White sandy beaches, warm Gulf waters and plenty of things to do make South Padre Island a popular vacation spot, the quintessential beach town, for Spring Breakers and families. Most restaurants, shops and attractions are along Padre Boulevard and behind the buildings lie the beaches, replete with marshes, sea grass and beach umbrellas.
Take a right off Queen Isabella Causeway, and you'll find Dolphin Cruises, public beaches and the Schlitterbahn Beach Water Park. Across the street, Sea Ranch cooks up the best seafood on the island. A left off the Causeway puts you on the main strip, where buildings range from high-rise hotels and office buildings to strip malls and small storefronts. You can find standard beach fare on the strip, but you can also rent dune buggies or even go bungee jumping. New restaurants open every year and increase the sea-cuisine's variety. Then the buildings taper off, leaving only wild beaches until the road ends at the sand dune?the sand dune's location shifts depending on the strength of the winds and surf.
During Spring Break, it's advisable for families to go to the Island early to avoid the crush of college Spring Breakers at the crack of noon. While the hotel beaches can get rowdy and standing-room-only, the public beaches off the right of the Causeway usually retain their family atmosphere even in the middle of Spring Break.
Just before the Causeway is Port Isabel, a historical fishing town. Towering over the town is the recently restored Port Isabel Lighthouse, first lit in 1853. The Lighthouse is open to the public: from the top, you can see from Laguna Madre to beyond the Gulf of Mexico. Nighttime fishing off the pier can't be beat. Stores and restaurants converted from (or emulating) old beach shacks may not sound like much, but they offer shrimp and fish (especially red snapper) pulled right out of the Gulf.
South Padre Island is accessible by Highway 100. Just cross the Queen Isabella Causeway.