South Padre Island is the world's largest barrier island, which means it's a very long, very sandy strip of land not far from the mainland of Texas. When you enter on the bridge, you'll see many high-rise hotels lining the gulf and bay side of the island. Don't be dismayed, though. Head northeast (to the left of the bridge) and you'll soon be able to drive until you can't drive anymore. You may reach a point where white sand covers the road. Get out and climb the dunes, it's pristine because of the lack of people who care to venture out this far.
Located at the northernmost point of island development, and about 1.5 miles north of Andy Bowie Park, this is as far as you can go on South Padre Island, at least on a paved road. Beach access allows those who dare to leave the pavement and drive 20 miles or more up the beach. Many people do just that, but one would be well advised to be properly equipped before trying it. We decided not to risk getting our rental car stuck in the sand, so we hiked up the beach from this point. Several four-wheel-drive vehicles passed us along the way. It was a lovely hike, but we were disturbed to find scattered beer bottles and other trash, including the charred remains of several campfires along the way. We saw more litter here than on the more developed southerly parts of the beach.
Andy Bowie Park is smaller than the other county parks, but does have a beachfront picnic pavilion, and a concession.
When you are down at South Padre you need to go check out the the end of the island were there are no buildings and the pavement ends. This is a great place to see durning the day, as well as also going back and looking at night.
Don't drive over the sand dunes because it is illegal, but if you go at night there are access points that you can travel across to drvie on the beach by the water, you will need a 4 wheel drive if you are going to do this, if you don't you will get stuck in the sand. have a good day
It's a 30-minute drive from SPI (towards Brownsville) and it's a blast. You park on USA's side and walk over to Mexico after paying a small crossing fee. Parking isn’t a problem, but be careful where you park. One year we decided to park in the lot of a closed down hardware store, and stumbling back to our cars at 5AM we realized we had all been towed (8 cars!). Don’t be scared about going into Mexico because 500 other people drove over from the island same as you and are ready to have a good time. For about 2 blocks the streets are lined w/ bars on both sides. The majority of the bars are a flat rate for all you can drink.
I highly recommend taking a taxi. It’s about $10 – 20 road trip per person and it’s a lot better then having a designated driver or just taking a risk. There are cops everywhere and it’s a long stretch of dark road, especially when all your friends are passed out in the back while your driving. If you risk it, please be careful!! You need to take some ID, a passport to cross is not necessary.