The Texas Hill Country is one of the most popular getaway destinations for North Texans. Just 4-5 hours south of DFW, the Hill Country sprawls west of Austin and northwest of San Antonio. The area is dotted with small towns that take you back to the Texas of years gone by.
The best way to get there is south on Interstate 35. Get off before you hit the traffic in Austin and take Route 29 west, then 281 south.
The first town you come to is Marble Falls with its small downtown dotted with art shops. There are several hotels located along the Colorado River, and some good moderately priced restaurants. Don’t miss the Blue Bonnet Cafe right downtown, in business for over 80 years. You will likely have to wait in line for a table but the food is worth it, especially the big selection of homemade pies.
Across the river is Horseshoe Bay, where you can rent water front vacation homes on the banks of Lake LBJ. Do a Google search for Horseshoe Bay rentals and get plenty of options.
We made a side trip to south Austin and the Lady Bird Johnson Wild Flower Center. It was fall and not much was in bloom, but we saw enough to want to go back in the spring sometime.
The biggest town in the Hill Country is the German heritage community of Fredericksburg, located on Route 290, west of Johnson City. This is the romantic getaway capital of the Hill Country, with many dozens of Bed and Breakfasts, fine dining, shopping and museums. The B&B’s range from modest single rooms in private homes to larger multi-room guesthouses and country inns. Choose carefully.
Not to be missed is the National Museum of the Pacific War, located right downtown. It covers a lot of ground, from Japan’s conquest of China and Southeast Asia, Pearl Harbor, and the entire Pacific campaign. Be prepared to spend a half-day or more to see it all. The Allied Pacific commander, Admiral Chester Nimitz, was a hometown boy.
Just east of Fredericksburg is the rustic Texas town of Luckenbach, which Waylon Jennings made famous in the ‘70’s. Shop at the general store. Listen to live music in the dance hall almost daily. Take pictures. It’s a great way to spend an afternoon.
Fredericksburg is right in the middle of the Texas wine country. The area made the Wine Enthusiast Top Ten Destinations list in 2014. There are many vineyards and wineries along Route 290. All have tastings and many offer vineyard tours. You can buy by the bottle or case at most places.
If you head out of Fredericksburg to the north on Route 965 you come to Enchanted Rock State Natural Area. The pink granite rock towers almost 500 feet above the rolling terrain. You can walk up, which is a little strenuous, or you can climb, which is a whole lot harder, or you can just stand back and admire the beauty as the sun reflects off the pink stone. There are outfitters for rock climbers listed on the State Park website.
The warm summer months are harvest time for Texas peaches, and the Hill Country is home to the largest peach farms in the state. There are many roadside stands to find the freshest peaches.
The southern reaches of the Hill Country bring you to Kerrville, on the banks of the Guadeloupe River. There are hotels and Bed and Breakfasts. Kayak and canoe outfitters can set you up for a day on the water. Kerrville is a popular hunting area with guides and outfitters prominently listed on the Chamber of Commerce website.
Summary & Recommendations
We stayed at the Hampton Inn in Marble Falls and two nights in a B&B in Fredericksburg. The B&B was disappointing. There are many to pick from, so check them out carefully. The quality ranges widely. Dinner at River City Grill in Marble Falls was good. Many of the better restaurants in Fredericksburg were closed on Sunday and Monday nights, when we were there. Try Hondo’s…good burger and live music. There are a number of good lunch spots and engaging locally owned shops along Main Street. Breakfast at the Sunset Grill was perfect. The wine tour along Route 290 was fun, and we found some Texas wines that were quite good. The weather didn’t cooperate on our visit, so it put a damper on activities. Overall I’d rate the trip a 7. The B&B experience pulls the score down.