Padre Island National Seashore | BOATING AND PADDLING

Access the calm waters of the Laguna Madre at Bird Island Basin

Access the calm waters of the Laguna Madre at Bird Island Basin

HAND-PADDLED WATERCRAFT

Visitors to Padre Island National Seashore can launch kayaks, canoes, paddleboards, and any other type of hand-paddled watercraft into the Gulf of Mexico or Laguna Madre, the bay side of Padre Island. If launching into the Gulf, you can do so anywhere except on the beach in front of the Malaquite Visitor Center.

Launching into Laguna Madre, on the other hand, is a little more limited. For most people, this is done at Bird Island Basin. When driving down Bird Island Basin Road, take a left when the road forks to head over to the Day Use Area. If you go right, you will end up at the boat ramp, and while you can launch hand-paddled watercraft from here as well, it’s safer at the Day Use Area. There is no charge for launching hand-paddled watercraft anywhere within the park, including at the boat ramp.

You can also launch hand-paddled watercraft into Laguna Madre from Yarborough Pass. To do this, however, you must travel 15 miles down South Beach, and you need a 4-Wheel-Drive vehicle to cross from the beach to Laguna Madre on a road partially covered in deep, soft beach sand. This is why Bird Island Basin makes more sense for the majority of visitors.

MOTORBOATS

The only place within Padre Island National Seashore to launch a motorized boat is at the Bird Island Basin boat ramp. There are two ramps, and each can accommodate three boats at a time. The large parking lot has 114 spaces for vehicles with trailers. If that fills up, you can unload your boat and then head over to the Malaquite Visitor Center to park your vehicle.

There is a fee to use the boat ramp to launch a motorboat. At the time of this writing, the fee is $5 / day, or you can get a yearly pass for $30. Get your pass at the entrance station for Padre Island National Seashore, not at Bird Island Basin.

Bird Island Basin boat ramp at Padre Island National Seashore

Bird Island Basin boat ramp at Padre Island National Seashore

Large parking lot at the Bird Island Basin boat ramp, Padre Island National Seashore

Large parking lot at the Bird Island Basin boat ramp, Padre Island National Seashore

When in a motorboat on Laguna Madre, keep in mind that the water can be as shallow as a foot deep. If you get caught tearing up the seagrass with your propeller, you can get fined. Small trolling motors or push poles are recommended for the shallow areas near the shore. Once you get out far enough, you are in the Intercoastal Waterway.

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Last updated on February 28, 2022
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