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Extending 113 miles along the Texas Gulf coast, Padre Island is comprised of stunning dunes of fine white sand, thriving grasslands, saltwater marshes, and myriad wildlife. With 70 miles of natural beaches, 133,918 acres of which are protected in the National Seashore, Padre Island is one of the largest undeveloped barrier islands in the United States.
Sand dunes on Padre Island Copyright © Shannon D. Moore
An extensive visitor center, picnic area, and developed campground are available at Malaquite Beach. Primitive camping is allowed at no cost along the entire length of the Gulf beach and selected areas along Laguna Madre. All campsites are available on a first come, first served basis (no reservations are available.)
Throughout the National Seashore, excellent opportunities exist for saltwater fishing, swimming, camping, hiking, boating, and other water sports. If you are interested in offroad/4x4 driving, fifty-five miles of the beach are accessible strictly via four-wheel-drive vehicle; 8.5 miles are available for standard passenger vehicles. The only designated hiking trail on the island is located just after the entrance station. The easy 3/4 mile loop Grasslands Nature Trail provides an enlightening glimpse at the components of a barrier island, including interior grasslands, stabilized dunes, and freshwater marshes. Obtain a nature trail brochure at the entrance station or visitor center and follow the numbered posts along the trail.
Wildlife viewing opportunities are numerous, including coyotes, white-tail deer, peregrine falcons, kangaroo rats, and jackrabbits. During their mid-April to August nesting season, some endangered Kemp's Ridley and loggerhead sea turtles return to Padre Island to lay their eggs. Common shorebirds seen along the Gulf beach year-round include laughing gulls, caspian terns, black skimmers, brown pelicans, great blue herons, sanderlings, long billed curlews, and killdeers. During their annual migrations, thousands of bird species can be seen in Laguna Madre's lagoons and freshwater ponds. A full 350 bird species are native to Padre Island.
Explanation of Symbols Campsites/Overnight Facilities 2 star Leashed Pets Permitted? YES Picnic Areas/Playgrounds 1 star Solitude 3 star Trail System 1 star Water Recreation 4 star Wildlife 4 star Ratings are based on a scale of 0 (low) to 4 (high).
Wild Texas NotebookTo avoid confusion, please note that 133,919-acre Padre Island National Seashore and the ever-popular Spring Break hotspot of South Padre Island are not one in the same. An impassible channel separates Padre Island into two parts: the 80 mile undeveloped portion that comprises Padre Island National Seashore, and the much smaller but highly developed resort town of South Padre Island near Texas' border with Mexico.
With that said, camping on the offroad-accessible section of Padre Island National Seashore is the epitome of tranquility. Prior to setting off down-island, check at the Ranger Station for driving conditions and make sure you have the basic offroad driving accessories (shovel, wood planks, extra gasoline, common sense, etc.) and plenty of drinking water. When you find the perfect spot, pitch your tent or tarp, watch the sun set, and let the sound of the surf and wind lull you to sleep.
According to the National Park Service, 95 percent of all the debris found on Padre Island's beaches originates from the Gulf of Mexico, rather than park visitors. Official beach cleanups are held in September and April, and you can provide an invaluable service by picking up trash you encounter during your visit. For volunteer information, call (800)678-6232
For more information, read our trip reports:
Beach Camping at Padre Island Birding Bonanza Great Texas Birding
The nearest major Texas cities are: Corpus Christi, Austin, Brownsville, Laredo, San Antonio
The Malaquite Visitor Center is open 7 days a week, except for Christmas Day, from
An annual pass to the park is available for $20.
|Padre Island National Seashore
Corpus Christi, TX 78480