The Top 14 Day Trips From Austin

Beautiful bluebonnets along a lake in the Texas Hill Country.
RAUL RODRIGUEZ / Getty Images

From incredible swimming holes and state parks to delightful small towns to buzzy breweries and wineries, there's no shortage of fun day trips in the Austin area. Whether you're itching to get out of the city or you simply want to soak up everything the surrounding Hill Country has to offer, these are the best places to check out.

01 of 14

Wimberley: Swimming Holes and a Quaint Hill Country Town

Blue Hole Regional Park, Wimberley Texas
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In quaint Wimberley, you’ll find two of the best swimming holes in Texas: Jacob’s Well and Blue Hole. Fed by the Trinity Aquifer, Jacob’s Well is an artesian spring that releases thousands of gallons of ice-cold water each day. It’s also the second-biggest underwater cave in Texas and the deepest part of the cave system is nearly 140 feet deep.

A stunning feature inside the lush, 126-acre Blue Hole Regional Park, Blue Hole is an iconic swimming spot. Think century-old cypress trees, rope swings, and yes, crystal-clear, blue-tinted water swirling through limestone.

After enjoying the swimming holes, be sure to check out Wimberley afterward—this sweet little Hill Country town is chock-full of antique shops, galleries selling local artwork, kitschy souvenir shops, comfort food cafes, and wine tasting rooms. If you can’t get reservations for Blue Hole or Jacob’s Well, nearby Cypress Creek is a good alternative.) 

Getting There: Wimberley is roughly an hour from Austin and best accessible by car.

Travel Tip: For both Jacob’s Well and Blue Hole, reservations are required and only a certain number of visitors are allowed at a time. Especially in the summertime, you’ll want to book as far in advance as possible (at least a few weeks out). 

02 of 14

Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge: Hiking and Birding Galore

A view of the Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge,

Matthewrutledge / Public Domain

For the outdoorsy-minded, Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge is an excellent spot for hiking and bird-watching. Balcones Canyonlands is a wildlife habitat in Marble Falls, roughly an hour from Austin, and is home to endangered songbirds like the golden-cheeked warbler and black-capped vireo. There are over 7 miles of trails to enjoy here, which take you through the “greatest hits'' of Hill Country hiking: wildflower-dotted prairie land, old-growth trees, rolling hills, and panoramic vistas.

Getting There: Balcones Canyonlands makes for an easy day trip from Austin, as it's just an hour away by car.

Travel Tip: While some wildlife refuges allow dogs, Balcones Canyonlands does not.

03 of 14

Hamilton Pool Preserve: Awe-Inspiring Natural Beauty

View of a cove in Hamilton Pool Reserve, Austin, Texas, USA
Janne Kaasalainen / Getty Images

About 40 minutes outside of Austin, paradise awaits in the form of a pristine, lagoon-like grotto that’s definitely not your average swimming hole. A beautiful, moss- and fern-covered pool flanked by a 50-foot natural waterfall, Hamilton Pool Preserve offers a truly scenic spot to cool off. Be sure to walk along the slippery rock and stand underneath the waterfall that’s fed by Hamilton Creek and never completely dries up.

Getting There: Go by car so that you can continue exploring the area after your visit to the preserve (it's about an hour's drive from Austin).

Travel Tip: Definitely make advance reservations before you go.

04 of 14

Gruene: Home of the Oldest Dance Hall in Texas

Exterior of famous Gruene Hall, local dance and music hall with old fashioned water tower in the background.
FOTOGRAFIA INC. / Getty Images

In nearby New Braunfels, historic Gruene is as old-school charming as it gets. Stroll around the town’s city center, stay at the Gruene Mansion Inn, and enjoy dinner at the famed Gristmill River Restaurant & Bar, with its lovely views of the Guadalupe River. Then, spend the evening two-stepping or enjoying a show at the historic Gruene Hall, the oldest continually running dance hall in Texas. The outdoor beer garden here is open daily, and it makes for a great spot to sip a Lone Star and enjoy the music.

Getting There: Gruene is a little over an hour away and best accessible by car.

Travel Tip: Schedule your visit around seeing a show at Gruene Hall.

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05 of 14

Guadalupe River State Park: Experience a Classic Texas River

Trees along Guadalupe River
Adam Baker / Getty Images

If you’ve never floated lazily down a Texas river on an inflatable tube, with waterproof radios blasting and cans of rosé flowing like water, then it’s time to remedy that. At Guadalupe River State Park, float the day away underneath towering cypress trees and along clear, intoxicating waters, and watch all your cares dissipate like smoke. Though most people do come here to float, as well as swim and fish, there are 13 hiking trails that feature lovely views of the valley and the river.

Getting There: The park is a couple of hours away from the city limits.

Travel Tip: The Guadalupe is definitely a party scene, but if you want more of a chill experience, plan to float during the week or before 10 a.m. on weekends.

06 of 14

Driftwood Estate Winery: Vino With a View

two bottles of wine on a fire pit at sunset

Courtesy of Driftwood Estate Winery

Hill Country is replete with wineries and while many have picturesque views and tasty wines, none compare to Driftwood Estate Winery. At this picture-perfect winery, visitors can enjoy a “Pick Six” wine tasting and a meal from the on-site Driftwood Bistro. Entrees (like the ribeye quesadilla and croque monsieur) are hearty and Texas-ified, though there are salads and cheese plates to pick from, too. But it's the location—high atop a bluff, overlooking the sunny vineyard below—that truly sets Driftwood apart.

Getting There: It's a 45-minute drive down Highway 290 and Ranch Road 12 to Driftwood.

Travel Tip: Time your visit for sunset when the views are at their absolute best.

07 of 14

Sisterdale: A Hill Country Hidden-Gem

Sisterdale Bed and Breakfast with chairs on the covered porch

Renelibrary / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

More laid-back (and off-the-beaten-path) than other, more touristy towns in Hill Country, Sisterdale is technically an unincorporated farming community. There's no bank or gas station but what the community lacks in modern-day conveniences, it makes up for in natural beauty, outdoor activities, wine, and unique goods. The Sisterdale General Store is a hub for wine tours and tube and kayak rentals (alongside handmade leather items); the Marlowe Candle Company sells hand-mixed and poured candles; and, Sister Creek Vineyards is a must-visit for wine lovers.

Getting There: Reserve at least two hours to driving to Sisterdale and make sure you have a full tank of gas before you leave

Travel Tip: Swim at nearby James Kiehl Park, a small, serene park on the Guadalupe River.

08 of 14

Driftwood: Boozy Delights in Beautiful Settings

Industrial main building and patio seating at Desert Door Distillery

Courtesy of Desert Door Distillery

For a booze-fueled daytime adventure just outside of Austin, plan to visit Desert Door Distillery and Vista Brewing, both of which are located within ten minutes of each other in Driftwood. Start your day at Desert Door, where you can sample sotol, a bright, earthy spirit distilled from the wild-harvested sotol plant. Then, you could easily spend hours underneath the giant oak and elm trees at Vista Brewing, sipping craft brews and nibbling on farm-fresh snacks. (Driftwood Estate Winery, is also within an easy ten-minute drive of both of these locations, although trying to do all three in one day might be a stretch.)

Getting There: By car, it takes just over 30 minutes to reach both destinations.

Travel Tip: At Desert Door, hit up the Eden West food truck, where a few of the menu options incorporate sotol.

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09 of 14

San Antonio: See an Iconic Texas City

Long exposure image of the San Antonio Riverwalk at night
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Just a short day trip away from Austin's city limits, San Antonio is home to a slew of awesome cultural attractions and museums, historic landmarks, and a noteworthy food scene. Stroll along the colorful River Walk, or hike or bike along the Mission Reach Trail, which connects the five Spanish colonial missions, including the Alamo. Make sure to visit the ultra-hip Pearl District, where there are a number of great restaurants to choose from (and the weekend farmer's market is bustling).

Getting There: From Austin, San Antonio is about an hour-and-a-half to two hours away, depending on traffic and what part of the city you're coming from.

Travel Tip: Check out the Botanical Garden and the King William/Southtown district, rather than only dwelling in super-touristy areas.

10 of 14

Inks Lake State Park: Swim, Cliff-Jump, Sunbathe, Repeat

Inks Lake State Park wildflowers and cacti in late spring along a hiking trail
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One of the best parks for swimming in the area, Inks Lake State Park is a popular spot for cliff-jumping, swimming, floating, and sunbathing the day away. An easy drive from Austin, the aquatic possibilities are endless at this pretty park, with its rocky outcroppings, tall cliffs, and cool waters.

Getting There: The park is an hour and 45 minutes away by car.

Travel Tip: You'll definitely want to get here as early as possible, especially during the summer when the park is packed by noon.

11 of 14

Krause Springs: Lush Beauty and Spring-Fed Pools

Krause Springs, Spicewood, Texas, USA
Olga Melhiser Photography / Getty Images

Krause Springs offers natural beauty in the form of emerald-green foliage and cold, clear water tumbling down a steep bluff into the pools below. Owned by the Krause family for over 50 years, this natural site has a total of 32 springs on the property, spread out across 115 acres. There are several manmade pools and one natural pool that flows into Lake Travis, although the main attraction is the waterfall area of the natural pool. If you want to spend the night, there are primitive camping sites and 24 RV sites with water and electricity. You can make reservations for RV camping, but the primitive camping sites are first-come, first-served.

Getting There: Krause Springs is located about 30 minutes northwest of Austin.

Travel Tip: The park always hits capacity quickly; go as early as possible to ensure that you get in.

12 of 14

Jester King Brewery & Pedernales Falls: Sour Brews and Waterfalls

Pedernales Falls State Park Rock feature at the falls
jennifer m. ramos / Getty Images

Jester King Brewery boasts a homey, inviting atmosphere in a truly gorgeous setting: think golden-lit fields and huge live oak trees shading an old farmhouse, plus plenty of picnic tables, cornhole games, and more than 60 draft options, including the brewery's own spritzy sours. For the perfect Hill Country day, combine an afternoon of eating and drinking at Jester King with a morning spent hiking at Pedernales Falls (pictured here).

Getting There: It's about 30 to 45 minutes west of the city, by car.

Travel Tip: Don't skip on the mouthwateringly good woodfired pizza.

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13 of 14

Cypress Valley: Zipline in an Old-Growth Forest

Back view of a woman on a zipline in a thick forest

Courtesy of Cypress Valley

Cypress Valley is nestled in an old-growth cypress forest 30 miles outside of Austin with some trees that tower more than 100 feet in the air! Visitors to Cypress Valley have the opportunity to see the ancient trees up close on a canopy tour. The tour includes five zip lines, two sky bridges, and a rappel from the last platform. If you please, you can spend the night here in one of five treetop bungalows sitting at least 30 feet above the ground. Ziplining through giant cypress trees by day and staying in a luxury treehouse by night? Yes, please.

Getting There: Travel by car to Cypress Valley, an hour-long drive from Austin.

Travel Tip: Book well in advance.

14 of 14

Fredericksburg: A Historic German Town

Woman sitting on top of Enchanted Rock

Peter Tsai Photography / Getty Images

Head to Fredericksburg for kitschy souvenir shops, small-town Texan charm, delicious German food, and, of course, delicious German beer. Located less than two hours from Austin, this 19th-century German settlement is brimming with historic charm and fun things to do. Aside from the usual tourist-trap shops, there are plenty of antique stores, museums, vintage shops, wine tasting rooms, and beer gardens that are worth checking out.

Getting There: Fredericksburg is about an hour and 45 minutes west of Austin.

Travel Tip: Be sure to visit the nearby Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, where an otherworldly-looking giant pink granite dome juts out of the earth, drawing hikers from all over the state.

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