Summer has arrived, which means longer days, higher temperatures, brighter sunshine, and ample excuse to spend hours upon hours doing Austinites’ favorite pastime: swimming in any and every body of water available to residents.
I’ve only lived in Austin a year and a half, but I’ve quickly adopted the mission to visit every watering hole within a 30 mile radius of the city and have been steadily checking them off one by one. Below you’ll find a list of 10 of my favorites thus far along with my photo-captured memories at each one.
Please note these are in no particular order because let’s be honest – it’s truly impossible to pick favorites here. 😊
About 30 minutes outside of Austin, Hamilton Pool Preserve is by far one of the most magical watering holes nearby. Be ready to plan ahead because it requires reservation months in advance, the wait is completely worth the cool, clear waters underneath its 50-ft canyon waterfall.
Is there hiking? Upon arrival, there is a short, quarter-mile hike to the pool and areas surrounding the pool to hike and climb as well. Make this visit as low or high activity as you’d like.
What can I bring? You may bring food and drinks and alcohol, but unfortunately must leave your pets at home.
What’s the cost? $11 for reservation online, $15 per vehicle upon arrival
Where do I go? 24300 Hamilton Pool Rd, Dripping Springs, TX
Sculpture Falls is located deep within the beautiful Greenbelt and can be accessed from any trail head, though the easiest access point is the Scottish Woods trail head. Break a little sweat and cool off by doing a little cliff jumping from the small bluff surrounding the pool.
Is there hiking? Tons! These falls require a 1.5 mile hike from the Scottish Woods trail head, so plan accordingly, and be sure not to pack too much beer unless you want a real good workout on the way there… I may or may not have made that mistake last time.
What can I bring? Food, drinks/alcohol, and doggos all welcome!
What’s the cost? Nothing!
Where do I go? 1710 Camp Craft Road, Austin, TX
Commons Ford Ranch
Nestled along Lake Austin, Commons Ford Ranch has become my go-to swimming area this summer. The park includes a small dock, old boat house (which you’ll see lots of people jumping off from), and tons of field space to set up games, grills, and the perfect tanning spot.
Is there hiking? Not really, but there is a short walk (approximately 10 minutes) from parking to the water edge.
What can I bring? Bring it all – food, drinks/alcohol, and your beloved fur baby.
What’s the cost? Zilch.
Where do I go? 614 N Commons Ford Rd, Austin, TX
Barton Creek is an Austin classic. Running along the Greenbelt, these chilly waters are perfect for those triple-digit summer days where you can barely stand to be outdoors. Set up a hammock, bring some floats, and watch paddle boards and kayaks pass on by.
Is there hiking? Plenty! However, you can choose a spot right at the trail head if you’re feeling a bit lazy and just want to chill on the water.
What can I bring? Whatever your heart desires. Drinks/alcohol, food, and pets are welcomed.
What’s the cost? $0
Where do I go? 3755 S Capital of Texas Hwy B, Austin, TX
The oldest municipal swimming pool in Texas, Deep Eddy is perfect for true swimmers and simple waders. With swimming lanes, a splash area, and grassy surrounding areas, this icy pool is sure to cool you off on a hot summer day.
Is there hiking? Not quite, if you decide to park right outside the pool. However, you can take a long walk down Lady Bird Hike & Bike trail which will eventually spit you out at the pool’s entrance.
What can I bring? Unfortunately, not much. No food/drinks are allowed, nor any pets. Once you see how clean it is though you’ll understand why!
What’s the cost? $3 one-day entry fee for Austin residents, $8 for non-residents
Where do I go? 401 Deep Eddy Ave, Austin, TX
Located in New Braunfels, this river is one of my absolute favorites to float. Between the clear waters, the beautiful properties, and kind people you’ll meet on the ride, you’re bound to have an amazing time floating the Comal.
Is there hiking? Nope! All you do here is float, soak in the sun, and enjoy!
What can I bring? The Comal River has banned all disposable items, so if you plan to eat or drink be sure to bring your items in non-disposable containers (no cans, plastic, or styrofoam).
What’s the cost? Depends on where you use to rent tubes, but most are around $15 per person. Be prepared to pay for parking as well, anywhere between $5-$20.
Where do I go? 664 South Seguin Avenue, New Braunfels, TX
Another Austin classic, Barton Springs Pool is a must-go during those unbearable summers days – just be prepared for the shockingly chilly water temperatures that stay year-round. Though it takes a while to adjust, you’ll be thankful for your visit and look forward to returning soon.
Is there hiking? You’re welcome to walk/hike around the Greenbelt and Lady Bird Lake, but this spot doesn’t require a hike like many other watering holes do.
What can I bring? No food, alcohol or pets, but you are allowed to bring non-alcoholic drinks as long as they’re in a non-disposable container.
What’s the cost? $3 for Austin residents, $8 for non-residents
Where do I go? 2131 William Barton Dr, Austin, TX
McKinney Falls State Park
McKinney Falls State Park is located about 20 minutes from Downtown and is another majestic watering hole that will have you wondering if you’re still in Texas. Located on Onion Creek, this state park is perfect for both adventurers and those who just enjoy a nice, relaxing dip in a natural body of water.
Is there hiking? Yep, there’s ample hiking available through the winding trails around the Hill Country woods. Be prepared to walk/hike for at least 10 minutes to get to the falls.
What can I bring? Pets and alcohol are not allowed, however, you are welcome to bring any other food/drink!
What’s the cost? $6 per person
Where do I go? 5808 McKinney Falls Pkwy, Austin
Emma Long Metropolitan Park
Emma Long is a hidden gem I’ve just recently discovered and can’t get enough of. Though a simple park along Lake Austin, the ample docks and grassy lawns make it a pleasant area to spend an afternoon in.
Is there hiking? There are trails surrounding the park, however, the park does not require a hike to get to the water’s edge.
What can I bring? Visitors can bring pets, food, and drinks/alcohol. Just make sure your pet is on a leash!
What’s the cost? $5 on weekdays, $10 on weekends
Where do I go? 600 City Park Rd, Austin, TX
Likely the farthest one out, Son’s Island is located in Seguin, about a 50 minute drive from Austin (but completely worth it). Nestled on Lake Placid, this island (yes, an actual island) is a true Oasis for all Texans near and far. Including cabanas, hammocks, and all sorts of water activities, you’ll truly feel like you’re on a mini tropical vacation.
Is there hiking? Nope, but you’re welcome to rent a kayak or paddle board if you’re feeling adventurous.
What can I bring? Pets are not allowed, but you can bring all the food and drinks/alcohol your heart desires!
What’s the cost? It may seem a bit pricey, but cabanas are anywhere around $100-$200 to rent – definitely best if you have a large group of people to split the cost with.
Where do I go? Address: 110 Lee St, Seguin, TX
Any swimming holes you’ve been to that isn’t included here? Let us know in the comments below! We’re always looking for new places.
Featured image credit: Leigh Kettle
Leigh is a native Texan gone temporary New Yorker and now proud Austinite. Passions include but are not limited to music (both as a spectator and dabbler), traveling & cultural adventures, film & television, true crime, design (of the fashion, interior, and graphic sorts), and photographing & writing about all the aforementioned. Self-acclaimed coffee connoisseur & wino, cat aficionado, book worm, and nature junkie.