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Accomodation Padre Island

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Old Monday 9th January 2017, 12:41   #1
Mono
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Accomodation Padre Island

Hi,

I am thinking of visiting Texas this coming Easter, a mix of visiting friends in Houston and birding on the coast, Padre Island has been suggested.

I have done a bit of searching but all that pops up are chain hotels in Corpus Christi or resorts on South Padre.

Does anyone have anything a bit more low key and friendly? Or any other places to go instead?

Mono
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Old Tuesday 10th January 2017, 16:25   #2
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Were you planning on driving there?
I will say upfront, that I haven't been to Texas yet. I had great birding plans for southern Texas for February, but due to injuries, that had to be changed to simple touristing and birding in San Antonio area. However, I did research that area. I agree that the lodgings on the barrier islands look unappealing (if affordable). Have you ever looked at AirBnB? I have used them for several places and had good results. There is one listed for Harlingen, Texas, inland from South Padre but in a good location for the coast and also the parks along the Mexico coast. The lodging is a small cottage on a property, they get a lot of birds right there. I tend to prefer an apartment or short let as I like to eat in more than out, and get to live more like a local. There are also some bird focused inns that don't cost a fortune but put you in proximity to good birding and friendly birding folks. Check out the Alamo Inn in Alamo Texas. The Rio Grande valley is another stellar birding spot and April will have spring migrants passing through, so good activity.
You may want to google, Birding inns Harlingen and see what comes up and strikes your fancy.
If you are on your own, you may want to look at local Audubon Chapters for that area of Texas. The chapters will post outings on their website and either for a small fee or free, guests can join them. As a solo traveler and a newer birder, I have found these trips a real enhancement to my visits to an area; particularly if done closer to my arrival as it allows the beginnings of familiarity to the local birds....and a nice group of people.
That area of Texas has so many birding choices, I don't think you can go wrong.
Happy birding.
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Old Tuesday 10th January 2017, 16:40   #3
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I'm a bit unclear about what you're looking for. First of all, pretty much anywhere on the Texas coast during April will be great for birding. You probably couldn't be anywhere better in the US at that time of the year. Padre Island is a very good area but in terms of where you would stay there, you're probably restricted to the north end at Port Aransas or the South Padre Island area. Both are excellent areas, but are fairly urban. In terms of good birding, you can't go wrong though. Are there particular birds you're interested in seeing or is it just a case of wanting to do a bit of birding?

I get the impression from your post that you're looking for a certain type of place to stay that isn't a chain motel. Can you give a bit more of an idea of what you're hoping for? Is the type of accommodation more important to you than simply staying in a really good place for birds?

If you're looking for somewhere that's friendly, characterful and oriented towards birders, maybe consider the Alamo Inn in the Lower Rio Grande Valley:
http://alamoinnbnb.com/inn-about-alamo-tx.html
It's not on the coast but is in an excellent area for birding. You can reach coastal areas such as South Padre Island fairly quickly from there too.
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Old Tuesday 10th January 2017, 21:16   #4
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The main choice of Texas is solely to visit friends who live two hours north of Houston so I would be flying to Houston and then driving. But whilst there I would love to extend the trip and do some birding, say 4 days with the friends and 6 days birding/travelling/general exploring. I discussed this with a Texan birder I bumped into in the UK and he suggested Padre Island, he said it was better to head south that early in the migration season than to stay nearer Houston, I am willing to be corrected on that.

I would prefer to stay somewhere homely and wholesome in pleasant surroundings but appreciate that US protected areas are different and staying in them is not often possible.

I'm sorry about the restrictive nature of my title, it should be "somewhere nice to go for a weeks birding in Texas that isn't a stupid distance from Magnolia!".
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Old Wednesday 11th January 2017, 07:21   #5
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The main choice of Texas is solely to visit friends who live two hours north of Houston so I would be flying to Houston and then driving. But whilst there I would love to extend the trip and do some birding, say 4 days with the friends and 6 days birding/travelling/general exploring. I discussed this with a Texan birder I bumped into in the UK and he suggested Padre Island, he said it was better to head south that early in the migration season than to stay nearer Houston, I am willing to be corrected on that.

I would prefer to stay somewhere homely and wholesome in pleasant surroundings but appreciate that US protected areas are different and staying in them is not often possible.

I'm sorry about the restrictive nature of my title, it should be "somewhere nice to go for a weeks birding in Texas that isn't a stupid distance from Magnolia!".
Are you going early in April (e.g. first week) or a bit later? Migration probably peaks at areas like High Island and Corpus Christi around the third week. It might be a touch earlier around South Padre, but I don't think there's a big difference. There will still be migrants around throughout the month, particularly if the conditions are appropriate (hope for some rain and head to the coast straight after).

In terms of somewhere nice to go birding, as I said earlier, absolutely anywhere in south Texas will be very good indeed at that time of the year. The Corpus Christi area has loads of good spots and a nice variety. It's probably only a four hour drive from Magnolia, which is not too far by Texas standards. A bit closer is the Anahuac/ Bolivar/ High Island area. This is one of the best areas for bird migration and for a wide variety of species I've ever been to anywhere in the world. Over a hundred species in a day is quite normal there, in my experience. The only problem with that area is that it's a bit lacking in nice places to stay. I've always ended up staying in boring motels in the town of Winnie. If you're looking for a bit of character it may be better to go elsewhere.

Perhaps the best strategy is just to look around on websites like Booking.com for places that you would like to stay at, book them and then ask on here about nearby birding opportunities. Also, don't neglect inland areas too. Magnolia is near the WG Jones Forest, which has Red-cockaded Woodpecker and lots of other good woodland species for example.
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Old Thursday 12th January 2017, 16:01   #6
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The Chachalaca Inn is exactly what you are looking for. A B&B in very south Texas aimed directly at birders. The name alone is telling. I have reservations for April. My son stayed there last year and recommended it highly.

See

http://www.chachalaca.com/
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Old Thursday 19th January 2017, 19:30   #7
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If you want to go west just a bit ((even better birding?), you might try the Alamo Inn in, of all places, Alamo, Texas.

Birder owned and very bird-centric - they organize guides for you and even an optics shop on-site.

http://www.alamoinnbnb.com/

Tell them Steve from Estero sent you.
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Old Monday 30th January 2017, 00:08   #8
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At the time you will be here, there will be plenty of birding sites in and around the Houston area. I would definitely *not* head south as recommended by your UK birding friend. So many that your days will be full enough in the Houston area to where you really have no need to go to the southern part of Texas. And too, the southern part of TX can already be pretty warm by mid-April. Why waste a full day of driving anyway?

In upper TX coastal area, you have many small places within the Houston metro area to bird. But within a 100 mile radius of H-town, you have:

High Island
Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge
Brazos Bend State Park
Sea Rim State Park
Sabine Pass State Park
Sabine Woods
Galveston Island
Galveston Island State Park

and a whole host of other smaller places too numerous to mention. Slightly further away is Port Aransas/Rockport/Aransas Pass/Goose Island area, although I think the whooping cranes will already be gone.

Don't get me wrong -- south TX is a fantastic place to bird. However, you will be extremely close to some world-class birding areas at the right time to make it worthwhile, so why even go to the trouble of driving eight hours (one way) to get to S. TX?

If you get time, do some reading on the Texas Ornithological Society and the Houston Audubon Society. You will find plenty of places to bird. I couldn't recommend High Island/Sabine Woods/Anahuac Reserve more highly...........
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Old Monday 30th January 2017, 07:38   #9
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At the time you will be here, there will be plenty of birding sites in and around the Houston area. I would definitely *not* head south as recommended by your UK birding friend. So many that your days will be full enough in the Houston area to where you really have no need to go to the southern part of Texas. And too, the southern part of TX can already be pretty warm by mid-April. Why waste a full day of driving anyway?

In upper TX coastal area, you have many small places within the Houston metro area to bird. But within a 100 mile radius of H-town, you have:

High Island
Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge
Brazos Bend State Park
Sea Rim State Park
Sabine Pass State Park
Sabine Woods
Galveston Island
Galveston Island State Park

and a whole host of other smaller places too numerous to mention. Slightly further away is Port Aransas/Rockport/Aransas Pass/Goose Island area, although I think the whooping cranes will already be gone.

Don't get me wrong -- south TX is a fantastic place to bird. However, you will be extremely close to some world-class birding areas at the right time to make it worthwhile, so why even go to the trouble of driving eight hours (one way) to get to S. TX?

If you get time, do some reading on the Texas Ornithological Society and the Houston Audubon Society. You will find plenty of places to bird. I couldn't recommend High Island/Sabine Woods/Anahuac Reserve more highly...........
Think it was actually a Texan who suggested to go south, Phil . This UK birder recommended the Houston/ High Island/ Anahuac area as one of the best in the world!

I saw a pair of Whooping Cranes at Aransas in mid-April when I was there a couple of years ago, although it's probably touch and go if they're still about by then. Maybe a good idea to check Ebird for the latest sightings. Aransas isn't too far to drive from the west side of Houston so it could be fairly easy to do.
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Old Monday 30th January 2017, 12:00   #10
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Thanks for all the input and suggestions.

It was indeed a Texan, on holiday in the UK, who suggested Padre Island in the first place.

The whole trip is on a bit of a planning hiatus at the moment as I am trying to pin down the Texas friends as to if they are actually going to be there!
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Old Monday 15th January 2018, 12:12   #11
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After a hiatus last year, largely down to our boiler packing up and the subsequent expense, the trip is back on for this Easter.

31st March - 10th April.

Any hints and tips? We will be spending three or four days with friends in Magnolia and then heading off, possibly down the coast but am up for suggestions.
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Old Tuesday 16th January 2018, 21:40   #12
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After a hiatus last year, largely down to our boiler packing up and the subsequent expense, the trip is back on for this Easter.

31st March - 10th April.

Any hints and tips? We will be spending three or four days with friends in Magnolia and then heading off, possibly down the coast but am up for suggestions.
Magnolia is about 30 minutes from where we live. If you still want to go to Padre Island, know that it will be about a four hour drive to Padre Island National Seashore, which is just outside of Corpus Christi. If you want to go to the town of South Padre Island, which is at the southern tip of TX, it is about eight hours drive, allowing a short time to stop for gas. South TX has some excellent birding areas, but keep in mind that if you are inland, that the afternoon temps can vary greatly at that time of year, and in fact can occasionally be quite warm.

Before you head down the coast, you might consider heading up the coast (east, from Magnolia) for a few days. Consider Anahuac NWR, the Houston Audubon Society's sites at High Island, Sabine Pass/Sabine Woods, Sea Rim State Park, and a whole host of other places in between. There is a very good book entitled "Finding Birds on the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail" that you might consider buying. It covers the upper half of the TX coast, and has enough places in it to keep you occupied for months. I would lend you my copy, but I will be using it at that time of year.

If you do end up going to the northern part of Padre Island, you will have to either drive through Corpus Christi, or stay along the coast and come in from Port Aransas. Time your arrival in the general area during mid-day, as the work traffic in C.C. can be bad, and the lines that form for the ferry crossing in Port A. can be extremely long. Personally, I would skip Padre Island National Seashore, as you can see the same shorebirds in the upper half of the TX coast, a lot closer to Magnolia.

If you are going to the southern part of Padre Island, you will go through Port Isabel and then into the town of South Padre Island. If you are going there, let me know and I can tell you a bit more about that area. Keep in mind that going to S. TX from Magnolia means that you will spend two days of your vacation in the car.
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Old Thursday 18th January 2018, 12:58   #13
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I'm not set on Padre Island by any means, it was just suggested to me by a Texan birder I met in the UK. Some sites ,and accommodation, nearer Magnolia would be great.
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Old Thursday 18th January 2018, 13:59   #14
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I'm not set on Padre Island by any means, it was just suggested to me by a Texan birder I met in the UK. Some sites ,and accommodation, nearer Magnolia would be great.
Sites closer to Magnolia are listed in the second paragraph of my post above. For more information, you can go to Audubon.org, or the Houston Audubon Society’s website, or the Texas Ornithological Society website.

As for accommodations - there are a ton of hotels near Magnolia, and you can go to a website such as Expedia.com to see them. There are no hotels within a few miles of Anahuac NWR, but there are some about 30 minutes away. High Island has just one hotel and it is probably booked by now, but you might call them anyway. I do not remember the name of that hotel. There are a number of hotels in Winnie, which is not far from Anahuac NWR and High Island.
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Old Friday 2nd February 2018, 18:57   #15
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So the plan is: Magnolia for a few days then down to Winnie for 3 or 4 days, doing all the coastal reserves, then back to Magnolia for a few days then home.

I have my Sibley and am swatting up as my bedtime reading.

Any hints and tips still welcome.
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Old Thursday 8th February 2018, 03:06   #16
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You will be able to see a lot of stuff if based in Winnie. High Island and the coastline is a short drive south. Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge is a short drive south, then west. Sabine woods (T.O.S. site) Sabine Pass State Park, and Sea Rim state park are a short drive to the east on Hwy. 73. All of these are highly recommended. Also highly recommended to look at the Houston Audubon and Texas Ornitholog. Soc. websites.

While at the visitor center at Anahuac, you can also get directions to the Skillern Tract area too. Lots of raptors can be seen along these roads that lead up to the refuge, but be very careful that you do not stop directly in the roadway, as these rural roads see very high-speed traffic. Local law enforcement greatly frowns upon this, so pull off the road if you need to stop.

If you get to Sea Rim S.P., look for the boardwalk trail. Very well worth your time to check out, as the birding can at times be excellent. Good place for reptiles too, including gators.

Be prepared for hot and cold weather. Freezing temps can be seen as late as April 1. 90 degree days can be seen as early as March 1. Definitely be prepared for rain, as the spring storms can be quite substantial at that time of year. Be extremely careful if you get near the water in some of these areas. It's more dangerous for small pets, but alligators kill people in Texas, every now and then. Be prepared to purchase mosquito repellant, or a bug net suit. Don't be in Port Arthur after the sun goes down. Definitely buy sunscreen when you get here. I would recommend SPF 30-50. I'll bet you already have a hat.

The Cajun restaurant in Winnie just south of IH-10 isn't that great, but it's the only place for Cajun around there. There is a Mexican restaurant in Winnie, but I haven't tried it yet. Let us know if you do. There is only one restaurant in High Island, located in the small hotel on the highway. Not very good, but it will do if you are really hungry. There is a church in Winnie within walking distance of the birding sites that will have barbecue plates for sale on the weekends, but I don't know if they will be up and running when you are there.
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Old Thursday 12th April 2018, 12:19   #17
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Just returned from a very pleasant trip.

As promised had allsorts of weather, 90 degrees sunshine to thunderstorms to 45 degree drizzle. The Cajun restaurant in Winnie was OK, ate there two nights, as was the BBQ place. Spent most of the time in and around Magnolia catching up with my friends, but they live on a 15 acre wooded plot so great for birding as well. A couple of days sightseeing in Houston, NASA and watching the Astros. We had two full days birding by the cost, High Island and Anahuac on one day and Sabine Woods, Sea Rim and McFaddin on the other.

List total for the trip was 111 with 72 lifers, plus a fair few glimpses of warblers or high altitude raptors that will remain unidentified.

Thanks for everyone's advice.
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