Discover 11 unique and fun things to do on South Padre Island with kids and enjoy one of the US’s best family beach vacation destinations!
Growing up on Long Island, I was never more than fifteen minutes from the ocean.
When we moved to Dallas, I quickly learned that the thing I’d miss the most was an actual ocean beach. I’m an ocean girl at heart and Texas lakes simply aren’t the same.
During our three year stint as Texans, South Padre Island filled my seaside soul in a way I almost can’t explain. If you’re a beach person, you know.
The sound of the waves, the salty ocean air, the sand beneath your toes while your kiddos build sandcastles next to you.
Not to mention the fresh seafood and cocktails, the sealife, nature trails, and abundance of outdoorsy adventures to be had.
If you’re looking for a true ocean paradise, sunset dinners, whale watching, sand dunes, and swimming, you’ll love all of the beach-y things to do on South Padre Island.
So, whether you’re a Texas local or simply looking for a fabulous beach and family friendly vacation, this guide to South Padre Island with kids has you covered!
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Visiting South Padre Island With Kids
When is the best time to stay on South Padre Island with kids?
The best time to visit South Padre Island with kids, first and foremost, is when it’s not Spring Break. College spring break in Texas typically falls in March, with some colleges giving time off in the beginning of April. Expect the beginning and middle of March to be party city on South Padre. It is definitely not family friendly (or affordable) during these weeks.
Additionally, families may want to avoid the peak summer months because of the Texas heat. Unless you want your kids baking in 100 degree heat every day, visit during the spring or fall months. We spent time on South Padre in November and it was warm enough for shorts, but not warm enough to swim. I think late April or September would be wonderful.
Family friendly accommodations on South Padre Island:
Isla Grand is a premier resort, right on the beach, featuring ten acres of tropical foliage, two pools, a hot tub, tennis courts, volleyball court, and plenty of indoor and outdoor dining options. During the summer, also find live music and entertainment
An affordable and proudly family/pet friendly resort on the beach. Beyond the pool, a boardwalk extends right to the ocean. Free breakfast and shuttle service round out the amenities.
Though Best Western Beachside is situated between the two shorelines, and not exactly on one of them, it’s a short walk to the beach and city center, with all the popular excursions and things to do on South Padre Island. Free breakfast and lower rates are the biggest draw here.
With its own private beach, an onsite spa, wellness center, and fully renovated apartments, it’s easy to see why the Peninsula is one of the most popular accommodations on South Padre Island with kids or without.
Named one of the best gulf coast resorts, Pearl South Padre is upscale, yet offers discounts for multiple night stays and packages including those for seniors, honeymooners, and families.
Roomy condos, each with a spectacular balcony and view of the ocean makes Saida Towers a top choice if visiting South Padre Island with kids. Pools and tennis courts round out the on site amenities, while the location is prime for exploring!
Of course you can always search for a hotel or rental via booking.com:Booking.com
Top Things to do on South Padre Island With Kids
One of the most unique things to do on South Padre Island is spy on the ocean’s majestic dolphins with the Original Dolphin Watch. South Padre’s waters provide a year-round home to numerous dolphin pods, making this activity a must when visiting South Padre Island with kids any time of the year.
Spend Time at the Beach (and drive up to the dunes)
While it’s quite obvious that one of the top things to do on South Padre Island is spend time at the beach, I have to credit an AirBNB host with recommending a drive north to the dunes. About 20 minutes north of the main strip, you’ll find more secluded beaches and high dunes. Simply park on the side of the road, climb over the dunes, and enjoy a morning on the beach. Know that this is where off-road vehicles drive on the beach though!
Rent Fishing Boats, Bikes, SUP, etc
Along with a day at the beach, you can be confident knowing that you can rent almost anything during your stay on South Padre. From Stand up Paddle boards for the day to full on chartered fishing vessels (including ones that cook your catch!) anything you’d like on SPI can be rented through many of the rental agencies.
Visit the Country’s Largest Outdoor Sandcastle
Everything’s bigger in Texas – so it’s no surprise that the state claims the USA’s largest outdoor sandcastle. Now a permanent fixture, the sandcastle was started in 2013 by sand artist Andy Hancock; the second portion was built in 2015.
Located at 310 Padre Boulevard, you can find the sandcastle in front of South Padre’s tourism center.
Take Free Sandcastle Lessons
Any visit to South Padre Island with kids (or without!) calls for a lesson in sandcastle building. In fact, South Padre is known for its impeccable sand quality that allows for some of the biggest and best sandcastles. Learn from the best and try your own hand at building something impressive.
Sea Turtle Inc. rehabilitates and releases injured sea turtles. Visitors can learn about sea turtles, see the rehabilitation process, watch demonstrations, and even meet and pet some of the turtles. We love watching the sea turtle with a prosthetic fin!
A premier spot for birdwatching, SPI Birding and Nature Center features 3300+ feet of boardwalk perfect for gazing at birds, butterflies, and other local animals, including turtles, alligators, and reptiles. If you’re traveling to South Padre Island with kids still in strollers, know that the boardwalk is definitely stroller friendly and there are plenty of places to sit and rest.
One of the best free things to do on South Padre Island, the Laguna Madre Nature Trail is situated just next to the SPI Birding and Nature Center. While the boardwalk is smaller at only 1,500 feet, visitors looking for a quick stroll over the 4 acre marsh will be thrilled, and may even spot migratory birds.
Imagine a top notch waterpark, combined with the picturesque coast of the ocean beaches and you have one of the top attractions on South Padre Island for families visiting with kids. Spend the morning enjoying the dozens of rides and water slides, then take the boardwalk to the beach for a picnic. Visitors can rent cabanas and palapas, host events, book overnight accommodations, dine or enjoy the swim up bar, and much more!
Island Adventure Park is the place to be on South Padre Island with older kids. Take a once in a lifetime horseback ride through the ocean, zip-line over the beach dunes, take go-karts for a spin, hit some golf balls with mini golf, visit a petting zoo, or grab a bucket list pass and go for it all.
Take a Drive Into Port Isabel
When you’ve exhausted all of the amazing and beach-y things to do on South Padre Island, head into Port Isabel for more seaside fun. Learn about the port city’s lighthouse, visit museums, relax on the fishing pier, and shop and dine in the adorable little town.
What Are Some of Your Favorite Things to do on South Padre Island With Kids?
Let us know in the comments if we missed any top family friendly South Padre attractions. And if you’re planning a visit soon, what are you most looking forward to?