The Queen Isabel is a calm haven of white brick amid the seaside bustle. The lobby, which is stocked with fishing memorabilia, games, and books, faces the bay, affording superb views of South Padre Island. The Queen’s once-tiny rooms are now large suites (some have two stories with balconies), and each has a full kitchen.

Outside, the 1950s-era Esther Williams pool attracts laughing gulls that swoop down for a sip of fresh water, ignoring the inflatable snake bought to scare them off. From the poolside cabana, you can see the recently restored, 1853 Port Isabel Lighthouse just a few blocks away.

The patio’s barbecue grills are well used in winter, says John, who spends many evenings outside, talking to guests. “Some people stay for six months, fishing every day and grilling their catch every evening.” Just as in the old days, anglers here practice their craft year round, casting lines from the inn’s boat ramp or wading out into the bay from the adjacent seawall. And when dawn comes up like a fireball across the bay, anglers heading offshore pass in review, followed throughout the day by dolphin-watching cruises, sunset excursions, and the ever-present gymnastics of resident seagulls, pelicans, herons, and osprey. Most guests at the Queen echo the sentiments of fisherman Roger Carl, an annual guest from Michigan, who observed, “It’s very peaceful here, away from the island.”

The June 2024 cover of Texas Highways: Treasures from the Coast

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