Texas has hundreds of miles of coastline and dozens of great beach spots. Whatever your pleasure — surfing, fishing, wildlife-watching, partying, sand-castle building — there’s a beach for that.
But right now, beach-goers want long, uncrowded stretches of sand where they can safely keep their distance from other visitors. Add in the music of wind, waves, and birds (with no shops, bars, or high-rises to block your view of the dunes and the water), and Matagorda Bay Nature Park is the place.
Located on the Gulf Coast, about midway between Galveston and Corpus Christi, Matagorda Bay is literally at the end of a long narrow road bounded by salty wetlands on one side and the last stretch of the Colorado River on the other.
The location may be remote — about a five-and-a-half hour journey from Dallas — but this Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) park has everything you need to enjoy it: parking, picnic areas, fishing piers, and restrooms.
The visitor center sells coffee and ice cream and rents beach chairs, umbrellas, wagons, and even kayaks and stand-up paddleboards. It also houses a gift shop and educational exhibits on area habitat and wildlife, complete with fish and touch tanks.
An RV park has full hookups and a laundry room, and the park allows tent camping in RV sites, or you can pitch a tent on the sand and really rough it. (Note that the park is now open to visitors amid the pandemic, and tent and RV camping is allowed, but cabins, Airstreams, and group facilities remain closed until further notice, according to the website.)
When they become available again, he best option for a no-hassle, high-comfort beach experience is renting one of the two onsite Airstreams. The sleek silver trailers have practically wall-to-wall windows, the better to enjoy their waterside setting. Each comes with a fully equipped kitchen, two TVs, a sound system, a stack of towels, and a surprising amount of storage space. Private patios sport an enormous outdoor grill, Yeti cooler, and a picnic table, plus a view of the Colorado and its opposite shore, nothing but a tangle of wild brush.
In the park, sit down beneath a rustling palm tree and watch as pelicans glide above the water or drift peacefully on its surface. In the reeds, stilt-legged herons stalk fish, and on the fishing pier, people with fishing poles do the same. Don’t have fishing gear, or forgot to bring it? No worries: the park will lend you some and even hosts occasional activities to teach you the basics (free, but reservations are required).
The beach here, one of the widest in Texas hands-down, runs northeast from the Colorado River for 23 miles and is perfect for long walks, sandcastle building, beachcombing, or just sitting. Driving a car on the beach requires a $10 permit from the county, available at the park and good for the rest of the year, and four-wheel drive is recommended.
Skip the driving and put a kayak in the water right behind the Airstream to explore, or join one of the park’s guided paddles. Paddle across the river to 35 more miles of beach, accessible only by watercraft, and thus even less trammeled than the park side.
For more exploring via water, check out the East Matagorda Bay kayak trails (ask for a map at the visitor center). For some land-based exploring, Thunder Horse Outfitters across from the visitor center offers horseback rides on the beach. And after the sun sets, the skies here are dark enough for some serious stargazing.
Beach experiences just don’t get much better than this.
The park visitor fee is $5 per adult (13-64), $2 for seniors (65 and up), and kids are free. RV sites start at $50, and camping starts at $40.