Frequently Asked Questions

How can I reserve a campsite? Do you have electric hookups?

No reservations are accepted, as camping is first-come, first-served. Campers, including beach campers, must have a camping permit, which is available from the kiosks at the entrances of each campground. Campers may also pay their camping fees at the kiosks.There are no electric, water, or sewer hook-ups in the park. To learn more about camping in the park, please click here.

How far can I drive down island? Can I get to South Padre from here?

Depending on current beach conditions, two-wheel drive vehicles may safely drive down on the first five miles of South Beach. After that, four-wheel drive is necessary as there are frequent pockets of soft sand. Even with a four-wheel drive vehicle, you cannot reach South Padre Island from here. Mansfield Channel forms the southern boundary of the park at the 60 mile marker and there is no bridge or ferry over it to get to South Padre Island.

Are you pet friendly?

Pets on a leash are allowed everywhere in the park except for the Malaquite Visitor Center area. Pets are not allowed on the visitor center deck or the beach directly in front of the visitor center. Please be courteous to other visitors and clean up after your pet. Pets must be on a leash no longer than 6 feet and under your control at all times. Do not leave pets unattended in vehicles. For more information on pets in the park, click here.

Where is the best birding?

There are three main areas for good birding: the shore, the park road, and Bird Island Basin. Anywhere along the seashore is excellent for spotting a large variety of shorebirds including the endangered Snowy Plover and Piping Plover. Driving the park road will often enable one to see raptors and birds often associated with grasslands.Bird Island Basin is an excellent spot for watching marsh and shorebirds as well as raptors. For more information on birds and birding go to theNature and Science section of the park's main website.

Is it always this windy?
The average wind is approximately eleven miles per hour. Prevailing winds blow from the southeast in spring, summer and fall. During winter, the wind shifts direction more frequently with strong north winds blowing as cold fronts push south from the plains. The most
powerful cold fronts can produce winds that may reach 50 to 65 miles per hour!

Where is the best shelling?

Shelling is less a matter of "where" than a matter of "when". Shelling is best after a storm has passed through. Large storm surges push large amounts of debris and shells far up onto the beach. Other than that, it would be best to go to an isolated area down island where few people venture, and thus there are fewer shell collectors to pick them up before you. However, be aware that after the five-mile marker a four-wheel drive vehicle is needed because of the frequent pockets of deep, soft sand.

Why is there so much trash on the beach, and is anyone doing anything about it?

The predominant southeast wind drives the currents in the Gulf of Mexico to our location in the Northwest corner. As a result, anything that falls or is tossed into the Gulf eventually ends up here. Most of these objects will, of course, be those that fall in closest to our shore and these tend to be objects from the fishing/shrimping industries and offshore natural gas platforms. Trying to keep more than 63 miles of beach clean is a monumental task and we do the best with the resources available. To a large degree we rely on public participation in placing wastes in the proper containers and in periodic beach clean-ups.

Can I use my metal detector in the park?

To preserve and protect cultural and natural resources, possession or use of metal detectors is prohibited in the park. Items such as unoccupied seashells, sea beans, and driftwood, washed in by the tide, may be collected as long as the items are not used for commercial purposes. All other collecting is strictly prohibited.

Where can I go fishing and/or hunting?

Fishing is permitted everywhere in the park except at Malaquite Beach directly in front of the visitor center. No hunting is permitted except for the taking of waterfowl by boat only in the Laguna Madre. Transporting any other lawfully taken wildlife through the park is prohibited.

Where can I go to see sea turtles?

The best place to go is the Texas State Aquarium in Corpus Christi. They have several on display, which have permanent injuries and would not survive in the wild. Although we have an ongoing project to restore the sea turtle populations in the Gulf of Mexico, we do not keep any on display at the Park. Our project consists of finding as many sea turtle nests as we can and taking the eggs to an incubation facility at the ranger station. There the eggs are cared for until they hatch. After hatching, we release them into the Gulf of Mexico. The releases are announced in the media so the public may attend.

Can I feed the birds?

Feeding gulls or other birds in the park is NOT allowed and is strictly prohibited. Feeding birds can cause them to approach people too closely, beg for and steal food, and be less able to survive on their own. Feeding gulls also increases the danger for newly hatched sea turtles because gulls, hoping to be fed, are drawn to crowds of people and may swoop down and take a hatchling. Feeding gulls causes them to become more aggressive to humans and other wildlife.

For the safety of our hatchlings and other wildlife, do not feed or approach the gulls.
When you’re at the beach, remember that gulls are wild animals and they live here- they do not need human food to survive.

Can I operate my drone in the park?

Launching, landing, or operating aircraft-based, remote-controlled equipment within Padre Island National Seashore is prohibited.

What are the large, transparent things laying on the beach?

There are several species of jellyfish living in the Gulf of Mexico, of which three frequently wash up on our shore: Moon jellies, Sea Nettles, and Cabbagehead (also known as Cannonball) jellyfish. Of these three, Cabbageheads are harmless to people, but, in most cases, moon jellies and sea nettles can produce a rash similar to poison ivy, if handled. Reactions may be more severe in those few people especially sensitive to jellyfish toxins.

What are the little things that look like semi-inflated blue balloons? Another species of jellyfish?

These are Portuguese Man-O-War. They are not a true jellyfish, but actually a small colony of various creatures working together and functioning as one animal. The long, black threads are its hunting tentacles and can inflict an extremely painful sting on anyone who touches them, even days after the animal has died. Fortunately, the antidote is a simple mixture of vinegar and meat tenderizer and works very quickly. If anyone should be stung, first aid is available at the Malaquite Beach Visitor Center.

Can I set off fireworks in the park?

The use of fireworks is strictly prohibited.

Do you have (bait, gas, ice, etc.) available for purchase?

No gas, firewood, or fishing licenses are sold in the park. Ice and vending machines with snack items are available at the Malaquite Visitor Center. The nearest amenities from the main park entrance are about 10 miles away.

Are there sharks in the Gulf of Mexico?

There are at least 33 species of shark in the Gulf of Mexico, but shark attacks at the National Seashore are extremely rare, the last having been sometime in the mid-1980's.

Is there a lifeguard on duty?

There is no lifeguard on duty and swimming is at your own risk. Occasionally, conditions can create rip currents. If caught in one, do not panic. Swim parallel to the beach until you are free from the flow pulling you out, then swim back to shore. Do NOT attempt to swim against the current pulling you out. Use caution when swimming and never swim alone.

Are there deer or coyotes on the island?

Both deer and coyotes are quite numerous and both tend to stay in the interior grasslands where food is more plentiful and people are fewer. The best time and place to see them is in the morning or evening along the road. Campers should be aware that coyotes, while they would not normally bother people, can present a danger to pets. Please do not feed or approach wildlife.

Where are the Whooping Cranes?

Whooping Cranes do not winter at the National Seashore, but approximately 85 miles north along the coast at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. Sandhill cranes spend their winters here, when they may often be seen walking through the grasslands.

What is the difference between dolphins and porpoises and do you ever see any here?

There is much confusion surrounding these two animals. Making matters worse is the fact that while there is a marine mammal commonly known as a dolphin (think "Flipper"), which is addressed here, there is also a species of fish known as a dolphin (also known by its Hawaiian name "mahi-mahi"). Although the names are often used interchangeably, they are different animals. Porpoises always have spade-shape teeth, never have a beak, and usually have a dorsal fin shaped like a triangle (some have no dorsal fin). One of the more prominent distinguishing physical characteristics is that dolphins have a cone-shaped teeth, usually have a beak, and usually have a hooked or curved dorsal fin (some have no dorsal fin). Anything visible from the National Seashore will be a dolphin. During the summer dolphins are occasionally sighted playing in the surf immediately in front of the Malaquite Visitor Center.

Are there a lot of mosquitoes here during the summer?

Because a large part of the island is marsh there can be incredible numbers of mosquitoes at times. However, the normal offshore wind is strong enough to keep most flying insects off the beaches. This is one reason we encourage people not to go into the grasslands or off the beach. It can be extremely uncomfortable. If you plan on walking the Grasslands Nature Trail during the summer, be certain to apply plenty of insect repellant.

The Zika virus is a viral disease transmitted to people by infected mosquitoes (Aedes species, a non-native species introduced by humans). Being in a warm climate which can support year-round mosquito populations, Padre Island National Seashore, is considered to be a potentially at-risk area for Zika virus. To learn more about Zika Virus, please click here.

Am I allowed to use a compressed gas powered bait launcher within Padre Island National Seashore?

According to 36 Code of Federal Regulations, such a device is considered a weapon. Federal regulations limit the use of weapons in the National Seashore. The use of a weapon within the Seashore is prohibited unless the time and location of its use is specifically designated. Pending such designation by the park Superintendent, the use of these devices is prohibited.

Can an exception be made for someone with a disability which prevents their ability to cast?

The use of a weapon to aide in casting due to a disability is prohibited. People frequently surf fish at the National Seashore without distance casting;many use short rods and fish between the first and second sandbar and/or the second and third sandbar. There are also local options that negate the need to distance cast at Bob Hall Pier at Padre Balli Park, Packery Channel (North and South Jetties), and many places along the Laguna Madre.

Last updated: March 24, 2023

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P.O. Box 181300
Corpus Christi, TX 78480


(361) 949-8068
Malaquite Visitor Center information line.

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