Ep. 121: South Padre Island | Texas RV travel camping


Hey friends, welcome back to Grand
Adventure! I’m your host Marc Guido, and welcome
to South Texas. We’re visiting South Padre Island in this episode, so stay
tuned! Our RV tour of the western half of Texas
continues. Our intention coming here had been to boondock right on the sand of
Boca Chica Beach, the southernmost point in Texas;
however, we opted to move over to Isla Blanca County Park on South Padre Island
for several reasons. For starters, it’s a whole lot hotter here in South Texas at
the end of September and beginning of October than we’d expected. We
incorrectly thought things would be starting to cool off by now, and an
electrical hook-up for constant air conditioning is practically a necessity,
even with an onshore sea breeze. There were also issues with Boca Chica Beach
itself. For one, there’s a lot of trash washed up on the beach here … and we mean
a LOT! Given the beach’s proximity to the Rio Grande, and the fact that most of the
rubbish has Mexican labels, we’ve surmised that much of this trash has
washed down the river with the recent monsoon rains. Finally, we had concerns
for our personal safety. We arrived at the southern end of the beach to find
the mouth of the Rio Grande only about 50 feet wide here, and waist-deep. While
we’re standing on U.S. land to take this shot, those cars are in Mexico, and if an
article from last month in USA Today is to be believed, drug cartels
completely control the spot where those cars are parked as a shipping point for
drugs. Given that it’s trivial to walk across the border here, and that the
southern half of Boca Chica Beach is all but deserted, we decided that we’re not
comfortable boondocking here. One unique thing to see adjacent to Boca
Chica Beach is SpaceX Corporation’s Texas launch site. It’s here, right alongside
the Boca Chica Road, that Elon Musk is developing the SpaceX Starship, a
long-duration cargo and passenger- carrying reusable spacecraft. Another
Starship orbital prototype is being built by a competing team in Florida.
It’s designed to be used for anything from satellite delivery, to a passenger-carrying transport to Mars. So after giving Boca Chica Beach a
boondocking thumbs-down, we’ve retreated to Isla Blanca Park, which occupies the
entire southern tip of South Padre Island, adjacent to the shipping channel
into Brownsville. This massive park operated by Cameron County includes 600
RV sites and, except for a handful of partial hookup sites outside the main
gate, they all have full hookups for prices ranging from $35 to $50 per night
in this off-season, or $55 to $70 per night in summer. We’re paying $200 per week for
this spacious, grassy site with full hookups, and at this time of year
there’s plenty of elbow room. All sites are within walking distance of the park’s
gorgeous Gulf of Mexico beach, while fishermen try to land redfish on the
bay and shipping channel. South Padre Island is a barrier island,
formed when the creation of the Port Mansfield channel split Padre Island
in two. The resort city of South Padre Island, a popular vacation destination, is
located at the island’s southern end. The island’s main industry is of course
tourism, with tens of thousands of college students flocking to the island every
spring break. In winter the island hosts snowbirds,
many of whom arrive with their RVs. North of town the island takes on a much more pristine character. Westerners began to settle the
area following the arrival of Padre José Niçolas Balli,
a priest and missionary who set up a cattle ranch here in the early 19th century. Padre Balli was driven out by the Mexican-American War, and was unable to return because of the American Civil War. Most of the island was closed by the National Park Service until 1962, after which settlement was allowed and
arrivals began to establish an economy on the island and in neighboring Port
Isabel. Today, the 2.5-mile Queen Isabella Causeway connects the two. Folks are allowed to drive right on the
beach in much of this portion of the Texas Gulf Coast, and dispersed camping
is permitted in many of these areas. Doing so, however, requires keeping a
close eye on both the weather and incoming tides. We’re working from the rig business
hours Monday to Friday, but this affords us the opportunity to get out and see
the area and recreate, too. After work today we’re going to drop our kayak in the
water at the Isla Blanca Park boat ramp, to paddle along some of the island’s
bay shore. For our final night on South Padre
Island, we’re venturing out to Laguna Bob’s, a colorful shack offering seafood,
burgers, and a full bar in a laid-back outdoor space, with a waterfront deck and
live music. We can heartily recommend their fried Texas Gulf shrimp basket. So we truly hope that you’ve enjoyed
visiting South Padre Island with us! In next week’s episode, we’re going to venture
north up the coast about three and a half hours to visit Padre Island
National Seashore. If you’re not yet one of our Grand Adventurers, therefore, now’s
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