As you drive to the north end you encounter drifts of sand on the road, then a small sign points to Beach Access #6. This access is outside the city limits and not maintained, but people use it every day. The sand is thick, so a 4-wheel drive is necessary. You maneuver through sand piles that will make you think of maneuvering deep snow if you are from the north. Once you break free you are on a beautiful beach that you can drive for about 3 miles south and 26 miles north on the Gulf of Mexico.
It is the north drive that has the most to offer. Every day is the same but different. Nature creates an ever changing palette intermixed with human elements. We enjoy driving in the edge of the water, but there is always a possibility a larger wave will come in and leave you a bit wet. That is what happened to us one day when we had top off the jeep. A wave hit the side coming in the driver’s side window and splashed so high it came down through the roof opening.
A trail of shells leads you down the beach, not only on the water’s edge, but also up near the dunes. This is because during high tide the water is considerably higher on the beach, and high winds bring it in even further. If you are lucky enough to be there on a high winds day not only will the waves be higher, but there will also be sand swirling off the dunes and flowing across the surface of the beach until it meets incoming waves, giving a soft, mystic feel to everything. The pounding waves provide a rhythmic music of nature as you drive.
Fishermen line their poles up along the water, sitting in lawn chairs waiting for their catch. some with BBQ grills set up to cook up their meal fresh. We stopped to watch one bring in his catch, but it was soon discovered he had hooked a sting ray, which he cut his line from so that it could work its way back into the water. Herons, gulls, pipers and pelicans congregate along the water’s edge, satisfying their hunger with the offerings of the water.
Visitors walk along with a bag in hand, searching for the perfect shell. On occasion you will see a group of horseback riders from a nearby stable. We came upon a driver in a car who was stuck in the soft sand along the surf. We pulled him out with the Jeep’s power wench. You may sometimes encounter nude sunbathers or swimmers. Everyone is friendly, everyone waves. The beach is a relaxing, fun place to be.
Landmarks, both natural and human-enhanced, mark your way. Mile marker signs are mounted on the edge of the dunes so you know how far you have gone. Some of my favorites include a log decorated to look like an alligator, a log with an upside down boot on it, a buoy that washed ashore, a container anchor that has been covered in graffiti, a piece of driftwood shaped like a sea serpent, and even a water rescue pod that has been decorated. These items are constantly changing, impacted by nature and man, so each day brings a new look. Sands drift and cover parts while winds uncover new discoveries. The sea serpent log that was open and clear on our first visit now has sand over parts of it. The water rescue pod was moved further onto the beach by the US Fish and Wildlife workers as it was sitting on the edge of a wildlife preserve. A buoy that had drifted ashore was complete one day and missing its top a few days later.
I have enjoyed the time spent on the beach of South Padre Island, Texas. I will miss nature’s palette of beauty and change when I have gone. It will be interesting to see what items remain the same, what has disappeared, and what has been added by the time I return next year.