South Padre Island, Padre Island, Cameron County, Texas

South Padre Island

Ah, the beach momma loves ’em me not so much. But I had a good time anyway.

South Padre Island is a beach community on the very southern tip of Padre Island. Padre Island is a barrier reef separated from mainland Texas by the Laguna Madre. It stretches 133 miles from the city of Corpus Christi Texas to South Padre Island. And despite being an average of only 1.8 miles wide it is the second largest island by land mass in the contiguous United States surpassed only by Long Island in New York. It is the longest barrier island in the world.

The Island is named for Jose Nicolas Balli, (Padre Balli), a secular priest who was the islands first inhabitant. How does a Priest own and island you might ask. Well, he inherited it from his grandfather who was an early Spanish settler of the area. His grandfather received a land grant from King Charles of Spain in 1759 known as the Isla de Santiago Grant.

Today the island has been cut in half by the manmade Port Mansfield ship channel. The city of South Padre Island extends northward for 6 miles. The rest of the island is protected in the Laguna Atascosa NWR and the Padre Island NWR. South Padre Island has been named the number one destination for Spring Break.

Beach Access from our hotel.

We stayed at the La Copa Beach Inn which I highly recommend if you ever go. We had a beach front room with a large balcony overlooking the pool and beach.

our quick and easy beach set up

Of course, with that balcony we also had a prime spot for viewing the sunrise while sitting on our asses.

We went to breakfast at the hotel. The dining area was on the fourth floor overlooking the Laguna Madre and the Queen Isabella Causeway which is the only route onto the Island.

Queen Isabella Causeway

The Queen Isabella Causeway is two and a half miles long. It opened in 1974 replacing the original bridge of the same name. It is the second longest bridge in Texas superseded only by the 2.6-mile Hartman Bridge which spans the Houston Ship Channel. The Causeway is named for Queen Isabella of Castile and Spain.

After spending some time on the beach, we went to the very interesting Sea Turtle Inc.

Sea Turtle Inc is a sea turtle rescue agency. They specialize in the rescue, recuperation and rehabilitation of the Kemp’s Ridley species although they will take any sea turtle in need of help. The first place we visited was the permanent residence building. Here they keep sea turtles that will never be able to live in the wild due to serious injury such as missing body parts or they are just in too poor of health to live on their own.

The Kemp’s Ridley is the smallest of the sea turtles topping out at an average of 110 pounds. They are also the most endangered species of all sea turtles. The turtles come to Sea Turtle inc. due to attack by predators, ingesting plastic, or amazingly getting stuck between the rocks of the island jetties which they come up to during high tide to feast on the moss which grows between the rocks. Sea Turtle Inc has developed a secure beach for the sea turtles to hatch on Padre Island. They collect any nest they can find on the island and move it there. You see momma sea turtles lay their eggs and leave, leaving the young to fend for themselves, but as a female sea turtle ages and begins to lay eggs she will always return to the beach where she was born. I thought that was pretty cool!

Ingesting plastic…. The sea turtle has a brain about the size of a grape……. they are not the sharpest knife in the rack. They see plastic as food, and it becomes caught in their digestive system. I knew this from when we went to the sea turtle hospital years ago in Topsail Island N.C. (no story coming that was still in the polaroid days). Anyway, to this day I refuse to use a plastic straw or put a plastic cap on my drink when eating out. Hopefully a little goes a long way….

On our way home we stopped at the Port Isabel Lighthouse and this time we were too early! It was not yet open, but we got a picture.

Port Isabel Lighthouse

The Port Isabel Light was built in 1852 to guide ships through the Brazos Santiago Pass at the southern end of Padre Island. The lighthouse operated on and off until 1905 when it was bought by a private citizen. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Division accepted the light and its surroundings as a gift from the owners in 1950. The lighthouse was restored in 1951 and opened to the public in 1952. The historical site is operated by the City of Port Isabel.

The beach, a great place to sit and read a good book as long as you watch how much sun you are getting. Sunburn sucks!

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