ideal choice for families. For extended stays there are many rentals available that can accommodate any families’ needs as well.

For Nature Lovers

Beyond the days spent on the beach, there are many opportunities for nature lovers to experience wildlife around the island. Sea Turtle Inc. is a small conservation and rehabilitation hospital for injured sea turtles and is a must see for anyone visiting South Padre Island. Founded in 1977 by Ila Loetscher to protect the island’s dwindling Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle population, visitors can now learn about the species and how to continue the conservation efforts. Sea Turtle Inc. houses several permanent residents on display, unable to be rehabilitated into the wild, including Allison. Allison, found missing three of four flippers is first sea turtle to wear a successful prosthetic. Children and adults will enjoy the “Meet the Turtles” talks and the feedings. Visitors can aid in the efforts by “adopting” a sea turtle or nest.

South Padre Island Birding, Nature Center & Alligator Sanctuary, located directly beside Sea Turtle Inc. is a birding paradise. With 3,300 feet of boardwalk, the salt and fresh water marshes are bursting with a variety of wildlife. Home to more than just resident and migratory birds, children will love trying to spot crabs, fish, turtles, butterflies, and Big Padre, the resident 12.5’ foot alligator. The center has many activities and programs for children, as well. Choose the adventure package to pose for photos with a juvenile alligator or non-venomous snake. Families shouldn’t miss the spectacular views of the island from the 5-story observation tower.


Discover all the island has to offer with a stop at the South Padre Island Visitor Center. Grab a map of the Sea Turtle Art and Sandcastle Trail.

Families will enjoy exploring the island in search of the 10 painted sea turtle sculptures. Take a photo with each to claim a prize at the Visitor Center. You can also check out 30 sand castles sculpted by professional artists on display year round. The adventure is endless with the activities. It’s easy to plan & book activities inside the Visitor center.


For all levels of adventurers, here are a few of our favorite activities for families. Spend the morning horseback riding at Island Adventure Park. Book a dolphin cruise or fishing charter (most even offer to cook your catch). Everyone will love Gravity Park with the wooden go-cart track, mini golf, and Ferris wheel. Learn to build sand castles like the pros and book a sandcastle lesson on the beach (tools included). Beach Park, a waterpark, (formerly Schlitterbahn) is hugely popular with kids of all ages. Enjoy the shallow waters of the bay, perfect for learning to surf or paddleboard. Rent a jet ski or try kite-surfing. Climb the 100+ steps of the Port Isabel Lighthouse for expansive views of the bay. Book a Black Dragon pirate cruise with treasure hunts, sword fighting, and water pistol battles, it is sure to be loads of family fun for all ages.

Food Scene

Everything is bigger in Texas and the food scene on South Padre Island is no exception. Josephine’s Kitchen-A breakfast favorite on the island. Order the crepe musette with a flavored coffee. Yummies Bistro-Try the gigantic lemon poppy seed pancakes. Order any mimosa for a glittery surprise! Padre Island Brewing Co.-Order a sampler flight of beers with any of their award winning pizzas. Blackbeard’s Seafood Restaurant-The fish tacos or fried shrimp platter are the favorites. Painted Marlin Grille-Enjoy a sunset, dockside with avocado fries, ahi tuna, and the best margaritas. Bar Louie Restaurant-Live music nightly, Try the voodoo pasta and specialty drinks.

Plan your visit around many of the scheduled events. Kite Fest, fireworks, live music and entertainment are just a handful of activities lending to the vibrant culture of South Padre Island. Visit www.sopadre.com


Amy Garrett

Photographer, travel writer, adventure-seeker, and mother of two. I love to spend my free days on a tennis court or near the ocean.