Day Trips: Port Isabel Lighthouse

The lighthouse guided ships through the channel between Padre Island and the mainland

Photos by Gerald E. McLeod

The Port Isabel Lighthouse guided ships through the narrow channel between the southern tip of Padre Island and the mainland for 53 years before the light visible for 16 miles was finally extinguished by modern navigation devices. 

Built in 1852 on the grounds of a former military depot, the 72-foot-tall brick structure painted a glowing white is a familiar sight in downtown Port Isabel at the entrance to the 2.37-mile Queen Isabella Causeway to South Padre Island. 

After being abandoned in 1905, the lighthouse was restored by the Texas Parks Board in 1947 and became a state park in 1952. The park was transferred to the Texas Historical Association on Jan. 1, 2020, and is operated by the city, with a visitor center in the replica of the original lighthouse keeper's cottage. 

Of 16 lighthouses built along the Texas coast, this is the only one open to the public. Among the visitors to climb the 75-step circular staircase and three ladders have been several couples who said their wedding vows on the platform 50 feet above the ground and 82 feet above sea level. 

Occupying a city block, the lighthouse grounds are surrounded by shops and restaurants on a bluff overlooking the Laguna Madre. The facilities at the park include a picnic area and historical display about the lighthouse and the area in the visitor center, besides the grand view from the observation deck.

The Port Isabel Lighthouse is currently open on a limited schedule due to the coronavirus pandemic, with self-guided tours by appointment only. The park area is open from 7am to 7pm daily. For more information, go to or call 956/943-2262. 

1,505th in a series. Follow “Day Trips & Beyond,” a travel blog, at

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More Day Trips
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Gerald E. McLeod, July 3, 2020

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Port Isabel Lighthouse, Padre Island, Queen Isabella Causeway, Laguna Madre

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