If you’re ready to get back to nature, add the Padre Island National Seashore to your must-visit list for an experience unlike any other. The largest undeveloped barrier island in the world, PINS (as the locals call it) is more than 130,000 acres of dunes, grasslands, and beaches.
The Padre Island National Seashore is part of the National Park System and one of only 10 National Seashores in the United States and a haven for all sorts of coastal and outdoor recreational activities.
At the Padre Island National Seashore, you can:
- Enjoy a casual, relaxing day on the beach
- Learn to windsurf or paddleboard at Worldwinds Windsurfing at Bird Island Basin
- Launch your boat to fish the Laguna Madre or fish from the shore on the Gulf of Mexico side
- Take a flatland hike along the scenic Grasslands Nature Trail
- Bring your binoculars and try to spot one of the 380 bird species that visit the Island each year
- Spot one of many species of sea turtles
- Cruise 4x4 down the shore
With world-class wind and protection from the waves of the Gulf of Mexico, some of the best windsurfing in the world can be found right here at PINS. Take a right turn after entering the park to rent some gear and even sign up for a lesson at Worldwinds Windsurfing at the Bird Island Basin. Not a thrill-seeker? No worries. Watching from the shore is just as cool!
The quickest way to get a feel for the environment of the Island is to take a stroll along the Grasslands Nature Trail. Located just inside the park entrance, the trail is paved and only a short ¾ of a mile long, perfect for a flat-land style hike. Explore some of the plants and animals that populate the grassy native habitat, just a short distance from the beach. Don’t forget your insect repellant, though: this side of the Island has a higher likelihood of mosquitos than the breezier side of the seashore.
The Padre Island National Seashore is an untouched paradise of federally protected wildlife. While here, you may see one of the many hundred species of birds, fish, and mammals that make this park their home. Bring your binoculars for some prime bird watching in the early spring and fall or go on a hike through the grasslands to try to get a glimpse of coyotes, deer, kangaroo rats, ghost crabs, and many others!
For the anglers out there, PINS offers up some great saltwater fishing. Just make sure you have a Texas fishing license with a saltwater stamp. Targeted species vary by season, but you can expect anything from catfish to red drum to trout, and for the avid anglers out there, shark fishing is always an option.
Sea Turtle Hatchlings
Sea turtles often visit the park to make their nests and lay their eggs. Because of the popularity of this nesting ground, volunteers and rangers alike work to spot the turtles as they come ashore and work to conserve and protect the nests of those endangered species.
The Rangers at the Seashore are always willing to teach visitors fun facts about the wildlife, ecosystem, and region. There’s typically something for everyone - kids might enjoy the Junior Ranger exploration program, while Mom and Dad can take a leisurely beach walk with a ranger who will explore the Island’s ecology. There are even multiple birding talks, for anyone from beginners to experts, and an evening program that takes place under a starlit sky. Best of all, these talks are all included in the park’s basic entrance fee.
An online calendar will give you most times and details on these talks and others. If you’re already on your way to the Seashore, visit the Malaquite Pavilion or Visitor’s Center for more information.
For those truly adventurous folks with a 4-wheel-drive, the southern part of the Park offers a unique “off-road” driving experience between the Gulf of Mexico and the coastal sand dunes. A word of caution though: there’s no cell service south of the Visitor Center, so make sure you’re fueled up and drive safe!
What You Need to Know
- Entrance Fees: The park offers daily, weekly and annual passes per vehicle.
- Overnight camping and boat ramp access require additional fees.
- Hours: 24/7 365 days a year
- Parking: There is paved parking at the Malaquite Visitor Center (free) and the Bird Island Basin Boat Ramp (additional fee required)
- There are primitive public restrooms on site.