The Best Day Trips From Austin, Texas

About an hour’s drive from Austin, Pedernales Falls State Park is an ideal getaway for outdoor adventurers
About an hour’s drive from Austin, Pedernales Falls State Park is an ideal getaway for outdoor adventurers | © Tim Wright / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Justine Harrington
23 April 2021

Austin is brimming with charm, but sometimes you just get the itch to travel outside the city limits. From world-class wineries such as Becker Vineyards to the nearby Pedernales Falls State Park and Guadalupe River State Park, both dripping with gorgeous natural scenery, discover the best day trips to take from the Texas capital.

Explore San Antonio

Architectural Landmark
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Tourists enjoying a boat trip, San Antonio River Walk, San Antonio, Texas USA
© Kumar Sriskandan / Alamy Stock Photo

Though most folks are already familiar with the Alamo, that legendary symbol of Texan independence, San Antonio is home to a vibrant array of other historical landmarks, cultural attractions and a buzzworthy food scene that rivals that of Austin’s. Take a leisurely stroll along the colorful River Walk and a ride on the river cruise, or explore the Mission Reach Hike and Bike Trail, which connects the five Spanish colonial missions (including the Alamo). Also, soak up the city’s booming culinary and arts scene by paying a visit to the Pearl District, easily one of the coolest neighborhoods. If you want to spend more than just a day here, check out our curated selection of the best hotels in San Antonio.

Take in the natural beauty of Pedernales Falls State Park

Park
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Pedernales Falls State Park.
© Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
Nature lovers will rejoice in Pedernales Falls State Park, just 42mi (68km) west of Austin. This state park is a gem, with stunning falls created by cascading water flowing across layers of sun-bleached limestone. There are several ways to explore the glorious terrain here. Hike along trails that wind through forests and along the river, or climb atop the river’s rock formations. Alternatively, relax and bask in the beauty of the park’s namesake, Pedernales Falls, seen from the cliff overlook at the north end of the park.

Sample a farmhouse ale at Jester King Brewery

Bar, Market, American, $$$
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Picture golden-lit fields of sunflowers, giant live oak trees shading an old farmhouse and as many barrel-aged local brews as your heart desires. Doesn’t sound too shabby, right? Jester King Brewery is easily one of the most scenic, Instagrammable breweries in the region, and in addition to a truly unique selection of wild and farmhouse ales, it has a stellar locally sourced menu. For the perfect Texas Hill Country day, combine a morning of hiking at Pedernales Falls with an afternoon of eating and drinking at Jester King. If you want to explore the beer scene even further, then take a tour with a local guide to visit three Austin breweries where you’ll get exclusive behind-the-scenes access and the opportunity to taste a variety of refreshing beers along the way.

Feast on tasty barbecue food in Driftwood

Restaurant, BBQ, $$$
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The Salt Lick BBQ pit - Ribs, sausage, and brisket
© Peter Tsai Photography / Alamy Stock Photo
Head out of the city and into Driftwood, where you can visit a famous barbecue spot, sample locally produced sotol (a distilled spirit similar to mezcal and tequila) and enjoy picturesque Texas Hill Country surroundings from one of the wineries in the area. The Salt Lick BBQ is your one-stop shop for traditional Texas meats (the scenery is mighty pretty, too), and at the Desert Door Distillery, take a tour and learn more about the popular local spirit made from wild-harvested sotol plants. End the day with tastings at Driftwood Estate Winery, which boasts excellent views, and Duchman Family Winery.

Float down the river in Guadalupe River State Park

Natural Feature
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Tubing in river
© HuePhotography / Getty Images

Guadalupe River State Park is one of the prettiest parks in the state, and it’s an easy day trip from Austin. Floating the Guadalupe – renting a tube and spending the day lazily drifting down the river, preferably with a beer or can of rosé in hand – is a Texas bucket-list item. Though most people do come here to float, as well as swim and fish, there are 13mi (21km) of hiking trails that feature lovely views of the lush valley and the pristine, rushing river, flanked by giant cypress trees.

Stroll through the charming town of Gruene

Natural Feature, Historical Landmark
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Gruene General Store, Gruene, Texas, Usa (Editorial Use Only)
© Danita Delimont / Alamy Stock Photo
The historic and charming Gruene is as cute as an old-timey postcard and is home to the oldest continually running dance hall in Texas. Stroll around the town center, and enjoy dinner at the famed Gristmill River Restaurant and Bar – with pretty views of the Guadalupe River and a cool location in the ruins of an 1878 cotton gin – before checking into the Gruene Mansion Inn. Then, spend the evening two-stepping or enjoying a show at the historic Gruene Hall.

Take the Texas Olive Industry Tour in Dripping Springs

Natural Feature, Historical Landmark
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Woman collecting the olives from tree
© Michal Venera / Getty Images

Did you know that the Lone Star State is home to a flourishing olive industry? It’s true – olive trees have grown and thrived in the Texas Hill Country for more than a century. Learn more about the history of the industry, and pay a visit to an authentic, family-run olive orchard and mill when you take part in a guided orchard tour in Dripping Springs. And, of course, sample delectable varieties of olive oil and balsamic vinegar at the tasting bar.

Go swimming at Blue Hole Regional Park

Park, Swimming Pool
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Swimmers at Blue Hole Regional Park in Wimberley, Texas
© Peter Tsai Photography / Alamy Stock Photo
The Texas Hill Country is known for its swimming holes, and the Blue Hole Regional Park in Wimberley is among the best in the region. There’s nothing quite like the sight of that spring-fed, sparkling blue water encircled by towering, old-growth cypress trees. When you’ve had your fill, explore Wimberley, a peaceful spot brimming with cute-as-pie places to eat and shop. And, if you’re in the mood for something sweet, indulge in kolaches and cinnamon rolls at the Sugar Shack Bakery.

Visit the Fredericksburg and Enchanted Rock State Natural Area

Park
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Woman sitting on top of Enchanted Rock
© Peter Tsai Photography / Getty Images
In the mood for kitschy-cool shops, quaint small-town Texan charm and delicious German food? Fredericksburg, less than two hours away from Austin, has all these things and more. Not only is the town itself adorable, but it’s also prime Texas Hill Country wine territory. Stop in at Becker Vineyards for some of the best wines in the area, or take a Fredericksburg Hill Country wine tour to visit four of the best vineyards in the city and delve deeper into the world of Texan wine. Also, check out the nearby Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, where an otherworldly-looking giant pink granite dome juts out of the earth, drawing hikers from near and far. The sunsets from the top of Enchanted Rock are spectacular – you can see for miles and miles.

This article is an updated version of a story created by Aubrey Cofield.

These recommendations were updated on April 23, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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