You might be familiar with South Padre Island, of unfortunate Girls Gone Wild fame, but if you really want to appreciate the Texas Gulf Coast, head north to the protected National Seashore. These 70 miles of coastline are the longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island in the world.
Besides the usual swimming and sunbathing, here’s what you can do on peaceful North Padre Island:
Camp on the beach. There’s nothing quite as serene as falling asleep under the stars in this quiet corner of the Gulf. You’ll enjoy some exquisite sunrises and sunsets, and you can spend your days hiking along grassy dunes to Laguna Madre, one of only six hypersaline (saltier than the ocean) lagoons in the world. North Padre is also a great place to catch some fish for dinner, or maybe even a shark, so long as you have a valid Texas fishing license and saltwater stamp.
Learn to windsurf. At Worldwinds you can rent equipment and take lessons in windsurfing from internationally recognized experts. Classes range from totally beginner to advanced. If you find yourself there on a not-so-windy afternoon, which is unlikely considering the average wind speed is 18 mph, the National Seashore’s official vendor also rents one- and two-person kayaks.
Watch baby sea turtles take their first steps. North Padre is home to the endangered Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle, and there are dozens of hatchling releases each year on the beach. These are open to the public, free of charge, and quite popular, so try to plan ahead. If your visit doesn’t coincide with a release, there are always coyotes and white-tail deer running around.
What’s your favorite thing to do on North Padre Island?