On the eastern side of the Laguna Madre, directly opposite Port Isabel, the city of South Padre Island, at the southern tip of the barrier island, is located in the vicinity of the Rancho de Santa Cruz de Buena Vista, the original early-nineteenth-century settlement headed by Catholic priest Padre José Ballí, the namesake for the island.
Historically only accessible by ferry, Padre Island attempted to draw tourists during the 1920s with the building of several hotels on wooden piers along its sandy shores. It was not until the construction in 1954 of the Queen Isabella Causeway, however, that the city began to develop in earnest. Nearly destroyed by a hurricane in 1966, South Padre Island is a town of recent vintage, with construction reflecting that of a typical beach resort with high-rises, motels, eateries, and souvenir shops, some of the latter sculpted into fantastic shapes of fish and seashells.
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