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Vacations should be easy, especially when you’re planning a winter beach break to escape cooling Canadian weather. Visiting South Padre Island, Texas, is just that. What you might not expect from this coastal jewel, recently named Destination of the Year by Texas Travel Awards, is the impossible selection of ways to play and things to sip and sample. Once you arrive, deciding how to pass the time is the hardest decision you'll make. Trust us, it’s a good "problem" to have.

South Padre Island 101

South Padre Island

Located near the southernmost tip of Texas, South Padre Island’s average winter temperatures range from 15°C (the upper 50's) to the low twenties (lower 70's).

Travellers flying into one of Texas’ major hubs will have a long(ish) drive: South Padre Island is 910 kilometres (8.5 hours) from Dallas and 600 kilometres (5.5 hours) from Houston, so connecting flights into Brownsville and Harlingen (each less than an hour’s drive) are the recommended option. However you slice it, you’ll need wheels to get around South Padre Island.

Pro tip: If you do fly into a larger Texas hub, it’s worth noting Dallas and Houston have two airports each. Smaller Dallas Love Field and Houston Hobby are serviced by Southwest Airlines, where travellers can often find good deals.

Be a beach bum

beach chairs south padre

South Padre Island’s beaches have golden sand that boast a higher clay content than Alabama and Florida’s Gulf beaches, which makes them ideal for sandcastle building. You’ll enjoy some of the cleanest, calmest waters in the Gulf of Mexico.

If your idea of a perfect beach day involves a beach chair, a cooler and little else, you can do that here. If you prefer something more active, you can find a variety of outlets offering equipment rentals (kayaks, surfboards, stand-up paddle boards and more) or lessons.  If you want to make everyone jealous with your Instagram-worthy sandcastles, get a lesson from a professional.

south padre

To take a break from the water but keep the beach vibe, head to South Padre Island Adventure Park for zip lining with ocean views, horseback riding on the beach and more.

Or cast a line

fishing in south

South Padre Island is the best place to learn the basics of fishing. With 30-plus varieties populating these waters, the biggest hurdle you’ll face will be deciding which type of fishing you want to do and how long to be out for. (Inshore fishing is the most popular type of fishing on South Padre Island.) Fishing charter prices vary, but the average cost for a half-day trip for four people is about $500 USD.

If you’re in the best-part-about-fishing-is-eating-what-you-catch camp, you’re in luck. “Cook your catch” is a thing here. Several South Padre Island restaurants will transform your catch into a delectable seafood dinner.

Fresh seafood – but that’s not all

food from the painted marlinDining in at the Painted Marline Grille |

Fresh seafood is the obvious choice in South Padre Island, but you’ve got options. There’s a little bit of everything from sushi to great Tex-Mex.

The Painted Marlin Grille is a scenic space with gorgeous ocean views and a scratch kitchen. Parrot Eyes has casual dining, including peel-and-eat shrimp, burgers and Mexican favourites. Parrot Eyes also has a marina and several tour options, including a banana boat ride. For a fresh, authentic South Padre Island lunch, check out Ceviche Ceviche.

South Padre IslandJill Robins

There are many great restaurants listed on South Padre Island’s official tourism website, but you can’t go wrong asking a local for recommendations either.

Bottom Line: choosing is as hard as it gets

horseback riding in south padre

No matter how long your vacation is, you’ll run out of time before running out of things to do. The activities mentioned above barely scratch the golden surface when it comes to South Padre Island. Be a pirate; learn about sea turtles; swing a golf club. SPI is the perfect Texas beach getaway for couples, families and multigenerational groups because there’s an activity for every interest. 


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