If you stop by the turtle sanctuary, talk it up with the staff- they'll tell you where you can find protected turtle nesting sites on the island. If your the bar kind of person I HIGHLY recommend Parrot Eyes- the last bar hidden behind the bayside Bahia Mar. Perfect sunset view, inexpensive drinks, live music and completley open. That place is paradise. For families or folks of all ages, don't miss the jedi on the southern side in Isa Blanca park. Be carful on the rocks but if you go out aways you WILL find some awesome wildlife in the high tide pools- octopus, sea slugs (which are awesome to play with!), urchins and I've even seen some dolphins and sea turtles swim nearby further out. The sun is intense so put on plenty of lotion, rent an umbrella and wear a hat. I've seen snow white northerners go home looking like they dove head first into a lava pit!
You have to go Surfing while you are on the Island! South Padre Surf Co. offers lessons year round. REALLY fun for the whole family! I was suprised at how easy it was to learn...I was standing up after only a few tries and was catching waves on my own by the end of the lesson! What an incredible experience! My whole family was smiling and laughing the whole way home as we talked about how much fun our lesson was!
This place is the convention centre for the island as well as a wildlife reserve. There are boardwalks that go out over the bay where you can see many endangered animals from. A painter named Wyland has created a life-size painting of whales and other sealife on the walls of the centre.
Of all the many attractions on South Padre Island, no doubt #1 is the beach. It has been rated by the Travel Channel as the "Third Best Beach in America." The wide white sandy shoreline stretches the entire 34 miles of the island, bounded on the eastern side by the emerald waters of the Gulf of Mexico, and on the west by the shallow and tranquil Laguna Madre Bay. The lower five or six miles of the island are filled with a fabulous array of resorts, restaurants, shops and various attractions. Then the road up the middle of the island comes to a dead end and the larger northern portion of the beach remains undeveloped and pristine. Beyond where the road ends those with 4-wheel-drive vehicles may drive for many miles up the beach.
Before South Padre Island was a resort it was a fishing village, and to some extent it remains so even today. Dozens of fishermen and shrimpers in the area still make their living from the sea, although fewer now than before strict environmental laws put many out of business.
Cristo de los Pescadores (Christ of the Fishermen) is a statue which reminds us that the beautiful blue sea can still be a very dangerous place. It was placed at the lower tip of South Padre Island, along the Brazos Santiago Pass to the Brownsville Ship Channel, to memorialize area fishermen who have been lost at sea. More than a dozen men's names are on plaques around the base of this imposing statue. We were sobered and moved upon reading the handmade signs on several flowerpots next to the names. One, on a wilted poinsetta read, "Merry Christmas Daddy, We love you."
On the walls of the South Padre Island Convention Centre is the famous "Whaling Wall #53" by acclaimed environmental artist Wyland. The artist wanted to show homage to whales and other creatures of the sea by devoting his talent to paint 100 such murals around the world. This, the 53rd life-size canvas for the Wyland project, spans 153 feet in length and covers 3 walls 23 feet in height. The painting took more than 111 gallons of paint, 100 volunteers, and four days to complete. Whaling Wall #53 is the first of it's kind in Texas, and also the first along the entire Gulf Coast.
The largest year-round sand castle in the State of Texas is in front of the South Padre Island Convention Centre. Sons of the Beach Sand Castle Wizards, who compete in contests throughout the world, built the sand castle and restore it regularly. For this creation they used 45 tons of sand mixed with about 50 pounds of clay and 200 gallons of water. The 10-foot-tall castle stands on a 10x16-foot base and is topped off with a glue/water solution. About half a gallon of Elmer's Glue is used to coat the castle. It is always available for viewing, 24 hours a day.
Half a dozen companies on South Padre Island and the neighboring town of Port Isabel offer Dolphin Watch cruises. We took one out of Port Isabel (See our activity tip under that town's page) and enjoyed it so much that we went back for a second Dolphin Watch a couple of days later. Not only did we see numerous dolphins up close, but during a portion of the cruise a net was dragged behind the boat and a wide assortment of interesting sea life was pulled up and put into a tank for us to view. We saw crabs, flounder, shrimp, snails, squid, and much more before they were all released back into the bay. The picture is of a Dolphin Watch boat from another company which was taken from our boat when we passed it.
The Sea Turtle Rescue Center is operated by Sea Turtle, Inc., a not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping sick or injured sea turtles. It was founded in 1977 by Lla Loetscher, the "Turtle Lady of South Padre Island". Ms. Loetscher, a pioneer woman aviator and friend of Amelia Earhart, lived into her mid-90s and passed away a few years ago. She devoted the final decades of her life to rescuing the Kemps Ridley and other endangered or threatened sea turtles.
Karen and I attended the 10:00 a.m. educational presentation and feeding ($3.00 adult donation, $1.00 children) which is held daily, Tuesday through Sunday. Guided tours are also available on the same days from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Come and hear the fascinating story of the different species, how to identify them, how they can become injured, and what you can do to help protect them.
Some of the rehabilitated turtles from this small facility have gone to the great aquariums of the world, including the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago.
Take a dip in the gulf of Mexico and do some sunbathing.
Take care to leave the beach the way you found it. Fines are pricey
Sea Turtle was the home of Ila Loetscher, better known as "The Turtle Lady of South Padre Island." It has expanded its scope to actively support the conservation of all marine turtle species.
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