Editor’s note: it’s awesome that Christian wrote this the same day I visited another National Seashore: Point Reyes in California. It seems the experiences couldn’t be more opposite! For more of Christian’s National Parks themed articles, click here for his index.
Texas is known to many Texans as the Best Country in the World. Traveling around Texas will definitely give you a partial understanding of why Texans love Texas so much – but I suspect only people from Texas will ever truly understand why they love it quite so much. Padre Island is a Texas gem – a windswept island filled with shifting dunes, hardy grasses, migrating birds, migrating tourists, and small vacation towns dotted with high rises.
Padre Island is a beautiful place to visit if you’re interested in trying to figure out why Texans love Texas so much. Padre Island is down on what Texans call “The Third Coast.” The Third Coast has its own vibe – distinct in character from the East and West Coasts (fewer self-indulgent spray-tanned bros than the beaches in New Jersey and fewer self-indulgent spray-tanned bros than the beaches in LA).
The island is a popular tourist spot for Texans around spring break, summer, and when it’s not COVID, all the time. Unlike the Pacific Coast, where it’s temperate all year long, the Third Coast is often just as hot as the more inland cities. But the nearness of the ocean and promise that you could leave your hotel and swim if you really wanted to makes the Texas summer a bit more bearable.
If you’re an HGTV type of person, you’ve probably seen an episode of House Hunters where the people are looking for a home on the beach and they say something like, “I want a place that has two beds & two baths right on the coast and buying it will cost less than two months’ rent in San Francisco.” That’s here. But the swankier condos can also start pushing towards the million-dollar mark. It’s a great place to live and vacation if you’re not too proud to deal with the occasional hurricane.
Padre Island National Seashore is, in my opinion, best suited as a place to visit if you happen to be headed that direction anyway. Unless you’re into birds. Padre Island is an important stopover for migrating birds and provides prime nesting for endangered sea turtles. Folks who are interested in history can also go to the visitor center to learn about the cultural heritage of Native American settlements, Spanish exploration, cattle ranching, and naturally, about how Padre Island is a former US Navy bombing range.
This isn’t the right park for folks who are looking for serious hiking or solitude. But it’s definitely the right type of park for those who are interested in walking around the wind-battered dunes, watching a pelican scoop fish out of the ocean, then taking a short drive to town to have a beer at a sandy dive bar.
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