October 30, 2014

Wild Texas Parks: Padre Island National Seashore - Corpus Christi, TX

Padre Island National Seashore
Corpus Christi, Texas (Kenedy County)

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About the National Seashore

Sand dunes on Padre Island
26k JPEG
Copyright © Shannon D. Moore
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.

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.

Park Ratings

Explanation of Symbols
Campsites/Overnight Facilities** 2 star
Leashed Pets Permitted?Animated Running Dog 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 Notebook

To 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
  • Location

    Approximately 30 miles southeast of Corpus Christi; from Corpus Christi, take the John F. Kennedy Causeway (State Highway 358) southeast across the bay to Padre Island. At the junction with State Highway 361, proceed south on Park Road 22 for about 11 miles to the entrance station.

    The nearest major Texas cities are: Corpus Christi, Austin, Brownsville, Laredo, San Antonio

    Maps for Padre Island National Seashore

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    Coordinates for GPS Users:

    27.4738066° Latitude    -97.2852471° Longitude (WGS84/NAD83; decimal degrees)
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    Hours

    Open 24 hours per day, 7 days a week, year round.

    The Malaquite Visitor Center is open 7 days a week, except for Christmas Day, from 9 AM to 5 PM.

    Fees

    A park entrance fee is charged per day -- $10 per vehicle. The permit pays for entry into the park for up to 7 consecutive days.

    An annual pass to the park is available for $20.

    Corpus Christi, Texas Weather

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    Official Contact Information

    The National Seashore is managed by the National Park Service.

    National Park Service Padre Island National Seashore
    Corpus Christi, TX 78480

    Telephone: (361)949-8068

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