Day Trips: South Padre Island Parks

The sunny side of SPI beaches

Photos by Gerald E. McLeod

The parks of South Padre Island provide access to some of the best beaches along the Texas coast.

At the southernmost tip of Padre Island, the world's longest barrier island, Isla Blanca Park is the crown jewel of the Cameron County Parks system. The county has built two new large beachside pavilions that have boardwalks, concessions, and much-appreciated shade. Within the park is a large RV park and campground, an amphitheatre, jetty, boat ramp, and the fisherman's memorial, Cristo de los Pescadores. This is one of the best places on the island to watch SpaceX rocket launches on the mainland. There are several restaurants just outside the park's perimeter.

There is an admission charge to access the miles of beach at all the county parks.

On the north side of town across the road from the birding center and convention center, Andy Bowie Park is a popular access point to the beach. The large parking lot next to the covered pavilion, showers, and restrooms doubles as a RV park (with hookups) and campground.

The first place you can access the 20 miles of beach in your vehicle – you can drive on most beaches in Texas – is at E.K. Atwood Park (County Beach Access No. 5). Many locals walk to the beach from the parking lot at the restrooms and seaside covered pavilion.

And if you want the beach to (nearly) yourself, keep driving five miles past Andy Bowie Park to County Beach Access No. 6.

In addition to patrolling the beaches and emptying garbage cans, the county has worked with Texas A&M scientists to maintain the sand dunes. Part of your park admission fee goes to help sustain this sensitive ecosystem.

1,549th in a series. Follow “Day Trips & Beyond,” a travel blog, at

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Day Trips
Day Trips: Bat-Watching in Texas
Day Trips: Bat-Watching in Texas
Six places to watch the bats

Gerald E. McLeod, June 18, 2021

Day Trips: Walker Honey Farm, Rogers
Day Trips: Walker Honey Farm, Rogers
This sweet superstore is the bee's knees

Gerald E. McLeod, June 11, 2021


South Padre Island, Texas coast, Isla Blanca Park, Cameron County Parks, Fisherman’s Memorial, SpaceX, Andy Bowie Park, E.K. Atwood Park

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle