One of the most exciting things happening on South Padre Island is viewing of the SpaceX Rocket Starship, which is being built for expeditions to the planet Mars! While we didn’t get to watch a test launch, it was so much fun just to see it up close!
From South Padre Island, drive down to Isla Blanca Park, which is $12/day entrance fee, and you can see the rocket across the channel! Bring a good pair of binoculars for a great view. If you happen to arrive during a launch, this is one of the best places to safely watch! Isla Blanca Park is also a great place to fish, play on the beach, or watch the kite surfing on windy days! From the jetties, you can spot dolphins and sea turtles in the water!
For a much closer view of the rockets, it’s about an hour drive around the Brownsville Shipping Port to Boca Chica Beach and SpaceX! During test launches the roads are closed, and it happens frequently, so you’ll want to check before you go. Two of my favorite resources are the SpaceX Front Page and SpaceX Boca Chica Group, both on facebook.
At Starbase, there are several rockets you can see. Ample parking allows you to get out and walk around, although there aren’t tours and you’re not allowed on their property, but they are close enough to the road for you to get a good view. They do not offer tours.
We had a lot of fun just playing around with pictures.
No surprise, but use of drones is not allowed. We were hoping that we could use our new toy but it was very windy, also.
Not everyone loves SpaceX’s presence in South Texas, including some of the long-time residents that once lived in the Boca Chica neighborhood. SpaceX purchased most of the established homes as residence for employees, and has brought in fleets of airstream campers in a master-planned park. Wildlife and ecological debates also remain a hot button for Space X, as the area is a major thoroughfare for migrating birds and the beach is a nesting site for sea turtles in the Summer, when lights can be disruptive.
Admission to Boca Chica Beach is free, and it’s a great beach with few crowds. The only entrance is past Space X, so if they have the roads closed, so is access to the beach. The jettys on Boca Chica Beach are about a mile or more north from the entrance to the beach, and it really should only be attempted with a four-wheel drive vehicle. We witnessed plenty of cars and trucks stuck along the beach and at the deep sand at the entrance. You’re probably not going to get a wrecker out, so it’s hoping for someone with a chain to come along and pull you out if you get stuck. Even with a four-wheel drive SUV, we carry traction mats because I’ve spent too many nights stuck in the sand.
Planning a day at the beach? Here’s a tip, pack a lunch because it’s miles back to town for food or drinks. It’s also a primitive beach, so no restrooms, changing areas or showers. We enjoyed playing with our dogs on the beach, with no one else in sight, however it’s not an off-leash beach, and dogs are required to be leashed. A strong south wind gave us some huge waves, and made for a great day flying kites. Even on Dec. 31st, the water felt good!
If you take a right on the sand at the entrance to Boca Chica Beach, and drive down about 2.5 miles, you’ll come to the Rio Grande, with Mexico just on the other side of the narrow, muddy river.
You’ll see a lot of references to Boca Chica State Park on maps, but there isn’t a state park here, just miles of beach.
The view of South Padre Island from Boca Chica Jetty.
On the way back, stop off at the Sabal Palm Sanctuary, one of the most interesting preserves in the state. In addition to a jungle of old growth sabal palms, you can tour the 1892 Rabb Plantation, which even rents a room for overnight guest. 3 miles of trails leads you down to the Rio Grande River.
Rocket Ranch is an RV Park with cabins located just 8 miles from Starbase, with pontoon boats for viewing the launches.
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