Matagorda, located near the mouth of the Colorado River on the United States Upper Texas coast, is a census-designated place in Matagorda Country. The population of Matagorda in 2010 was 503, and as per the recent census (2019), it is 434. It is primarily a tourist town, and commercial and recreational fishing is among the top industries.
You can access about 23 miles of the beach by vehicle and the additional 35 miles by boat only. Matagorda is at the beginning of Farm to Market Road 2031 and the end of State Highway 60. Farm to Market Road 2031 is located in the south of the Gulf of Mexico and runs over the Intracoastal Waterway.
History of Matagorda
Matagorda was the third-largest port in Texas even before the independence of Texas. Stephen F. Austin got permission from Mexico to build a town with Ira Ingram, Hosea H. League, and Elias R. Wightman as proprietors and established Matagorda in 1827. Fifty-two families from New England and New York became the first settlers of Matagorda.
Matagorda was incorporated in 1830, and after two years, it had over 1,400 people. During the Mexican invasion, Matagorda was abandoned. People returned after San Jacinto and made Matagorda the country seat of the newly formed Matagorda Country. Matagorda prospered and soon got several schools as well as a newspaper.
The oldest known Episcopal Church in Texas is Christ Episcopal Church. In 1841, the church was originally built, and in 1854, a hurricane destroyed it. Moreover, it was rebuilt in 1856, using several materials from its old structure. Matagorda Cemetery has many patriots of early Texas buried in it. Among them, one is the singer of the Texas Declaration of Independence, named Samuel Rhoads Fisher.
Another one is the first lieutenant governor of Texas, Albert C. Horton. The surprising thing to note is that the homes of both of these great men are still standing despite several tropical storms and hurricanes. The house of Fisher was built in 1832 and is Matagorda’s oldest building. It is now fully restored and operates as the Stanley-Fisher House B&B.
In 1894, the Bay City became the Matagorda County’s seat when they figured an inland courthouse might be safer than Matagorda, where hurricanes repeatedly swept through the area. As evidenced by the press, churches, and schools, the early cultural center of Texas is Matagorda. In 1942, the reported population of Matagorda was 1,250. However, by 1950, it declined to 650.
Matagorda became a resort and tourist community after World War II. The population of Matagorda was 605 in 1990, with some seven businesses. Moreover, the community had 710 inhabitants and 30 businesses in 2000.
Things to Do in Matagorda
1. Matagorda Birding & Nature
Who does not love birding and nature? Most of us go to such places for peace. You will find bird watching a common sport along the Gulf Coast. Moreover, other local creatures, small and great, include porpoises, mosquitoes, deer, and alligators. And it would be a good idea to bring a repellent to save yourself from small insects.
If you are passionate about birding, you will enjoy the ultimate birding experience at Matagorda. In Matagorda County, a diverse collection of rare birds tends to gather, and you can see the birds you have never seen before. Mad Island Marsh Preserve of Matagorda County is the champion of the event of North American species. Since 1997, it has this title.
The Birding Nature Center of Matagorda County offers a group of various ways to enjoy nature, and it spans over 34 acres on the Colorado River. You can find a bird-watching area on Matagorda Peninsula running from Sargent to Pass Cavallo and is a part of The Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail.
2. Matagorda Beach
There are a variety of treasures to found beyond the customary seashells on the Matagorda beach, such as driftwood, old Spanish coins, sand dollars, and bottles. You can access only 22 miles of the beach by vehicle with a $6 permit and the remaining 35 miles of beach only by boat.
Moreover, you can go for startling beach house rentals for both small and large groups. It is a substantial spot for a reunion or family vacation. You can also do tent camping on Matagorda Beach. And if you are someone who loves adventure, there are another 33 miles of the beach for such people.
So, if you have a boat, bring it, and contact the local rental agency for assistance and guidance. You will be good to go on an adventurous journey.
3. Matagorda Bay Nature Park
A 1,600-acre park and preserve, the LCRA Matagorda Bay Nature Park, is located at the mouth of the Colorado River. Moreover, this unique preserve and park provide education, economic, recreation, and perseveration benefit to the region.
Everyone can find something for themselves in this part as it has everything. You can enjoy camping, canoeing, beachcombing, fishing, picnicking, bird watching, swimming, or just relaxing.
A 7,200-acre coastal wetland habitat, the Mad Island Wildlife Management area, is set aside for winter waterfall. Moreover, hunting for waterfowl, feral hogs, and alligators is not forbidden through specially scheduled hunts.
4. Matagorda Kayak Excursions
Enjoy nature and total tranquility at its finest in phenomenal Matagorda by kayaking. It is an excellent way to commune with nature, relax, and learn about the effort of LCRA to conserve and protect the lower Colorado River and surrounding natural resources. And if you want to know more about the outdoor program at Matagorda Bay Natural Part, you can visit LCRA.
5. Matagorda Fishing & Hunting
Matagorda is a paradise for hunters and fishermen. With hundreds of miles of rivers, bayous and creeks, and more than 50 miles of coastline, you will find all types of habitant for almost every fish. You can choose from drift fishing, offshore fishing, wade fishing, or surf fishing. It has something for everyone. Moreover, you will find the best trout fishing sites here in Texas.
Small boats cruise these waters for tarpon, spotted sea trout, and red drum. Miles of beach also allows the surf fisherman to stake out their sand for themselves. If you are a surf fisherman, you should visit this place in the fall. If you are looking for competition, check out the local fishing tournaments. These tournaments take place seasonally.
6. Matagorda Harbor
Opened in 1990, Matagorda Harbor is a part of the mouth of the Colorado River Project. The harbor has been updated to meet the needs of both commercial traffic and pleasure along the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway. Located at Mile Marker 440, it offers easy access to the Gulf of Mexico, the Colorado River, and East and West Matagorda Bays via the Colorado River Jetties.
Skipper’s Bait and Tackle offers snacks, ice, fishing supplies, a fuel dock, and drinks, all adjacent to the four paved boat ramps and premiere fish cleaning station. Covered electric boat lifts make your trip extra special. The Waterfront Restaurant specializes in burgers, seafood, steaks and has the only full bar in the town; do visit it.
7. Matagorda Bay
On average, the Matagorda Bay system covers approximately 422 square miles and is 6.6-feet deep. In Texas, it is the third-largest estuarine system behind Laguna Madre and Galveston. You will find a wide variety of wildlife in and around Matagorda Bay. Moreover, the Mad Island-Oyster Lake Conservation area is a habitat for over 300 species of birds, including waterfowl, shorebirds, and songbirds. It is on the eastern shore of Matagorda Bay.
From 2000 to 2002, during the National Audubon Society’s Annual Christmas bird count, this area had more bird species than other regions in the nation. Other faunas located along the bay include white-tailed deer, Texas horned lizards, White-tailed Hawk, the piping plover, Bobcats, River otters, reddish egret, Peregrine Falcon, and alligators.
As per Texas Parks and Wildlife, the following fishes have been caught in the bay:
- Gafftopsail catfish
- Black drum
- Southern flounder
- Crevalle jack
- Sand seatrout
- Blacktip shark
- Southern stingray
- Striped Bass
- Atlantic croaker
- Red drum
- Barred grunt
- Skipjack herring
- Smooth puffer
- Gulf menhaden
- Spotted seatrout
- Gray snapper
- Gulf toadfish
Due to its status as a nutrient-rich estuary, the Matagorda Bay system is a well-known fishing location. Other activities for visitors include oyster roasts, birding, hunting, and beachcombing.
Top Restaurants in Matagorda, Texas
Stanley’s General Stores
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner
Takeout, wheelchair accessible
Seating, wheelchair accessible, reservations, wheelchair accessible, table service
Lighthouse BBQ & Cafe
Breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner
Seating, table service, takeout, wheelchair accessible
Snappers Bar & Grill
Seafood, bar, pub
Seating, takeout, wheelchair accessible, table service
Pub, bar, seafood, American
Seating, wheelchair accessible, wheelchair accessible takeout, highchairs available, table service
Seafood, bar, American
Outdoor seating, television, serve alcohol, table service, takeout, seating, wheelchair accessible, full bar
Matagorda has a rich and ancient history. With so many interesting places and things to do, Matagorda is an excellent place to visit. If you are a fan of seeing captivating beauty, nature, and rich wildlife, put Matagorda at the top of your wish list.