Sunset at South Padre Island
Diego Tutiven/

Can you drive to South Padre Island?

By Dianne Titos | Updated on 14 November 2022

Long beaches, spectacular views, and romantic getaways are just a few of the things that South Padre Island is celebrated for. Situated off the southeast coast of Texas yet still within the state boundary, this island is equally as popular with college students as it is with savvy travelers looking for a tropical escape.

You can easily drive to South Padre Island via the toll-free Queen Isabella Causeway Bridge connecting the mainland city of Port Isabel to this tropical paradise. This island is so close to the mainland that you can reach the beaches in 10 minutes.

Whether you're looking for a weekend escape or for a warm-weathered spot you can enjoy long-term, South Padre Island is a unique vacation destination boasting pristine white sandy beaches, clear Gulf waters and lots of shopping and dining gems that are sure to have you coming back.

Can you drive to South Padre Island?

South Padre Island is quite easily reachable by car, and you luckily don't have to worry about hopping on and off a ferry to get there. You also won't have to worry about any hidden costs in reaching the island, as the bridge taking you to South Padre Island is free to cross.

There are a few ways that you can reach the Queen Isabella Causeway Bridge, which takes you from Port Isabel to South Padre Island and from there it's only 5.2 miles until you've reached the island and all of its stunning beaches.

South Padre Island
Once you arrive at South Padre Island sit back and relax and enjoy the stunning views.
Kelsey Torres/

How to drive to South Padre Island from the mainland USA

Driving to South Padre Island from the mainland USA
Departure PointModeViaCrossing TimeFare
Port IsabelBridgeQueen Isabella Causeway Bridge10 minutesFree

Regardless of where you're driving from within the United States, you'll end up taking the same bridge from Port Isabel to South Padre Island, as the Queen Isabella Causeway Bridge is the only road linking this wonderful island to the mainland.

If you're driving from Corpus Christi to South Padre Island, you'll be able to enjoy a relatively fast and scenic route through South Texas. The road will take you along the long Texan coast, which overlooks the Gulf of Mexico, before finally reaching Port Isabel.

From Corpus Christi to South Padre Island, you'll be crossing about 180 miles which will take you around 3 hours without accounting for breaks.

A 110-degree panoramic image of the main temple structure and Gulf of Mexico in the ancient Mayan city at Tulum, Mexico
Traveling across the Texan coast provides a beautiful start to your South Padre journey.
Red Square Visual Arts/

How long does it take to drive to South Padre Island?

Given that this stretched island off the coast of Texas is so close to the US-Mexico border, if you're driving from anywhere in the United States you'll most likely be approaching it from the north.

From Corpus Christi, it'll take you about three hours to reach this island without accounting for breaks. See the table below to learn about the distance and travel time to reach South Padre Island from other nearby major cities in the US.

Travel times to South Padre Island via Queen Isabella Causeway Bridge
Starting PointDistanceTravel Time
Corpus Cristi180 miles3 hours
San Antonio300 miles4 hours 30 ninutes
Austin370 miles5 hours 30 minutes
Houston375 miles5 hours 40 minutes
Dallas565 miles8 hours 30 minutes
Albuquerque1,020 miles15 hours 10 minutes

Which port should you arrive at on South Padre Island?

To get to South Padre Island, you've only got one option when it comes to ports: Port Isabel. From there, you take the Queen Isabella Causeway Bridge which takes you directly onto the island. The best part: the bridge is toll-free and open year-round.

Things you need to know about driving to South Padre Island

Getting to South Padre Island is very straightforward considering there's only really one way to get there. The road from Corpus Christi leads you straight to Port Isabel and then over the bridge to South Padre Island.

Here are our top tips when it comes to preparing for a drive to South Padre Island:

  • Planning to travel during a civic holiday or a busy season like the summer? We recommend leaving early so you can avoid traffic getting onto the island.
  • Keep in mind this island is a favorite among local college students, so be ready for some crowds during the post-exam and Spring Break seasons.
  • Make sure to pack your sunscreen, hat and sunglasses to keep yourself protected from harmful UV rays.

Things to see on the way to South Padre Island

There are tons of spots along the coast and on the way to San Padre Island via Queen Isabella Causeway Bridge that we think are worth scheduling a driving break for.

Port Isabel Lighthouse State Historical Park, Texas
The lovely sights of Port Isabel provide a perfect stop-off to stretch your legs on the way.
Richard J Roberts/
  1. Loyola and Riviera Beaches – Explore these two stunning beaches and dip into the Bay of Mexico before you reach South Padre Island.
  2. Laguna Madre Surfing – If you're a big fan of surfing, then we highly recommend taking the time to surf along these beautiful waters. And if you're a beginner, don't worry you can always take a lesson.
  3. Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge – At this wildlife refuge you'll have the chance to view and interact with a variety of exotic laguna wildlife.
  4. Port Isabel – This little seashore town is incredibly romantic, offering tons of local restaurants and shopping opportunities to set you up for your time on South Padre Island.
  5. Gladys Porter Zoo – Wonder at Komodo dragons and other rare animals in this slight detour to Brownsville.

Things to see once you reach South Padre Island

Once you've finally reached this beautiful paradise, you're probably wondering what some of the things are that you can get up to. Keep scrolling to find out what our favourite activities are at South Padre Island.

  1. Walk along the beach - Take a walk along the beautiful Gulf Coast beaches. This is probably the main draw for visiting South Padre Island, and we can definitely see why—with its white sand and clear waters, this little island's beaches rival some of the best in the world.
  2. Kitesurfing and kiteboarding - If you're a fan of watersports, try your hand at kiteboarding and kitesurfing. South Padre Island is actually a famous destination for these sports, bringing in thousands of visitors every year.
  3. Sea Turtle Rescue Center - It doesn't get cuter than the Sea Turtle Rescue Center, where you can meet and interact with these adorable sea creatures.
  4. Hang out with the dolphins - Board a ship and make your way out into the Gulf of Mexico, where you'll have the opportunity to view these beautiful mammals up close.
  5. The Black Dragon Pirate Ship - Wonder at an authentic reproduction of a 17th-century pirate ship, together with museums, restaurants, and lots of other fun.
Sea turtles looking from the water in the reserve
Take long walks along the white sand beaches of South Padre Island and take the chance to get closer to wildlife.

Taking the time to visit South Padre Island is a wonderful opportunity to explore the pristine beaches and take in the stunning wildlife that makes the Gulf Coast a favorite among locals and tourists alike.