Fun Is Non-Stop at the South Padre Island RV Resort
As I sat trying to decide on a place for our next RV trip the South Padre KOA in Texas came to mind. So I thought I’d check into it. I knew I wanted a place that was entertaining not only for my wife and I, but also for our children.
It turns out that South Padre Island KOA has lots of activities for both us and the kids that sound great. Even better, it also includes a dog park for Marco, our dog. I decided this would be our next RV vacation.
I’d been looking forward to running the RV down to South Padre, Texas all summer and finally we’re here. I got a glimpse of the beaches on the way in and felt a thrill of excitement looking out onto the ocean. The kids were plastered to the windows, babbling with the excitement of it all. Even the dog got into the mood and added his two cents worth.
Our First Tour of the Campgrounds
We pulled in, and I found it no trouble to turn our fifth wheel around in the roomy, paved sites. Although I’ve gotten better with turning in tight places, I was relieved to see the space of the 98’ pull thru. All of the sites are powered with 30/50 amps, cable TV and WiFi. Propane is available too.
With the parking behind us, I simply closed the camper doors, put the leash on the dog, and took the kids for a walk around so they could see the campgrounds. I knew they wouldn’t stop asking until they’d gotten their fill of looking around. We had a nice patio on our site with a table and chairs, which gave us more room outside.
We began our walk, and while I saw the campground Marina, my kids looked at the playground. My daughter squealed when we passed the heated pool. Without waiting for her question, I promised we’d go swimming later that afternoon once we got everything set up. I don’t know if my eyes were shining like the kids’, but the weather was warm, and I was looking forward to it also. I knew my wife would enjoy the sauna.
It seemed that everyone driving by was honoring the ten mile speed limit for the campgrounds. We saw Dolphin Cove off to the side, and as we walked over the paved roads and sidewalks, I noticed small, neat cottages at the waterfront. At the back of the campgrounds was the Pier 19 Restaurant on a pier where the Osprey Fishing Cruises I’d read about could be chartered. Past the pier, I saw boat ramps going down into the Laguna Madre Bay and made a mental note to bring the boat next time.
Passing the ramps, we came up on the dog park and let Marco have a brief run. We walked our circle back to our site where my wife already had begun setting out our lunch and had the awning up. She’d also checked into the office, so we were settled in for the week.
Things to See
It turned out that there was no end to the activities at the campground and nearby. I don’t believe I heard the kids say they were bored that entire week.
Lots of Activities
We all enjoyed the fireworks display put on by South Padre on Friday night. They were beautiful, and we could see them from our campsite. Marco didn’t seem to appreciate the noise, however. He rolled his eyes up at me from under the patio table, and I reminded him of the twelve dog-friendly restaurants on South Padre.
To top it off, the kids got to go to an activity to eat s’mores while watching the display. Saturday afternoon was just as entertaining. My daughter loved the craft program, while the boys enjoyed the ice cream sundae party. They all looked forward to the outdoor movie later that night. With drive-ins so rare nowadays, this was a real treat.
It turns out they have a shuttle to the four beaches a quarter of a mile away from the grounds and back. The shuttle also travels to the little town of Port Isabel nearby. I was looking forward to seeing the lighthouse in the town square. I already knew that many of the restaurants served seafood or Mexican. Although we liked to cook to keep costs down, I knew we would be visiting several of the restaurants within our budget that were also dog friendly.
Restaurants on the Water
In particular, we were interested in Palm Street Pier since we could eat out on the water and have Marco with us also. Lobo Del Mar Café had great shrimp and salsa along with live mariachi music and also allowed us to eat with Marco along with us, although all the dog-friendly restaurants we’ve eaten at can allow dogs at outdoor tables only, due to the health department restrictions. The ambiance was great.
Friendly to Dogs
We made it a practice not to leave our dog in the camper unattended, even with the air conditioning running. There could always be a power failure in a camper or RV. That meant we would have to take turns and stay behind on some outings. It would give me time to catch up on my reading.
Although there were no fewer than four beaches, we preferred the dog-friendly beach, because no one had to stay back with the dog at the camper. Marco also seemed to enjoy running through the waves on the shore and digging holes in the sand. We found numerous species of birds at the beach as well as unique driftwood. The real benefit, however, was that there were very few tourists on the beach. There were no worries about overcrowding here. It was a peaceful time to enjoy each other and the scenery.
We fell into a routine going to the beach in the mornings and returning back for lunch. We had a blast on the beach. One activity that surprised all of us was the opportunity to take lessons in building sandcastles. Not just any sandcastles, no, these reached five and six feet tall. Sandy Feet Sandcastle Services provided everything needed. We were quite proud of our castle when we were finished.
Sandy also had some castle building tools for sale, and we made sure to buy some as we were looking forward to putting our newly learned skills to use. The next time we visited the beach, we each did our best building a great sandcastle. We were surprised at just how much we began competing with each other. It was all in good fun though. After spending so much time on the sandcastles, it was hard to simply leave them behind to go back to the campground.
Usually we rested watching cable TV or stayed in touch using the WiFi afterward, while the children played at the playground. Evenings we would go out to eat and see the sights. Some of our afternoons were not so restful as the kids insisted on going to the Schlitterbahn Water Park across from the campground.
We visited the water park, and I watched as the kids slid down the highest slide with no problem. My turn came, and I decided the one inch of water wouldn’t propel my mat very well, so I pushed off. It was pleasant the first few seconds, then my mat began to take up speed, and I realized my mistake in pushing off. I became terrified and began trying to slow my descent but I only zipped and swooped around the curves instead. As I reached the bottom in one piece, splashing into the pool, the kids laughed at the look on my face. I tried to look like I’d had a great slide, but they weren’t fooled. They asked me what was wrong. I explained I had pushed off. They laughed hysterically and explained to their old dad that people are not supposed to push off.
All in all, it was a pretty nice afternoon. Of course, since my wife stayed back with the dog, the kids used that as an excuse that a second trip must be made for their mother’s turn. Later that week, when it was my wife’s turn to go to the water park with the kids, I advised her she would have to push off, or she wouldn’t make it all the way down the slide. It was to no avail. The kids heard me and advised her on the right way to go down a waterslide. I‘d been caught again.
Ocean Watching and Fishing
That evening after they returned, we ate at the Pier 19 Restaurant and enjoyed watching the dolphins. We actually managed to get a picture of one. A Black Dragon Pirate Ship sailed by firing cannons at the restaurant, and my wife had fun taking the kids for a ride on the boat later in the week since she had stayed behind with the dog on the first trip. My sons, in particular, were excited by the cannons they shot. “This time we got to attack the restaurant, Dad!”
The next afternoon, my wife exercised in the water aerobics while the kids and I went fishing at the Queen Isabella State Fishing Pier near the campground. We also chartered the Osprey Fishing Cruises. I had never been deep-sea fishing and couldn’t resist.
The boys went with me. I didn’t really expect to get a hit from anything. Imagine my shock when something big pulled the pole downward. The crew gave me advice on trying to reel it in. Finally, we got a glimpse, and the boys weren’t the only ones excited.
I had managed to hook a blue marlin!
The thrill only climbed as he bobbed above and beneath the waves fighting me. However, I knew I’d lost him when the line went slack and floated to the surface of the water. To say I was disappointed was an understatement. Desperately I turned to the boys and asked if they got a picture. Neither one of the boys had managed to get a picture. No one would ever believe what I had nearly caught. Although the boys and I caught several smaller fish, my blue marlin never returned.
Bicycling, Hiking, and Photography
The next afternoon called for biking and taking pictures. My wife loves photography, and when another camper told her of the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, she knew she had to take her camera and go. We found it was only 40 minutes away from the campground. The refuge is known not only for its birds and the elusive ocelot, a wild cat, but had a lot of flowers and vegetation due to the mix of desert and sub-tropical environments.
We were glad that we brought our bikes with us on the trip to South Padre Island. We found that not only is Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge great for photography, it’s also a great place to ride bike trails. Vehicles are not allowed so safety was even better than hoped for. We biked for hours, stopping for a break when my wife saw a view, flower, or bird she wanted to snap some pictures of.
The only recommendation I would make is to be sure to bring plenty of drinking water as it can grow pretty warm especially with the exercise. We enjoyed our time there while she took lots of pictures. However, our youngest son was disappointed that we didn’t spot an ocelot.
We decided we wanted to go to the Gravity Park the next evening. Although the mention of the reverse bungee did make me determined to keep my feet firmly on the ground, the go-carts sounded pretty fun. My wife decided to sit this one out, so I took the kids, and we rode the go-carts several times. I did manage to get up the nerve to try the climbing wall and surprised myself with how well I did.
My older son, who just turned 18 weeks ago, decided he had to try the reverse bungee. I tried to talk him out of it. Any activity involving a human-sized slingshot is scary. However, he was set on giving it a try. I remembered being excited about rollercoasters at his age. It was frightening to watch, and I was grateful his mother wasn’t there to see it. On the other hand, he finished the reverse bungee with his eyes shining, determined to do it again when we come back the next time.
We finished up the week watching the Friday night fireworks again and left for home the next morning.
Highly Recommend Others to Go
I would recommend reservations far in advance as the campgrounds are often full.
If I have any advice for anyone going to South Padre Island, it would be to allow a few more days, if possible, so all the sights can be seen without rushing. We’ll certainly be returning. The dog is trying to weigh the benefits of the many dog-friendly restaurants against the noise of the fireworks on Friday nights. I think I know which way he’ll choose when he begins to hear the words: boarding kennel.
I would recommend the South Padre Island RV Resort to anyone. It’s a great place full of entertainment.
Despite the busy week, we didn’t make it to everything. Although we didn’t go because of the children, there is a tour called the The Spirits of Port Isabel with a tour of the cemetery and a video presentation. The South Padre Island Dolphin Research & Sea Life Nature Center awaits those who are interested as can be viewed on the Tripadvisor Attractions page for Port Isabel.
Oh, and in case you didn’t know, don’t push off at the top of the waterslide unless you want to reach the speed limit of the interstate.