South Padre Island New Years Eve Weekend
We headed south to SPI to enjoy the warm weather (clear skies and 70s to 80s for a week) and bring in 2012. Since it was a New Years Eve Celebration, part of what we decided to do was check out the South Padre Island Beach Bars. And although it's "Unofficial" it's still good enough for us - South Padre Island is the "Official Beach Bar Capital of Texas!" And no place else that we've found even comes close. In addition, South Padre Island is very close to winning "Fun Things To See & Do Capital of Texas."
On a previous vacation to South Padre Island over New Years in 2010 we brought in the 2011 by biking from our lodging to the Entertainment District on Laguna Street and spent the next 5 hours celebrating New Years in 5 different Beach Bars, all of which have a fantastic setting on the bank of Laguna Madre Bay. We enjoyed bringing in the New Year with a wide range of interesting characters from around SPI and Texas and as far away as Washington State, Minnesota, and New York. Each of the South Padre Island Beach Bars we went to had a unique set of people and each of the bars had it's own unique personality:
- Palm Street Pier was our first stop for 25 cent oysters on the half shell, a view of the sunset, and some cold beer and more munchies - a laid back and comfortable setting with a fantastic sunset for no additional charge
- Sunset (which was closed in December 2011) - an upscale setting and clientele and the place was jamming to a lively rock band plus lots of hats, high heels, confetti, martinis, short skirts, and horns - we were tempted to stay here if for no other reason than just to see if most of the crowd would even make it to midnight!
- Coconuts Bar & Grill was the next stop and a big change from Sunset and more to our style - a laid back locals place that resembles a two story log and palm thatched tree house with lots of cold draft beer, laughs and giggles, and plenty of tall tales - people here will definitely make it past midnight and most likely close the bar
- Louie's Backyard is a landmark on the Island and known for consistently delivering the best of the dining and partying atmosphere, great food, great music, great drinks and great crowds - what a big change from the small cozy rustic grass thatched roof Coconuts, it's huge and packed with people of all ages enjoying the Waterfront Dining Area, the covered deck and Sunset Bar, the upstairs Locals Sports Bar loaded with games (pool, video, shuffleboard, darts, and more), Sunset Room and Lookout Bar & Deck - a rock band was playing for just local residents in one area and the other areas were packed with a mostly younger crowd except for the people dining in the Waterfront Dining Area and waiting for the fireworks and clock to strike 12 - took us awhile to down a couple drinks as we explored each of the areas.
- Laguna Bob Bar On Bay was next and it was back to lots of locals and more laid back tourists enjoying strong and cheap drinks served in down homey plastic cups
- Tequila Sunset was the fifth stop (the bike is starting to get a little unstable, so I parked it for awhile to give it a rest) - a great place to enjoy the open air and good tunes from an enjoyable band, fun and lively crowd that was a interesting mix of locals and tourists and we were tempted to stay here much too long but we still had a couple more places to hit
- Amberjacks was next and it's an award winning restaurant with a very upscale bar and restaurant plus an upstairs area that was jumping with a good live band and after a couple dances and drinks we were politely ask to leave this private party - too bad, we would have enjoyed bringing in the New Year here
- Steamers Seafood Bar and Scampi's Restaurant and Bar were on the list but it was getting close to midnight and the bike decided it would prefer a shorter hop back to Tequila Sunset for a final drink and the fireworks
Nothing better than sitting on a open air deck with a cold drink, good music in the background, a fun crowd, and outstanding fireworks show that brought in the New Year. Not sure how my bike got me home but it did and the next day was as gray as some of the above pictures! Fun time - in fact, we had so much fun, it was one of the reasons that we came back in 2011 to do it again.
Part of the 2011 trip was to confirm South Padre Island as the "Official Beach Bar Capital of Texas." We've told you about all of the fun and funky and upscale beach bars on Laguna Avenue which is the place to go to enjoy a range of food from good burgers and 25 cent oysters to some gourmet seafood dishes, all with fantastic outside decks and dining, and stunning sunsets over Laguna Madre Bay that are included in the price of drinks and food.
Since we had the grand kids with us on the 2011 New Years trip, we decided to visit all of the Gulf of Mexico side beach bars so the grand kids could enjoy the sun, surf, and sand while we sipped margaritas, pina coladas, spicy bloody Marys, and munched on some good food. All of the following South Padre Island beach bars are along Gulf Blvd, serve drinks and food, are kid friendly, and you can step off their deck and you're in the sand and surf:
- Wanna Wanna Beach Bar & Grill was listed by Playboy as "where you want to be on South Padre," MTV chose Wanna Wanna for a 2003 Spring Break film and COASTAL LIVING featured them as one of their "23 great Seafood Dives of the coastal U.S." - under a grass thatched roof is ok food, great drinks, and some fun people watching
- Palm's Cafe on the Beach has a bar and it's on the beach but it's better known for fine cuisine expertly prepared by skilled and seasoned chefs - so most visitors come here to eat not drink and enjoy the sand and sun
- Clayton's Beach Bar & Grill is the newest and largest addition to the list of South Padre Island Beach Bars - great drinks (delicious Margaritas and Pina Coladas), pretty good food, live music and happy hours, sand volleyball courts, tetherball, and a new huge deck is being built
- Boomerang Billy's has fair food, live music and dancing, and a very friendly atmosphere - an outstanding place to drink and eat while enjoying the beach
It may seem to you like all we do when we visit South Padre is bar hop and that may be partially true, but on this trip we did find some time to enjoy some other fun things. On this trip we took a bike ride each day - ok, they were to a beach bar for lunch or for appetizers before dinner but once we got there we threw the football and frisbee, made sand castles, played volleyball, and I beat the 6 year old grandson in tetherball! We also went shopping for new t-shirts, visited the turtles, and rode bikes and the cars on the beach. We stayed at a fantastic RV park (South Pardre Island RV Park Review) with sites and cabins facing Laguna Madre Bay and a two minute walk to Pier 19 for a fishing trip, sunsets, great drinks, and good food. They have lots of amenities that we enjoyed including a heated swimming pool, tetherball, playground, pool table, basketball hoop, and sunset viewing deck that was perfect for dominos and cribbage as the sun was setting.
As we were sipping a cold drink or biking we thought about going sky divining, taking a sand castle building lesson from Andy at Sand Castle Lessons, kayaking on the bay, taking a kite sailing lesson, renting a stand-up paddle board, or trying land board sailing (Air Padre rents and gives lesson on kite or landboard sailing) - but we always found some excuse to have another appetizer or drink and the grand kids were having a blast playing on the beach. Another excuse was last year we tried all the other adventures - ATV and horseback riding on the beach, parasailing, pirate boat and speedboat cruise, and lots more - read our Vacation to South Padre Island to learn more about each of these adventures.
Since we bar hopped for New Years in 2011 and because my daughter, son-in-law, and grand kids were with us, we decided to celebrate and bring in 2012 on a fireworks cruise with Breakaway Cruises, who leads the pack in offering fun things to do on South Padre Island and are rated as the "Top Activity Destination on South Padre Island." Last year, as we were sitting in the bar waiting for the fireworks to start, all of the boats paraded in front of the bars and they looked liked they were having a blast, which helped us decide on which boat to take our fireworks cruise with. Breakaway Cruises was the winner and in addition to fireworks cruises they offer parasailing, eco and dolphin watching tours, wave runners, amphibious Duck tours, bay as well as deep sea fishing trips, and New Year's eve fireworks cruises. Last year we went parasailing with Breakaway and had a blast - read this article to learn more.
Around 10 around 200 party people were handed party favors and boarded two of the 50' to 70' double decker Breakaway Cruises boats and left the harbor. It doesn't get much better than cruising Laguna Madre Bay on a party boat with 100 fun loving people ready to party. We cruised for about 20 minutes under a full moon and some great party music and the outline of Port Isabel on our left and the skyline of South Padre Island with occasional burst of fireworks lighting up the sky on our right.
Before we knew it we were cruising by several of the Laguna Madre beach bars mentioned earlier and were cheered by the crowds in the bars and along the shoreline. After a couple passes by the bars, our skipper gently rammed the boat on a sand bar with the fireworks barge about 100 yards in front of us and Louie's Backyard about 100 yards off the back end of the boat. For the next 45 minutes or so we danced, drank, socialized, cheered other boats as they slowly cruised by and finally began the countdown to New Years Eve.
At exactly 12 the fireworks started to the hoops and hollers and cheers and horns from all the boats and the hundreds of people packed in the bars and along the shoreline. We all enjoyed complimentary champagne and a spectacular fireworks display for the next 15 minutes or so. All too soon it was time to back off the sandbar and dance, drink, and socialize our way back to the dock. A fun time.
The fireworks are launched from a barge in the bay located a few hundred yards off shore from Louie's Backyard. Several boats will line up along the channel with their bows run aground onto the sandbar to watch the display on New Years, Fourth of July, and on Fridays during the summer months from June to August. We heard that this years display was the largest and most complex firework displays ever. Firework shells up to ten inches in diameter were fired up to 1500 feet in the air and the sky is covered with bright and colorful lights and loud booms.
The next morning was cold, windy, and drizzly (perfect for a hangover) and before heading to our next adventure in the Rio Grande Valley we stopped by Boomerang Billy's for the 14th Annual Dash to the Sea. Over 500 hearty (or crazy or hung over) souls; in various stages of dress or undress stood shivering and waiting for the starting gun to signal the start of the 500 feet mad dash to the ocean. Brave souls took a quick dip and then dashed back to a towel or the bar for a hot toddy!