Final Days on South Padre Island and Happy Easter!

18 04 2017

The Painted Marlin, SPI

As expected, Semana Santa was busy on the Island.  During an unplanned grocery run on Saturday the causeway bridge is nearly bumper to bumper all the way across to Port Isabel.  Beyond, reports say that it was a 45 minute trip the last 10 miles or so into Port Isabel.  Definitely one of those weekends you are best on foot or a bike.  Fortunately neither route is required to reach the small island market The Blue Marlin.  We’re quickly in and out and back to calmness of Isla Blanca RV park.

Before our departure from the island, we enjoyed two new restaurants – The Painted Marlin and Parrot Eyes – both directly on the water overlooking the Laguna. We enjoyed a few cocktails and snacks at the Painted Marlin, but would definitely return for a full meal.  Seating is inside or outside over the water, with a small marina beyond.  The wait staff are friendly and efficient.  We’ll be back.  Our dinner at Parrot Eyes was just as good.  With outdoor seating, we enjoyed items from hamburgers to fried shrimp and oysters.  Another place we’ll revisit upon our return to South Padre.

As usual, it’s been a great time on South Padre.  Cameron County has big refurbishment plans for the RV park with new facilities to include an amphitheater, a sea side boardwalk and a swimming pool.  Nothing has started on this effort yet, but we’ll be anxious to see the progress next year.

Arriving back at Tropic Winds

Tropic Winds Site #242

After packing up on Tuesday morning we’ve made the short 40 mile trip back to Tropic Winds in Harlingen.  We’ll spend 4 nights here, resupplying the pantry and fridge.  We took advantage of Walmart’s online ordering from South Padre and will pick up the products at the local store in the next day or two.  This is a good option for travelers who know they will be in a Walmart town at some point in the near future.  With a 7 day grace period, travel schedules aren’t all that critical and the overall process is very efficient – you even get to skip the checkout lines!


Chillin’ on South Padre Island

13 04 2017

After arriving on South Padre last Sunday the 2nd, we’ve checked out all of our favorite places by the following weekend. The beer and burgers are still great at the Padre Island Brewing Company.  Palm Street Pier, with our favorite entertainers – Chuck and Earl – keep the place dancing on Friday and Sunday nights. Saturday morning finds us having delicious Bloody Mary’s and breakfast at the Palms Resort Cafe.  And yesterday we enjoyed dinner at Tom and Jerry’s.  We’ve picked out a few new places we want to check out before departing the island.

The Palm Street Pier Bar & Grill

Sunset from “the Pier”

Palm Sunday the 9th of April, marked the official start of Semana Santa, the most important Mexican holiday season after Christmas.  All week we’ve watched as additional visitors set-up RVs here at Isla Blanca Park.  No doubt the parking lots and beaches will be overflowing by Friday afternoon.  Once the Easter festivities have quieted, we’ll make our way back to Harlingen for a few days before starting the trip back north.

More from South Padre as Semana Santa gets rolling…

From South Padre Island

10 04 2016
Isla Blanca Park Beach Pavilion

Isla Blanca Park Beach Pavilion

We’re just into the second week of living on South Padre Island and already have a good start at visiting our favorite places as well as exploring a few new ones. We’re once again parked at Isla Blanca County Park, right on the southern tip of the island with good views over the Brownsville ship channel.  As in years past we’re occupying end site C363 and right behind it, site C361.  Our former end site #C282 was not available due to new long-term residents from MN, Mary and Chuck.

Pirate Ship Entering Laguna Madre

Pirate Ship Entering Laguna Madre

On Thursday evening we had dinner at PadreRitas Grill.  We hadn’t realized until we pulled into the parking lot that we’d visited Rita’s a couple of years ago.  This laid back bar and grill offers a good selection of seafood, pasta and Mexican dishes.  With an outside deck overlooking Padre Blvd, this eatery is OK, but not one of our favorites.

Tom & Jerry's Beach Club Bar & Grill, South Padre Island

Tom & Jerry’s Beach Club Bar & Grill, South Padre Island

A new discoveries is Tom and Jerry’s Beach Club Bar & Grill at 3212 Padre Blvd.  With a huge menu, this place is somewhat reminiscent of a TGI Friday’s.  They offer interesting daily combos such as Taco & Tecate Tuesday’s, Burgers & Bock Wednesdays and Fish Fry Fridays.  They also advertise “Happy Every Hour” with $2.75 draft beers.  Our server at Tom and Jerry’s was great and made this a very enjoyable visit – we’ll be back!

On Sunday morning we decide on breakfast at The Palms Resort Cafe.  Tucked behind the small Palms Hotel, this is a great place for gulf views, tasty meals and awesome Bloody Mary’s.  With a standing room only crowd on Sunday, the service suffered a bit, but overall we really enjoy this small out of the way cafe.

Isla Blanca Beach, South Padre Island

Isla Blanca Beach, South Padre Island

Sunday evening once again finds us at the favorite Palm Street Pier enjoying the entertainment of Chuck and Earl (and company) in their traditional jam session.  As usual, Palm Street doesn’t disappoint with good food, good service and fun times.

On a practical note, the Bluewater Laundromat takes over as the best laundry facility on South Padre.  Immaculately clean, albeit a bit pricy, the Bluewater has dozens of extra capacity washers and dryers or will wash, dry and fold your laundry for you.  The Kwik Wash Laundry on Amberjack St. was a good stand-by. But their much older facility that’s not all that clean makes Bluewater is a much better choice.  Plus, as a bonus, the Bluewater is just down the block from the Palm Street Pier!

Sites at Isla Blanca, South Padre Island

2 04 2016

During the check-in procedure at Isla Blanca we found that reservations may now be made for any week or longer period.  Having occupied basically the same sites for the last 4 years, we decided it was time to look around a bit and see what else might be available.  Of highest priority is some type of view of the ship channel.  Ship traffic this year seem slow, but in past years the view of the massive cargo ships or tankers that look like they are nearly within arm’s reach is amazing.

South Padre Island, Isla Blanca (L-R) 403, 404, 405, 406

South Padre Island, Isla Blanca, (L-R) 403, 404, 405, 406

The best sites for a channel view are along the fence – in the area that we normally park in, sites C406  through C399.  We initially were assigned site C404.  But, after backing into this rather tight site with no patio or even grass, we opted for the more open site C361. C403 has perhaps the most space of any along here, and C401 has a great patio area both on the side and the rear – making 401 & 402 or 402 & 403 great companion sites.  Of course, the absolute best channel view sites are S15 through S23 in the “premium” section.

South Padre Island, Isla Blanca 361/360

South Padre Island, Isla Blanca 361/360 (and 363/362 on left)

Between the two areas are some other interesting sites.  East of the standard rows, there are what appear to be compounds that allow 2, 3 or even 4 RV’s to share a large patio area.  Site C469 combined with D17 or D19 would offer great space and views as long as companion sites were not occupied.  Nearby, directly backed to the fence, are good sites C131A, C131, D20 & D21. Any of the sites at the row ends (C215, C173 & C154) would also offer lots of space a views.

South Padre Island, Isla Blanca #D17-C131

South Padre Island, Isla Blanca #D17-C131

South Padre Island, Isla Blanca #D17

South Padre Island, Isla Blanca #D17

South Padre Island, Isla Blanca #469

South Padre Island, Isla Blanca #469 – site D21 & D20 (occupied) in background

During this year’s visit, the ant and sandbur populations seem to be at their peak making cement or brick patio sites seem very worthwhile.  Some good “patio sites” include C201 & C202.  Unique “pull-in” sites C184 & C185 with a nice garden and C238 with taller trees for a good wind block.  Another interesting corner “pull-in” site would be C242.

South Padre Island, Isla Blanca #184

South Padre Island, Isla Blanca #184

South Padre Island, Isla Blanca #185

South Padre Island, Isla Blanca #185

South Padre Island, Isla Blanca sites 201

South Padre Island, Isla Blanca, #201

South Padre Island, Isla Blanca sites 201/202

South Padre Island, Isla Blanca, Sites 201/202

South Padre Island, Isla Blanca #238

South Padre Island, Isla Blanca #238 (back-in)

South Padre Island, Isla Blanca #242

South Padre Island, Isla Blanca #242

Island Time, South Padre Island, TX

1 04 2015
South Padre Island, Isla Blanca Park

South Padre Island, Isla Blanca Park

We’re back on “Island Time”.  After spending 3 nights at Tropic Winds RV Park in Harlingen, we’ve made the short drive to the gulf coast, crossed over the Queen Isabella Causeway and are parked at the Isla Blanca park for the next 2 weeks.  This is our 3rd visit to SPI, always in sites C321 & C363 that overlook the Brownsville Ship Channel and fishing area. We’ve arrived just ahead of the big crowds that are expected for Semana Santa or Holy Week ending on Easter Sunday.

As luck would have it, good  friends Wendy and Mark are also here on the island for one more night before beginning their trip back home to Winnipeg, Canada.  We join them at the KOA Kampground for a few beers and great conversation as well as an introduction to their “puppy” Roper – the newest addition to their family.  It’s been two years since we first met in Lajitas, TX and it’s great to catch up with them again.  Safe Travels Mark & Wendy!

We’ll lay low during the big Easter weekend, and then venture out as the crowds leave.  We want to get back to the Palm Street Pier Bar & Grill, the Padre Island Brewing Company and Isabel’s Café for some home cooked Mexican breakfast.  And, we’re always on the lookout for new, fun places.  More from SPI as our 2 weeks progress…

Leaving South Padre

10 04 2014
Isla Blanca Park

Isla Blanca Park

It’s been two weeks since we crossed the Queen Isabella Causeway to arrive on South Padre Island.  We’ve explored new eateries, sailed on the Brownsville ship channel and enjoyed watching life along the beach.

One of our favorite new discoveries on South Padre is the Palm Street Pier Bar & Grill.  Located on the lagoon side of the Island, this laid back pub offers award winning shrimp dishes, awesome nachos, tasty salads and great burgers and baskets.  On weekends, the Pier offers live music and dancing.  Table seating is literally on piers over the water with the kitchen and bar area in the back of the open air building.  This is a perfect spot to enjoy a cool refreshment and snack in the afternoon or a beautiful sunset, dinner and dancing into the wee hours.

Padre Island Brewing Company

Padre Island Brewing Company

Another one of our favorites that we found last year is Padre Island Brewing Company.  Perfect for a late lunch, the Brewery offers great sandwiches and burgers and of course their award winning brews.  They also offer pizza, seafood, steaks and chicken favorites.  Beers available during our visit included Speckled Trout Stout, Padre Island Pale Ale, Blonde Ale and Tidal Wave Wheat.

Another new discovery this year is Isabel’s Café.  Back across the causeway bridge in Port Isabel, Isabel’s is well known for great value, low cost breakfasts.  Offering classic American dishes complemented by spicy Mexican plates, this casual, small diner caters to both locals and tourists and celebrated their 40th anniversary this year.  Many reviews note that the Mexican plates include what may be the best tortillas ever – and we would agree – very tasty!

Super Carrier USS Forrester

Super Carrier USS Forrestal

With our sites at the edge of Isla Blanca park, we had great views of marine traffic in and out of the Gulf Intercoastal Waterway and the Brownsville ship channel.  Most of the ships and boats are tourist trade – deep sea fishing, dolphin watches, parasailing and the twice daily voyage of the Black Dragon pirate galleon from Port Isabel. But, every so often a really huge barge or freighter will make its way through the channel to or from the port of Brownsville about 20 miles inland.  Last February the 60 year old super carrier USS Forrestal took its final trip to Brownsville for dismantling and scrapping.

Today we sailed with Breakaway Cruises on a Port of Brownsville tour.  In addition to the massive ship recycling operations, Brownsville is home to many shrimp boat companies, provides building and repair facilities to offshore drilling platforms and international import/export facilities to Mexico. Tomorrow we’ll pack up and make the short trip back to Tropic Winds in Harlingen.  We have a “home washing” scheduled for Saturday, will complete some minor maintenance items, resupply the pantry and plan to be back on the road north by Tuesday or Wednesday.  More from somewhere in south-eastern Texas as we begin our journey home.

Isla Blanca Park, South Padre Island

28 03 2014
Site C321, Isla Blanca Park

Site C321, Isla Blanca Park

We’ve finally arrived in Paradise – well at least some consider it a paradise! We’re parked on the far south end of South Padre Island in site C321 at Isla Blanca Park. Incorporating over 600 RV sites, numerous tent sites, a boat ramp, the northern jetty on the Brownsville Ship Channel and two beach areas with pavilions, this is a huge park.

We were here last year and scouted most of the really great sites with views out over the beach and/or channel.  We’re staying 2 weeks this year which limits our choices of sites somewhat. But, we end up on two great end locations, very, very tight if you have site neighbors, but great as the park empties out.   As with last year, most of the sites with direct views of the channel across from us are full, most with Winter Texans that we met last year.  Just as at Tropic Winds, there are a number of departures each day.  But, unique to this place, there are summer residents moving in.  In the premium sites, there is rarely more than a few days between when the winter resident departs and the summer resident arrives.  It seems that throughout the park nearly everyone is either  in the process of packing up, or of unpacking.

Many that we’ve talked to along the Rio Grande Valley have dismissed this year’s winter as a bit of a bust related to weather. Most regard it as a lot better than “up north”, but certainly not what they are used to in terms of  nice days. One SPI local says they haven’t managed to string 3 nice days together all winter.  And, the weather still seems a bit erratic, being cold and blustery one day, foggy another, then hot and humid before turning cold and rainy again.  But, it’s still better than the 30 degrees and 12 inches of snow forecast for home!