Savor a unique brand of Texas hospitality in Bastrop, one of the oldest towns in Texas, located 30 miles southeast of Austin on the Colorado River. In 1691, Spanish explorers helped establish this strategic Colorado River crossing en route to Nacogdoches in East Texas along the El Camino Real, the King’s Highway.
Felipe Enrique Neri, the Baron de Bastrop (1770–1827), helped Moses Austin negotiate and secure the first contract for the Anglo-American colonization of Texas from the Spanish government in 1821. A town grew, and the name changed to Bastrop on December 18, 1837, honoring the man who called himself the Baron de Bastrop.
As you stroll the friendly downtown streets of Old Town Bastrop, you’ll get an authentic Texas experience without the crowds. Find great outdoor adventures, shopping, a river walk, family-owned restaurants, a winery, a brewery, a moonshine distillery, and restored historic homes. There’s always something special happening in Bastrop, whether it’s a music festival, rodeo, Independence Day fireworks, a fall festival, a pumpkin patch, or Lost Pines Christmas.
Note: The Reserve at Greenleaf hosted my husband and me in a luxury glamping yurt. All opinions are my own.
1. Bastrop County Museum And Visitor Center
On Main Street, make your first stop at the Bastrop County Museum and Visitor Center for maps, brochures, and visitor information. The former fire and police station from the 1930s hosts museum artifacts and historical exhibits. The staff will get you all set with information, plus help you tour the museum after viewing a couple of videos about Bastrop’s history.
2. Bastrop State Park
Bastrop State Park is so close; you’d think it was in the city limits. The park opened in 1938 amid stands of majestic loblolly pines, post oak, and junipers. The park features scenic RV camping spots and rock cabins constructed in the 1930s by the CCC, the Civilian Conservation Corps. A disastrous 2011 wildfire burned 96 percent of the National Historic Landmark Park, but it reopened amid new pine tree growth and underbrush. Here, you can see nature taking its course amid the blackened skeletons of burned trees.
3. Lake Bastrop
Located 3 miles north of town, family-friendly Lake Bastrop is a 906-acre reservoir on Spicer Creek in the Colorado River Basin, founded in 1964. The grandkids can swim while you fish for large-mouth bass or catfish. You can access watercraft rentals and a boat ramp. The North Shore and South Shore Parks on the lake offer full hook-ups and partial hook-up campsites as well as cabins.
4. McKinney Roughs Nature Park
Eight miles west of Bastrop, you’ll find 18 miles of nature with walking and equestrian trails at McKinney Roughs Nature Park, which covers three large box canyons and four eco-systems. A one-mile course is wheelchair accessible. Explore the Nature Science Center and a fun-filled zipline adventure.
Pro Tip: Soar over pine forests and canyons as you Zip Lost Pines, home to the most extended side-by-side zip line tour in Texas. See views of the Colorado River and local wildlife as you zip along six dual zip lines and three suspension bridges with access to McKinney Roughs Nature Park.
Editor’s Note: Not sure about zip-lining? Read up on these 8 Things To Know Before You Zip-Line For The First Time.
5. The Reserve At Greenleaf
Enjoy glamping in a luxury yurt with a private bathroom at The Reserve at Greenleaf, a 200+ acre gated heritage reserve with a land-protecting conservation easement 2 miles northeast of Bastrop. Our hosts Bubba and Jeanne Clardy introduced us to the Reserve. You can choose one of four yurts with digital entry, comfortable king or queen beds, private forest view bathroom with shower, rainfall showerhead, luxury spa robes, and a flush toilet. One yurt even has an added soaking tub.
Our exceptionally clean 450-square-foot yurt, the Agave, was made of sturdy construction with a lodgepole pine ceiling. It had heating and air conditioning and a domed roof skylight for stargazing at night. All the Greenleaf yurts have premium bedding, high-speed ensuite Wi-Fi, and bedside USB ports. Sit in two Adirondack chairs on your private deck, watch the butterflies, and listen to the birds.
Savor complimentary snacks like breakfast bars, almonds and raisins, orange-chocolate cookies, chocolate bars, and a s’mores kit for dessert at the fire pit. Ice, complimentary ginger ales, and Italian soda stocked the fridge. Fair Trade Grizzly Blend coffee and organic tea accompanied our French press coffee maker and Berkey water filter.
Stargaze from the hot tub or recline in gravity chairs on the deck. The Reserve’s covered pavilion makes an excellent place for a group get-together at a large dining table. You can also enjoy the wood-burning stove, and there are accessible public restrooms. Listen to birds calling in the quiet of the morning. Luxury glamping here at the Reserve is the place to retreat and relax after a fun, adventure-filled day.
The Clardy’s borrow their Reserve at Greenleaf philosophy from Walt Disney: “Do what you do so well that they want to see it again and bring their friends.”
6. Bastrop’s Main Street Historic District
A Texas Main Street town since 2007, Bastrop was named a Distinctive Destination in 2010 by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, recognizing the town’s work to preserve its historic character, promote heritage tourism, and enhance the community. The historic district offers a nostalgic selection of shops, restaurants, hotels, and inns, with a nearby neighborhood of more than 100 historic, restored homes. In 2012, Bastrop was named a Texas Cultural Arts District by the Texas Commission on the Arts.
Pro Tips: Access the downtown trail brochure with 130 sites listed by the Texas Historical Commission. The historic home trails include short histories of many vintage homes along the tree-canopied streets. Chestnut Street Medallion Trail features accounts of the bronze-cast medallions created by Deep in the Heart Art Foundry along Chestnut Street in Bastrop’s Industrial Park. The Historic Fairview Cemetery Trail guides you to young Sarah Wells grave, the first to be buried at the cemetery. Governor Joseph Sayers and the first African American legislator, Robert Kerr, are buried there. See biographies of early settlers plus veteran tributes at the stone pavilion.
7. Fisherman’s Park And Bob Bryant Park
Two more prominent and popular parks, Fisherman’s Park and Bob Bryant Park sit along the Colorado River in Bastrop, equipped with fishing docks, nature trails, and boat/canoe ramps. The Old Iron Bridge connects Fisherman’s park and Ferry Park along the half-mile June Hill Pape Riverwalk, which is lined with scenic picnic areas.
8. CC Wine & Co.
CC Wine & Co. offers Texas wine flights from 11 local wineries or a curated selection of wines from small boutique wineries across the U.S. and the globe. The wine shop has relocated on Main Street and changed its name from Cripple Creek Wine & Gifts. You can sip wine or beer with small bites.
9. Copper Shot Distillery
Using local ingredients and their filtered rainwater collection, Copper Shot is a small distillery producing various great-tasting spirits. Enjoy a tasting flight along with a tour of the facility. You can order mixed drinks made with moonshine, vodka, or whiskey. We selected the best-selling Copper Shot Pecan Shine Whiskey, a cap, and a T-shirt to commemorate our visit.
Come have a Copper Shot Old Fashioned or a Honey Shine Margarita and listen to music on the weekends or open mics on Thursday nights. Shop the curated selection of cigars.
10. Bastrop Beer Company
Enjoy a selection of 28 draft beers and 160 bottles of beer along with pretzels, pickles, or free popcorn at Bastrop Beer Company on Main Street. Or choose from wine, sake, champagne, and additional snacks. Play arcade games or try your hand at darts, pinball, or pool. There are also sports TVs, which you can watch from comfy lounge seating or a picnic table outdoors. You can take your beer to go in a nifty green cup as you stroll and shop on Main Street. Try a Bombshell Blonde, Crawford Bock, or Blackberry Cider in pints, 8-ounce pours, a 32-ounce growler, or a 64-ounce growler fill.
11. Rising Phoenix Adventures
Rent canoes, kayaks, paddleboards, or bicycles at Rising Phoenix Adventures for guided paddling tours down the six-mile El Camino Real Paddling Trail or a self-guided trek down the 14-mile Wilbarger Paddle Trail, plus peaceful floats on Lake Bastrop. You can also rent hiking and camping equipment or enjoy a ConTENTment Camp at Lake Bastrop with access to restroom facilities, spacious tents with a twin bed, and onsite breakfast delivery the following morning.
12. Prime Bird Watching
Certified by the Texas Parks and Wildlife and Audubon Texas, Bastrop recently became Bird City Texas. When you take a hike through Lost Pines Forest, you may see up to 277 bird species, including woodpeckers, flycatchers, warblers, and raptors, to name a few. See the Top 10 birding spots in Bastrop County.
13. Places To Eat In Bastrop
Enjoy the best breakfast in Bastrop — or lunch or dinner — at Maxine’s Café & Bakery, right across Main Street from the Museum and Visitor Center. Select from chicken fried steak with gravy, fried catfish, pork chops, or cheeseburgers.
Pro Tip: Save room for a yummy slice of homemade chocolate pecan pie or Italian cream cake.
Paw Paw’s Catfish House dishes out hand-battered catfish, shrimp, po’boys, and burgers with a Fish, Family, and Big Stories motto.
Neighbor’s Kitchen and Yard is a rustic hangout with a river view from the multi-level deck serving pizzas, draft beer, cocktails, and live music.
Southside Market & BBQ serves central Texas-style barbecue, smoked sausage, fresh sides, and Texas hospitality. It started selling barbecue from the back of a wagon in 1882, making it the oldest joint in the state.
Sugar Shack Bastrop offers fudge, truffles, chocolate-dipped strawberries, cakes, and handmade goodies, plus it features Blue Bell Ice Cream and organized birthday parties.
602 Brewing Company celebrates southern food with a Cajun flair. Order a black Angus burger or wings with a local Hella Naughty Nun Lager or crawfish etouffee all day.
Bastrop 1837 Farmers Market on Saturdays in Historic Downtown Bastrop is a source for seasonal produce, local raw honey, farm eggs, jellies, jams, grass-fed beef, pasture-raised chicken, crafts, gifts, and more.
Editor’s Note: Love barbecue? Then you need to read up on How To Spend A Perfect Day In The Barbecue Capital Of Texas.