10 of the best things to do on South Padre Island, Texas


Bayside viewBayside view — Photo courtesy of Kimberly Suta

South Padre Island is easily one of the best beaches in Texas, but there are so many more magical reasons to visit! A barrier island with 34 miles of pristine shorelines located at the tail of Texas, this unassuming beach town has always been a favorite getaway for Texans.

The beach is truly beautiful with perfectly warm waters for swimming, fishing and playing. Once outside the city proper, you can get on the county beach to camp, make a bonfire and find a private stretch to go seashell hunting. However, you can’t stay at the beach all day, can you? So here’s what else is in store for you at Texas’ only tropical island.

Horseback riding on the beach

Horseback riding with Island Adventure ParkHorseback riding with Island Adventure Park — Photo courtesy of Kimberly Suta

You’ve seen it in movies – those romantic gallops along the sea swept beach – so why not give it a try? Go in a group or on a private horseback ride with Island Adventure Park. While a beach ride is fun, a sunset ride will take you along both the beach and bay, as well as through the tranquil sand dunes.

The ranch also features a petting barn with goats, pigs and chickens, and for the more daring in your party, they have a beginner’s zip line. Make sure to inquire about their private beach parties and bonfires for a truly special island experience!

Go on a sea safari

Sea Life Safari with Osprey CruisesSea Life Safari with Osprey Cruises — Photo courtesy of South Padre Island Convention & Visitors Bureau

Discover a new perspective by going on a Sea Life Safari with Osprey Cruises. These boat cruises not only go in search of the plentiful dolphins around the island, but give you an opportunity to check out the sea life living along the ocean shore. This is an ideal excursion for families with young kiddos. There are plenty of other dolphin tours to choose from as well.

Enjoy delicious seafood while cruising the bay

Seafood delights with Southern WaveSeafood delights with Southern Wave — Photo courtesy of Kimberly Suta

Of course, there may be something better than dolphins. Shrimp! Hop on a boat with chef Diego of Southern Wave for a dinner cruise along the bay. There’s nothing quite as exhilarating as enjoying a fresh seafood meal on a boat while listening to live music and watching a sunset paint the sky over the water.

Where to eat on South Padre

Scrumptious seafood at F&BScrumptious seafood at F&B — Photo courtesy of Kimberly Suta

For a seafood meal on land, there’s almost too many options to count. Breakfast at the only coffee roaster in town, Grapevine Cafe & Coffeehouse is a good place to start with everything from eggs Benedict to chilaquiles.

For lunch, check out the Cafe on the Beach for ultimate views. For dinner, while you can’t go wrong with tried-and-true Sea Ranch, a tradition for Texans who have been visiting the island for decades, there’s a fine dining option in town and it’s oh-so-good!

F&B is stunning, both inside and out and hits every note, from the cocktails to the exceptional service and, of course, the cuisine. Chef Walter Greenwood, who honed his skills at the famous Bartolotta restaurant in Las Vegas, has elevated the island with his creative, mouthwatering dishes. He’s not only sourcing premium Gulf seafood, but local produce. His trick is to let the ingredients shine – and it’s one he most certainly has mastered.

Check out the island’s Birding, Nature Center and Alligator Sanctuary

View from SPI Birding, Nature Center & Alligator SanctuaryView from SPI Birding, Nature Center & Alligator Sanctuary — Photo courtesy of Kimberly Suta

After all that good food, you’ll probably want to burn some calories, and what better place than the SPI Birding, Nature Center & Alligator Sanctuary? The dozens of alligators, mostly baby alligators, are a new and fascinating addition to the island.

The walk throughout the center is both relaxing and educational. They have 3,300 feet of boardwalk, five bird blinds and a five-story viewing tower. You never know what you’ll see, but it’s likely you’ll find some roseate spoonbills and egrets.

Pay a visit to Sea Turtle, Inc.

Exploring Sea Turtle, Inc.Exploring Sea Turtle, Inc. — Photo courtesy of South Padre Island Convention & Visitors Bureau

Continue the adventure with a visit to Sea Turtle, Inc., where they not only showcase some giant turtles, but also work to heal and protect the turtles. They have a turtle hospital onsite with several patients being assisted at any given time.

Turtle hatchlings are also assisted as they are born on the island. If you go during the right time of year, typically summer, you can see the baby turtles for yourself. Sea Turtle, Inc. also sells tickets when they take a boat ride out to release a healthy turtle.

Catch up on your beach reads

Downtime at ParagraphsDowntime at Paragraphs — Photo courtesy of Kimberly Suta

There’s nothing better than reading a good book at the beach. If you left yours at home, don’t worry! Paragraphs on Padre Boulevard bookstore is a reader’s oasis. With a plethora of books to choose from, couches to lounge on and beautiful architecture, it might just be the best independent book store in all of Texas. Make sure to ask the owners for their recommendations and you’ll go home with a page-turner.

Build the best sand castle ever

Sand castle building with Sand Castle LessonsSand castle building with Sand Castle Lessons — Photo courtesy of Kimberly Suta

If you’re ready to get in some more beach time, why not try something new? Create a masterpiece sand castle with pro builder Andy Handcock of Sand Castle Lessons. It’s not as hard as you might imagine. Andy demonstrates how to easily create windows, carve stones and build steps in your sand castle. It’s a great family or team building activity. Your castle may not last forever, but the memory will!

Spend a day at Schlitterbahn

Cool off at SchlitterbahnCool off at Schlitterbahn — Photo courtesy of Mikie Farias

Kids or no kids, you cannot leave South Padre without spending at least a little time at the most phenomenal water park in Texas, Schlitterbahn. They feature indoor and outdoor rides and attractions, plus a river “transportainment” system so you never have to leave your tube. It’s the hottest spot to float the day away!

Chill out at the best bars with views

Chill out at LongBoard Bar and GrillChill out at LongBoard Bar and Grill — Photo courtesy of Kimberly Suta

After all this excitement, where can you chill out? LongBoard Bar and Grill is the island hangout for great bar eats, yummy cocktails and some much-needed rejuvenation, with gorgeous views of the bay. Parrot Eyes, which has been around for decades is also a fun option, with live parrots and non-stop Jimmy Buffet.

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