Things to Do in Port Isabel
Part of what makes Texas the greatest state in the Union is its amazingly diverse geography. From the forests of the Piney Woods and the bluebonnets of the Hill Country to the rugged mountains of West Texas, each region has its own special look and feel. In Port Isabel, located in the very southern part of the Texas Gulf Coast, the rolling tides of the sea are the star. Discover a few of the many things to do in Port Isabel and plan your next getaway here to enjoy some of the best the Gulf Coast has to offer.
Steer For the Lighthouse
The historic Port Isabel Lighthouse is the feature Port Isabel is best known for, and seeing it for yourself is one of the things you have to do while you’re here. It’s the only lighthouse on the Gulf Coast that’s open to the public.
Inside you can check out the Lighthouse Keeper's Cottage to see artifacts, memorabilia, and visitor information before ascending to the top, where you can take in a stunning view of the Queen Isabella Causeway. The adjacent area is a state historic site perfect for setting up a picnic and enjoying the ocean air. On special occasions, the lighthouse grounds are the site of free outdoor movies, holiday events, market days, and more.
Thanks to its location right on the town square, the lighthouse is a terrific starting point for a day enjoying the best of Port Isabel.
Dive into Port Isabel’s History
Cameron County has a long and colorful history, one you can learn about best by visiting one or both of its fascinating museums (in addition to the one inside the lighthouse). The Treasures of the Gulf Museum tells the story of three Spanish ships that met their end here in 1554. Meanwhile, the Port Isabel Historical Museum houses local artifacts and relics, including a huge collection of items from the U.S.-Mexican War, throughout two stories of a building built in 1899. For history buff-ing around town, there are a handful of registered historic markers, including the Port of Matamoros, Queen Isabel Inn, and the Port Isabel Cemetery.
Port Isabel and the surrounding area is an angler’s paradise. Dozens of guides and excursion companies are ready and waiting to help you catch a big one on your line, whether you want to wade and fly-fish for reds, or jet out into the open waters for some exciting offshore fishing. If you’re a seasoned hand, skip the guide and head out alone or find a comfortable spot on the Pirates Landing Fishing Pier and let the fish come to you. Eat your catch at the end of the day, as many Port Isabel restaurants are more than happy to cook it up for you. Don’t forget to be here in July for the famous Texas International Fishing Tournament, the biggest saltwater fishing competition in Texas.
Discover the Wonders of the Sea
Catching fish is just one way to appreciate the amazing creatures that populate the waters around Port Isabel. Another is to journey out into the bay or Gulf of Mexico to spot dolphins leaping out of the sea. Whether you're looking for an excursion with one-of-a-kind entertainment or some of the most beauitufl views of the Texas Gulf Coast, you'll find it in Port Isabel. To get more hands-on with sea life, visit the South Padre Island Dolphin Research & Sealife Nature Center. Here starfish, crabs, octopi, snails, and more are showcased, some of them in touch tanks where you can (gently) handle them.
What’s a vacation without living a little bit? Port Isabel offers lots of places to treat yourself, from great restaurants and treasure-filled boutiques to rejuvenating spas and salons.
Enjoy a soothing massage or have your “do” touched up, then update your look with a new handbag or necklace from a boutique shop on the lighthouse square.
Finally, sink your teeth into mouthwatering breakfast tacos, burritos, and other Tex-Mex fare at Manuel’s, a Mexican restaurant known for its giant fresh flour tortillas.
Explore South Padre
You shouldn’t make a trip to South Padre without spending some time in Port Isabel, and the opposite is true, as well. South Padre Island sits just across the Queen Isabella Causeway, meaning you’re not far from some of Cameron County’s coolest attractions. Shoot down the rides at Schlitterbahn, marvel at rescued sea turtles at Sea Turtle, Inc., play a round at the beautiful South Padre Island Golf Club, hit the Laguna Madre Nature Trail for incredible wildlife viewing, or just lay on the world-famous beach. There’s no wrong way to enjoy a day trip to Port Isabel’s vibrant neighbor.