Padre Island National Seashore | PARK AT A GLANCE

Padre Island National Seashore's South Beach

Padre Island National Seashore’s South Beach


Padre Island National Seashore protects the longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island not only in the United States, but also in the entire world. Visitors can reach the island via the John F. Kennedy Memorial Causeway at Corpus Christi, Texas. The National Seashore lies a few miles to the south of the causeway. After entering the park, the paved road runs another 4.5 miles until ending at the entrance to South Beach. However, that’s not the end of the line. Vehicles of all types can continue south for at least another five miles on sand that is as hard packed as a typical dirt road. Beyond the five-mile point, the sand tends to become looser. Those with 4-Wheel Drive vehicles can travel beyond the hard-packed sand all the way to the Mansfield Channel, a total of 60 miles from where the park road ends. This narrow channel separates Padre Island from South Padre Island.

In addition to beaches on both the Atlantic and bay sides of the island, Padre Island National Seashore has a Visitor Center, picnic areas, a short nature trail, paddling and windsurfing opportunities, and two developed campgrounds. Visitors can also camp on the beach, and that includes both tent and RV camping.

Unfortunately, all is not well in paradise. If you don’t believe humans are destroying this world, a trip to Padre Island will change your mind. Disgrace is the best word to describe the amount of trash that washes up on the beaches. The Yucatan and Loop currents converge near the island, and as a result, much of the trash that ends up in the Gulf of Mexico ends up on the beach. How bad is it? There are monuments to trash. At one post marking the mileage along the beach is a collection of hard hats that flew off the heads of oil rig workers. At another is a collection of plastic dolls. There are fishing nets, five-gallon buckets like you’d find at Home Depot, buoys, plastic bottles…you name it, you’ll find it. There’s even junk that defies description.


The Padre Island National Seashore beaches never close.

The Malaquite Visitor Center is open daily from 9 AM to 5 PM.

Times can always change, so before making travel plans be sure to get the latest schedule on the National Park Service’s official Operating Hours and Seasons web page for Padre Island National Seashore.


There is a fee to enter Padre Island National Seashore. Pay at the entrance gate to the park when staffed during regular business hours. If you arrive when nobody is on duty, you still must pay the entrance fee, though you can do so when leaving (assuming it is open then). You can also purchase a pass online in advance at

Fees vary depending on how you arrive, but everyone must pay, even those entering on foot or bicycle. One-day, seven-day, and yearly passes are available. Annual National Park passes are also valid for entry. The only other fees at the park are for camping or to use the boat ramp.

For the latest entrance, camping, and boat ramp fees, see the National Park Service’s official Fees and Passes web page for Padre Island National Seashore.

Padre Island National Seashore

Padre Island National Seashore

Back to the Top

With a few exceptions, use of any photograph on the National Park Planner website requires a paid Royalty Free Editorial Use License or Commercial Use License. See the Photo Usage page for details.
Last updated on February 28, 2022
Share this article