Secluded Waterfront Campgrounds Close to Home (Austin, TX)
Updated: Feb 9
Offering both isolation and good old fashioned entertainment in nature, camping checks all the boxes for those wanting to get away this summer.
While Texas State parks are open again, there is limited availability for reservations due to the growing number of people interested in camping. So our family of five set out to explore options to relieve our cabin fever - outside the box. In two weeks, we visited ten camping destinations in Texas that offer different levels of isolation, privacy, and programming. There is truly something for everyone, both recreationally and economically. Happy trails!
500 WAVES (PRIVATELY OWNED) - 90 minutes from Austin
GALLERY FOR HI RES DOWNLOAD for Statesman Only: (PIN=7233)
A little slice of beachy heaven on the Llano River, this spot, privately owned by a very friendly and responsive host, is a little track of land with a singular RV electric hook up, one toilet facility, and one tent camping area just a short walk up from the river. My kids loved this spot for its shallow creek bed appeal and its little pockets of deeper water with very tame rapids to make things a little exciting. I loved it because I could chill on the shore right by them and not worry about the conditions being too rough or too dangerous. Just down the road is a more expansive river crossing on CR 102 that's fun for playing in small rapids, catching minnows and creek stomping too.
Pro-tip: Aquasocks would be recommended for walking on the pebble/stone riverbed, sandals let the little stones between your toes and barefoot is a little rough on the feet.
LAKE BASTROP SOUTH SHORE PARK (LCRA) - 40 min from Austin
Lake Bastrop South Shore doesn’t hold back on recreation. With a huge covered pavilion, playscape, mini-golf, tetherball, indoor meeting areas, picnic areas, canoe/kayak rental, fishing and a small sandy beach area, you can tent camp, stay in waterfront cabins or connect to the RV hookups. The water is nestled amongst the pine trees and not very deep, even in the middle, making it a great spot to play and take photos.
Pro-tip: The sandy beach is basically a boat ramp with a little sand area at the top just out of the water, so you may want to set your expectations accordingly, but the kids enjoyed it just fine.
MADAGORDA BAY NATURE PRESERVE (LCRA) - 3 hours from Austin
Matagorda Bay did not disappoint. Although the nature and science centers and mini-golf were closed, the beach just down the road was clean and wasn’t overly-crowded. The park sits where the Colorado River meets the ocean, and we landed a baby Black Tip shark while fishing there (released of course).
Nearby, you’ll also find horseback rides along the beach. Our ride was hosted by Travis Caffee of Thunderhorse Outfitters with his traveling herd of rescue horses. Hermit crabs are everywhere and the beach is full of shells! This is our new favorite coastal getaway and we will definitely be back soon.
Pro-tip: Mosquito spray and tons of it! Maybe it was just this time of year but we experienced a lot of them at the RV camping area of the park. (Disclaimer: Not all photos are on park property but definitely part of the park visiting experience.)
KRAUSE SPRINGS (PRIVATELY OWNED) - 45 min from Austin
I could pretty much live at Krause Springs. I am convinced it is the most beautiful swimming hole in Texas. Nestled in the rocky hill country this oasis is overflowing with lush, tropical vegetation long before you reach the water. Sprawling green lawns for camping or playing on the upper property are centered around a spring-fed swimming pool that becomes a waterfall to the natural pool below. Fern-covered limestone bluffs and Cypress trees with ancient looking roots, frame the queen jewel of all the swimming holes and waterfalls available to enjoy among thirty-two spring fed creek beds onsite.
Pro-tip: Hit the pools early or late, mid-day it does tend to get a little crowded even with the limited capacity and harder to socially distance from others at the pool or on narrow paths.
REVEILLE PEAK RANCH (PRIVATELY OWNED) - 1 hour from Austin
Rocky dirt roads lead you down a path to a mountain bike riders dream destination. With miles of trail surrounding a spring fed lake there are running, hiking, and biking trails for all levels and even some heart pumping downhill riding sections for thrill seekers. There’s even a pump track for the little rider in the family. This property has historically hosted Spartan, Camp Gladiator, and several other intense tactical competitions, so you’ll find gigantic iron obstacles and training course challenges all around. Pro-tip: Tennis shoes/boots and pants are recommended to enjoy parts of this property which are left more natural, especially down by the waters edge.
BLACK ROCK PARK (LCRA) - 75 min from Austin
This is now at the top of my family’s list for places to return over and over. We were shocked by the beautiful green lawns and widespread crushed granite beach. Lakeshore swimming often comes with a muddy entry but not here. The beach is very clean with tiny waves from passing boats, and was great for the kids.
Campers scattered about the property were frisbee playing, swimming, fishing, floating, and canoeing. Adorable brightly colored cabins are available for rent, as is RV parking. We loved it here and wish we had booked a longer stay! Pro-tip: Bring a blanket for the beach, the granite can be a little rough for sitting and binoculars, as there’s an amazing panoramic view of Lake Buchanan.
MULESHOE BEND RECREATION AREA (LCRA) - 45 minutes from Austin
This is a beautiful spot with pristine lawns surrounding the lake. Small trees shade thirty-four campsites. Although it takes a little wading in muddy marsh to get into the water, you’re tubing, floating, and relaxing in no time. Watch out for spikey stickers in the grass! Camping is very spread out here and there’s lots of room to roam via horseback, on foot, or on your bike.
Pro-tip: Bring floats and water shoes for protection from both the grass stickers and the muddy entry.
SHAFFER BEND RECREATION AREA (LCRA) - 1 hour from Austin
Over five hundred acres of nearly untouched lakefront hill country for horseback riding, swimming, and hiking. This park on Lake Travis is definitely more rustic than others, with fewer facilities and paved roads. If you are truly looking to get away from civilization, this may be your preference. Once you tackle the miles of gravel road crawl down to the water, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by a wide riverfront of natural sand beaches where you can dig in your toes. If you’re looking for a soft, sandy beach without the drive to the coast, this is the best we found.
Pro-tip: Bring sand toys and a shade tent.
CANYON OF THE EAGLES (PRIVATELY OWNED) - 90 min from Austin
Home to nesting American Bald Eagles in the winter, Canyon of the Eagles on Lake Buchanan has a unique beauty. Catching fireflies, enjoying expansive lake and hill country scenic views, and sleeping under the stars has never been better. This quiet resort offers a full restaurant and all kinds of fun programming and experiences with camping and RV sites as well. Lake swimming is off the dock, (there is no beach) but they do have a pool. This property is beautiful and perfectly suited for hiking and bird watching.
Pro-tip: If your heart is set on the swimming pool, make sure and check to see if it’s open in regards to Covid closures.
CAMP CARSON CREEK RANCH (PRIVATELY OWNED) - Austin, TX
Known for hosting iconic music festivals, this privately owned property is a convenient camping spot on the Colorado River. Aside from the planes flying overhead, it feels like you’re 100 miles from the city yet it’s right by ABIA. If you need a close to home camping staycation, this is a really special spot. Texas sized tree swings, primitive camping spots, glamping tents, and tons of river front. Resident horses, cows and Buddy-the-dog will greet you and make you feel right at home.
Pro-tip: If you’re swimming with kids, bring life jackets because there is a slight current.