12 Best Things To Do In Port Isabel, Texas

things to do in port isabel texas
Kit
Kit 
Updated

Port Isabel is a charming and colorful city full of gulf shore breezes, friendly dolphins, and spectacular sunset dining. Home to Texas’ only town square with a lighthouse, you’re in for a real treat if Port Isabel is on your radar.

While the state of Texas has layers and layers of intrigue all on its own. Filled with haunting ghost stories and swashbuckling pirate tales - one of which includes undiscovered buried treasure over on nearby South Padre Island. Throughout the years, Port Isabel tourism has been slowly growing, so you don’t have to worry about where to stay since accommodations are plentiful. Dating back to 1519, when Spanish explorer Alonzo de Pineda first charted its course, Port Isabel’s colorful​ delights are sure to dazzle you. Continue reading to learn about all the best things to do in Port Isabel.

1. Port Isabel Lighthouse

Fort Polk
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Pi3.124 used under PUBLIC DOMAIN

Port Isabel Lighthouse is both ancient and alluring. Her heavy brick walls have withstood the lashings of wind and water for more than a century. A dominant feature at the southern tip of the Gulf of Mexico, Port Isabel Lighthouse has brought many a sailor safely to shore - even those tempestuous pirates. Open daily, it’s certainly one of the best Port Isabel tourist attractions, and is worth a gander as you step into ancient Spanish times.

Port Isabel Lighthouse

Address: 421 E. Queen Isabella Blvd, Port Isabel, TX 78578

Hours of Operation: 9am - 5pm (daily)

Website: Port Isabel Lighthouse

2. Lighthouse Square

Restaurants in a square
Source: Unsplash

Photo is only for illustrative purposes

After staring up at the sturdy rays of Port Isabel Lighthouse, make sure you budget some time for Lighthouse Square. Dotted with quirky shops and restaurants, you’ll be glad you soaked up this quaint stretch of town. Top off your day with some local fudge and sail right into that setting sun. You’ll never want to return to a reality that lacks the hope of a glimpse at some glistening pirate booty.

Lighthouse Square

Address: North Garcia Street, Port Isabel, TX 78578

3. Port Isabel Historical Museum

Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing

This is an exciting dip into the past, soaked with artifacts from the Mexican-American War. It’s no Metropolitan Museum of Art, being a smaller production with more limited means, but well worth the afternoon stroll while you work your way through that local fudge. Make sure you check out its renowned fish mural, painted in 1906. Little bits of Texan history come to life here, making it well worth the visit.

Port Isabel Historical Museum

Address: 317 E Railroad Ave, Port Isabel, TX 78578

Hours of Operation: Tuesday - Saturday, from 10 am - 4 pm

Website: Port Isabel Historical Museum

4. Pirate's Landing Fishing Pier

Fresh seafood straight into your plate
Source: Pixabay

Photo is only for illustrative purposes

Put on your comfiest flip flops and go explore the longest fishing pier in the (huge) state of Texas. Whether you’re a tried and true fisherman or not, the ocean breezes that sweep up to hug you are well worth the visit. The folks who maintain this pier keep it in tip-top shape.

As you make your way back, set your sights on Pirate’s Landing Restaurant for dinner. The drinks are spectacular and the locally caught seafood is fresh as can be. Feeling like you’re aboard the Black Pearl and dining with the friendliest of pirates, neither the kids nor the adults ever seem to want to peel themselves away from the treasure trove of fun that awaits visitors of Pirate’s Landing.

Pirate's Landing Fishing Pier

Address: 501 E Maxan St, Port Isabel, TX 78578

Website: Pirate’s Landing Fishing Pier

5. Black Dragon Pirate Ship

Black Dragon Pirate Ship, Port Isabel, South Padre Island, Texas
Source: Photo by Flickr user Vince Smith used under CC BY 2.0

I fought so hard not to start this excerpt with, “Ahoy, mateys!” It’s just the first thing I think whenever I see photos for this adventure cruise. The staff at Black Dragon really ensures families have a blast while sailing its charted course.

Here, you’ll learn to fight like a pirate, speak like a pirate, hunt for treasure like a pirate, and hang with the jolliest crew of scoundrels this side of Captain Jack Sparrow. Make absolutely certain you add this island adventure to your Port Isabel itinerary. You’ll laugh about it for years to come.

Black Dragon Pirate Ship

Address: 501 E Maxan St, Port Isabel, TX 78578

Website: Black Dragon Pirate Ship

6. South Padre Island Dolphin Research & Sea Life Center

Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing

This will be a fun-filled afternoon, brimming with family delights. The Sea Life Center is a top Port Isabel attraction, and it offers unique encounters with local starfish, crabs, octopus, and more. Touch tanks allow visitors to get hands-on with these fishy friends.

Once those introductions are complete, make sure you seek out Captain Scarlet Colley, a.k.a. the Dolphin Whisperer, and her faithful friend, Rozzi the Dolphin Dog. Hop aboard their boat to seek out the local family of wild dolphins living in Laguna Madre Bay. This is a really special treat. Rozzi even invites you to bring your four-legged friends with you! Call when you arrive, as this is a small family affair - with only six on board at any time - and get ready to have a blast.

South Padre Island Dolphin Research & Sea Life Center

Address: 110 N Garcia St, Port Isabel, TX 78578

Hours of Operation: Daily, from 10 am - 4 pm

Website: South Padre Island Dolphin Research & Sea Life Center

7. Dolphin Docks

Dolphins
Source: Pexels

Once Captain Scarlett Colley and Rozzi introduce you to the local dolphin family in Laguna Madre Bay, you’re going to want to spend even more time with these friendly sea creatures. Their perpetual smiles are infectious.

Dolphin Docks offers everything from dolphin watching, to bay fishing, to eco tours, to sunset cruises and private charters. Both the dolphins and the staff are so friendly and engaging, you’ll be sad to see the shoreline come back into sight.

Dolphin Docks

Address: 510 E Queen Isabella Blvd, Port Isabel, TX 78578

Hours of Operation: Daily, from 7 am - 7 pm

Website: Dolphin Docks

8. South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center

Mottled Duck
Source: Photo by Flickr user Andy Reago & Chri... used under CC BY 2.0

South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center is a great way to explore wildlife amidst lovely coastal breezes of Texas. Butterflies fly freely amidst the colorful birds. Make sure you climb the center’s five-story tower, offering spectacular views of your dolphin friends over in Laguna Madre.

South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center

Address: 6801 Padre Blvd, South Padre Island, TX 78597

Hours of Operation: Daily, from 9 am - 7 pm

Website: South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center

9. Gravity Park

Reverse Bungee at the 2003 Wirral Show
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Rept0n1x used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Photo is only for illustrative purposes

Now that you’ve dipped in and out of many aquatic and historical delights, it’s time to head on over to Gravity Park, an amusement park on nearby South Padre Island. Here, you’ll dive off the world’s tallest reverse-bungee in the world, a.k.a. The Rocket, soak in full views of the island on the Skycoaster, and hit the go-cart tracks. Don’t forget to battle through a little mini-golf tournament, either. Feel free to bounce all your cares away on a huge trampoline or scale to new heights on Gravity Park’s climbing wall.

Gravity Park

Address: 106 W Marlin St, South Padre Island, TX 78597

Hours of Operation: Daily, from 7 pm - 12 am

Website: Gravity Park

10. Virginia's Spa

Massage
Source: Pexels

Before you head back to reality, stop into the highly-recommended Virginia’s spa. Why not close out your trip with a 60-minute Swedish massage or, depending on your level of activity during your time here, a deep tissue sports massage? A little mani-pedi action will carry sweet memories of your time in Port Isabel during your first few days back in the office.

Virginia's Spa

Address: 408 E Queen Isabella Blvd, Port Isabel, TX 78578

Hours of Operation: Daily, from 9 am - 5 pm

Website: Virginia’s Spa

11. Isla Blanca Beach

Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing

Isla Blanca Beach has beautiful, abundant sand and clear waters that visitors will definitely love. With large waves and clean views, go for a nice swim or explore other activities such as fishing and surfing while you are in the area. The attraction is part of Isla Blanca Park, where you can check out the picnic area if you want some delightful family time. There are also several restaurant options to choose from in case you get hungry. See the range of water sports available for you to enjoy such as diving and parasailing. You can also opt to rent a jet ski for a more thrilling experience.

Isla Blanca Beach

Address: Isla Blanca Park, 33174 State Park Rd 100, South Padre Island, TX 78597, United States

12. Queen Isabella Memorial Park

South Padre Island
Source: Photo by Flickr user Dhruvaraj S used under CC BY 2.0

Visit Queen Isabella Memorial Park while you’re here and understand its significance in commemorating the devastating collapse of Queen Isabella Causeway. You will see a monument dedicated to the victims of the catastrophic event that took place in 2001. Explore the history of South Padre Island and visit this important landmark for a truly unforgettable experience.

Queen Isabella Memorial Park

Address: South Padre Island, TX 78597, USA

A charming slice of Texas history

A view of So Padre Island
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Isaac "AYE MIRA" ... used under CC BY 2.0

Port Isabel will sweep you away with its colorful character and bayside breezes. What to do in Port Isabel, you ask? With its rich history, dolphin delights, and pirate booty, this city definitely has a lot to offer, and it is most unlikely that you’ll forget your time in this city that’s simply the perfect slice of Texas charm.

Frequently asked questions about the best things to do in Port Isabel, Texas

1. What are the top attractions to visit in Port Isabel?

Some of the top attractions you have to visit in Port Isabel are Port Isabel Lighthouse, South Padre Island Dolphin Research & Sea Life Center, Port Isabel Historical Museum, and Black Dragon Pirate Ship.

2. What are the best outdoor activities in Port Isabel?

If you love the outdoors, you’ll definitely enjoy watching the marine shows at South Padre Island Dolphin Research & Sea Life Center, as well as bay fishing and sunset cruising at Dolphin Docks.

3.  What are the most popular things to do with kids and family in Port Isabel?

Have fun with the whole family in Port Isabel. Some of the most popular things to do with kids and family include attending the educational shows in South Padre Island Dolphin Research & Sea Life Center, sunset cruising at Dolphin Docks, and enjoying the amazing rides and attractions at Gravity Park in nearby South Padre Island.

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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Kit Kittelstad is a Freelance Writer who specializes in higher education and lifestyle articles, with a focus on travel pieces. She also serves as an Adjunct Communications Professor at Pace...Read more

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