South Padre is both a town and an island, accessed from the mainland via the Queen Isabella Causeway at Port Isabel. Luxury condos, restaurants, nightclubs, spas, and shops line approximately eight miles of its southern boulevard, also known as Park Road 100, a south to north straightaway broken only by side streets that terminate near the bay on one side or the gulf on the other. At the boulevard’s northern end the pavement terminates (swept in sand) but the island continues uninhabited for another 26 miles to the Mansfield Cut, a channel dredged through Padre Island, still the longest barrier island in the world, separating South Padre Island from North Padre Island. Just offshore here, remains of a fleet of Spanish treasure ships, wrecked by a squall in 1554, still lie beneath the waves.
South Padre has been a tourist destination for decades, a favorite wintering haven for retired Midwesterners escaping the ice and snow in the country’s far north, and serves as college spring break central where undergraduates take time to relax from their studies and, on occasion, take excess to its limits.
In 1967, Hurricane Beulah struck a devastating blow to South Padre and the mainland community of Port Isabel but today visitors would never know it. The bustle of souvenir shops, seafood restaurants, and hotels continue to attract visitors year-round to its tropical climate and warm, sugar sand shores.