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South Padre Island: Who’s Your Padre?

Originally Published in Trailer Life Magazine

(For the full article about South Padre Island, see the April 2011 issue of Trailer Life at newsstands.)

There’s nothing like a 34-mile-long barrier reef island to drain all your cares away. Just let your worries drift with the longshore current, right off the tip of the island. South Padre Island (SPI) is especially good at absorbing great surfing waves from the Gulf of Mexico and transforming the sea into calm backwaters in the Laguna Madre. It’s no wonder USA Today named SPI one of the top 10 places to get your feet back on the ground.

South Padre Island, at the southernmost tip of Texas on the Gulf of Mexico, is just far away enough to slow time down a bit, yet still have great food and amenities as easy to access as the beach.

As you cross the approximately two-mile Queen Isabella Causeway from Port Isabel, watch for dolphins slicing by; they’re a harbinger of good things to come. Get ready for island time complete with warm, tropical salt air and balmy evenings mingled with scents of warm Coppertone and a cool Piña Colada.

SPI is big with RVers. Surrounded by water yet easy to get to, the weather is idyllic and there’s lots of room, even for the biggest rigs. The gulf side is all sandy beach; 34 miles of it is accessible from 13 beach access points and three county parks. North of the developed resort area are miles of beach open to vehicles. The following lists some special eateries and info about kiteboarding in SPI:

Fine Food Finds

There’s no roughing when it comes to finding good places to eat on the Island:
Sea Ranch Restaurant and Bar is one of the nation’s top restaurants. (956) 761-1314
Blackbeard’s is well established and does both surf and turf. (956) 761-2962
Amberjack’s Bayside Bar and Grill is the go-to place for on-the-bay dining, and if you hook it, they’ll cook it. (956) 761-6500
Louie’s Backyard has a popular prime rib and seafood buffet. (956) 761-6406
Wanna Wanna Beach Bar is great for burgers and a fun place to hang on the beach. (956) 761-7677
Palm Street Pier Bar and Grill also does great burgers for those on the Laguna Madre side. (956) 772-7256


For adrenaline junkies, kiteboarding classes are a great investment. This sport is extreme and possibly dangerous, requiring training and practice — but, it sure looks like fun.

Just watching kiteboarders taking giant hops, skips and jumps through the air like superheroes practicing their moves is enough to make you sign up for lessons. South Padre Island is one of the best locations in the world to learn because of the shallow water of the bay and the reliable and usually moderate wind. Learning can require hours of standing in waist-deep water, handling a training kite just to get the feel for it before you start getting big air. The payoff? Feeling like you’re flying.

The Kite Round-Up, an annual kiteboarding festival, takes place on the island May 18-22, featuring clinics, demos, contests and events for kiters and non-kiters (www.spikiteroundup.com).

Lessons start at $325 for three hours. Contact South Padre Island Kiteboarding at (956) 772-1098, southpadreislandkiteboarding.com.

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