Planning a holiday in Southeastern Texas? Make sure to dig into all the best things to do in South Padre Island. Perched on the Gulf of Mexico, South Padre Island is one of the most beautiful barrier islands in the U.S. The only tropical island in the Lone Star State, South Padre Island is an obligatory stop on any Texas trip.
Among the top tourist attractions in South Padre Island, you can bask in the sun on miles-long beautiful beaches or try your hand at surfing, fishing, or kiteboarding. If you’re traveling to this tropical paradise with family, don’t miss out on the thrills of Beach Park at Isla Blanca or the chance to cruise around on a dolphin tour.
Ready to start exploring but don’t know what to do in South Padre Island? Embark on a spellbinding itinerary with this complete guide to the best places to visit in South Padre Island, TX.
Best places to visit in South Padre Island, TX
Isla Blanca Park
Want to spend some leisurely time with family on your South Padre Island trip? Explore Isla Blanca Park, situated between the Laguna Madre and the Brazos Santiago Pass. With rare sightings of dolphins, ospreys, and brown pelicans, it’s one of the top places to go in South Padre Island for nature lovers and birdwatchers.
Relish the serene surroundings of Isla Blanca County Park or organize a picnic on the sand. For a more active adventure, go fishing, swimming, windsurfing, and kiteboarding.
If you want something more thrilling, rent a boat and explore the waters. On your ride, you’ll see surfers taking to air, big vessels, shrimp boats, the Cristo De Los Pescadores statue, and exquisite marine life.
Isla Blanca Park has ample parking space and food concessions to satisfy your hunger pangs.
Port Isabel Lighthouse State Historic Site
Need to add a dash of active historical sightseeing to your itinerary? Climb up to the top of the Port Isabel Lighthouse State Historic Site. Among the oldest lighthouses in Texas, the historic lighthouse has been navigating vessels since 1852 and is the only one available for the public to visit.
Climb the 75 winding stairs and three ladders leading to the top of this 65-foot tower. At the top of Port Isabel Lighthouse, you’ll marvel at a stunning 360-degree view of Laguna Madre Bay, Port Isabel, and South Padre Island.
You’ll also come across the keeper’s quarters, now turned into a museum. It has many artifacts and displays narrating the life of lightkeepers and their families.
Looking for a little outdoor activity? You can also take a relaxing stroll on the grassy knoll surrounding the Port Isabel Lighthouse State Historic Site.
Beach Park at Isla Blanca
Want to toss a few water activities into the mix? Catch some action at the Beach Park at Isla Blanca. This 25-acre water park on the Rio Grande offers 13 fantastic indoor and outdoor slides and river systems.
Dive into the crystal-clear waters of Beach Park at Isla Blanca and feel the adrenaline rush while hitting slides such as Gale Force and Sea Blaster. Enjoy the bird-eye view by zipping through the air on the Soaring Eagle Zip Line.
Bring your children to the giant Sand Castle Cove, where they’ll have a good ol’ time playing among the fountains, ground sprays, water buckets, and slides.
Adventure coursing through your veins? Experience the rush at the Gravity Park. Found in the heart of the island, this amusement park offers fun activities and is one of the top South Padre Island tourist attractions for the whole family.
At Gravity Park, you can experience the pull of gravity on the world’s tallest reverse bungee jumping attraction: Rocket. Take your family on the Skycoaster and dazzle at the mesmerizing views of the island together. Rent go-carts from the karting section, and let your kids engage in a bumper car fight.
Moving to the next section of the Gravity Park, you’ll see a mini-golf course, a trampoline, a climbing wall, and a 60 feet tall Ferris wheel for relaxation.
Padre Island National Seashore
Craving a coastal road trip? Take your RV or car to the Padre Island National Seashore and enjoy a lovely drive along the 60-mile seashore. The seashore starts at the end of South Padre Island and goes all the way to Mansfield Cut.
You’ll be mesmerized by the never-ending coastline, lush greenery, huge sand dunes, and the eye-pleasing view of calm waters. You can go camping at Padre Island National Seashore with family or friends and appreciate the beautiful sunsets.
While you drive and chill along the seashore, keep your eyes peeled for fantastic wildlife like the whooping crane, Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle, and peregrine falcon.
South Padre Island Adventure Park
Prefer activities over relaxing? Head to the end of Park Road 100 to feel the adrenaline surge at South Padre Island Adventure Park. A permanent home to rescue animals, this top South Padre Island point of interest has various fun-filled activities that’ll help you unwind from the city stress.
Pay a single time at the ticket counter and zip-line for 45 minutes non-stop. Under the same ticket, you can ride a horse along the seashore for an hour.
After more active adventures move to the South Padre Island Adventure Park zoo, take a hayride on the beach, or swim in the ocean. End your adventurous day on the beach with a luau menu with a bonfire.
Isla Blanca Beach
Want to relax on the beach? Head to Isla Blanca Beach, situated inside Isla Blanca Park. At this relaxing stretch of shoreline, you can spread your towel or lie down on the sand and enjoy the calming sound of waves.
Go fishing, swimming, surfing, windsurfing, kayaking, or enjoy a game of beach volleyball with your loved ones. If you’re looking for water sports, try snorkeling, diving, jet skis, and parasailing at Isla Blanca Beach.
RELATED: Most Beautiful Beaches in Texas
This beautiful sandy beach has many amenities, such as showers, changing rooms, and restrooms. You’ll also find plenty of on-site restaurant options at Isla Blanca Beach. Each of them offers, not only delicious food but captivating views of the ocean.
Laguna Madre Nature Trail
Love nature and wildlife? Don’t miss out on the Laguna Madre Nature Trail. Located within Isla Blanca Park, the one-mile-long trail is excellent for watching migratory birds. More than 370 bird species call the area home.
There’s an interpretative center that’ll give you in-depth information about the history and ecology of the Laguna Madre. You can also see some alligators, turtles, and coyotes on Laguna Madre Nature Trail.
If you’re traveling with family, plan a small picnic and enjoy the lovely views of the lagoon while savoring your food.
The best time to visit the Laguna Madre Nature Trail is in the morning when the animals are at their most active.
South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center
Fascinated by birds? Pick up your DSLR and move to South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center for a chance to capture hundreds of bird species on film. With its unique bird life and natural wildlife, the center is one of the top points of interest in South Padre Island for nature lovers.
At the South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center, you’ll see orioles and various varieties of hummingbirds and other birds as they take a break here on their migratory routes during the spring. Capture the actions of countless warblers, the wood stork, and buff-bellied hummingbirds.
Don’t miss out on witnessing the all-year residents of South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center, such as white ibis, pelicans, great egrets, red-winged blackbirds, and great blue herons.
Andy Bowie County Park
Excited by off-road driving? Stop by Andy Bowie County Park to experience tingling in your nerves as you explore South Padre Island. This county park is great for enjoying off-roading with friends, offering many miles of rugged sand beach for driving.
Situated along the Gulf of Mexico, Andy Bowie County Park features two large picnic pavilions where you can enjoy a family lunch. If you’re stopping by just to eat, head to the concession stands available close to the pavilions.
At Andy Bowie County Park, you can also enjoy recreational activities like swimming, fishing, picnicking, and bird watching.
Ever wanted to learn how to make an epic sandcastle? Join Sandcastle Lessons in South Padre Island and let the professionals show you the way. You’ll be amazed to see how these master sandcastle artists create masterpieces using only sand and water.
Every summer, professional sand sculptors come down to South Padre Island to give sandcastle lessons to locals and tourists. Not only will you learn about sandcastle-making, but you’ll also have a ton of fun in the process!
You can also look at some experts’ work sculpted along the South Padre Island Sandcastle Trail. You’ll find about 30 sandcastles here, built in a single line by experts and some locals. Take the inspiration from their designs and mix it with your creativity to build a sandcastle of your own.
Largest Outdoor Sandcastle in the USA
Want to see the apex of the sandcastle-building world? Drive straight to the Largest Outdoor Sandcastle in the USA. Located at 610 Padre Blvd on South Padre Island, the 150-ton sandcastle is composed of river sand built by Andy Hancock.
You’ll be surprised to see the intricate designs and patterns of this sandcastle. At the Largest Outdoor Sandcastle in the USA, you’ll also learn about different sand castle-making techniques used by experts all around the world. Don’t forget to take some unique snaps with family and friends!
There’s no need to book any tickets in advance to see this sandcastle; it’s open to the public 24/7.
The Original Dolphin Watch
Fascinated by dolphins? Get a chance to meet and play with them at The Original Dolphin Watch. With this South Padre Island touring company, you’ll be taken on a boat ride where you can see these beautiful creatures in their natural habitat.
You can also go on a kayak or stand-up paddleboard to have an up-close experience with dolphins. While you’re on the cruise, feed the friendly dolphins and take some memorable snaps with them.
Besides dolphin tours, Original Dolphin Watch also offers snorkeling excursions to the Laguna Madre Estuary. The crystal clear water at the Laguna Madre Estuary, extending just three to six feet deep, is ideal for everyone in your travel group.
Cristo de Los Pescadores
Want to spot one of South Padre Island’s more unusual attractions? Head to the island’s north end to get a glimpse of Cristo de Los Pescadores, also known as the Fishermen’s Christ. At 25 feet high, the statue can be seen from miles away.
On your visit to Cristo de Los Pescadores, you’ll encounter the figure perched on a stack of carved, multicolored stones with tiny plaques on them. Behind the statue, you’ll find a carved stone tombstone with texts and illustrations of a ship and anchors engraved on it.
You can also find a small chapel and a few benches near the monument where you can sit and de-stress while gazing at the scenic view.
South Padre Island Convention Center
Visiting South Padre Island with a large group of friends or family? Attend an event at the South Padre Island Convention Center. Located in the heart of South Padre Island, the convention center can accommodate up to 10,000 people.
Take some time out while exploring South Padre Island to enjoy live concerts, comedy shows, conventions, and more at the South Padre Island Convention Center. Other than shows, many sports events are also organized here, like marathons and pickleball tournaments.
The best part? Many of the events held at the South Padre Island Convention Center are free to attend.
Fins to Feathers
Want to explore South Padre Island’s coastal charms? Hop into the Laguna Skimmer at Fins to Feathers to enjoy a 90-minute-long cruise tour along the Laguna Madre Bay. Choose their most popular dolphin tour to be astounded by the dolphin’s leaps and games with the captain.
During their tours, you’ll glimpse different species of birds and aquatic animals like bottlenose dolphins, stingrays, and sea turtles in their natural habitat. The guides will provide you with binoculars and telescopes to get a closer look at the animals.
You can also book Fins to Feathers’ sunset cruise package to enjoy the mesmerizing views of the setting sun. Don’t forget to carry your camera along as you’ll find many picture-perfect moments during the tour.
Pirate’s Landing Fishing Pier
Looking to enjoy some fishing on your South Padre Island visit? Pack your fishing rods and head to the longest pier in Texas, Pirate’s Landing Fishing Pier. At this popular local fishing hotspot, you can catch a myriad of fish, including red snapper, king mackerel, gag grouper, and much more.
Located at the south end of the Queen Isabella State Fishing Pier, it’ll impress you with the scenic views of South Padre Island as you cast out your line. You can even buy your bait and tackle from the on-site shop at Pirate’s Landing Fishing Pier.
Try to arrive early in the morning at the pier, as it’s the best time to go fishing. If you can’t make it in the morning, visit in the evening when the water is calmer instead.