Padre Island National Seashore is located about 25 minutes away from Corpus Christi, Texas. The park is accessible from a causeway connecting Corpus Christi and Padre Island. The Laguna Madre, a saltwater lagoon, is separated from the Gulf of Mexico by the undeveloped National Seashore. The park consists of 70 miles of shoreline, sand dunes, and prairies. The National Seashore is a nesting beach for endangered sea turtles with its efforts to recover the populations of five species.
During the summer months, plan your visit around the hatching of sea turtle nests and watch as they are released to the wild. Enjoy windsurfing on the Laguna Madre which is one of the top windsurfing locations in the United States. Year-round beachcombers enjoy discovering treasures that the currents have washed to shore. During the winter, thousands of birds migrate through the park making it a popular spot for birdwatching.
Padre Island National Seashore is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The five campgrounds within the park are also open year-round though there may be closures due to poor weather or surf conditions. If planning to camp, reservations are not accepted. Campsites are available on a first-come, first-served basis only. Plan to arrive early, especially if traveling during the spring and summer months.
Padre Island National Seashore is located in Corpus Christi, Texas. To access the park entrance, take the JFK Causeway onto the island, then drive south for approximately 10 miles. Plugging the address into a GPS tends to be unreliable and may lead you astray.
Once inside the park, visitors will need to drive or bike to get around to the different beaches and attractions. If cycling, ensure that you and your bike are visible to traffic. There are no bike trails or bike lanes. If driving onto a beach, keep an eye on wind and surf conditions. Two-wheel drive vehicles have limited access when driving down South Beach.
Come prepared for your visit and overnight stay. Services and supplies are not sold at the National Seashore. The closest services are about a 12-mile drive from the park.
There are five campgrounds: Malaquite, Bird Island Basin, North Beach, South Beach, and Yarborough Pass. All campgrounds are accessible for RVs with the exception of Yarborough Pass which must be accessed with a 4 wheel drive vehicle or by boat.
Campsites at all campgrounds are available on a first-come, first-served basis only. Upon arrival, camping guests should pick up their permits at the kiosk located by the entrance of each campground.
Each campsite has a picnic table and there are restrooms at the campgrounds. There are no electric, water, or sewer hookups at the campsites though there is a water filling station and dump station at the park. Generator use is permitted between specific hours.
Padre Island is a fantastic spot for birdwatching especially from the fall to early spring. During the fall each year, thousands of birds migrate to the park and many will even spend the winter there. Pelicans, redhead ducks, and white-tailed hawks are just a few species that birding enthusiasts are likely to encounter during their visit.
Beach-combing is an enjoyable activity for children and adults of all ages. Beachcombers are permitted to keep up to a 5-gallon bucket of their findings. Some beach treasures that visitors may find include driftwood, sea beans, and many different shells. If an animal is still living in its shell, leave it where you find it. Additionally, any artifacts that may be found should be reported to the park staff.
Padre Island National Seashore provides visitors with a unique fishing experience. Fish from the shore or boat out in the Laguna Madre or open water of the Gulf of Mexico.
Check fishing regulations and restrictions and ensure you pick up a fishing license prior to your visit to the park. Those who try their hand at fishing may reel in a red drum or even a black-tipped shark.
During your stay, spend the day kayaking in the Laguna Madre. Laguna Madre is a hypersaline lagoon of which there a just a handful throughout the world. Its waters are shallow and provide protection for both beginner and advanced kayakers. Experienced kayakers may want to head out into the open water of the Gulf of Mexico. Be aware of currents and conditions.
Padre Island National Seashore is one of the top windsurfing destinations in the contiguous United States. Bird Island Basin along the shore of Laguna Madre attracts windsurfers from near and far. The consistent wind and the shallow, salty lagoon is perfect for both beginner and experienced windsurfers. The undeveloped shore of Padre Island provides a beautiful backdrop as windsurfers glide through the waters of Laguna Madre.
Sea turtles draw many visitors each summer to Padre Island National Seashore. The National Seashore is an important nesting area for five endangered and threatened species of sea turtles, including Kemp’s Ridley, the most endangered sea turtle worldwide.
When planning your visit to the park, check the nesting season predictions to see when a nest may hatch to watch the baby turtles make their way back into the wild. Hatchling releases run from June to August at Malaquite Beach near the Visitor Center. It is advised to plan a visit during a time when multiple nests are predicted to hatch in case a nest doesn’t hatch when expected.