National Beach Day is August 30, so what better time for us to bring you the southernmost beach in Texas: South Padre Island.
In Texas, we can really visit and celebrate beaches all year long. For many of us, our favorite time to visit the beach is in the fall. The water is still warm enough to get in and swim, the temps aren’t scorching and the crowds dissipate a bit.
As you may recall from the tenets of our Escape to Nowhere series, we’re focused here on accommodations where you can socially distance from others, you have a full kitchen so you can cook all your meals and you can be outdoors, away from others.
As your travel editor, I try to visit the far corners of our massive state: up to Lubbock, over to the east in Nacogdoches, to the west celebrating the great beyond of expansive West Texas. And now we drop down to the bottom of the state to visit South Padre Island (SPI.) Embarrassingly, I had not visited since I was a teen and welcomed the chance to reunite with the “best beach in Texas.” SPI is known for having whiter sand and clearer water than the rest of our Gulf Coast.
Your Own Abode: 125 Jupiter
This Coastal Lifestyles beach house, only a block off the beach, is an abode where you could spend all your time, not really wanting to leave! But since it is only a short walk to the public beach and with a garage full of toys for all ages to enjoy the sand, why not get out and enjoy the waves?
The floor plan is one of the most unique we’ve seen — a master with ensuite bathroom and a door that opens to the backyard; another bedroom on the ground floor with a queen bed (bathroom across the hall), and a full, open kitchen offering two dining areas, which opens up to a living room, all downstairs.
When you go outside to the backyard, take the stairs up to find the third bedroom, which the kids felt like was their own “dorm room,” where they had a bunk bed (each bed is a full), their own bathroom and mini fridge. The deck outside overlooked the pool. They were in independence heaven!
The beautifully landscaped backyard features a pool, hot tub, a hammock, and plenty of room for lounging/ reading a good book. Like I said, this home is one you could really relax into, finding it hard to leave! Nightly rates vary from high season ($650/night) to low season (only $350/night). Sleeps 8.
But the Beach and Bay Beckon…
Step outside the beach norm and enjoy a sandcastle building lesson with Sandy Feet Sandcastle Services at Beach Access #16 (Neptune Circle), which is just a block away from the house (125 Jupiter). Sandy herself, who has lived on the island most of her life, travels the world for sandcastle building competitions and brings the tips, tricks and sand hacks to you via her one-hour lesson. You might think building with sand is mundane; however, Sandy will show you, with her various ways to pack sand and intricate designs, that you too (even beginners!) can build a design that turns heads. (At the time of writing, masks are required.)
Enjoy the bay of South Padre Island with a boat ride via Tritoon Charters. Led by Captain Rasco, who has also lived locally most of his life, he’ll treat you to tubing, fishing, dolphin sightings and shelling on a remote island. One of our favorite parts of the boating adventure was when he dredged up some sea life with his net and showed us local crab, fish and other bay friends.
The life span of a sea turtle is 80-100 years, but many get injured and require rehab to continue living in the wild. Sea Turtle Inc. started on SPI decades ago and exists to take care of their 80+ sea turtle patients per year, 90% of which are sent back into the wild after recuperation. Five residents who are “non-returnable” live permanently in the exhibit, including a 200-pound lagerhead named Fred. This big boy has an amputated flipper from a fishing line accident in the ‘90s.
You can also meet a green sea turtle named Merry Christmas, who has been there since the ‘80s. Resident Gerry, a 220-pound sea turtle, was made famous hitting the late night talk shows like David Letterman and Johnny Carson decades ago.
Enjoy walking through the exhibit (with your mask on) and sit in on a 30-minute “turtle talk,” to learn more about the marine debris, such as plastic, boat strikes, predator attacks and entanglements that bring the patients into Sea Turtle, Inc.
For the most perfect beach take-out lunch, pick up from Ceviche Ceviche and enjoy a myriad of creative offerings. They serve five different ceviches (and only ceviche) and nine different delectable sauces (creamy jalapeno–everyone’s favorite, sweet lime, cilantro pesto and pineapple ginger, to name a few) to mix and match. Made to order and fresh-as-can-be, your ceviche artist will create a seafood treat, featuring fish, and shrimp. It’s the perfect lunch because it’s not too heavy, but paired with perfectly crispy chips (and maybe a few beers), it will likely be one of your must-stop pickups for future trips.
If you’re looking to dine al fresco, Painted Marlin features sunset viewing and deck seating. The entire restaurant is open-air and they are practicing over-the-top cleanliness with guests picking up their own menu and utensils/napkin as they are seated. It’s right on the bay, so enjoy the view while you wait. They know their seafood here so start with an appetizer of Blue Crab Fingers or Wild Shrimp Cakes, then go with the Gulf Shrimp Tacos or Blackened Shrimp Caesar for something light and fresh. Or, if you’re ready for a larger dinner, the Fish n’ Chips would make any Brit proud; or enjoy the Southern Catch Etouffee, a Chipotle-Guava Mahi Bowl or just about any version of fried or blackened seafood.
For brunch, head to local favorite Yummies Bistro for outside seating (as an option). Fill up on flavor-packed breakfast favorites like a banana split parfait, steak benedict, avocado toast or any one of their sweet or hearty choices. Don’t miss out–enjoy one of their artistically designed coffees (even the chocolate milk looks like a luscious dessert). It’s all YUMMIE!
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Cover photo courtesy South Padre Island Convention & Visitors Bureau
Marika Flatt is the Travel Editor of Texas Lifestyle Magazine. She’s enjoying “getting back out there” with her family of five, while maintaining social distance and wearing a mask when needed. You can hear her “Weekend Trip Tips” on the statewide NPR show, Texas Standard.