Faces of the RGV: “The Laguna Madre Bay”

Local News

Port Isabel, TX (Valleycentral) — This week ValleyCentral takes you to the home of the Fighting Tarpons. Officially established in 1928 as Port Isabel, the city has seen many changes from its discovery in the 1500s. Port Isabel is known for its rich history, which includes facing the American Civil War and surviving a devastating hurricane. Over 6,000 people live in the section known as the Laguna Madre bay. Connected to South Padre Island by the Queen Isabella Memorial Causeway, the two-mile bridge is the only entry to the mainland. Often a pitstop for visitors attending SPI, not many will recognize all the unique activities of the city. From the Lighthouse Square, to the museum describing the cities origins and history, Port Isabel offers all kinds of experiences.

Port Isabel

One of the oldest and most recognizable landmarks in the state of Texas is the Port Isabel Lighthouse. Created in 1852, the lighthouse served as a guide for ships that navigated the Texas coast. The 170-year-old lighthouse was also a point of interest during the Civil War, with both sides having control of the tower during the war at some point. By the 1900s, the lighthouse became obsolete but remains open to the public. Visitors can now climb up to the top of the 72-foot tower and enjoy the park grounds. Being a historical landmark, the lighthouse has been preserved and continues to teach generations about its importance. Located near the lighthouse is the Lighthouse Square; an area filled will local vendors and stores. The square has everything within walking distance and allows for a great view of the bay area. Port Isabel is also home to the longest pier in Texas: Pirates Landing Fishing Pier. Next to the fishing pier is the Queen Isabella Memorial Causeway, the bridge that connects Port Isabel to SPI. The name serves as a reminder to those lost in the 2001 accident that took the lives of eight people. The two-mile bridge is the only means of transportation by car to the island. The causeway, which was established in 1974, replaced the first bridge, which is now the Queen Isabella Fishing Pier.

Overlooking the bay- Dirty Al’s Pelican Station

Located at the old railroad station of Port Isabel, Dirty Al’s Pelican Station continues to honor the rich history of the city’s past. Operated by General Manager Joe Vasquez, the restaurant offers guests a chance to view the Laguna Madre Bay and the Queen Isabella Memorial Causeway. The journey to becoming one of the city’s favorite food destinations was not easy. According to Vasquez, the early days of the operation took word of mouth and specials to bring guests out to the restaurant. Using the station as a place to operate, they also brought back the designs and features of the once functioning railroad. Decked out with photos and antiques that pay homage to the railroad station, the restaurant gives guests a chance to experience the history of the station. According to Vasquez, the hand railings inside the restaurant have been converted from the old railroad tracks once used by the station. Once recognized as “where the railroad meets the bay,” the restaurant prides itself on keeping this part of history alive. Being close to the bay, there is also a seafood market where anybody can buy freshly caught fish if they do not feel like fishing. Vasquez said the support from the community has been great to see. “We don’t have customers, we have guests and there’s a big difference between the two,” said Vasquez.

Pirate Adventure – Pirates Landing

Many visitors might notice Pirate’s Landing due to its unique appearance when traveling to or from SPI. Pirates Landing has been offering family-friendly fun for all ages for over 30 years. Using the pirate theme has given the restaurant the ability to provide a memorable experience unique only to Port Isabel. Visitors can imagine themselves in the pirate world by taking photos with the various statues or cutouts. Owned and operated by the sons of the original owners, the location is all about providing a chance to have fun. Oscar Nieto, a manager at Pirates Landing for 11 years, has seen the excitement the restaurant has put on the faces of families over the years. Beginning as a server and working his way to the top, Nieto was attracted to Pirates Landing because of its unique appearance. Located near the pier and right across the causeway, Pirate’s Landing is in the perfect spot to capture people’s attention. The restaurant offers a variety of seafood options to enjoy all freshly made. A signature dish for the restaurant is the Jalapeño Bacon Wrapped Shrimp. The restaurant is a staple not only for the community but also for the employees, some of which have been there for more than 20 years. After years of providing great service and smiles, Pirates Landing has left an impact on everyone that has been there. “It’s just a feeling that makes you feel like you’re at least complete. You’re doing something, you’re accomplishing something,” said Nieto.

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