17/06/2024

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The 14 Best Day Trips From Austin, Texas (2023 Guide)

13 min read
The 14 Best Day Trips From Austin, Texas (2023 Guide)

Looking for some amazing day trips from Austin, Texas to include in your Texas itinerary? Here are a few of our favorites!

Austin, the capital city of Texas, is home to so many incredible attractions.

This big city is home to an abundance of live music, local shops, world-class museums, delicious eateries, and natural landmarks like Lady Bird Lake.

Downtown Austin can easily entertain travelers for days!

But once you’ve made the most of downtown Austin, consider trying out a few day trips. Austin is surrounded by some real gems, and you can immerse yourself in the beauty, history, and charm of Central Texas on some of these day trips.

From swimming in the stunning Hamilton Pool Preserve to exploring the rich history of New Braunfels or San Antonio, here are some of the best day trips from Austin!

Check out our list of the best things to do in Texas for more inspiration about this amazing state!

14 Best Day Trips From Austin, Texas

There are so many things to do in downtown Austin, but there is also plenty to do outside the city! These day trips encompass the best parts of the Lone Star State, whether you want to tour a big city, small city, small Texas town, or state park.

All of these are only a short drive from downtown Austin! We recommend renting a car as there aren’t too many guided tours and public transport may be limited.

The best way to get around is to rent a car and explore on your own! We recommend Rental Cars, which has the largest range of vehicles for the best value on the market.

1. Pedernales Falls State Park

  • Distance from Austin: 41 miles
  • Driving time: 54 minutes

Pedernales Falls State Park is a natural gem located in the heart of the Texas Hill Country, approximately 30 miles west of Austin.

This stunning park spans over 5,200 acres and is renowned for its rugged beauty and pristine wilderness.

At the heart of the park is the picturesque Pedernales River, which meanders through limestone canyons, forming captivating waterfalls and cascades.

Visitors flock to the park to enjoy a variety of outdoor activities, including hiking, swimming, birdwatching, and camping. The park’s extensive trail system offers something for every level of hiker, from easy strolls to challenging backcountry treks, all of which provide breathtaking views of the river and the surrounding landscapes.

Pedernales Falls State Park is a haven for nature enthusiasts, providing a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of city life while showcasing the rugged beauty of the Texas Hill Country.

One of the park’s most iconic features is the Pedernales Falls themselves, a series of limestone terraces and pools where visitors can cool off during the scorching Texas summers.

Whether you’re an avid outdoor adventurer or simply seeking a peaceful retreat in nature, Pedernales Falls State Park is a must-visit destination for anyone exploring the Texas Hill Country!

Pedernales Falls State Park
Pedernales Falls State Park is a gorgeous place to visit in Texas!

2. Marble Falls

  • Distance from Austin: 48 miles
  • Driving time: 1 hour

Marble Falls, Texas, nestled in the picturesque Texas Hill Country, is a charming city known for its stunning natural beauty and welcoming small-town atmosphere.

The city derives its name from the scenic falls on the Colorado River, which used to be adorned with marble-like limestone formations.

While the falls are now submerged beneath Lake Marble Falls, the area remains a popular destination for those seeking outdoor adventure and relaxation.

Visitors can indulge in activities like boating, fishing, and swimming in the clear waters of Lake Marble Falls, or explore the nearby Longhorn Cavern State Park, famous for its underground limestone formations and intriguing history.

Marble Falls exudes a distinct Texan charm, with a downtown area filled with quaint local shops, cafes, and restaurants.

Marble Falls also boasts a thriving wine industry, with several wineries and vineyards in the surrounding Hill Country region, offering wine tastings and scenic tours.

Whether you’re seeking a peaceful retreat in nature, a taste of Texan cuisine, or a dose of local culture, Marble Falls is one of the best day trips from Austin!

3. Blue Hole Regional Park

  • Distance from Austin: 40 miles
  • Driving time: 48 minutes

Blue Hole Regional Park, located in Wimberley, Texas, is a hidden gem that makes a beautiful Austin day trip.

This 126-acre park is renowned for its stunning natural swimming hole, which is a crystal-clear, spring-fed pool that beckons visitors with its cool, refreshing waters. The pool is surrounded by towering cypress trees, lush greenery, and limestone bluffs, creating a serene and picturesque oasis.

Blue Hole Park is not just a popular spot for swimming but also for picnicking, hiking, and birdwatching. The park offers well-maintained trails that wind through the scenic landscape, providing opportunities for visitors to explore the beauty of the Hill Country.

Whether you’re taking a dip in the crystal-clear waters, hiking the scenic trails, or simply unwinding in the shade of the giant cypress trees, Blue Hole Park offers a delightful respite from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, making it one of the top day trips from Austin!

Explore more of the state with our 10 Day Texas Road Trip Itinerary!

4. Johnson City

  • Distance from Austin: 48 miles
  • Driving time: 55 minutes

Another fun day trip idea in central Texas is Johnson City, a charming and historic small town known for its rich cultural heritage.

The town is best known as the birthplace of the 36th President of the United States, Lyndon B. Johnson.

Visitors can explore the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park, which includes the LBJ Ranch, where the former president spent his childhood and later returned during his time in office.

The park offers a glimpse into the life and times of LBJ, with tours of the family home, the Texas White House, and informative exhibits that provide insight into his legacy.

Beyond its historical significance, Johnson City is home to a vibrant arts and culture scene. The town’s downtown area features art galleries, boutiques, and local restaurants that showcase the region’s creative spirit and culinary delights.

Johnson City’s small-town charm, historical significance, and proximity to the natural beauty of the Texas Hill Country make it a delightful destination for those looking to immerse themselves in both culture and nature.

5. San Antonio

  • Distance from Austin: 80 miles
  • Driving time: 1 hour and 15 minutes

Another one of the best day trips from Austin is San Antonio, a city packed with fun things to do!

At the heart of the city lies the historic Alamo Mission, famously known for the 1836 Battle of the Alamo during the Texas Revolution.

San Antonio also boasts a wealth of cultural attractions, including the UNESCO-designated San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, showcasing a series of Spanish colonial missions that played a pivotal role in shaping the region’s history.

The city’s vibrant downtown area is home to the famous San Antonio River Walk, a picturesque network of meandering canals lined with restaurants, shops, and entertainment venues.

San Antonio is also celebrated for its diverse and dynamic culture. It’s a city where Texan traditions meet Mexican influences, resulting in a unique culinary scene that showcases Tex-Mex cuisine at its finest. Visitors can savor mouthwatering dishes like enchiladas, tacos, and tamales while enjoying the lively atmosphere of local restaurants.

With its rich history, cultural diversity, and vibrant atmosphere, San Antonio makes an excellent Austin day trip!

San Antonio
San Antonio is full of history and unique attractions.

6. Palmetto State Park

  • Distance from Austin: 56 miles
  • Driving time: 1 hour

Located just an hour’s drive from Austin is Palmetto State Park. This natural oasis is characterized by its lush, subtropical environment and unique blend of ecosystems.

Named after the dwarf palmetto plant that thrives within its boundaries, the park is a captivating destination for nature enthusiasts.

The San Marcos River, which meanders through the park, offers opportunities for swimming, tubing, and fishing, while the park’s diverse flora and fauna provide excellent opportunities for birdwatching, photography, and hiking.

Visitors can explore a variety of trails that wind through dense forests, wetlands, and picturesque meadows, immersing themselves in the park’s rich biodiversity.

With its serene ambiance, rich natural beauty, and abundant recreational activities, Palmetto State Park is a true gem in the Texas State Park system, offering a tranquil escape for outdoor lovers.

Read next: The 21 Best Things To Do In San Antonio

7. San Marcos

  • Distance from Austin: 31 miles
  • Driving time: 35 minutes

San Marcos makes another beautiful day trip from Austin. The San Marcos River, which flows through the heart of the city, is a central attraction.

The crystal-clear waters of the San Marcos River remain a constant 72 degrees Fahrenheit year-round, making it a popular spot for tubing, kayaking, and swimming.

The city’s commitment to preserving its natural beauty is evident in places like the Spring Lake Natural Area, home to Aquarena Springs, where visitors can learn about the region’s unique aquatic ecosystems.

This is one of the best Austin day trips for those looking to spend some time in the water on a hot summer day!

San Marcos also boasts a historic downtown area filled with charming shops, restaurants, and live music venues, offering a perfect blend of Texas hospitality and college-town vitality.

San Marcos is not only a hub for outdoor enthusiasts but also a cultural center with a rich history. The city’s ties to its past are evident in the historic district, where you can find beautifully preserved buildings, museums, and cultural sites that tell the story of San Marcos’s development.

The music scene is thriving, with live performances happening regularly at local venues and during events like the annual Texas River Festival. There are so many things to do on a day trip to San Marcos!

8. Dripping Springs

  • Distance from Austin: 23 miles
  • Driving time: 30 minutes

Just 30 minutes away from Austin is Dripping Springs, Texas, a picturesque and charming Hill Country town.

Known for its stunning nature, friendly community, and vibrant cultural scene, Dripping Springs has become a sought-after destination for both residents and visitors.

The town’s name originates from the numerous natural springs in the area that gently “drip” clear, cool water from the limestone cliffs, creating a serene and peaceful atmosphere.

Hamilton Pool Preserve is a must-see on this day trip! Hamilton Pool is a natural swimming hole with a waterfall formed by one of these springs. Its turquoise waters make the perfect escape from the Texas heat.

Dripping Springs also has a thriving arts and music community, with various cultural events and festivals throughout the year. Mercer Street, the town’s historic district, is lined with shops, art galleries, and local eateries, making it a hub of creativity and local flavor.

From swimming in Hamilton Pool Preserve to indulging in the local food and culture, Dripping Springs has everything you need for an unforgettable day trip.

Hamilton Pool
Hamilton Pool is the perfect place to go on a hot summer day in Texas!

9. Colorado Bend State Park

  • Distance from Austin: 96 miles
  • Driving time: 1 hour and 45 minutes

Colorado Bend State Park is a natural wonderland encompassing over 5,000 acres of diverse landscapes, making it a beloved destination for outdoor enthusiasts.

At the heart of the park lies the stunning Gorman Falls, a 70-foot spring-fed waterfall cascading down travertine formations, surrounded by lush vegetation.

The park features over 32 miles of scenic trails suitable for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding, allowing visitors to explore the park’s diverse ecosystems, including riverbanks, canyons, and caves.

Colorado Bend State Park is a haven for caving enthusiasts, with more than 400 known caves within its boundaries, including the impressive Gorman Cave. Guided cave tours are available for those eager to delve into the underground wonders, offering a unique and educational adventure.

Additionally, the park boasts access to the pristine Colorado River, where visitors can partake in fishing, kayaking, and swimming. No matter which activities you choose, this stunning state park is one of the best Austin day trips!

Find more things to do in Austin with our complete guide!

10. Round Rock

  • Distance from Austin: 18 miles
  • Driving time: 25 minutes

Round Rock, Texas, located in the picturesque Williamson County, is a vibrant and thriving city that beautifully blends its rich history with modern amenities and a strong sense of community.

Named after a large round rock in Brushy Creek that served as a natural landmark for early travelers, the city has evolved into a dynamic suburban hub just north of Austin.

Round Rock offers a diverse range of attractions and activities, making it an ideal day trip from Austin.

It boasts a charming downtown area with boutique shops, local breweries and restaurants, and cultural events, providing a small-town feel with all the conveniences of a larger city.

The city also takes pride in its numerous parks and recreational opportunities, including the Rock’N River Water Park and Old Settlers Park, one of the largest municipal parks in Texas.

Whether you’re seeking cultural experiences, outdoor adventures, or a welcoming community, Round Rock offers a vibrant and inviting destination in the heart of Central Texas.

11. New Braunfels

  • Distance from Austin: 48 miles
  • Driving time: 48 minutes

Another one of the best day trips from Austin is New Braunfels. Situated along the banks of the Guadalupe and Comal Rivers in the heart of Texas Hill Country, New Braunfels is a historic and charming city with a rich German heritage.

Founded in 1845 by German immigrants, the city has managed to preserve its cultural roots while embracing modernity.

New Braunfels is renowned for its idyllic natural settings, making it a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts and water lovers.

The Comal River is famous for being one of the shortest navigable rivers in the world and offers excellent tubing opportunities, while the Guadalupe River is known for its stunning beauty and prime conditions for kayaking, fishing, and swimming.

Additionally, the city is home to Landa Park, a 51-acre oasis featuring a spring-fed pool, hiking trails, picnic areas, and even a miniature train that winds through the scenic park.

The Gruene historic district of New Braunfels is lined with picturesque streets and squares, offering a wealth of boutique shops, restaurants serving German cuisine, and live music venues.

The city’s German heritage is celebrated annually with Wurstfest, a lively and colorful ten-day festival showcasing the best in German food, music, and culture.

Moreover, New Braunfels is home to the historic Gruene Hall, one of the oldest continually operating dance halls in Texas, where music lovers can enjoy live performances in a rustic, historic setting.

With its mix of natural beauty, rich history, and lively cultural scene, New Braunfels is a captivating day trip destination!

Check out our list of the 18 Best Places To Visit in Texas for more ideas!

12. Enchanted Rock

  • Distance from Austin: 96 miles
  • Driving time: 1 hour and 45 minutes

Enchanted Rock, a prominent geological wonder, is one of the most iconic natural landmarks in Texas. Situated in the heart of the Texas Hill Country, this massive pink granite dome rises 425 feet above the surrounding landscape, creating a striking and mesmerizing sight.

The name “Enchanted Rock” is rooted in Native American legends and stories that suggest the rock holds mystical and spiritual significance.

Today, it is a cherished destination for hikers, rock climbers, and nature enthusiasts. A network of trails leads visitors to the summit, where breathtaking panoramic views of the Hill Country await, especially during sunrise and sunset.

The park surrounding Enchanted Rock offers a wealth of outdoor activities beyond hiking. Rock climbing is a popular pursuit, with numerous routes catering to various skill levels.

Birdwatching is also a favorite pastime, as the park is home to a diverse range of bird species, making it an excellent spot for ornithologists and nature photographers.

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area preserves not only the natural beauty of the granite dome but also the rich cultural history of the region, with evidence of human habitation dating back thousands of years. Nature lovers and history buffs alike will have a blast on this day trip!

Enchanted Rock
Enchanted Rock is one of the most popular Austin day trips.

13. Houston

  • Distance from Austin: 165 miles
  • Driving time: 2 hours and 30 minutes

Houston, Texas, is a bustling and diverse metropolis known for its dynamic blend of culture, commerce, and innovation.

As the fourth-largest city in the United States, Houston boasts a thriving economy driven by industries such as energy, healthcare, aerospace, and technology.

The Space Center Houston, affiliated with NASA, celebrates the city’s integral role in space exploration, and visitors can explore fascinating exhibits and even see historic spacecraft.

Houston’s cultural scene is as diverse as its population, with an array of museums, theaters, and galleries. The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and the Menil Collection house impressive art collections spanning various periods and styles.

The city’s Theater District, with its numerous venues, offers a wide range of performances, from Broadway shows to ballet and opera. With its thriving economy, rich cultural offerings, and welcoming spirit, Houston stands as a modern and dynamic urban center that makes one of the best Austin day trips!

14. Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge

  • Distance from Austin: 39 miles
  • Driving time: 46 minutes

Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge is a sanctuary for native wildlife and a haven for nature enthusiasts that makes a fascinating day trip from Austin.

Established in 1992 to protect the endangered golden-cheeked warbler and black-capped vireo, this 23,000-acre refuge encompasses rugged limestone canyons, rolling hills, and a diverse range of habitats.

Visitors to the refuge can explore a network of hiking trails and scenic overlooks that offer breathtaking views of the Texas Hill County landscape, as well as opportunities for birdwatching, wildlife photography, and enjoying the serenity of nature.

With its commitment to preserving native ecosystems and the wildlife that depends on them, Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge provides a unique and valuable conservation area in the heart of Texas.

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