Island Retreat

by Country Inns & Suites
Thursday, November 4, 2010

Warm up to the sand, surf and salt air of South Padre Island. By Danno Wise

Although most areas of the United States ( consider January through March “indoor time,” South Padre Island (, Texas (, is a year-round warm-weather destination. Spend a weekend there and you might just find that nothing beats the scent of salt air as it flutters ashore ahead of the sunrise above the gorgeous Gulf of Mexico.

Day 1

Any angler in the family will want a Saturday morning on the water. Book a group fishing trip aboard the Osprey ( to go after red snapper, amberjack and grouper, or hire a guide for a private bay charter out of Jim’s Pier and pursue redfish, speckled trout and snook. Non-fishermen should try a guided horseback trot along the beach with the surfside cowboys from Island Equestrian Center ( 

Lunch at lively Tom & Jerry’s Beach Club ( ($5.95–$21.95), and make sure to order a side of Texas Toothpicks, twin slivers of onions and jalapeños battered and deep-fried. Freshly fueled, book a few windsurfing lessons at Windsurf Inc. (, on the shores of shallow Laguna Madre Bay, where advanced windsurfers will glide across the surface of the ultra-clear Laguna at 20 to 30 mph. Those who aren’t inclined to go windsurfing should wander over to Sea Turtle Inc. (, one of the country’s largest nonprofit sea turtle rescue operations.

As evening draws near, hop aboard the Laguna Skimmer with captains George and Scarlet Colley of Fins to Feathers Tours ( for a bird/dolphin–watching tour. Besides dozens of bottlenose dolphins, guests can expect to see pelicans, ospreys, roseate spoonbills, white ibises and peregrine falcons.

A dinner of shrimp and crab enchiladas at Amberjack’s ( ($13.99-$32.99) or a seafood buffet at Louie’s Backyard ( ($16.99–$18.99) will put a perfect cap on the day. Both of these restaurants offer spacious decks with spectacular views of the sun setting over the Laguna Madre.

Day 2

Following Sunday breakfast at Grapevine Café ($4–$8), head over to the Laguna Madre Nature Trail. This 1,500-foot boardwalk rests above four acres of wetlands bordering the Laguna Madre. If you peer into the sawgrass at the water’s edge, you may even get a glimpse of the resident alligator.

After touring the nature trail, it’s time for lunch at Blackbeard’s ( ($6.49–$8.99), where the charbroiled mahi mahi is a local favorite. Then, hit Isla World Headquarters or Calypso for “island wear”—sandals, sundresses, T-shirts and shorts—that you and the kids can sport back home.

Afterward, head across the causeway to historic Port Isabel (, and be sure to visit the Port Isabel Lighthouse ( At the top of its spiral staircase are panoramic views of South Padre Island. Surrounding the lighthouse are unique shops and attractions, including Passion’s gift shop, Coastal Winds, the Purple Parrot and Treasures of the Gulf Museum (

If you have a day or two to spare, consider a quick trip to Brownsville ( and into Matamoros (, Mexico ( Brownsville’s Gladys Porter Zoo ( is considered one of the best in the United States. In Matamoros, check out Juarez Market or grab a bite to eat at Los Dos Republicas (

Author Bio: Although Danno Wise enjoys travel, it’s often hard for him to find a reason to leave his home in sunny south Texas.