A few weeks ago, after rough seas foiled plans for a quick dive trip in the Gulf of Mexico, I pointed my campervan for Matagorda Bay Nature Park instead.
I love the Texas coast in the fall, when crowds thin, temperatures cool, and the steady slap-slap-slap of waves on the beach provides a soothing backdrop to quiet days. High-rise hotels and high-dollar restaurants just aren’t my thing.
Matagorda Bay Nature Park seemed perfect. It’s situated along the Colorado River, where it flows into the Gulf of Mexico. It’s the very last in a string of more than 40 parks operated by the Lower Colorado River Authority between San Saba and the Gulf Coast.
LCRA parks are generally slightly more upscale than state parks. You’ll find cute cabins and unique amenities like canvas safari tents or even a zipline at some sites. At Matagorda Bay Nature Park, you can stay the night in a sleek, silver, bullet-shaped Airstream trailer, play a round or two of mini golf, or cast a line from one of two lighted fishing docks. The nature center has a small gift shop, rents kayaks and offers organized activities for a small fee.
Park an RV at Matagorda Bay Nature Park
Since my husband and I purchased a campervan earlier this year, we decided to check out the park’s RV park. Our Vincent VanGo, an all-wheel drive Ford Transit van equipped with a bed and all of the basic kitchen essentials, looked tiny next to the monstrous 35-foot rigs already set up when we arrived.
If you’re looking for a serene spot, perhaps tucked behind a screen of trees, this is not that. The RV park at Matagorda Bay Nature Park is made up of two paved loops along the riverfront. Other than a cluster of palm trees surrounding the two Airstream trailers, there’s little shade or separation from other campers.
We booked late, so we got a spot at the far end, next to the highway and adjacent to a storage building. Across the road, a 24-hour ice machine glowed brightly all night long. Our spot had a cement pad with a picnic table, and a water spigot. Clean, modern bathrooms and showers were a short walk away.
The ambiance didn’t matter too much. After checking in, we decided to explore by foot.
Exploring the beach and river
We met a few anglers casting from the wooden pier, watched a heron flap low above the water, then walked across the parking lot to the adjacent county park. There, we hopped onto a wooden walkway that carried us over a swampy section of land to the beach. We kept walking on the boardwalk, which extends out over the water, then scrambled down to the beach.
No one else was around. First, we stood and watched the sun set in a blaze of orange and yellow. Next, we walked down the jetty. We finished our hike by walking up the river and back to the RV park. We did the same thing the next morning, with cups of coffee and hot tea in hand, but walked east, along the open beach.
Currents can be dangerous along the jetties, so don’t paddle here on rough days. Never swim near the jetties, either, because rip currents are almost always present.
If You Go
It takes about 3.5 hours to drive to Matagorda Bay Nature Park from Austin. The park is located at 6430 FM 2031, at the end of the road. There’s a paved parking lot.
Visitors can stay in one of two rental Airstream trailers for $225 per night, with a two-night minimum. Each one sleeps up to four people. Campsites with full hookups range from $40 to $58, depending on location. For reservations, go here.
Fish, kayak, bird watch, play mini golf, or just stroll the beach. Visitors can rent a kayak ($10 per hour or $50 per day), beach chair, or beach wagon, or play mini golf ($8 per round; $14 for two). The park offers periodic guided beach hikes and photo walks, and occasionally offers other activities, like archery lessons, for a fee. Check the calendar of events for details. Park admission is $5 per adult; children 12 and under are free. Entry is free to the adjacent Jetty Park, operated by the county.
Eat & Drink:
Pack a picnic and eat on one of the park’s picnic tables.