One of the best ways to beat the summer heat is to head to the lake, but it often seems that everyone has the same idea. Why not check out one of these Central Texas lakes that offer less-crowded alternatives to Lady Bird Lake, Lake Austin, and Lake Travis while also providing a wide variety of activities and water sports? Canyon Lake, Lake Lyndon B. Johnson, and Lake Buchanan fit the bill and can be easily reached for a day trip or a weekend getaway.
Located approximately halfway between Austin and San Antonio, and a mere 14 miles from New Braunfels, Canyon Lake sits in the middle of the Texas Hill Country and provides easy access to Gruene. Canyon Lake is also known as the "Water Sport Capital of Texas."
Hit the lake: Based on the number of choices — including boat, wakeboarding, parasailing, paddle board, fly-board, and jet ski rentals — Canyon Lake is indeed the "Water Sport Capital of Texas." Canyon Lake Adventures is the one-stop shop for whatever adventure suits your fancy. Make reservations well in advance to avoid disappointment.
Where to stay: Canyon Lakeview Resort features lake views from every room. Accommodations range from lodge suites to cathedral cabins for 10 to 12 people. The resort also includes a boat ramp, wedding venue, and conference center. It has a 7-acre waterfront, swimming pool, sand volleyball court, and numerous fire pits for roasting marshmallows and hot dogs.
Lake Lyndon B. Johnson
Lake LBJ starts near Horseshoe Bay, around 45 minutes from Austin, and goes to Kingsland. It boasts a constant level lake over 21 miles and is perfect for sailing and boating.
Hit the lake: Horseshoe Bay Resort Marina near Marble Falls provides watercraft rentals ranging from a private luxury yacht to ski boats, pontoons, wave runners, kayaks, and paddle boards. You can also fish from the dock and rent tubes for the kids. Please note you must call to reserve watercraft rentals.
Where to stay: If you want to make it a real vacation, go ahead and stay at Horseshoe Bay Resort. With everything from a golf course to a luxurious spa, this Hill Country destination has it all. Escape as a couple or visit as a family — the resort has activities for every group, interest, and age.
Nearby attractions: With more than 30 wineries located within 90 minutes of Lake LBJ, it will be easy to plan a day of tastings. Nearby wineries include Flat Creek, Fall Creek, Pedernales Cellars, Spicewood Vineyards, Stone House Vineyards, and William Chris Vineyards. Play it safe and book with Heart of Texas Wine Tours.
Located just west of Burnet, Lake Buchanan was the first of the Highland Lakes to be completed (in 1939) and is also the largest, with 39.4 square miles of water surface in Burnet and Llano counties. Much of the lakefront property is privately owned, making this lake a perfect escape for a relaxing or peaceful weekend of sailing or kayaking. The large number of trophy bass that come from this lake make sport-fishing a popular activity.
Hit the lake: Splash Boat Rentals in Kingsland will deliver directly to your dock, or you can go to their waterfront location and check out the wide variety of available rentals. If a day of leisure is in order, charter the Texas Eagle and enjoy a tour of this beautiful lake. The boat can hold up to 120, so invite all of your family and friends to join.
Where to stay: Named for the American bald eagles who make this area their winter home, Canyon of the Eagles Nature Park and Resort encompasses 940 acres of scenic Hill Country. Filled with an abundance of Texas wildflowers from spring through early summer, it is also home to several species of endangered birds and other wildlife. The lodge is rustic but comfortable. Accommodations are pet-friendly and many have a view of the lake. RV and campsites are also available.
Nearby activities: Take an ecological cruise with Vanishing Texas River Cruises. Although the eagles are only in residence in the winter, you can expect to see numerous species of birds and wildlife, waterfalls, and magnificent limestone cliffs year-round. Hungry? Grab a famous Big Chop at Cooper's Old Time Pit BBQ in Llano. This is where it all started.