A Winter Vacation To South Padre Island

Every winter for the last several years my wife hears "I hate winter and cold weather - we need to escape." So to shut me up she agrees to a winter vacation and this year it was to South Padre Island, which is one of our favorite spots in Texas. When I said "I hate cold weather" it was raining, windy, and 38 degrees in Georgetown. When we left for South Padre Island it was sunny and warm at 75 degrees! But we were packed and ready to go.

South Padre IslandSome of the reasons we love South Padre Island include:

  • excellent beach bars, in fact, we named South Padre Island the "Beach Bar Capital of Texas"
  • lots of great restaurants
  • plenty of choices for lodging from homes, to RV campsites, to beach camping, to high rise condos
  • tons of fun things to see and do from sky diving to snorkeling to horseback rides on the beach plus ziplines, fishing charters, speed boat or jet ski or Segway tours or sailboat rides, dolphin tours, and lots more - see this South Padre Island Vacation Article
  • and reasonable prices for everything

Camping, Golf, and More in Portland & Corpus Christi

Since we hate driving more than 3 hours, we always try to shorten our drive time by stopping somewhere fun along the way to our final destination. This year we picked Portland because we heard they had a great RV Resort, an excellent golf course, and were 10 minutes from downtown Corpus Christi. By the way, most of the links will take you to our reviews or articles about that event. Portland was a perfect stop for us for three days:

  • Texas State AquariumSea Breeze RV Park was excellent with sites overlooking Nueces Bay and with downtown Corpus Christi across the Bay - read our review of Sea Breeze to learn more
  • within 5 minutes is North Beach which is home to the USS Lexington, the Texas Aquarium (read about our fun visit to the Texas Aquarium), a great beach, and a couple good restaurants and bars where we listened to a good guitar player
  • the Corpus Christi Museum of Science & History is just across the bridge from Sea Breeze so we spent a cold windy afternoon exploring the Corpus Christi Museum
  • the day before departing for South Padre Island we played and reviewed Northshore Golf Club and loved it and that night had a good meal in Corpus and listened to a band that played our kind of music - some oldies, some country, and some Rolling Stones and Beatles - and then we walked down the street to an Irish Pub for a nightcap and a good guitar player and a box player

Sea Breeze campsiteGood music  at North BeachNorthshore Country Club

Enjoying Happy Hour on South Padre Island

With a fuzzy head from a few too many beers listening to some good music we departed on a three hour drive to South Padre Island. After getting the RV settled into it's RV site at South Padre Island KOA (one of our favorite RV parks in Texas) we started what turned into 8 days of beach bar hopping, listening to some excellent music, some great golf at South Padre Island Golf Course, biking around the Island, and eating way too much. And the weather most days was clear with a little breeze and 75 to 85 degrees..

Music on South Padre IslandSouth Padre Island Golf CourseSouth Padre Island KOA

After this vacation and all the time we spent enjoying the drinks, the magnificent views, the appetizers and dinners, and the music at several different bars we have officially designated South Padre Island as the "Beach Bar Capital of Texas." Just a few of the bars include:

  • Sunset on SPIon the beach of the Gulf of Mexico - Clayton's the "largest beach bar in Texas," WanaWana, the Palm's Cafe on the Beach, Boomerang Billys, Island Grand Resort, Shrimp Haus, and Beachside at the Pearl
  • overlooking the Laguna Madre Bay - Laguna Bobs, Louies, Tequila Sunset, Blue Marlin, Pier 19, Sea Ranch, Coconuts, Parrot Eyes, and Palm Street - and the sunsets are stunning
  • not on the beach but still a lot of fun - Padreritaville, Montana's, Padre Island Brewing, Tom & Jerry's, and lots more

Most of the bars are within a mile or two of each other and all are within 2 miles. And at it's widest point, it's only a half a mile from the bay to the ocean, which means that from wherever you are on South Padre Island you can walk, golf cart, or bike it easily to all of the bars! Love it!

On New Year's Eve we went to Clayton's, the largest beach bar in Texas, enjoyed some live music and fireworks over the ocean. That was followed by some great music and a fun crowd at Padreritaville.

Clayton's Beach Barfireworks at ClaytonsPadreritaville

The next day was the annual Polar Bear Dip where lots of crazy people dress up in a variety of outfits and try to win the costume party, listen to live music, drink a few hot toddies, and then run into the 64 degree cold water of the Gulf of Mexico. I think the water may have been a little warmer than the air temperature.. And you have to get fully submerged for it to be official. Then they run back to Clayton's for another hot toddy or a shot of whiskey, some burgers, and more live music.

. Polar Bear PlungePolar Bear PlungePlunge into the Gulf of MexicoPolar Bear Costume Party

The following day was the annual 10K that started in Port Isabel, went across the bridge, and around some of South Padre, and ended at Louies for music and re-hydrating with several drinks.

See some of our pictures from South Padre Island. We hated to leave but we were booked in an RV Resort in Brownsville for five days and further up the Rio Grande Valley for 6 more days. I could have sworn that I saw tears on the headlight lens of the RV because he was as sad to leave as we were - the wife definitely had tears.

A Couple Enjoyable Days In Brownsville

From South Padre Island we headed 40 miles north to Brownsville and a five day stay in River Bend RV Resort & Golf Club that has the Rio Grande River as part of it's boundary. We kept our eyes and ears wide open for any immigrates that might try to sneak across the border and try to get our tee time! We enjoyed River Bend RV Resort (here is our review of River Bend RV Resort), played 18 holes of golf at Brownsville Golf Center and River Bend Golf Club, drank a few margaritas and ate some good Mexican food, and really enjoyed the Gladys Porter Zoo.

a campsite at River Bend RV ResortGladys Porter ZooRiver Bend Golf Course

But as much fun as we had in Brownsville, the wife and I and motorhome, were missing the happy hours at the beach bars, the music and appetizers every day, and all the things to do on South Padre Island. So we cancelled the rest of our stay in the Rio Grande Valley and headed back to South Padre Island.

Music, Zipping, and Segways on South Padre Island

It was good to be back on the Island with the palms swaying in the breeze, the waves breaking on the beach, the smell of appetizers calling, and the sounds of music everywhere. After settling in at Isla Blanca Park, we quickly took the bikes off the Jeep for a ride along the beach and then appetizers and dinner at Pier 19.

South Padre Island is home to a lot of winter Texans who stay on the island for 4 months or more waiting for it to warm up back home. And during these months there is a strange phenomenon that happens most days and it become fairly predictable - there is a mass of silver haired folks and canes, wheel chairs, and arthritis who migrate;

  • to Louies for free appetizers, Happy Hour, and 25 cent wings on Wednesday and $7 ribs on Thursdays - and Louies is packed until the apps run out and then around 7 PM it's empty
  • to one of the several bars that have music from 1 to 3 PM or from 4 to 6 PM - they dance, drink, laugh, and have a blast - the guy in the red shirt is Poncho and he's 90 and joined the singer on stage to dance up a storm
  • to stand in line for a free sandwich at Padreritaville
  • and then they head home around 6:30 or 7 PM and then the music changes to rock as the younger crowd starts to take over the restaurants and bars

dancing to the musicPonchoSilver hairs

It seems sad, but we slowly fell into that pattern and joined the silver hairs for apps, happy hour, music, and early bird dinners. One day after bar hopping to catch the 1 to 3 show at Laguna Bobs, the happy hour and music at Tequila Sunset from 3 to 5, and some music, 75 cent wings, and dinner at Louies we found ourselves, like most of the winter Texans, back in the motor home and ready for bed by 8:30! Embarrassing but what a fun day. That routine became quite common each day and we enjoyed lots of good music at several bars, plenty of appetizers, and some tasty meals.

Music on South Padre IslandMusic on South Padre IslandMusic on South Padre Island

Between drinks and music we took a day trip to Port Isabel, went on a Segway tour to see some sandcastles (one of which is the largest in the US) and chase waves and seagulls on the beach, enjoyed a zipline at South Padre Island Adventures, and catch the game with a lively crowd of Dallas and Packer fans.

Largest sandcastle in the USZip on South Padre Island Segway Tour

A Short Visit To Pharr & McAllen

All too soon it was time to start heading home and back to reality! First stop was only an hour up the Rio Grande Valley not too far (to Pharr, Texas) where we stayed in Texas Trails RV Park, had a great Mexican meal, and played golf at Monte Cristo Golf Club. The Rio Grande Valley is home to what seems like hundreds of huge (200 to 1000 sites) RV Resorts for winter Texans and all of them have tons of amenities ranging from tennis courts and swimming pools to pickleball, horseshoes and shuffleboard plus lots of events and activities each day and evening - knitting, wood working, poker, bridge, golf tournaments, bus tours, and many more plus music.

Texas Trails RV ResortSunset in PharrMonte Cristo Golf Course

After dinner the first night we stopped in for the music at the recreation hall at our RV Park and enjoyed a four piece band playing a wide variety of oldies. The second night we went to another RV park where we knew that Jul & the Chrome Wheels were playing. We saw them twice in South Padre and loved them (great personalities, excellent voice, and lots of our kind of songs) and it turns out they live near us in Georgetown and play around the Hill Country for two months during the year - can't wait to see them at the Oasis on Lake Travis. .

Band at Texas Trails RV ParkDancing to some musicJul & the Chrome Wheels

An Unexpected Stop in Alice

On Sunday, we put 100 gallons of gas in the motorhome at $2.55 a gallon, the price of gas always seems to go up when we travel, and started heading home. The wind was a steady 40 miles an hour with gusts up to 60 and of course we were heading right into it. I could watch the gas gauge drop rapidly as our mileage went from a normal 6 MPG to 3.5 MPG and the outside awnings were getting blown out and banging against the motorhome. I kept slowing down to try and stop the whacking of the awning and to stop getting blown sideways and ended up at 45 miles and hour and still fighting the steering wheel to control the swaying motorhome! As soon as we got to a reasonable sized town - Alice - we found a Walmart, set up camp in the parking lot, and went to a movie.

The next day was beautiful - bright and sunny with no wind and a temperature around 75 - but it quickly changed from bright to gloomy as I discovered a flat tire on the motorhome. Good news was right next door was a tire company but the bad news was they had to order a new tire and it set us back $475! So we sat in the motorhome all morning waiting for the tire to arrive from Corpus giving me plenty of time to write this article!

All-in-all a fantastic winter vacation on South Padre Island. Can't wait to come back and do it again. And now it's 38 degrees and I'm ready to head south again.

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Texas Outside has been alive & well since 1996 - that's ancient by today's internet standards! Texas Outside was originally developed by Lone Star Internet which is an Austin based web development company with an excellent reputation & client base. In March of 2006, we purchased Texas Outside & made a commitment to add new, exciting, & informative content on Texas outdoor activities & fun things to see & do.

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