Tuesday, September 7, 2010

South Padre Island

This little strip of land off the Gulf Coast of Texas was once known as Isla Blanca by its Spanish settlers, but you'll recognize it by its modern name of South Padre Island. Bordered by the Gulf of Mexico and Laguna Madre Bay, South Padre Island is linked to the mainland by the Queen Isabella Memorial Bridge. And while it has developed a bit of a wild reputation for its Spring Break activities, the rest of the year it provides a nearly endless list of outdoor family fun in a sub-tropical climate. Get this, they have over 250 days of sunshine a year here. Are you kidding me!? Hailing from the Pacific Northwest, that is a lifetime's worth of sunshine. And talk about casual! Did you know that you can actually get a ticket for wearing a necktie in this town? Since visitors come here to leave the working world behind for a week (or more), they passed a proclamation in 1997 which created a "no tie" zone. The first offense comes with a warning, and a complimentary South Padre Island t-shirt. A second offense will set you back the cost of one silk tie. I love this place.

If nature watching and encounters are your thing, you may end up staying here forever. Some great (and inexpensive) places to hit are the Dolphin Research and Sea Life Nature Center, Sea Turtle Inc., the Birding and Nature Center, and the Laguna Madre Nature Trail. The latter is a raised boardwalk, crossing over four acres of marshland, where many species of migrating birds can be observed up close. Or you may wish to take a guided tour of the area's wildlife attractions with Colley's Fins to Feathers. If you are looking for a little more action with your outdoors, how about deep-sea fishing, kiteboarding, windsurfing, horseback rides on the beach, or the Schlitterbahn Beach Waterpark. That last one offers a "standing wave" pool and uphill water slides, if you can get your head around those. Or maybe you just want to read the last few items on your summer reading list in the quiet seclusion of the Gulf of Mexico? Well, Andy Bowie Park has got you covered, along with concessions and bathhouses.

While in South Padre Island, I am renting a timeshare at the Royale Beach & Tennis Club. It features such on-site amenities as three pools, four hot tubs, four tennis courts, a daily activities center, and a poolside bar and grill. Did I mention that it is beachfront, with balconies overlooking the Gulf of Mexico? Rentals are currently available between $166 - $171/night, and there is a timeshare resale available for $1299. RedWeek.com members give the place 4 1/2 stars, so you may want to sign up to receive a posting alert for new rentals and resales.

Well I am off to attend a private sand castle construction lesson from master sand sculptor Sandy Feet. I swear that is her real name. If you think you can't be a sculptor of sand, you should check out her Flickr stream. I fancy myself a sand castle hobbyist, but I am hoping to step up my game a bit this year with a lesson from the master. Too bad I don't have one of those great pun name like hers.

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