Attraction Category: Camping, National Park, Scenic Hike, Water Sports, and Wildlife RefugeAttraction Tags: Attraction South Padre Island Texas, Attraction Texas, Campground South Padre Island Texas, Campground Texas, National Park Campground South Padre Island Texas, National Park Campground Texas, National Park Camping South Padre Island Texas, National Park Camping Texas, National Park South Padre Island Texas, National Park Texas, National Seashore Camping South Padre Island Texas, National Seashore Camping Texas, National Seashore South Padre Island Texas, National Seashore Texas, and Spring Break Attraction
Padre Island National Seashore is the longest stretch of barrier island in the world. It separates the Gulf of Mexico from the Laguna Madre, one of a few hypersaline lagoons in the world. The park protects 70 miles of coastline, dunes, prairies, and wind tidal flats teeming with life. It is a safe nesting ground for the Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle and a haven for over 380 bird species. It also has a rich history, including the Spanish shipwrecks of 1554.
The National Seashore is mostly prairie grasslands with marshes and ponds bordered on the east by the Gulf of Mexico and on the west by the Laguna Madre. Few trees exist on the island. Those that do are mostly mesquite, live oak, or willow. The area supports 75 plant families composed of almost 400 species. The Gulf beach is composed of white sand and is less than a hundred feet wide, Much of it is firmly packed, except for a stretch of about forty miles which becomes increasingly soft towards the center and is composed to a large degree of shells. Most of the seashore is accessible only by four-wheel-drive vehicle.
Padre Island National Seashore provides a vast array of critical habitat types to an even more diverse spectrum of inhabitants. From the water’s edge of the Gulf of Mexico to the shores of the Laguna Madre, many animals call Padre Island “home.” Coyotes and deer roam the dunes, while songbirds flit in the grasslands. Jellyfish wash ashore and Ghost crabs scramble to dig in the sand until they reach water. Tiny invertebrates thrive in the mudflats where they often fall victim to the probing bills of wading birds. And sea turtles, one of the most iconic and popular animals found on the island, pull themselves ashore in order to lay their eggs in the warm sand.
All five of the sea turtle species found in the Gulf of Mexico find something they need at the park and in its adjacent waters. Kemp’s ridley sea turtles nest here more than at any other location in the U.S. Juvenile green sea turtles live in the waters here year-round, and adults nest on Padre Island in low numbers. Loggerhead sea turtles also nest in the park in low numbers and forage off shore. Leatherback sea turtles travel through the Gulf and historically nested here. Hawksbill sea turtles also travel through the area, finding food and rest along the way. All of these species are federally listed as either endangered or threatened. Padre Island National Seashore is the only location in Texas where nests from all five of these species have been found.
The Malaquite Visitor Center at Padre Island National Seashore offers a bookstore and an exhibit area with information about park history, plants, and animals. Free programs are offered daily. A shaded picnic area is available on the deck. Restrooms and cold water showers are available in the bathhouse. Wheelchair users can borrow a special beach wheelchair from the visitor center at no charge. An accessible ramp goes from the Pavilion down to Malaquite Swimming Beach.
Padre Island National Seashore Camping
All campgrounds are open year-round. No reservations are accepted, as camping is first-come, first-served. Campers, including beach campers, must have a camping permit, which is available from the kiosks at the entrances of each campground. There are no RV hook-ups anywhere in the park, but an RV dump station and a water filling station are available for all campers staying in the park. A 14-day camping limit is in effect at all camping areas. At the end of 14 days of camping anywhere within the park, campers must vacate their site and leave the park for a minimum of 14 days before returning to camp.
No food, firewood, or fishing licenses are sold in the park, and the park does not have a gas station. The nearest amenities from the park entrance station are about 12 miles away, so please come prepared.
Malaquite Campground is tucked in the dunes with a view of the Gulf of Mexico and just half of a mile north of the visitor center, the campground features 48 semi-primitive designated sites. Tent campers are welcome to set up camp on the beach or at the campsite. Malaquite Campground provides flush toilets, cold-water rinse showers, and paved parking. Each site has a picnic table. Sites on the Gulf side also have shade structures and grills.
Bird Island Basin Campground
Bird Island Basin Campground is located a short distance away from the boat ramp on the waters of the Laguna Madre, these camp sites offer fantastic opportunities for windsurfing, kayaking, boating, birding and fishing. Both RV and tent camping sites are available but it is dry camping only. There are chemical toilets only, but flush toilets and cold-water rinse showers are available at the Malaquite Pavilion Bathhouse.
North Beach is the shoreline that runs along the northernmost section of the National Seashore, along the Gulf of Mexico. All camping in this area is primitive and open to RV and tent camping. There are no facilities and no designated sites. Flush toilets and cold-water rinse showers are available at the Malaquite Visitor Center.
South Beach is the shoreline that runs along the Gulf of Mexico from the south end of Closed Beach to the Mansfield Channel, about 60 miles in total length. Mile markers are placed every five miles on the beach. All camping in this area is primitive and open to RV and tent camping. There are no paved roads or amenities and all driving is on the beach. A high-clearance, 4-wheel drive vehicle is needed to reach most of South Beach. All beach driving is at your own risk so please be prepared! At the entrance of South Beach, there is a chemical toilet and a large dumpster. Flush toilets and cold-water rinse showers are available at the Malaquite Visitor Center.
Yarborough Pass is located in the Laguna Madre, 15.5 miles south of the visitor center. To find the campground, drive to the 15-mile marker and backtrack approximately 100 yards. Look for a notch in the foredune ridge and turn right. Access to this campground is possible only through the 4-wheel drive area of South Beach and by boating down the Laguna Madre. If driving, follow the road approximately one to two miles to the campground. Be aware that the road through the dunes is sometimes filled with exceptionally deep and soft sand in which even 4-wheel-drive vehicles may occasionally become stuck. The flooded areas may be deep. Please use caution when crossing to avoid flooding your engine or exhaust. Primitive camping is available here with no facilities.
- More Attraction DetailsAddress: South Padre Island National Seashore
South Padre Island, Texas 78597Hours: Malaquite Visitor Center: 9:00am-5:00pm daily
- Local Points of InterestLocal RV Parks:
South Padre Island KOALocal Restaurants:
Ceviche Ceviche, BurgerFi, Gabriella's, Blackbeards, Cafe on the Beach, Winjammer's Beachfront Cafe, Russo's New York Pizzeria, Daddy's Seafood & Cajun Kitchen, The Meatball Cafe, Ted's, Cap'n Roy's, Tokyo TeppanyakiLocal Shopping:
Island Market, H-E-B, Ocean Palm Shopping Center, Island Native Surf House, B & S Kite Shop, Ship Shape, Mirage Beachwear, On the Beach Surf Shop, Beach Wave, Renee's of South Padre
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