South Padre Island, Texas
© Jeff R Clow/Getty Image
An endless stretch of sky. South Padre Island, Texas
Located a few miles offshore on the Texas Gulf Coast, Padre Island is the largest of the state's string of barrier islands. At 113 miles in length, it is also the longest barrier island in the world. Barrier islands usually run parallel to the coast and, as the name suggests, serve as the mainland's first line of defense against storms.
Since the Port Mansfield Channel was built in the early 1960s, Padre Island has been split into two parts, South Padre Island, pictured here, and North Padre Island. Connected by a bridge to the shore, the resort town of South Padre Island draws in thousands of visitors every year for swimming, boating, fishing, or simply lounging on the beach. Others come for the trail of elaborate sandcastles scattered across the island, created by professional artists.