To experience the natural side of this semitropical region, make a trip to Padre Island National Seashore south of Corpus Christi, Texas. Unlike touristy South Padre Island, this barrier island offers 65 miles of undeveloped beaches for exploration by foot and 4-wheel-drive vehicles.
Malaquite Beach, Grasslands Nature Trail, Bird Island Basin
This wild island attracts a lot of wildlife, like white-tailed deer, a variety of shorebirds, and, unfortunately, Portuguese man-o-wars. Keep an eye out for sea turtle patrols that drive up and down the beach all day seeking females laying eggs, including the endangered Kemp’s ridley. Head further north for more bird watching, as Aransas National Wildlife Refuge typically sees a few overwintering whooping cranes, an extremely rare species.
Take a walk on a boardwalk through the sand dunes on Grasslands Nature Trail to find white-tailed deer and maybe even a crested caracara. Also look for caracaras along the roadside since they will eat carrion.
On the bay side of the barrier island, you can camp and watch kitesurfers at Bird Island Basin where herons and egrets are a common sight. We also saw white pelicans in the spring.
$20 per vehicle or America The Beautiful pass
Roads are paved to Malaquite Beach visitor center and from there you can drive most of the beaches with a 4-wheel-drive vehicle.
Primitive camping is allowed on the beaches, but there is also a nice campground with water and showers near Malaquite Beach visitor center. If you cannot find a campsite at Padre Island National Seashore, try up north at Mustang Island State Park.
Explore More – Currents in the Gulf of Mexico bring significant amounts of floating trash to the shoreline; how can you help during your visit?