The beach is the main attraction on South Padre, and there are some 25 miles of white-sand to choose from. Condos and hotels line much of the beachfront, but there are more than 20 beach access points with free parking. However, if it’s pristine, deserted stretches of sand you’re looking for, you’re on the wrong island. Instead, plan a trip to Padre Island National Seashore: with a 4WD you can explore miles of Gulf Coast white sand to your heart’s content (at a 15 mph speed limit). The best shell collecting? Aptly named Big Shell Beach, about halfway down the island.
Bird-watching made easy is the watchword on the Laguna Madre Nature Trail, a 1,500-foot-long boardwalk that zigzags across wetlands just north of town. The boardwalk begins next to the island’s convention center, and has interpretive signs, even some blinds where you can sit back with a spotting scope and watch egrets, herons, oyster-catchers – just some of the more than 300 species recorded on South Padre.
The waters of Laguna Madre between the two islands and the mainland are a first-class windsurfing destination, with warm, shallow water and steady winds (15 to 18 mph) from late summer well into spring, when the island stages its annual Windsurfing Blowout, considered the largest amateur windsurfing event in the U.S. To the north, windsurfers camp at Bird Island Basin at Padre Island National Seashore to sail upper Laguna Madre.