As I write in my April installment of “Parks and Recs,” Palmetto State Park is worth the visit simply because it’s unlike anything else in Texas. Here’s how to get the most of your visit.
If you’re staying in the park, know that it’s busiest from March through November. There are spaces for tents and RVs, as well as one climate-controlled cabin (it seems to book up way in advance) and a picturesque group campsite overlooking the San Marcos River. If you’re not staying in the park and are not up for the idiosyncrasies of small-town vacation rentals (my down jacket will never recover from a run-in with a leaking plug-in room deodorizer), check out Wahwahtaysee Resort, in Kingsbury, about a half-hour drive northwest, whose gorgeously outfitted tents and riverside location embody the word “glamping.”
As for park activities other than exploring and wildlife watching, they mostly involve water and depend on the season—fishing, paddleboating, canoeing, kayaking, and so on, in or on the San Marcos River or the park’s Oxbow Lake (four acres of flat, still water left behind when the San Marcos River changed course).
You’ll also want to explore the neighboring towns of Luling and Gonzales. Follow your nose (the barbecue smoke, not the natural gas) to the former, to take a driving tour of the fancifully decorated pump jacks and load up on brisket and sausage at City Market, enchiladas and tostadas at Mr. Taco, and burgers and all manner of fried items at Blake’s Cafe.
In Gonzales (“Give Us a Shot!”), pay your respects to the “Come and Take It” cannon, indulge in yet more smoked meat at Baker Boys BBQ or Gonzales Food Market, and throw one back at Turn Around Sports Bar, where the beer is cheap and cold, or Long Branch Saloon, where the folks are friendly, the smoke is thick, and the rules of conduct request that you refrain from “overly obnoxious bellowing.”