Top things to do in Lower Gulf Coast

Top Choice Nature Reserve in Los Fresnos

Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge

This 70-sq-mile federal preserve, northwest of Port Isabel, has recorded more bird species sightings (400 and counting) than any other national wildlife refuge. You're almost guaranteed to see something interesting,…
Top Choice Wildlife Reserve in South Padre Island

Sea Turtle, Inc

No, you can't handle the sea turtles. But you can see rescued turtles and learn firsthand about the slow rebirth of critically endangered Kemp's ridley turtle populations. The center serves as a hospital for injured…
Top Choice Microbrewery in South Padre Island

Padre Island Brewing Company

Although it's not on the beach, this microbrewery is well worth a visit for its changing lineup of local brews. The sampler ($7) is 6oz pours of all five on tap, or if you've already picked a favorite the pitchers a…
Top Choice Seafood in Port Isabel

Joe's Oyster Bar Restaurant

Ask for recommendations on where to eat in Port Isabel, and this combination fishmonger and restaurant is the most common suggestion by far. It makes a mean po'boy sandwich, the oysters are renowned, and you can get…
Bar in South Padre Island

Wanna-Wanna Beach Bar & Grill

A picture-perfect cliché of the laid-back beach bar and restaurant. Lounge barefoot in plastic chairs on the shaded deck and take in the surf and sights. Burgers and other basics ($6 to $14) go down easy, but nothin…
Nature Reserve in South Padre Island

South Padre Island Birding & Nature Center

Part of the World Birding Center, this 50-acre nature preserve has boardwalks through the dunes, bird blinds, spotting towers and much more. Learn the differences between a dune meadow, a salt marsh and an intertida…
Beach in South Padre Island

Andy Bowie County Park

Across from (SPI) Convention Center, this pleasant beach park is surrounded by condo and hotel developments. It has a shaded picnic building with views and real toilets and is 5.5 miles north of Isla Blanca. Beach A…
Club in South Padre Island

Louie's Backyard

Spring-break central, Louie's serves a mere 3000 to 4000 every night. There are multiple stages, big-name rappers, a dance floor overlooking the water, cheap booze and bar snacks, and a minimalist dress code that al…
Mexican in Port Isabel

Manuel's Restaurant

The steady 'patting' sound you hear comes from the ladies in the back room making flour tortillas. Everything is dead simple here, including the decor, but the classic Mexican fare is excellent and the ambience casu…
Beach in South Padre Island

North End

Padre Blvd ends 12 miles north of Isla Blanca. North of here there's 20 miles of empty sand and dunes all the way to Port Mansfield Pass. Nude sunbathers, anglers, bird-watchers and other outdoorsy types can find a …