Out of the Clear, Blue Yonder

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The beaches begin to clear up this time of year from seaweed.
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The sediments settle down revealing blue water that approaches the shore this time of year.

 

Late July until sometime close to Winter is my favorite time on the beaches of North Padre Island. Why? This time of the year is when the clear, blue water finally comes onshore. Early Spring and Summer, you can see the blue water off shore, but the waves churn up the sediments and the water is murky. Also early Spring brings the mats of seaweed or Sargassum onto the shores of Texas beaches. Late summer the Sargassum seaweed begins to abate to reveal clean beaches.

However, this year we had a long invasion of this golden-brown weed all the way into July here in the Coastal Bend. Yes, it can be downright gross on the beaches for tourists and locals, but sea turtles and fish love it. The floating mats of it offshore provide a mobile habitat for marine life as drifts to shore.

So this is the time to enjoy the pretty blue water on the shores of North Padre Island. The winds tend to let up unless there is a hurricane or tropical system and the seaweed gives us a break from fuzzy beaches of Spring. Just last weekend I spotted a few snorkelers checking out the fish by the rocks of the jetties by the north side of Packery Channel.

So take a little time and enjoy the beach this time of year! I know I will!

 

One Perfect Cold, Rainy, and Windy Day at the Beach!

Great perspective from someone from beyond the Coastal Bend.

Beach Treasures and Treasure Beaches

Welcome to Padre Island National Seashore Welcome to Padre Island National Seashore

Cold, rainy, and very windy! That’s how the day unfolded on our recent visit to Padre Island National Seashore, “the longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island in the world.” You can probably guess what we did! Our family simply layered up, snapped together our raincoats, and went on a lovely morning walk along the park’s Malaquite Beach with Ranger Lee (who, by the way, didn’t even wear a jacket). He was way tougher than we were!

Entrance to Malaquite Beach Entrance to Malaquite Beach

One of the first things we noticed was that picnickers had left their trash behind at the picnic tables. Seriously? We had our family-requisite handy dandy extra bags in our backpacks so we pitched in and helped clean up. You’ll see one of the full bags in Ranger Lee’s hand. FYI: The Visitor Center hands out free bags so folks can pack out…

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Want a Beach Where You Can Avoid Spring Breakers?

Page by Michael Zamora - Andrew Baggett, a senior at Westlake High School in Austin, uses beads as bait Tuesday as he casts his line during spring break on the beach. Photo courtesy of http://www.caller.com
Caller Times by Michael Zamora – Andrew Baggett, a senior at Westlake High School in Austin, uses beads as bait Tuesday as he casts his line during spring break on the beach. Photo courtesy of http://www.caller.com

If you are like me, you have young kids who want to go to the beach as soon as warmer weather kicks in. However, throngs of crazed, hormone-filled Breakers descend to our beaches mid-March. So, I have a couple of suggestions…

The entrance at Rockport Beach Park.
The entrance at Rockport Beach Park.

1. Rockport Beach in Rockport, Texas
Rockport Beach in Rockport, Texas  one of my favorite beaches for people with young kiddos. Why? The beach is one of the safest in my opinion. The surf is non-existent which makes it a relatively safe place for young ones. The water is super-shallow for a long way. You can wade out for a long time and not get past knee deep. Behind the beach there is a road with parking for the length of it, so there are no cars actually driving on the beach. Also, the beach there is extremely clean since they rake it daily. It also helps that visitors there seem to respect that, and tend to leave it the way they found it. So that you know, there are no pets allowed. That rule is there to keep the beach clean from little messes.

Rockport Beach Park offers clean, safe beaches which are great for kids!
Rockport Beach Park offers clean, safe beaches which are great for kids!

Another cool thing is that there are many palapas where you can shield the young ones and your ice chest from the sun. However, you need to arrive early to get one, otherwise, just bring your own umbrella or canopy.

If the kids actually want to get out of the water (really?), there are multiple playgrounds dotting the length of the beach. The play equipment is maintained well, so it tends to be safe. Plus, the playgrounds are there on the beach, so you can park your beach stuff at a nearby palapa, and watch them play right next to you or you can go play with them! Oh, a word to the wise, be sure to bring shoes or sandals since to the play areas since there are sticker-burrs there where the grass grows. Those pesky things can be painful to toes. If people actually take a moment to throw them into the trash, instead of throwing them on the ground, then they won’t take root.

Finally, when nature calls as it usually does, there is a pavilion with restrooms. The centrally-located pavilion has showers and changing rooms too, so you can clean up and not have to get into the car and drive home all sandy. This is a plus if you have kids who tend to fall asleep in the car after a vigorous day at the beach!!

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2. North Padre Island National Seashore: Malaquite Beach

This is another favorite beach of mine for a good beach for families. Here you can grab a covered picnic table if you arrive early and enjoy a picnic lunch. Cars are not allowed on the beach, so it is very safe and clean for kids. Also, at Malaquite, there is a Visitor’s Center with a gift shop, educational center, covered deck, observation decks, and a small snack shop, restrooms, showers, and changing rooms. (yippe!)

A view of the Gulf from the boardwalk at Padre Island National Seashore.
A view of the Gulf from the boardwalk at Padre Island National Seashore.

There are events year round such as guided beach walks, educational talks, and classes are held at the Malaquite Beach Pavilion Visitor’s Center. Beginning late Spring into Summer, the famous Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle Hatchling releases happen at various times during the early morning hours.  Evening talks are held to learn more about the stars and constellations as well as other activities held by park rangers who discuss the natural flora and fauna and the coastal ecosystems.

You can spend a full day here or several and have quite an educational and fun-filled experience with the family. This place is on the way to literally nowhere, so it is very quiet and a great natural place to have fun with the family.

These two beaches are my favorite places to have  a great time with the kids with no Spring Breakers!

Spring Break Already?

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Spring Break on North Padre Island, Texas. Photo courtesy of http://entertainment.caller.com

Wow…we had just been talking about cold, stunned turtles and polar vortex weather roller coasters… Now Spring Break in just around the corner. The first weekend will be March 7-8 with the busiest weekend on the 14-15th. However, today, the temp. dropped again. Spring is just a teasing us…

With all of this cold crazy weather this winter, there will be plenty of hormone-filled, Spring- feverish breakers coming to our little strip of sand here in South Texas. We here in the Coastal Bend have noticed that the traffic has been steadily increasing over the years here, but get ready for more.

So, if you want a quiet time here at the beach, well, it may not be happening for the mid-part of March. However, you will probably have a quieter time over at Padre Island National Seashore or maybe even at Rockport. The Port Aransas Beaches and many of the beaches on North Padre and definitely South Padre Islands will be busy. But just like March, it roars in like a lion, and leaves like a lamb.

Places to Go,”Sea”, and Do: North Padre Island and Flour Bluff: Get Good Grub

This will be part of a series of places to Go, ”Sea”, and Do around the Coastal Bend. I will add posts to this series each week. This is the last of  first main part of the series  about North Padre Island.

My state of Texas is growing.  I am continually meeting new people in various places who are new to here or visiting here. I often run into people who have questions about where to go when visiting Corpus Christi and the Coastal Bend. I am originally from Houston, but have lived South Texas since 1991.I have lived here as a resident but have been here as a tourist before I moved here.  This series will highlight a few of my favorite places in and around our little bend in the coast.

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Sunrise on the Gulf of Mexico Photo courtesy of Extremecoast.com
Sunrise on the Gulf of Mexico
Photo courtesy of Extremecoast.com

North Padre Island

First, let me clarify some confusion. I don’t know how many people get North Padre Island mixed up with South Padre Island. They are two different places, and you cannot get to South Padre Island from North Padre Island on “South Padre Island Drive” (the freeway that runs through Corpus Christi) to get to South Padre Island.  South Padre Island is another 2 hours away. The islands are two separate places. I still scratch my head on why they named the freeway that runs through Corpus “South Padre Island Drive.” Anyway, here is one of my favorite places on North Padre Island:

1. Padre Island National Seashore

2. Bob Hall Pier at Padre Balli Park

3. Packery Channel

4. The Seawall on North Padre Island:

5. My Favorite Places to Eat Seafood with the kids:

-Snoopy’s Pier

Snoopy's Pier. Photo courtesy of coastalbendlife.com
Snoopy’s Pier. Photo courtesy of coastalbendlife.com

According to  http://www.snoopyspier.com/,”Snoopy’s Pier was literally a product of the Redfish Wars, a battle over commercial fishing rights in the inland waterways and bay systems of Texas. As with many commercial fishermen in the late 70’s and early 80’s, Ernie Butler realized the Redfish Wars signaled the beginning of the end of the commercial fishing industry in Texas. So when it was no longer fun to be chased by Texas Game Wardens, Ernie decided to give up trying to catch fish and shrimp and start cooking them instead. In August 1980 Ernie and his wife, Corliss, purchased a small bait stand and burger joint with a 600 foot fishing pier on the Intracoastal Waterway. Family and friends pitched in their favorite recipes and Snoop’s Pier was born.”

Let me just say that this place used to be a total dive with great food, but over time, they have changed. Now they have air conditioning and a remodeled interior, their prices have gone up some. However, you can’t beat them for fresh seafood. They have the best shrimp in Corpus Christi.

The fresh shrimp are the best in Corpus Christi. Photo courtesy of urbanspoon.com
The fresh shrimp are the best in Corpus Christi.
Photo courtesy of urbanspoon.com

Also, the kids love it since you can sit outside and watch the fish. Kids love to feed the hardhead fish below the pier small pieces of crackers and watch them gobble the crumbs. Families and romantics alike enjoy sitting outside and watch the sunset over Flour Bluff.

Sunset over the Bluff at Snoopy's Pier
Sunset over the Bluff at Snoopy’s Pier

If you arrive by sea, you can dock your boat right next to the restaurant. If you arrive by land, from Corpus, you will go over the JFK bridge and take the first right once you gone over the bridge and follow the road there.

-Okay, here is another good recommendation for good seafood- Laguna Reef at Bluff Landing in Flour Bluff

Laguna Reef Restaurant. Photo courtesy of bluffslanding.com
Laguna Reef Restaurant. Photo courtesy of bluffslanding.com

Laguna Reef  is in Flour Bluff which is the chunk of land you encounter before going to North Padre Island. It is a little out of the way, but worth it. Coming from Corpus, you would exit right toward Waldron Road. You continue on the service road past HEB and turn right onto Laguna Shores. You go down Laguna Shores forever until the end of the road. Then you turn left, and you are there.

This is another restaurant that you can access by boat. According to http://www.bluffslanding.com/restaurant.php ,”Located next to the Marina & Hotel, the Laguna Reef Restaurant offers a variety of fresh seafood and delicious meat. They even let you bring in your own catch and they cook it for you! With excellent views of the marina, family owners & operators, Laguna Reef is the place to be.”

Pretty much any seafood on the menu is good. I love their coconut shrimp! After a day of playing around on North Padre Island, it is great to know where to get some good grub!

Laguna Reef Restaurant. Photo courtesy of coastalbendmenuguide.com
Laguna Reef Restaurant. Photo courtesy of coastalbendmenuguide.com

Places to Go,”Sea”, and Do: North Padre Island: The Seawall

This will be part of a series of places to Go, “Sea”, and Do around the Coastal Bend. I will add posts to this series each week. The first main part of the series will be about North Padre Island.

My state of Texas is growing.  I am continually meeting new people in various places who are new to here or visiting here. I often run into people who have questions about where to go when visiting Corpus Christi and the Coastal Bend. I am originally from Houston, but have lived South Texas since 1991.I have lived here as a resident but have been here as a tourist before I moved here.  This series will highlight a few of my favorite places in and around our little bend in the coast.

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Sunrise on the Gulf of Mexico Photo courtesy of Extremecoast.com
Sunrise on the Gulf of Mexico
Photo courtesy of Extremecoast.com

North Padre Island

First, let me clarify some confusion. I don’t know how many people get North Padre Island mixed up with South Padre Island. They are two different places, and you cannot get to South Padre Island from North Padre Island on “South Padre Island Drive” (the freeway that runs through Corpus Christi) to get to South Padre Island.  South Padre Island is another 2 hours away. The islands are two separate places. I still scratch my head on why they named the freeway that runs through Corpus “South Padre Island Drive.” Anyway, here is one of my favorite places on North Padre Island:

1. Padre Island National Seashore

2. Bob Hall Pier at Padre Balli Park

3. Packery Channel

4. The Seawall on North Padre Island:

The Sea Wall at sunrise.
The Sea Wall at sunrise.

The seawall on North Padre Island is a great spot for people watching, bicycling, skateboarding, or just hanging out.  Here you can park at the parking lot north of the Holiday Inn and not commit yourself or car to the sand. At the parking lot, there are restrooms and showers, so if you decide to stick your toes in the sand or water, you can easily clean them off.

The seawall on North Padre is completely empty of people.
The seawall on North Padre

During the warmer months, you can stroll over to the Holiday Inn and get a smoothie at the little stand or listen to the tunes from a random band playing poolside. One other thing, during the warmer months, if you decide to learn how to hang ten, you can take surfing lessons here by the seawall with Padre Island Surf Camps. My daughter and I learned to surf with them, and we had a total blast! Hey, if I can learn in my mid 40’s anyone can! It took a few tries, but I got the hang of it. My daughter on the other hand, took to it like a fish to water.

Already surfing like a pro!
“I got this.” Already surfing like a pro!

Places to Go,”Sea”, and Do: North Padre Island:Packery Channel

This is part of a series of places to Go, “Sea”, and Do around the Coastal Bend. I will add posts to this series each week. The first main part of the series will be about North Padre Island.

My state of Texas is growing.  I am continually meeting new people in various places who are new to here or visiting here. I often run into people who have questions about where to go when visiting Corpus Christi and the Coastal Bend. I am originally from Houston, but have lived South Texas since 1991.I have lived here as a resident but have been here as a tourist before I moved here.  This series will highlight a few of my favorite places in and around our little bend in the coast.

**********

Sunrise on the Gulf of Mexico Photo courtesy of Extremecoast.com
Sunrise on the Gulf of Mexico
Photo courtesy of Extremecoast.com

North Padre Island

First, let me clarify some confusion. I don’t know how many people get North Padre Island mixed up with South Padre Island. They are two different places, and you cannot get to South Padre Island from North Padre Island on “South Padre Island Drive” (the freeway that runs through Corpus Christi) to get to South Padre Island.  South Padre Island is another 2 hours away. The islands are two separate places. I still scratch my head on why they named the freeway that runs through Corpus “South Padre Island Drive.” Anyway, here is one of my favorite places on North Padre Island:

1. Padre Island National Seashore

2. Bob Hall Pier at Padre Balli Park

3. Packery Channel:

Packey Channel at sunset
Packey Channel at sunset

Packey Channel is a natural inlet that has been reinforced by man-made structures that allows the waters from the Gulf flow into the Laguna Madre. This makes for easy access for boats to enter the Gulf of Mexico.

Also because of this exchange of waters between the Gulf and Laguna, this is another popular fishing spot with locals since bait fish can be found everywhere.  Again, it is wise to wear good shoes because of random fishhooks that may be around.

If you did not bring your pole, this area is a great place to watch sea turtles swimming in the channel or observe the many varieties of fish or birds.

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This bird didn’t seem to mind me taking his picture.
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Brown pellican at Packery Channel

On a clear water day, we have brought out the snorkels and masks to view the sea-life by the rocks by the north side of the jetty next the beach. This same spot has become popular with surfers since the jetty was built. After the jetty was built a few years back, the beach on the north side has become crescent-shaped and the waves form better.

From South Packery Channel jetty, we were watching the surfers and dolphins play in the rolling waves
From South Packery Channel jetty, we were watching the surfers and dolphins play in the rolling waves

You can access this area on the north side by going toward Port Aransas on SH 361, go over the Packery Channel Bridge, and exiting right on Zahn Road. Or you can still go to the south side from past the seawall on Padre Island.  From Padre Island, you will stay on Park Road 22, go South toward the National Seashore, turn left onto Whitecap. You will follow the road to almost the beach. You will turn left on Leeward Drive toward the Holiday Inn and continue all of the way down past the seawall until you are driving down a little road leading to the beach. However, there is talk about closing that part of the beach to drivers, so drivers would have to park at the parking lot on the right on the seawall. Speaking of the seawall… Well, that will be next time.

On South Packery jetty, fishermen were busy catching fish.
On South Packery jetty, fishermen were busy catching fish.

Places to Go,”Sea”, and Do around North Padre Island:Bob Hall Pier at Padre Balli Park

This will be part of a series of places to Go, “Sea”, and Do around the Coastal Bend. I will add posts to this series each week. The first main part of the series will be about North Padre Island. My state of Texas is growing.  I am continually meeting new people in various places who are new to here or visiting here. I often run into people who have questions about where to go when visiting Corpus Christi and the Coastal Bend. I am originally from Houston, but have lived South Texas since 1991.I have lived here as a resident but have been here as a tourist before I moved here.  This series will highlight a few of my favorite places in and around our little bend in the coast.

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Sunrise on the Gulf of Mexico Photo courtesy of Extremecoast.com
Sunrise on the Gulf of Mexico
Photo courtesy of Extremecoast.com

North Padre Island Here is another one of my favorite places on my ongoing list about North Padre Island:

1. Padre Island National Seashore

2. Bob Hall Pier at Padre Balli Park

Bob Hall

This beach is closer to the mainland than the National Seashore.

Photo courtesy of http://i245.photobucket.com
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Also, here, there is a paved parking area if you don’t want to completely subject your car to the sand. Also, you can enjoy the regular beach activities such as sunning, swimming, birding, and surfing.  The surf tends to be better here for the surfers because of the pier.

A guy surfs at Bob Hall. Photo courtesy of http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=bob+hall+pier&FORM=HDRSC2#view=detail&id=A989BC9D600F53CF88EFD7DBB155FAE57B2C5E2A&selectedIndex=185
A guy surfing at Bob Hall. Photo courtesy of http://media.caller.com

However, the pier is where the fishermen go get their catch of the day, and that sometimes can be a problem for the surfers and the fishers.

Lazy fishing days. Photo courtesy of finsonpins.com
Lazy fishing days.
Photo courtesy of finsonpins.com

The pier charges around $2 each person, but you can go for the ocean fishing, a view, or some sun. Just be sure to wear shoes while on the pier since there might be some fishing hooks lying around. 

There is also a new restaurant called Mikel May’s Beachside Bar & Grill where you can grab some good grub with a great view. What better way to wrap up a great day of catching a few rays?

Mikel Mays on Bob Hall Pier
Mikel Mays on Bob Hall Pier

Places to Go,”Sea”, and Do around North Padre Island:National Seashore

This will be part of a series of places to Go, “Sea”, and Do around the Coastal Bend. I will add posts to this series each week. The first main part of the series will be about North Padre Island.

My state of Texas is growing.  I am continually meeting new people in various places who are new to here or visiting here. I often run into people who have questions about where to go when visiting Corpus Christi and the Coastal Bend. I am originally from Houston, but have lived South Texas since 1991.I have lived here as a resident but have been here as a tourist before I moved here.  This series will highlight a few of my favorite places in and around our little bend in the coast.

**********

North Padre Island

Sunrise on the Gulf of Mexico
Sunrise on the Gulf of Mexico
Photo courtesy of Extremecoast.com

First, let me clarify some confusion. I don’t know how many people get North Padre Island mixed up with South Padre Island. They are two different places, and you cannot get to South Padre Island from North Padre Island on “South Padre Island Drive” (the freeway that runs through Corpus Christi) to get to South Padre Island.  South Padre Island is another 2 hours away. The islands are two separate places. I still scratch my head on why they named the freeway that runs through Corpus “South Padre Island Drive.” Anyway, here is one of my favorite places on North Padre Island:

1. Padre Island National Seashore

The turquoise waters sparkle under the azure sky at Padre Island National Seashore.
The turquoise waters sparkle under the azure sky at Padre Island National Seashore.

Pack a picnic lunch and check out the Padre Island National Seashore on North Padre Island  which is about a 15-20 minute drive from Corpus Christi. It  is the largest undeveloped stretch of shoreline in the world. It is great for beach walks, bird watching, fishing, viewing wildlife, camping, and just playing in the water. There are plenty of covered tables where you can enjoy a seaside picnic lunch.

Natural beauty and tranquility await.
Natural beauty and tranquility await.

During the warmer months, the rangers release the Kemps Ridley baby sea turtle hatchlings early in the morning around 7:00 a.m. at Malaquite Beach. These hatchlings have been endangered, so great care goes into the release. During the releases, volunteers hover netting above the hatchlings to prevent seagulls from snapping up a tasty breakfast. This winter this year here  has been hard on them due to unusually cold conditions.

A Kemps Ridley Sea Turtle Hatchling makes his was to sea.
An Endangered Kemps Ridley Sea Turtle Hatchling makes his rite of passage to the sea.

Also, while there, you can learn about the sea life and the wild life that you encounter at the visitors center at Malaquite Beach:

According to NPS.gov., “Padre Island National Seashore is the longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island in the world. In addition to its 70 miles of protected coastline, other important ecosystems abound, including rare coastal prairie, a complex and dynamic dune system, wind tidal flats teeming with life, and the Laguna Madre, one of the few hypersaline lagoon environments left in the world. The National Seashore and surrounding waters provide important habitat for marine and terrestrial plants and animals, including a number of rare, threatened, and endangered species.”

With the sprawl of cities, pollution, and other factors that threaten wildlife in places worldwide, Padre Island National Seashore remains a place where nature can balance itself. Also, it is where people can rebalance themselves among nature in quiet and solitude while looking forward to a warm glow of a fire and an amazing, jeweled night sky.

A view of the Gulf from the boardwalk at Padre Island National Seashore.
A view of the Gulf from the boardwalk at Padre Island National Seashore.

Padre Island: Where Snow Birds come to Warm Up and Sea Turtles get Stunned?