Padre Island National Seashore offers pristine, undeveloped beaches
Located on the longest undeveloped barrier island in the world, Padre Island National Seashore is a nature conservatory as well as a popular recreation destination for locals and tourists.
This national park protects 70 miles of coastline with dunes, prairies, and wind tidal flats that serve as natural habitats. The park is a refuge for 380 bird species and a safe nesting ground for endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtles. Padre Island National Seashore has a rich history, which even includes Spanish shipwrecks dating as far back as 1554.
Considered a birder’s paradise, the 130,000 acres of undeveloped land make the national seashore an outstanding place for birdwatching. Birds use the small islands in the laguna on the back side of the barrier island as rookeries and should be left undisturbed. Visitors are prohibited from feeding, teasing, or disturbing wildlife. Free trash bags are available at the Malaquite Visitor Center to keep the area clean for its extensive wildlife.
Nature lovers can also enjoy observing the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle hatchling releases that occur each summer. The hatchlings come from nests laid in the park along the Texas coast. Nesting season begins April 1 and runs through late May and early June. Hatchling releases take place in the early morning hours from mid-June through August on Malaquite Beach in front of the Padre Island National Seashore Visitor Center.
For those seeking recreation, the pristine beaches, long, hot summers, and short, mild winters make Padre Island National Seashore a popular year-round destination.
The national seashore is located between the shallow saltwater of Laguna Madre and the open ocean of the Gulf of Mexico, providing unique opportunities for kayaking and canoeing. Launch a canoe or a kayak anywhere on the Gulf side, except the stretch of beach directly in front of the Malaquite Visitor Center. Fishing is permitted with proper Texas licenses and stamps.
Campgrounds are available for campers, including beach campers, on a first-come, first-served basis. Permits are required and can be obtained from kiosks at the entrance of each campground. No RV hookups are offered, but an RV dump station and a water filling station are available for all campers staying in the park.
Primitive beach camping is permitted and the park bookstore and ranger contact station are open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday in a temporary location across the deck from the visitor center.
As part of the COVID-19 health and safety measures on National Park Service-administered lands, face coverings are required where social distancing cannot be maintained in all NPS buildings and facilities. Visitors are advised to check the park website for updates in operations and urged to recreate responsibly. More details are available at nps.gov/coronavirus.
Padre Island National Seashore is a national park located at the end of Park Road 22 at the northern end of Padre Island in Corpus Christi. According to the National Park Service website, many GPS or smartphone applications cannot pinpoint the park’s actual location; however, the park is easy to find as Park Road 22 actually dead ends at the entrance. For more information, call the Malaquite Visitor Center at 361-949-8068. The latest updates on safety, severe weather, or hazard protocols can be found at www.nps.gov/pais or facebook.com/nps.pais.
(Note that Padre Island National Seashore, located on North Padre Island just outside of Corpus Christi, is not the same as South Padre Island, a community 100 miles south near Brownsville. The two are very different destinations, and it is not possible to drive from the park, located on North Padre Island, directly south to South Padre Island.)
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