Review: Horseshoe Bay Resort

There's a Gem of a Getaway Hiding in the Texas Hill Country

The Waters at Horseshoe Bay are a series of luxury condos
••• The Waters at Horseshoe Bay.

While it's only about a 45-minute drive west of Austin, the 7,000-acre Horseshoe Bay Resort Marriott Hotel feels a world away. Located along the banks of Lake LBJ, the resort is tucked into the rolling Hill Country and i has a slow pace to match.

Horseshoe Bay was founded in 1971 and was purchased by its current owners, the Jaffe Group, in 1996. The Horseshoe Bay Resort is very popular with families, many of whom stay in the multi-bedroom condos and villas.

During spring and fall, it is most popular with golfers and couples who want a getaway, some of whom stay in the hotel. It's also a popular year-round wedding venue and any official overnight guest at the resort has access to all of the resort’s amenities. While many Austin locals just stay here seasonally, there are some year-round residents of Horseshoe Bay.

First Impressions:

The first thing that struck me about Horseshoe Bay was how friendly and happy everybody was, from the hotel's front desk attendant to the chef at the omelet station at breakfast.

At first, I thought they caught wind of my review, but everyone I met really showed true Southern hospitality and raved about how much they loved living and working at the resort. While Horseshoe Bay is posh, it is not stuck-up or pretentious in the least. You can expect a family-friendly place with plenty of Texas charm.

Accommodations

The Marriott: The Horseshoe Bay Marriott has 385 hotel rooms and suites.

The hotel houses the Lantana Bar & Grill in addition to a gift shop, tour desk, real estate desk, concierge and kid’s program and childcare.

The rooms are luxurious and spotless, but are decorated in a homey way that makes you feel at ease. They all have floor-to-ceiling windows, many of which feature a spectacular view of the resort.

My first night at Horseshoe Bay, I stayed in a corner suite with an astounding view of the lake and  marina. It was spacious and comfortable, with a plush luxury bedding and a separate seating area with its own television. I enjoyed being able to sit on the couch and relax like I was in my own living room.

The Waters at Horseshoe Bay: The Waters are a series of individually owned luxury condominiums that can be rented by resort guests, as most of the owners do not live at the resort full-time if at all. The one- to three-bedroom condos are all single level, professionally decorated with fully stocked kitchen appliances and gadgets, and have large, fully furnished balconies (my favorite amenity). They are a short drive (or long walk) from the hotel and the other amenities in that area. They also feature high-definition flat screen televisions, washers and dryers, and docking stations.

On my second night at Horseshoe Bay, we stayed in a two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo at The Waters. Located on the first floor and right on the water, it was pristine and beautifully decorated -- just like a model home or luxury apartment. One bedroom had a king-size bed and the other had two twins. The beds were all decorated with some of the fluffiest and most comfortable white bedding I had ever seen and the master bathroom was incredibly roomy with two sinks.

From the furnished patio, I absorbed the beautiful view and listened to the lapping water. I also loved having a kitchen, which allowed me to save leftovers from meals at restaurants or make snacks. The patio had a barbecue, though I unfortunately didn't get the chance to use it.

Paseo Vacation Apartments: Adjacent to the hotel are the Paseo villas, which are rentable condos that range from one bedroom to three bedrooms. They feature wet bars, full kitchens, and separate living areas, and are popular with families who need more space.

Dining

Because there is very little dining in the town of Horseshoe Bay itself, the resort has numerous drinking and dining facilities for its guests and residents. During the summer months, the Yacht Club Grill and the Yacht Club Pool Bar are open for casual lakeside dining and drinking.

 The sophisticated Yacht Club is the resort’s anchor restaurant and has been around for more than 30 years. The Y Bar and the Bar at Whitewater are two fun places to grab drinks at night. The Cap Rock Bar & Grill offers upscale lunch and dinner and the Slick Rock Bar & Grill has slightly more casual ambiance.

The Lantana Bar & Grill is the restaurant in the Marriott. Anyone can eat at the Lantana, but you must be an overnight resort guest or club member to dine at any of the other facilities. Don't miss the Lantana's killer Cobb salad wrap and trout and incredible breakfast buffet. 

We had our first dinner at the Yacht Club, the resort's year-round restaurant offering a gorgeous view of Lake LBJ. We started with the fried brie, served with honey and crostini, and the tuna tartare tacos with red caviar on top and fried tofu tacos.

The escargot with sweet carrot puree is also popular here, though they weren't for me. For my entrée, I had the almond-crusted halibut, which was thick, moist and flavorful. It was served over a bed of rich and creamy risotto. My guest ordered the rib-eye, which was the size of his plate and cooked to perfection. The restaurant is in the same building as the Y Bar, which we noticed was packed with classy patrons having a good time.

The Cap Rock Grill is another fine restaurant at the resort, which has an open kitchen and beautiful vistas from a two-level deck. For our appetizer, we had a to-die-for queso dip with avocado that was served alongside thick and crunchy tortilla chips baked in house. The sweetest highlights of the meal were the decadent peanut butter pie with a chocolate topping and the chocolate-covered key lime pie.

For the Golfers:

If you like to golf, you will be in heaven at Horseshoe Bay. Golf Magazine named Horseshoe Bay one of the best golf resorts in America for to its three 18-hole championship golf courses, Slick Rock, Ram Rock, and Apple Rock, designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr. Ram Rock is known as one of the most difficult golf courses in Texas, while Slick Rock is much easier. You can find golf gear and attire at the Cap Rock and Slick Rock Pro Shops.

Just a short walk from the hotel is Whitewater, a beautiful and tropical-themed 18-hole putting course that is par 72. It is made of real Bermuda grass and has waterfalls along the way. If you’re lucky, you will spot some flamingos. 

Other Notable Amenities:

The grounds around the resort are beautifully sculpted with plenty of amenities to keep both residents and guests busy. Next to the pool is a gorgeous hot tub, which is large enough to fit 27 people. The tall rocks throughout it look like petrified wood and some have bronze life-size statues perched above them. It looks like a miniature mythological ocean!

Nearby is a small and popular white sand beach alongside the lake. Adults can lounge on the beach chairs and kids can play at Turtle Beach, a child-friendly wading area. Around the corner is the activity lawn, a large rectangle of lush grass used for planned programs for children throughout the year.

The Bayside Fitness Center features every type of equipment you would need, with televisions on every treadmill. Horseshoe Bay also features 16 tennis courts, including the first tennis courts in the country to be specifically designed for children up to age 10. The resort also has a large marina where you can rent Waverunners, Cobalt boats and a variety of other high-end boats and watercraft.

The resort’s Bayside Spa offers guests a resistance pool, steam rooms and dry saunas, as well as a variety of spa treatments, such as massages and manicures.

One of the resort's most unique amenities is the Horseshoe Bay Resort Airport and Jet Center. It has a terminal building with a luxury passenger lounge in addition to a 6,000-foot lighted runway, which is one of the largest private airstrips in Texas. There are some private homes near the airport that have their own hangars, which look like giant garages attached to the house. This is the first time I have seen such a thing, and it’s quite a sight! If you don’t have your own private jet to fly in on, you can fly Air Horseshoe, which is a charter jet service.

Edited by Robert Macias

As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary accommodation and meals for review purposes. While it has not influenced this review, About.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our Ethics Policy.