The #FabFam loves to camp. We try to camp a few times a year at least (it used to be as frequently as every other month before life got so busy). Nothing resets and rejuvenates us more than spending a few days out in nature and unplugging. It’s good for the soul! When we were planning our Camp Fire club’s Fall Campout this year, we wanted to find a campground that wasn’t too far from Austin so it would be easy for our families to get there. We also wanted a location with plenty of opportunities to explore nature nearby. We settled on Marble Falls, TX, being only an hour away from Austin, and home of more than nine gorgeous parks (including one State Park – Longhorn Cavern, and proximity to another – Inks Lake State Park). The campground we chose was Shaffer Bend Recreation Area. Let me tell you – this place is a hidden gem! Our family had a blast, and I would absolutely camp or do a day-use visit there again in a heartbeat. Today I’m sharing my review of LCRA’s Shaffer Bend Recreation Area along with recommendations for what to do in the area when camping with your family in Marble Falls.
Want more inspiration on places to camp in Texas? Check out this article on Texas campground reviews: The best camping in Texas for families.
Campground Review: Shaffer Bend Recreation Area in Marble Falls, TX
I am so glad we discovered Shaffer Bend. The camping fees are really reasonable, and it’s a beautiful setting. The 508-acre lakeside campground has 26 total campsites that include picnic tables, grills, and fire rings. There are flushing toilets and potable water at the park entrance (no showers) and port-a-potties near the campsites. While there aren’t water or electricity at the campsites, it isn’t completely primitive. The sites are nicely leveled for tents and very spacious. They are also shaded, which was great for us while camping in October when it was still pretty warm. Our campsites in the Lakeview area of the park were situated directly on Lake Travis with incredible views! Learn more about the campground and see current nightly and day-use fees on LCRA Shaffer Bend Recreation Area’s website here, and keep reading for more.
Whether you’re camping or just visiting Shaffer Bend Recreation Area for day-use, there is a lot to do at this quiet park. Shaffer Bend has a diverse terrain with scenic views and recreation activities that include water recreation, canoeing/kayaking, fishing, swimming (we had a BLAST swimming in the clean, calm water and hanging out on the sandy beaches near our campsites), outdoor recreation, hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, and picnicking.
The proximity to the Balcones Wildlife Refuge and so many other parks ensures that the area and campgrounds are full of wildlife for the kids to observe, including deer, frogs, butterflies, and birds (SO many birds, including swallows, cardinals, hummingbirds, and warblers, including the endangered Golden-cheeked Warbler).
Shaffer Bend is a quiet campground, and campsites are nicely spaced apart. That didn’t prevent us from making some new friends while we were there with our Camp Fire club. We were fortunate to have met Colt Bucklew of the band Texas Crossing. He even joined us by the camp fire for s’mores one evening and sang. Keep an eye out for this guy; his original songs were beautiful, just as good as the various covers he performed for us at our requests!
I highly recommend Shaffer Bend Recreation Area for families with kids. There is enough nature for them to explore to keep them occupied without any screentime for a weekend, easily. I’ve got two screentime-loving boys, but neither of them touched their phones or tablets the entire weekend. They had so much fun exploring, swimming, and generally getting dirty (which is one of the best parts of camping for kids!). They’ve even asked a few times since when we will be going to Shaffer Bend again.
What to do with kids in and around Marble Falls, TX
Here are some great things to do in Marble Falls, especially if you’re there for a camping weekend with kids. For even more ideas on what to do in the area (including hiking, biking, parks, recreation and events, swimming, dining, and more), visit the Marble Falls Visitor’s Bureau website.
- Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge. This natural habitat protects more than 245+ birds, including the highly endangered Golden-cheeked Warbler. It’s also home to an array of butterflies, tall trees, and wildlife including the Black-capped Vireo. Balcones Canyonlands is free to enter and offers educational tours around the park and tons of hiking trails.
- Longhorn Cavern State Park. This state park is a unique Hill Country destination full of natural beauty and Texas-sized tales, including one about famed outlaw Sam Bass and a lost treasure (the Camp Fire kids had fun trying to look for the lost treasure while we hiked). Entrance to the park, picnicking, hiking, and exploring the grounds are free; an optional guided tour of the cavern is available for a fee. According to the park’s website, the Longhorn Cavern itself is “an underground wonder created by the dissolving and cutting action of an ancient river,” which has provided shelter since prehistoric times. I recommend taking a climb up the Civilian Conservation Corps Observation Tower off one of the walking trails, which offers a 360-degree view of the Texas Hill Country.
- Other popular parks in Marble Falls for a nature walks include: Lake Marble Falls, Lakeside Park, and Johnson Park (take a dip in the water or play Ultimate Frisbee across downtown at this park).
- Inks Lake State Park. Located nearby in Burnet, Texas is another great state park. At Inks Lake you can kayak, swim, and if you’re daring enough, jump off the rocks at Devil’s Waterhole. This is a fun park for either day-use or camping (though campsites here book up months in advance). We were fortunate enough to visit the park during the Hill Country Heritage Expo, where our Camp Fire kids had the chance to visit and learn about pockets of time in our region from prehistoric weaponry through the Great Depression before we cooled off in Devil’s Waterhole. The kids especially enjoyed chatting with the Buffalo Soldiers and former Texas Rangers.
- Where to eat in Marble Falls, TX: Check out Blue Bonnet Cafe (for breakfast or pie happy hour from 3:00-5:00 pm), Bear King Brewing Company (a great choice for lunch), and Bill’s Burgers (for dinner and live music on weekends).
What are some of your favorite, best places to camp in Central Texas? Comment below, as we’d love to try more campgrounds near Austin, TX!
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