74 THE COASTAL BEND MAGAZINE • January/February 2018 TheCoastalBend.com Padre Island is the longest barrier island in the world, and the second largest island in the US, to Long Island, NY. Padre Isles is the largest waterfront development in the US outside the state of Florida, with some 4,000 single and multi-family homes located on the com- munity’s extensive network of canals. Although the vast majority of homes in Padre Isles include boat docks and/or lifts, and many residents own ocean-worthy rec- reational vessels, until 2006 the closest pas- sage into the Gulf of Mexico was through the Port Aransas Ship Channel more than 20 miles, and over an hour north. More beaches, greater beach access than any destination on the entire U.S. Gulf Coast COLLEGE/YOUNG ADULT ZONE FAMILY-FRIENDLY BEACH ZONE The official opening of Packery Channel in October 2006 was the culmination of decades of effort by hundreds of Texans at all levels of government. Not only does the channel provide direct access to the gulf in less than five nautical miles of most homes, but contrary to envi- ronmentalists’warnings about negative ecological consequences, water quality in Laguna Madre and in North Padre’s canal system was significantly improved, as was the fishing, with the opening of Packery Channel. Coastal BendTour Guide W inter in the Coastal Bend provides some of the best weather in the country, and even most cold days offer terrific fishing and a wonderful setting for bird watching or a walk on the beach. And our cold fronts tend to clear out quickly! To our beloved Winter Texans, whose annual return is anticipated by Coastal Benders like that of the whooping cranes, we understand your smirks that come from seeing us natives wrapped up like Arctic explorers when it drops below 50°, or when we break out the foul weather gear at the site of storm clouds. And while we realize that while we’re getting 38° and rain, Minnesota and Michigan are getting 0° and five feet of snow, we also know that you, and we, prefer predictable mid-60’s and sun. Welcome back!