With a state as ginormous as Texas, it’s easy for gems to stay hidden. But the Highland Lakes region won’t be a locals-only secret for long. An hour from Austin and two from San Antonio, Burnet County – aka the Highland Lakes region – is a natural oasis from the city bustle. Three gorgeous lakes – Buchanan, LBJ and Inks – give Burnet County miles of natural coastline, not to mention limestone hills, cool caverns and hundreds of acres of protected land. Drink it all in with a glass of Picpoul Blanc, because Highland Lakes is part of Texas’ Wine Country. So pack up the car, because we’re going to show you how to spend a cute weekend in Texas’ next hot spot before it gets too crowded!
Where to Stay
Both of the spots we visited are about 15 minutes outside of Marble Falls, with its shops, restaurants and cute, historic downtown.
The newest and absolutely most unique place to stay is Container City at the foot of Spider Mountain. Twelve houses, each made from two shipping containers, sleep four or more people and feature big outdoor balconies with plenty of room watching sunsets with buds. Inside, you’d never know you’re in a shipping container. Each unit is unique, spacious and comfortably appointed with fun touches like game systems. On the grounds, you’ll find Templeton’s Tavern – a full bar and pizza joint with a huge patio. If you catch them on the right night you can even hear some live music. It’s the perfect place to stay if you want some peace and quiet or if you came to mountain bike at Spider Mountain (More on that below)
For more of a resort experience, visit the Canyon of the Eagles, which sits on a sprawling lakefront piece of property. They offer private cabins, RV parking and tent camping and boast a full service restaurant. One of the best parts about Canyon are the oodles of experiences available. You could easily spend a full and fun weekend there without ever leaving the resort. So let’s just jump right into those activities…
Canyon of the Eagles
- See the Stars at Eagle Eye Observatory. Wednesday – Sunday nights the observatory is staffed by an astronomer to answer all your questions. Even without the giant telescopes they have, you can see so much with the naked eye on a clear night. The area isn’t officially recognized as a Dark Sky reserve, but it could be!
- Meet some snakes. Most Saturdays a local herpetologist brings a whole mess of snakes that live in the region. You can learn fascinating facts and even pet some of the friendlier buddies. I don’t care if this program is geared towards kids, we loved it.
- Get on the lake. The resort offers kayak rentals and canyon cruises that let you take in the area’s epic biodiversity from the water.
- Nature walks – The resort is located on 940 natural acres of Hill Country, so you don’t have to go far to experience nature. For a more educational experience, book a guided nature walk to learn about the native plants and the two types of birds who only nest in this region.
- The only year-round lift-served bike park in the country is Spider Mountain Bike Park. This needs to be on every mountain biker’s bucket list. If you’re not an adventure biker you can rent a bike and take a beginners course or just ride the chair lift for some amazing views of the county. You can go on a round trip or take it up and hike or bike down.
Inks Lake State Park
- All the fabulous state park activities you’d expect including, fishing, hiking, swimming, bird watching and geocaching can be found here. All the information you’d need is online here.
Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge
- A must for birders. The Refuge was specifically established to protect the nesting grounds of the black-capped vireo and the endangered golden-cheeked warbler. But it harbors 245 bird species. You can experience the refuge with 10 miles of walking trails that pass burbling creeks and blooming bluebonnets (and other wildflowers) in season.
Shopping in Marble Falls
- There are no chain stores in Marble Falls’ very walkable historic downtown. One hundred percent of its chic boutiques, cute cafes and even funky novelty shops are locally owned. Grab a coffee at The Ragtime Oriole and browse Main Street. If you walk far enough, you’ll reach Lakeside Park nestled up on the Colorado River.
Eat and Drink
- The area’s food scene in general has a little growing to do, especially compared to nearby Austin. But there are some must-stop highlights we can share. The Bluebonnet Cafe is worth a visit if for no other reason than the friendly service and to have mile-high meringue pie for breakfast. This family-owned diner is a great spot to load up for a big day. Likewise Wingman Brothers Smoke House does an excellent job with its mouthwatering brisket and classic Texas BBQ sides like peach cobbler and mac-and-cheese in ample portions. Did we miss your favorite restaurant in Burnet County? Please let us know in the comments!
- Beer lovers don’t miss Save the World Brewery! I dare you not to be charmed by the owners’ story of quitting their job as doctors to pursue their dream of brewing while donating 100 percent of their profits to charity. But really even if you don’t care about that, their Belgian-style beers are fantastic. If you don’t believe us, just ask their GABF trophies.
- Wine fans have a lot of options as well, but let us steer you towards Torr Na Lochs. A husband and wife team converted their ranch into a winery in 2014 and have been winning awards ever since. Enjoy a tasting on their epic patio overlooking the ranch and keep an eye out for their small herd of Texas longhorns (who more than live up to their name). Bonus: There are plans to expand the winery’s small food menu in the near future.
Is the Highland Lakes region on your to-visit list yet? Better get there soon, so you can say you knew it before it blew up. We loved this quiet Texas getaway location, and so will you!
Interested in more Texas adventures? Try beautiful Fredericksburg next.