Port Isabel: Port Isabel Lighthouse State Historic Site
Photo by Valerie D. Bates
Climb a spiral of 75 steps, including three short ladders, in the Tropical Trails town of Port Isabel and where do you think you'll end up? Someplace with one of the prettiest views of South Padre Island and the gulf waters—the top of the Port Isabel Lighthouse. The Port Isabel Lighthouse is open to the public and thus, the state's only lighthouse dome that has hosted a wedding. The 72-foot tall structure, constructed of brick in 1852, remained in service along the Texas coastline until 1905 when the decline of commercial shipping and the rise of the railroad made keeping Texas lighthouses unnecessary. The first part of the 20th century saw the Port Isabel Lighthouse structural conditions in need of help until initial restorations were spearheaded by the Texas State Parks Board. The lighthouse and surrounding grounds were dedicated as a historic landmark and a state park in 1952. Further restorations were completed in 2000 when the structure was returned to its original 1880s appearance. Structural repair, metal fabrication, and new coatings were required to turn the clock back. Today, the lighthouse and grounds feature a replica of the original lighthouse keeper's home where an interpretive exhibit explains the lighthouse history. And the light? It shines with a mercury-vapor lamp, marked on sea charts and aiding navigation once again.