North Padre Island ain't your typical beach vacation. As one of only 10 seashores run by the National Park Service, this barrier island is completely undeveloped -- and it'll remain that way forever! It's also the longest stretch of undeveloped beach in the world. Leave behind the typical beachy souvenir shops and resorts -- and enter into miles and miles of peaceful beachfront wilderness.
For a one-of-a-kind adventure, you can drive the island — literally from the top to the bottom. From the Malaquite Visitors Center in North Padre to the Mansfield Channel, where North and South Padre meet), there’s nothing but 60 miles of surf, sand and sun. It’s one place that you don’t have to worry about beach crowds, and you can just enjoy this uniquely untouched beach ecosystem.
A trip like this takes special planning — especially if you plan on camping overnight. It’s essential that you have a four wheel drive that can handle the soft sand; a plank of lumber and shovel will come in handy if you find your wheels getting stuck. Other important gear includes water, a first aid kit, gas and a map. Find more camping information here.
Big Shell Beach, at Mile Marker 25 along your drive down the island, was named so because the entire shoreline is blanketed in fragments of seashells. While it may be a great place to pick up some seashells by the seaside, it’s also a well known fishing spot. Park, drop a line and see what the ocean brings your way.
On the bay side of the island (which faces Laguna Madre) is one of the best spots to windsurf in the world! Since the water is low and there is almost no wind obstruction, it is the ideal spot for pros and novices alike. The folks at Worldwinds Windsurfing will have you riding the breeze in no time!
Texas has one of the most endangered sea turtle species on earth, so to help it repopulate, the National Park Service moves turtle eggs collected on the beach to a special place where they can care for them until they hatch. Once they’re ready, the baby turtles are released on the beach in a special ceremony where crowds gather to cheer the little guys on as they make their way to the water. It’s an amazing (and adorable) sight to see! Find more information about when the turtles are released on their Facebook page.
Shipwrecks on the Island
You never know quite what you’ll find as you drive down North Padre Island — but you could possibly see the ruins of a shipwreck. At Mile Marker 51, when the tide is low enough, you can still see parts of the wreckage from the S.S. Nicaragua, which sank in 1912.
Just a couple miles up the road from North Padre is the Surfside Sandwich Shoppe, where all the surfers grab a bite to eat after catching a wave. This laid-back beach eatery has delicious sandwiches, but I recommend the ahi tuna tacos… I mean, when you’re on the coast, you’ve gotta get seafood, right? And these tacos don’t disappoint!
North Padre Island