Sand dollars, sunsets, and serenity

Jetties, South Padre Island

Sand dollars, sunsets, and serenity

Let’s Go to the Jetties! by Gretchen Losi

The Rio Grande Valley is home to a strip of island so thin you barely get sun-kissed walking from the bay side to the gulf. But after one visit, you’ll be hooked for life.  

At only 1.8 miles wide, South Padre Island holds a plethora of wildlife, sea life, and warm-year-round waves, making it an eco-tourist’s dream come true.

There is so much to do on the Island an article can’t do it justice. There’s something for everyone, whether you’re a golfer, sports fisherman, shell collector, birder, artist, or surfer or you’re into extreme water sports, like surfing and parasailing.

For the observer, there’s dolphin watching and boat tours of our unique port that include sunsets pirates surely wrote home about.

If you crave seafood with friends or that special someone–you found it. Your biggest dilemma will be deciding if you want to dine oceanside with the breeze stirring your cocktail or to sit inside for the candlelight.

I could write an entire series on the Island, but for now, we will focus on where my love affair with the Gulf of Mexico began…the jetties. At the southern end, it is a spot that has been enchanting Island visitors since 1957. Here, you can take a long walk out into the Gulf of Mexico, feeling the ocean mist tickle your nose. For an instant, you feel like it’s just you with the sound of the ocean waves crashing, and the seagulls singing. Or you may show up at a time when you get all of that plus…a bunch of local fishermen laughing. They love the jetties, too, and for the most part, are respectful of us who are there to take in the beauty and serenity of the Gulf.  It’s a great spot to watch the sunset or just stare out into the waves to spot a dolphin or turtle passing by.

Then jump down and take a walk, collecting shells and sand dollars while chasing the tide. There’s almost always something interesting to find around the shoreline. There are a variety of jellyfish that wash to shore; some are more friendly than others.

The beach may look Mardi Gras-ready and festive, covered in giant purple bubbles. These are man o’ war–stay away! They look like sweet bubble gum but have a nasty sting that lingers. Still, they are some of my favorites.

When walking the beach, it’s always a good idea to be respectful of whatever nature brings you, and the man o’ war is a great teacher of this lesson.

Aside from the local beach critters, there’s almost always someone to watch hitting the waves with their longboard or parasailing out on the horizon.  

On the beach, you may spot someone navigating a handmade kite or teaching an old dog some new tricks. You will also likely spot families peppering the beach and making a day of it. It’s a wonderful time, no matter one’s age.

The jetties also have some legitimate purposes. Our pair of jetties are 1,600- and 900-feet long walls creating a safer space for boats to enter the channel and helping to keep the area clear of debris, cross tides, and sand bars. Our jetties also separate Padre Island from Boca Chica Beach.

You can walk to the jetty for free from any beach access or pay a fee and visit it there at Isla Blanca Park.  The Park offers guests ample parking, public restrooms, showers, chair rentals, and great views of both the bayside and the Gulf.

If you decide to go into the park, be sure to stop at the beautiful statue, El Cristo de los Pescadores, a tribute to fishermen who didn’t make it back. The inscription reads, “Father, receive the souls of these brave fishermen who have sailed through this pass and never returned.”

It is similar, though smaller, to the famous Christ the Redeemer statue found in Rio de Janeiro.

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