While staying in San Antonio, we decided to take a day trip to the Gulf Coast of Texas. The drive is a little over two hours but we weren’t sure when we would be this close again. We knew we wanted to hit up Padre Island National Seashore (not to be confused with the popular spring break destination of South Padre Island) and then hit up place to eat in Port Aransas, TX.
We headed straight to the National Seashore. The day wasn’t going to get too warm and it was pretty breezy on the shores so we knew we didn’t have to make time to swim. There is quite a bit to do at Padre Island. On it’s website it boasts to be the longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island in the world. The park offers the beach, of course, and beach combing tends to be a popular activity. If you enjoy kayaking or canoeing you can do that on the Laguna Madre, one of six hypersaline lagoons in the world. If you are into birds, this is the place for you. With the most bird species of any US city, a great time to visit to do a little birding is early spring, fall and winter as this is a major migratory route for birds and a popular wintering site.
Padre Island National Seashore is also home to the nesting grounds of the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, the most endangered species of sea turtles. The park does public hatchling releases (not all are public) and they post when they expect each nest to hatch on this website. Out of the 300 nests in Texas, 182 of them are located within the park’s boundaries.
Another popular activity is to drive down the island. After you get past Malaquite Beach, which is closed to vehicle traffic, you can drive the remainder of the 60 miles down the shoreline. 4X4 vehicles are required and if you get stuck it is up to you to get yourself towed out of there. Once you reach the end of the shoreline you have to turn yourself around and drive the 60 miles back so plan accordingly.
We, however spent most of our visit, combing the beach for seashells (you can collect a five gallon bucket of treasures) and picking up trash. I was amazed at how much trash was on the shoreline. Because of the ocean currents and the wind direction pretty much everything that falls into the Gulf ends up here. Part of the Junior Ranger program is to collect garbage from the shoreline. Both girls enjoyed running around trying to find trash. Even Evie got into it.
We really enjoyed the laid back atmosphere and low crowds of this destination. The girls enjoyed running around and exploring. We had to keep a close watch on Evie-she wanted to run straight to the Portugese Man-O-Wars, which were washed up almost every 20 or so feet or head straight into the ocean.
The staff here were excellent! There was as small visitor center that had a few exhibits. Elsie completed her Junior Ranger Badge and also earned a patch for helping cleanup the shoreline.
The boardwalk was also a big hit with the girls. This is the area outside the visitor center. There were quite a few picnic tables so we enjoyed a picnic lunch and headed on our way north towards Port Aransas. Port Aransas is definitely a more touristy part of the the Island. You can drive down the beach here too and it was packed! This community was filled with hotels, beach houses, and condos and the streets and beaches were filled with people. We enjoyed lunch at Virginia’s on the Bay-an open air restaurant located on the harbor. After lunch we decided we would take the free ferry back to Corpus Christi. The guidebooks said to watch out for dolphins that follow the ferry across the inter-coastal waterway but we didn’t see any on our trip. The maximum length is 55 ft and width is 96 inches for those you who are towing. It was a quick 15 minutes across and our wait to board was also minimal.
If you are in the region, we highly recommend visiting this area. We have been to quite a few beaches but this was definitely unique in it’s features and wildlife.