October 26, 2021

WDHD

Travel-Lickin' Good

11 Incredible Day Trips From Austin

Austin, the Texas state capital, is known as the live music capital of the world for country, blues, and rock styles. Explore the unique historical museums, the parks and lakes, the inspiring food culture, wineries, breweries, cultural arts, and robust nightlife. Austin maintains a “Keep Austin Weird” campaign to support local businesses.

Austin is a logical starting point for these 11 unique Hill Country day trips.

Pedernales Falls State Park near Dripping Springs, Texas
Pedernales Falls State Park (Photo Credit: JB Manning / Shutterstock.com)

1. Dripping Springs

23 miles west of Austin, this dark sky community of Dripping Springs is a familiar brewery, distillery, and wine destination.

Dreamland is a playground and 64-acre outdoor art gallery of awe-inspiring murals and sculptures carefully laid out across the mini-golf, pickleball courts, beer garden, film, and concert screening areas. The taproom boasts 50 local beers, 40 other hard seltzers, kombuchas, ciders, and a substantial wine collection.

For picnicking and swimming along six miles of river frontage, required reservations get you through the time-controlled gate at Pedernales Falls State Park.

Located on 28 acres, Treaty Oak Distillery is home to three Texas bourbons and a rye whiskey. Book a tour and tasting and sample the old-fashioned cocktail.

An enchanting 100-year-old farmhouse, the Mt. Gainor Inn affords relaxing hill country views. Choose from a suite, rooms, or cottages with private baths, luxury amenities, and the best home-cooked breakfast.

Pro Tip: Texas Wine Month Passport Event happens October 1–31 at 47 wineries in the beautiful Texas Hill Country. With the purchase of a digital Event Passport, wine lovers can taste up to four wineries a day over the month, as well as receive exclusive discounts on bottle purchases.

Old Texaco station in Driftwood, Texas
starryvoyage / Shutterstock.com

2. Driftwood

Blink, and you’ll miss this town of Driftwood, 24 miles southwest of Austin, yet a lot goes on there.

Desert Door Texas Sotol makes two popular versions of its exclusive spirits from the West Texas-grown desert spoon plant. Three former military service members make two types of sotol at the large distillery. Sip signature cocktails, savor Eden West food truck farm-to-table fare, and purchase bottles, mixers, and products to go.

Planted in 1975 as the first Texas Hill country winery, Fall Creek Vineyards produces benchmark wines from Texas-grown grapes. Four top wines were awarded 91 points from James Suckling’s 2018 report.

Driftwood Estate Winery offers spectacular views as you sip award-winning wines. Duchman Family Winery produces Italian varieties of Vermentino, Sangiovese, and Dolcetto wines in one of the 20 most picturesque wineries in the country.

Trattoria Lisina boasts authentic country-style Italian fare and modern twists on classic Italian dishes. Located on the Mandola Estate & Vineyard, you feel like you’re in the Italian countryside.

Salt Lick BBQ offers family-style barbecue in a rustic setting with live music outdoors. The Roberts family has roots back to the 1800s chuckwagon days with barbecue smoked over pecan shells.

Pro Tip: Next door, Salt Lick Cellars offers wine by the glass or bottle.

Barton Creek near Austin, Texas
Barton Creek near Austin, Texas (Photo Credit: Trong Nguyen / Shutterstock.com)

3. Bee Cave

Bee Cave gets the name from the colonies of Mexican honeybees that lived in the banks of Barton Creek, 25 miles west of Austin.

For shoppers, you can spend all day at Hill Country Galleria, a giant lifestyle center at Bee Cave Road and Hwy. 71, west of Austin. The Galleria is half retail space and half apartments, condominiums, and office space.

Barton Creek Habitat Preserve protects water quality and migratory habitats of songbirds in the 4,000-acre Barton Creek watershed, part of the larger Balcones Canyonlands Preserve.

Escape to tropical flavors at Café Blue for Caribbean-inspired cocktails, margaritas, freshly shucked oysters on the half shell, shrimp cocktails, and crab-stuffed flounder.

Pro Tip: Save room for the freshly squeezed key lime pie. 

Blanco County Courthouse, Texas
Blanco County Courthouse (Photo Credit: Emily Marie Wilson / Shutterstock.com)

4. Blanco

An hour west of Austin, Blanco‘s County Courthouse square hosts market days, fall festivals, cook-offs, and multi-generational family fun. Blanco State Park parallels a mile-long stretch of spring-fed river where you can cool off with a canoe or kayak cruise and enjoy the breathtaking scenery.

Learn about the unique craft of restoring old buggies, carriages, and wagons at the Buggy Barn Museum. Real Ale Brewing celebrates 25 years with the 25th Anniversary Ale golden stout, or choose your favorite bourbon at Milam & Greene Whiskey.

Old 300 BBQ serves terrific barbecue, referring to Stephen F. Austin’s original 300 land grants that settled early Texas. The Stevie Ray Vaughan burger pays tribute to a famous Texas musician and his brother in Blanco.

Deutsch Apple Bakery is home to the infamous apple pecan cake, homemade apple pie, and muffins. Shop for tasty kolaches, bratwurst, cheese, or sausage wraps.

Pro Tip: Choose from frozen take-and-bake pies in apple, apple pecan, cherry, or mixed berry.

Shops at Wimberley Square; Wimberley, Texas
Shops at Wimberley Square (Photo Credit: Roberto Galan / Shutterstock.com)

5. Wimberley

Located an hour west of Austin, Wimberley is known as a “little bit of heaven,” plus home to Blue Hole Regional Park, Old Baldy Mountain, and Jacob’s Well. Drive from Wimberley to Blanco on the Devil’s Backbone, FM 32, viewing sweeping vistas across the hills. Have fun with custom zipline adventures, shopping in Wimberley Square, or live glass blowing demonstrations at Wimberley Glass Works.

Pro Tip: The Wimberley Café features breakfasts like huevos rancheros and basics like burgers, sandwiches, Monterey chicken, or a meatloaf sandwich.

Lake Marble Falls on the Colorado River, Texas
Lake Marble Falls on the Colorado River, Texas (Photo Credit: Hundley Photography / Shutterstock.com)

6. Marble Falls

Marble Falls, 58 miles northwest of Austin, is all things Hill Country with breweries, wineries, galleries, boating, hiking, and kayaking. At Flat Creek Estate Winery, enjoy the winery tour and 3-course chef’s meal with wine. Relish bass fishing, kayaking, and boating at Lake Marble Falls.

Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge is a songbird haven hiking through prairie, forest, and picturesque plateaus.

Save the World Brewing Co, a 100 percent philanthropic Belgian-style brewery, serves local Texas artisanal meats and cheeses.

Pro Tip: Blue Bonnet Café, since 1929, is the number one restaurant in Texas for breakfasts.

Krause Springs; Spicewood, Texas
Krause Springs (Photo Credit: Fotoluminate LLC / Shutterstock.com)

7. Spicewood

Spicewood, known as the home of music legend Willie Nelson, is 35 miles northwest of Austin. Have fun at Krause Springs, a swimming hole filled with natural caves, waterfalls, and a rope swing. Cypress Canopy Tours offers day and night zipline rides. Pace Bend Park along nine miles of the Lake Travis shoreline is the perfect place for boating, picnics, and hiking.

The picturesque 32-acre Spicewood Vineyards boasts award-winning Spanish-influenced wines with Texas-grown grapes. Iron Wolf Ranch & Distillery produces outstanding bourbon, scotch, vodka, gin, and rum that you must taste to believe.

Pro Tip: Eat the best burger and listen to live country music at Poodie’s Hilltop Roadhouse. Don’t miss Opie’s Barbecue for ribs, brisket, sausage, and save room for banana pudding.

Roy B. Inks Bridge in Llano, Texas
Roy B. Inks Bridge in Llano, Texas (Photo Credit: Fotoluminate LLC / Shutterstock.com)

8. Llano

Llano is known for its historical sites, unique shops, and the courthouse town square, 75 miles northwest of Austin.

The historic Llano County Museum originally housed the Bruhl’s Drugstore, founded in 1900. Badu Park offers a fishing pier, splash area, picnic spots, plus a playground and basketball courts. Roy B. Inks Bridge represents a historic 1930s truss bridge crossing the Llano River with a four-span structure.

The Baby Head Cemetery, 10 miles north of Llano, gets its name from Baby Mountain, named after a gruesome Native American massacre, leaving a kidnapped baby’s remains in that spot. Today the eerie cemetery is marked with a historical marker relating the story.

The Dabbs Hotel offers seven bedrooms, plus event venues on the Llano River. The small Llano Craft Distillery makes top-notch vodka from potatoes, with The Hatch certified winning the 2020 Texas Flavored Vodka of the year.

Gorman Falls at Colorado Bend State Park in Texas
Gorman Falls at Colorado Bend State Park in Texas (Photo Credit: JB Manning / Shutterstock.com)

9. San Saba

Located 105 miles from Austin, San Saba is known as the pecan capital. On average, citizens shell around 28 million pounds of pecans annually. Come for great barbecue, Texas wine, and hometown hospitality. 

Historic downtown San Saba hosts plenty of shopping on Wallace Street for olive oil, handcrafted soaps, pecan-flavored coffee, pecan pie, and western boots and hats. Stay at the boutique Dofflemyer Hotel with a choice of five uniquely decorated rooms and one suite.

Visit the Wedding Oak Tree, Colorado Bend State Park, Beveridge Bridge, and Regency Suspension Bridge

Lampasas County Courthouse; Lampasas, Texas
Lampasas County Courthouse (Photo Credit: xradiophotog / Shutterstock.com)

10. Lampasas

68 miles northwest of Austin, Lampasas always has something going at the historic downtown Lampasas County Courthouse, the city murals, local wineries, or beautiful parks. Hanna Springs Sculpture Garden hosts 22 permanent sculptures displayed in the garden and around the city.

Established in 1883, the spring-fed pools at Hancock Springs Park are the oldest bathing pools in Texas. Lampasas still resources its water supply from the springs.

Texas Legato Winery is family-owned and operated. Legato, a gathering of family or friends, plus a musical term for smooth and connected notes or performance, produces award-winning wines from Texas-grown grapes.

Pillar Bluff Vineyards Winery and Tasting Room boasts eight French varietals, including cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, petite Verdot, and malbec from the red Bordeaux blends. At the same time, the whites include Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, and Viognier.

Longhorn Cavern State Park; Burnet, Texas
Longhorn Cavern State Park (Photo Credit: IrinaK / Shutterstock.com)

11. Burnet

Burnet (pronounced BURN-it), 54 miles from Austin, is a famous vacation spot because of its lakes, including Buchanan, Lake LBJ, and Inks Lake. Enjoy golfing, fishing, boating, and camping activities.

Take a guided cave tour of Longhorn Cavern State Park, formed by an ancient underground river that receded thousands of years ago. You’ll find famed Texas history and historic Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) architecture.

Torr Na Loches Vineyard and Winery, 6.5 miles west of Burnet, hosts wines made with Texas-grown grapes high above the Colorado River Valley, overlooking Buchanan and Inks lakes.

Named for the American Bald Eagles nesting there annually, Canyon of the Eagles Nature Park & Resort spreads across 940 acres of Texas Hill Country.

Pro Tip: Dine at Overlook Restaurant with views of spectacular sunsets while savoring delicious cuisine.

Texas Hill Country offers visitors opportunities to experience good old Western hospitality. Consider: