Just 30 miles east of Austin, you can explore an entirely different world. Here, are our favorite fun, funky, and delicious reasons to get lost in the Piney Woods in and around Bastrop.
Most of us hop onto Highway 71 east to catch a flight. But there are plenty of alluring reasons to forge ahead, past Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, and plan a day or a weekend exploring one of the most compelling areas in Central Texas. Perched on the banks of the Colorado River, with a quaint downtown surrounded by more than 6,000 acres of loblolly pines, Bastrop, TX, has true grit. After enduring the devastating wildfires of 2011, the place dubbed “the most historic small town in Texas” has worked hard to preserve its character, promote heritage tourism, and enhance its creative community. “Our historic downtown is home to more than 18 independently owned restaurants, many featuring locally sourced ingredients from Bastrop County growers and producers,” says Nancy Wood, director of the Bastrop Main Street Program. “There are 10 fine art galleries in the three blocks of the commercial district, each with unique art, jewelry, tableware and collector items. With the Colorado River running right through downtown, there’s the opportunity to rent a kayak or canoe for a short trip be back in time to enjoy a late lunch,” she continues. “We like to say, “come for a visit and we’ll capture your heart!”
Resident Maura Ambrose, the artist we feature on page 102, echoes the enthusiasm. “I love living in Bastrop because it feels like a small community of people working hard and enjoying the simple life,” she says. “With an abundance of farmers and cattle ranchers, a lot of the work here is done in cooperation with the land, and I can relate to that lifestyle.” It may be the best time yet to visit this beautiful, resurgent community. What follows, our picks for making the most of the adventure.