One of our very favorite National Parks is Padre Island National Seashore, located in the Gulf of Mexico near Corpus Christi, Texas. At 70 miles in length, Padre is the longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island in the world.
We travel the United States by RV, and Padre boasts a couple of basic campgrounds that we like to stay in while visiting the island (the park also offers the opportunity to camp right on the beach). We always camp at Malaquite Beach campground, located inside the national seashore; it is situated on the eastern side of the island; with only a single set of dunes between our camping site and the beach, we are lulled to sleep every night by the sound of the surf breaking on the sand. From the campground, we can take the short boardwalk out to the beach for walks and swimming, and even some surf fishing!
Just a short walk down the beach from the campground is the park's visitor's center; where we've learned about the park's wildlife and history, the kids have earned badges through the NPS' Jr. Ranger program, and there is even a fun little gift shop where we have picked up a few souvenirs. There is so much to see and do on Padre!
One of our favorite activities while we enjoy our annual 2 week camping trip to Padre, is to drive down the island, via the beach, and collect sea shells! Each year we venture down to where the currents deposit a plethora of shells up on the sand; an area of the island aptly named Big Shell Beach. The kids take clean ice cream buckets to put their finds in, and we often pack a lunch. The kids play in the surf and stroll up and down the beach looking for shells that have survived the abuse of crashing waves. After hours of play and discovery, the day winds down with a slow drive back up the beach, onto the main road, past the visitor's center, and to the campground where our home on wheels waits for us.
Visiting Padre Island every winter has become a family tradition for us; one that we eagerly anticipate! Plan a visit - maybe we'll catch you there!
Dana Ticknor writes at http://ticknortribe.com