Wednesday, November 27, 2013

South Padre Island, Texas

One of the reasons we wanted to go to the Rio Grande Valley was to visit South Padre Island. There was so much hype, we wanted to visit and see what it had to offer. We were a little disappointed. While it's certainly a beautiful place, we thought it was a bit over rated. We were there on a Friday night and we both felt like there just was no energy. Sure, there are hotels, restaurants and many gift shops but the energy wasn't there. I guess we expected something like downtown Chicago or New Orleans but it just wasn't there. In fairness, I'm sure during the summer and/or Spring Break it's a hopping place. We could see that. The KOA was a nice park but old and certainly not secure. We would probably choose the Isla Blanca Park if we were to stay there....

Enroute to South Padre Island, we spotted Bobz World. Bob has a jungle theme crossed with dinosaurs and sea shells. Pretty weird.

The dinosaurs were lifelike though and well done. This big guy was being harassed by three smaller stegosauruses.

Besides the dinosaurs and the jungle theme, you can see the huge sea shell in the background with these dolphins jumping out of the water.

King Kong kept a close eye on us while we were in the parking lot.

Bobz World, of course, sells souvenirs, t-shirts, shells and other touristy items. But, you had to dodge this awesome shark to get inside.

After scoring some t-shirts, we bid King Kong adieu and headed down toward Port Isabel and South Padre.

Welcome sign to Port Isabel.

This ship with attached mermaid actually is the entrance to a liquor store. Certainly an eye catcher and interesting architecture.

The Port Isabel lighthouse, built in 1852, is still standing today. It was in use until 1905 at which time it was abandoned. It sat empty until 1927 when the Federal Government sold the lighthouse and land to a local citizen. In the 40's a movement was started to save the lighthouse as a historic site. On October 5, 1950 the Texas State Park Board accepted the lighthouse and land as a gift. Restoration began and the lighthouse was opened to the public in 1952.

Along the boardwalk, just east of the lighthouse is a restaurant, bar and gift shop. Although the restaurant sports a pirate theme, the bar features what is claimed to be the "Worlds Largest Fishing Pole".

"Black Jack" keeps watch over the entrance to his galley, saloon and gift shop.

Port Isabel is a working deep water port. Originally used for the exportation of cotton, today it is used primarily to lower transportation cost focusing on offshore oil and gas industries.

We decided to spend some time on the beach and found it pretty empty. While many hotels line the beachfront, we saw several that were boarded up. It's possible they were damaged so severely during the hurricane of 2008 that the cost to make them habitable again was too great.

As tempting as the water was, I decided to forego anything more than wading due to the presence of a large amount of  Portuguese Man O' War  found on the beach.

Here's a Portuguese Man O' War. These creatures are not really jellyfish but float and feed in a similar fashion. The difference between these and the ones we saw at Goose Island, is these guys produce a powerful sting from their tentacles. The large sac you see here can be inflated or deflated depending on it's needs.
The sac inflates to allow it to float on the surface while letting the tentacles to float underneath. The tentacles can grow as long as 33 feet! Any of them release a powerful venom that paralyzes their prey before being brought up to it's body. 

The Man O' War is not a single organism but rather a colonial organism of many small individuals called zooids.

The sting from one of it's many tentacles can be extremely painful so I decided today was not the day for swimming.

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