This May, Dallas-based fashion and lifestyle influencer Ciara Hawkins traveled to South Padre Island with her family. From having fun in the sun at the beach and out on the water, to dining on fresh seafood at the Island’s top restaurants, Hawkins’ family trip to the Texas Coast was one for the books. Check out her experience below.
As a family of three, we’re always looking for fun places to take our one-year-old—especially now that the weather has warmed up. This summer, we took an eight-hour road trip from Dallas, Texas, to South Padre Island. From the beautiful beach and abundant nature centers to dolphin cruises and delicious food, we can’t wait to go back!
There are so many great outdoor activity options on SPI, perfect for any family looking to get outside this summer.
The South Padre Island Birding Nature Center and Alligator Sanctuary, which is right on Laguna Madre Bay, has many hands-on activities and a beautiful view that the entire family will enjoy. There are also educational Gator Talks, which include demonstrations. We learned so much about the different animal species that call SPI home.
While visiting The South Padre Island Birding Nature Center and Alligator Sanctuary, we made a couple of new friends: Big Padre, a 12’ 7” alligator; a snake that we got to hold; and a few tortoises that we got to feed.
Along the peaceful path of SPI’s 3,300+ foot boardwalk, we spotted so many beautiful birds we’ve never seen before. There are more than 280 species of birds recorded on the island. We also saw bearded dragons! The boardwalk’s viewing tower is also worth the visit for this great view.
For dinner with a view, we dined at the Painted Marlin Grille. Our food was beyond delicious. With fish tacos, avocado fries, blue crab fingers, and more, the menu has something for everyone. Kid-friendly and relaxing, the Painted Marlin is SPI’s newest waterfront restaurant.
The Painted Marlin Grille is also the perfect place if you’re looking for a good variety of cocktails. While enjoying the island style, we also enjoyed sipping on some amazing cocktails, frozen and on the rocks!
Cruising the water was the perfect way to end our first evening! Breakaway Cruises offers an array of fun experiences, including snorkeling, fishing, and firework cruises. We enjoyed our Dolphin Watch Cruise, where we saw dolphins splashing in the waves, birds sailing the winds above, and other boats out having a blast.
Breakaway Cruises is rated “the top dolphin watch” on SPI. With music playing and a nice breeze blowing, the Dolphin Watch Cruise was a great time for the entire family. While baby Enah enjoyed looking into the water, we enjoyed getting to kick back and relax out on the ocean.
With a baby who loves the water, we knew we had to dedicate an entire day to the beach! SPI has a beautiful 34-mile-long beach. It was truly a paradise, and I loved how our hotel—Courtyard by Marriott—had direct access to the beach.
Along the beach, you can also find the Island Art Trails—including Sandcastle Trail, which features sandcastles created by professional sand artists. We loved playing in the sand!
With gorgeous gulf views and a tropical-themed menu, The Palms Cafe was a great spot to grab a bite. This cafe on the beach offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and the menu has tons of soups, salads, and some of our seafood favorites! We enjoyed our beautiful spread of colorful food.
Our educational experience at Sea Turtle, Inc. was incredible! Not only did we get to see sea turtles up close and personal, but we also attended a presentation that showed us how Sea Turtle, Inc. rescues the turtles and what to do if we ever come across an injured sea turtle in the wild.
Sea Turtle, Inc. was founded in 1977 and treats more than 100 turtles each year, rehabilitating the sick and injured before releasing them back into the wild. Our family had the opportunity to feed some of the sea turtles currently living at the facility.
If you’re looking for a place to stay that’s beachfront with a restaurant and bar—Bar Louie—on-site, Courtyard by Marriott is a great option. With extremely spacious rooms, a modern design, easy access to the beach, and a beautiful pool, it was perfect for our family’s stay.
The resort-style pool at Courtyard by Marriott was incredibly convenient. It included a designated splash area for children and poolside cocktails and food from Bar Louie, which took our orders at the pool—fun for the kids and fun for the adults!
For an upscale dinner experience with a stunning view, the Sea Ranch has got you covered. A 35-year-old, premier dining destination on SPI, Sea Ranch is a bi-level eatery offering various pastas, seafood, and steak.
*Please Note: Since the publication of this article, the Painted Marlin has closed.