Everything the city isn’t…

An Overview of South Padre Island

Jraffic. . .deadlines. . . ringing phones. . .daily pressures. . .A part of the city life that is accepted as norm. Occasionally, however, those pressures build up and overwhelm even the best of us. You grow restless; you want something more, like the freedom and time to enjoy the simple pleasures of being with yourself or your family. You want to leave your self-imposed schedules, traffic jams, noisy telephones, and escape for a weekend, a week, or maybe forever.

South Padre Island, Texas, is a place only several hours away from the hustle and bustle of city life, a place that beckons with gleaming white beaches, clear water, the quiet life and solitude. Everything the city isn’t. South Padre is medicine for overworked minds and bodies, a respite from the pressures and decisions we daily encounter. Escape can be found in relaxing by the pool, drinking margaritas, catching record marlins, taking in the sun and miles of beaches, or sleeping til noon.

The airlines have made going to the island as simple as driving from one side of town to the other-with several flights daily. Just make the reservations and you can be there with family or friends tomorrow. THE BEACH IS ONLY HOURS AWAY!

Exiting the plane with folks from Dallas, St. Louis, and other locations, you can immediately feel the warm tropical breezes. The Gray Line out of South Padre offers shuttles to the island from the airport and awaits those with reservations. Just a short drive away, a different world awaits, a world with that “mana-na” spirit that revives us all. Before you can grow restless, you soon drive through Port Isabel and know you are there! Over the two-mile Queen Isabella Causeway you can see the bay, the condos, the hotels, and the beach. You forget what you left at home. You’ve arrived at a little bit of paradise.

With more than 30 miles of pristine beach, South Padre Island is located in the Gulf of Mexico at the southernmost tip of Texas, adjacent to the Rio Grande Valley. The island is twenty-five miles from the exotic old-world charm of Mexico. Within the city limits, South Padre Boulevard is four miles long, has only two traffic lights, and is paralleled on one side by beach and the other side by bay. The only traffic jams consist of sailboats making way for other vessels or the boats breaking out for one of the many fishing tournaments. The Gulf waters also sport wind surfing, water skiing, and para sailing. But then some prefer to take it easy, charter a yacht, hook an occasional red snapper and get a morethan-ordinary tan. . .while someone else does the driving.

Life is different on South Padre Island and in the Valley. The mood is easy. Although lots of people are here-families, couples, groups of teenagers having the time of their lives, grandmas and grandpas enjoying the children, lovers and friends-nobody is in a hurry. There is plenty to do. Enough, in fact, to keep every minute of the day occupied. But there is an overall easiness and casual air that keeps you relaxed while confronting the decisions of the day. Like, should we go to Matamoros today. . .or tomorrow? Do we feel like shopping, sightseeing, water cycling, sailing, or just lying around the pool?

Brownsville is on the way to Mexico where five golf courses are lined with swaying palm trees and colorful tropical flowers. The Gladys Porter Zoo, one of the top ten zoos in the United States, is home for many endangered species living in their natural habitats. Maybe we’ll park there in Brownsville and walk to Matamoros for a delightful lunch.

Then, again, maybe we’d rather go fishing. South Padre Island has some of the best fishing in the United States. In the bay, off the beach, or in the deeper waters of the Gulf of Mexico, scores of species from flounder to marlin abound.


Pirates once roamed where treasures now float onto the beach. Col- lectors and sea shell en- thusiasts comb the sand for their findings. Another popular treasure has appeared- shopping. Everything from dollar T-shirts in roadside stands to national treasures of collector art can be found in South Padre. Rare Art Estate Sales, Inc., owned by Allen and Sara Goald, showcases some of the most fascinating art objects from all over the world. They hold five auctions a year and current pieces stay on exhibit at the gallery store.

Paul Veale, Jr., of Richard Bertram and Company, will be glad to help you select a yacht, ranging from 28- to 54-foot classes, that fits your family or business needs.

Currently under construction, adjacent to the Sunchase IV highrise, Sun-chase Mall will open its doors this summer with three-stories and 65,000 square feet of rentable space for the more elegant retail stores and restaurants. One third of that area will be occupied by the most exclusive store in South Texas, Jones & Jones. President of this prestigious store, Lan Jones, comments, “We will carry a representation of everything that we carry in our McAllen, Texas, store-furniture, clothing for men and women, jewelry, and many other items. We are going first class.” Jones & Jones has a full staff of interior designers as well. Many of the half-million dollar condominiums boast the finest furnishings of this store and the expertise of its staff. Jones & Jones is currently located in Franke Plaza until the Sunchase Mall is complete.

Matamoros, Mexico is the place to try out your barter skills on anything from sombreros to silver. Drive, park in Brownsville and walk, or schedule a Gray Line Tour.


As with any other aspect of the island style, finding a hotel is uncomplicated. There are several to choose from, but these offer the most amenities.

Featuring six swimming pools, seven Jacuzzis, eight tennis courts and Pro Shop, South Padre Hilton resort is a favorite. John Cooker, Director of Sales and Marketing says, “We have a tremendous children’s program so if our patrons want to play tennis or have a drink, they can rest assured that their kids are perfectly safe and nappy.” Mexico tours can be arranged through the hotel and the pool-side “Whiskey Shack” will bring your favorite drink to you as you lie in the sun. Rooms start at 185 a night for a double; condo rates begin at $150 a night for four people. There is also a convention center for business and association meetings you might be planning.

The Bahia Mar Resort is a fond memory of previous visitors. An incredible spread of 14 acres, this is the largest resort at the northern end of South Padre Boulevard. It is complete with putting green and two swimming pools, and rental “beach toys” include 14- and 16-foot Hobie-cats, sailboards, water cycles, beach paddle ball, and fishing gear. Oversized rooms and condos are also available. At surprisingly affordable rates, special packages include air fare.

The Holiday Inn is just to the right as you cross the causeway. One of the newer hotels, its room rates start from $67 to $85, depending on the size and view.

Sunway Inns offers some of the most economical rates for new rooms that sit a block or so away from the beach.

You decide. Would you like to stay in a hotel? Or would one of the many beautiful condominiums best suit your needs? Condos are available daily, weekly, or monthly and offer the privacy and conveniences of home. Sand Dollar Properties manages rentals on approximately 400 units. Rates vary from $35 a night, a block away from the beach, to $185 a night in one of the more luxurious developments that has a swimming pool, rac-quetball courts, and a new health spa.

Reservico/Island Services also handles up to 600 of the island’s units. Rates vary from $55 a day on the bay to $300 a day for a three bedroom penthouse on the beach-including indoor/outdoor pool, swim-out bar, satellite television, indoor/ outdoor Jacuzzis, and saunas.


This once sleepy island is attracting thousands of affluent families from Texas, the Midwest, and international cities. Profits from island property appreciation have encouraged the growth and development of what is becoming a world-class resort. Additions of major airline services to the area, economic growth in the Valley, and investment attractiveness continue to increase the value of second home ownership. They all offer a luxurious although easy-going lifestyle. And the pleasure of life at home inside one of these beautiful structures is greatly enhanced by the amenities.

Jim Luck, Executive Vice President of the South Padre Island .Tourism Bureau, says, “In 60 to 90 days, there will be a ground breaking for two major hotels and there is an 18-hole golf course in the works.” These elements of growth represent only the beginning of a new wave of profits for current investors.

Dennis Franke, partner with his brother Richard in a magnificent condominium project called Franke Plaza, talks of plans for a new development. “We’ve got a parcel of 250 acres which we are beginning to develop into a prestigious community called The Shores, the first phase will be bayside property connected by islands. In the future there will be condos, a hotel or two, a shopping area and more. The overall development will be extensive and diverse-very elaborate.”

Troy Giles, a real estate broker, and his partner, Paul Veale, Jr., are developing a stunning 40-unit complex called Boardwalk. Giles relates, “Each unit has a boat slip, private outside patio, a kitchen designed and made in Germany, a private elevator, a two-car garage and one or two Jacuzzis. We’re currently at 70 percent capacity and will be sold out by the end of the summer.” Units sell from 5480,000 and up. He adds, “Boardwalk is not only for the sports fishermen, but also for those who desire luxury and security.”

Sunchase IV, a Barnes-Connally development, is a 14-story highrise. Vice President and General Manager, Paul Oakes, says, “Sunchase IV has 120 units with prices from $200,000 up to $800,000 for a penthouse. Among our amenities are two swimming pools, tennis and rac-quetball courts, an exercise center and more. We have furnished condominiums that can be rented by the day or owned.”

One of the most impressive buildings on the entire Gulf Coast is Bridgepoint. Developer Phillip Veale explains, “Bridgepoint was designed by a Honolulu architect. He incorporated magnificent views from every condo unit. There is glass 360 degrees around the building and the units are at different angles. Everything is not just square. We have full amenities such as whirlpools, tennis courts, exercise rooms, and other items. There is even a waterfall in the multi-level lobby. Our units start at $300,000 to $400,000 and would be considered top of the line anywhere.”


The days, island style, are slow and hypnotic. But when the sun goes down, the natives and visitors alike get restless. The nightlife varies from piano bars to bay side sipping, to patio parties at private residences, to showcase band entertainment.

The island’s newest club, Charlie’s Paradise Bar and Grill, features fun, flash, and live entertainment. A 110-foot guitar-shaped swimming pool with a tri-level beach-side deck, a cafe, outdoor stage, volleyball, Jacuzzis, cabanas, showers, and more can certainly keep you occupied until 2 a.m.

The Club at the Bahia Mar Resort is a chic, contemporary panorama of etched glass and emerald structure. Las Vegas style showcase bands generate an enthusiastic environment for those ready to dance all night or just “let go.”

Jimmy Buffet would call The Officer’s Club home. Given birth by Carl Brooks, a talented pianist and entertainer, this gentle environment invites the sophisticated, the casual, and the non-disco set. A grand piano and community entertainers keep this hang-out low key and the patrons dancing to jitterbugs and bosanovas.

The Quarterdeck, at the Hilton, offers some of the best bands on the island. A small and active club with an attached sundeck, dancing inside is encouraged or listen to the music in the warm breezes and watch the waves roll in.

At sunset, you want to be at Louie’s Backyard. A spacious outdoor terrace stretches out over the bay to offer a spectacular view of the sunset. The lights on the Queen Isabella Causeway are enhanced by the well-poured drinks, including the “Whammie”-a concoction of seven liquors and fruit mixtures that has been a tradition as long as the sunset.

Scampi’s offers bay side seating and cabanas where Hawaiian-shirted waiters and waitresses interrupt conversation only to bring another drink. This is a quiet place. Breezes, distant boats and the water is outdoor entertainment. Inside, a piano bar and small groups of tables hold patrons waiting to experience one of the finest meals on the island.


Scampi’s, of South Padre, and the historic Yacht Club, of Port Isabel, are both owned by Ron and Lynn Speier.They offer the most elegant dining to satiate your appetite. These restaurants offer over 150 selections of wine and specialize in fresh seafood and steaks.

In Port Isabel, Cappucino’s fabulous Italian cuisine is one of the top alternatives to seafood. Or back to South Padre, you can wine and dine at the Hilton’s Windjammer Beachfront Cafe. It is suggested that you try their “Shipwreck Chicken.” If a filling sandwich is more in keeping with your mood, Blackbeard’s or Snorkel’s are open seven days a week. Blackbeard’s, serving much more than sandwiches, offers the best lunch specials- good down-home cookin’. An elegant restaurant, the Bahia Mar’s La Paloma, features a variety of items and is one of the more romantic places to dine.

Louie’s Backyard showcases a seafood, prime-rib, all-you-can-eat buffet that is indescribable. Reservations are suggested for this and all restaurants.

If the kids want pizza, there’s Pizza Hut. For burgers for them, steaks for you, there’s the Texas Steakhouse.


After lunch, keeping kids happy can be a full-time job. The only difficulty here is choosing their amusements. Watch the dolphins and lions perform at Ocean Safari! Or spend the afternoon at Jeremiah’s Landing-sliding down a giant chute into a pool. Rent a go-cart or three-wheeler. Water sports equipment, including sailboats and surfboards, is available everywhere on the island.

“The Turtle Lady,” Ila Loetscher, and her sea turtles are stars. Her cause of saving the Kemp’s ridle’y sea turtles has resulted in national television coverage. Wounded turtles who cannot return to sea live in a refuge at her home. Match the amazement in the children’s eyes as she tells her fables with costumed turtles as actors.

Year round there is plenty for everyone in the family. For planning weekends or vacations, mark these dates on your calendar:

□ The 47th Annual Texas International Fishing Tournament occurs from July 31 to August 4 and includes events for children and adults.

□ The South Padre Invitational BillfishTournament is from August 7 to 10 withawards from $600,000 to $700,000 inprize money.

□The Marlin International Fishing Tournament is August 14 to 17-with awards of $300,000 to $400,000. □Early in October, operating World War II aircraft takes to the skies in the annual Confederate AIRSHO. The CAF Flying Museum in Harlingen has the largest collection of these planes that stay on exhibit year round.

□ December features the South Padre/Port Isabel Parade of Lights, Vessels (from small sailboats to 60-foot cruisers), adorned with multi-colored lights and decorations, take to the water-a beautiful way to enjoy the Christmas spirit. □ SPRING BREAK attracts literally tens of thousands of college students during the month of March every year. Free concerts on the beach and many national company sponsored events invite swarms of “thrill seekers” to the experience.

Other events include the National Battle of the Corporate Stars, a nationally televised sporting event to take place October 26 and 27; an Island-wide scavenger hunt in May; the International Hobie and Wind Surfing Competition in October; and a Detective Writers Weekend in the fall.

Everyone needs a pause. Whether you intend to reside in this beautiful area full-time, or just spend a weekend; if you plan to purchase a luxury condominium or simply rent a hotel room for the night, the same benefit will ensue-peace of mind and a healthy glow from this magnificent, unpolluted island.


Southwest Airlines proudly celebrates ten years of service to the Rio Grande Valley this year. Currently Southwest is in it’s third major expansion at the Valley International Airport in Harlingen and has up to 12 flights a day from Dallas Love Field. Pleasure Class is just $55 (after 7 p.m. weekdays and all weekend) and Executive Class is $70 (weekdays before 7 p.m.). So the next time you want to fly South, fly Southwest and just say when.

Muse Airlines began service to the Brownsville/South Padre International Airport in January of this year. With six flights a day from Dallas/Love Field, the rates vary from $55 to $70. . .and get you 11 miles closer to the island than any other airport.

The Gray Line offers sightseeing tours, airport transfers, complete ground transportation and convention services. For reservations, call (512) 943-2144 or (512) 943-2124.

Group, convention, and special travel packages are available; some including air fare and accommodations. For more information call: in Texas, 1-800-292-1031 ext. 2927; in U.S., 1-800-527-1121 ext. 2927. Or Write: South Padre Island Tourist Bureau, P.O. Box 2095 D, South Padre Island, Texas 78597.


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