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Water that's worth the trip

12 splashy spots around Austin to put on your summer bucket list

Mauri Elbel Special to the American-Statesman
The scene of summer at Son's Island. [Contributed by Mauri Elbel]

Those jam-packed school days have been over just long enough for summer’s scorching temps to arrive and the novelty of the neighborhood pool to begin to wane. Now is the time to shake up summer’s schedule with a cool adventure guaranteed to beat the heat and keep boredom at bay. From destination resorts and thrilling waterparks to serene swimming holes and refreshing rivers and lakes free of chlorine and crowds, kick off the season of sun and fun at these 12 spots where the water is well worth the trip. The best part? They’re all within 70 miles of Austin.

Plan a Sunday Funday at Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort and Spa

Just over a half-hour from Austin, this luxurious wilderness escape skirting the banks of the lower Colorado River puts 400 sprawling acres of family-friendly fun at your fingertips. Whether you’re kayaking atop the calm Colorado or cooling off with a leisurely float around the 1,000-foot-long lazy river winding through the resort’s Crooked River Water Park, which also houses a splash pad, two-story waterslide, sandy beach-entry pool and poolside drinks and eats, this resort offers ample ways to chill out on steamy summer days. Choose from a diverse lineup of experiences by day, including horseback rides, zip line tours, tomahawk and archery lessons and meet-and-greets with the resort’s animal mascots, including alpacas, longhorns, miniature horses that little ones can pamper and friendly Nigerian dwarf goats — Waylon, Willie, Johnny and Hank — they can pet. Between dips in the pool with the family, kids can report to Camp Hyatt while parents unwind at Spa Django or swing clubs on the 18-hole championship golf course. Savor a meal at the resort’s signature restaurant, Stories, or dine at one of the more casual on-site restaurants before enjoying nightly s’mores roasts and movies on the lawn when the sun goes down. Need an excuse to visit? The resort recently launched a Sunday Funday experience featuring summertime rates as low as $149 on Sunday and Monday nights now through September. (Cedar Creek. More at

Celebrate 40 years of the hottest, coolest times at Schlitterbahn

This summer marks 40 years since Schlitterbahn opened with four waterslides around a 60-foot-tall castle in the heart of New Braunfels. While Schlitterbahn has undeniably supersized its water-themed thrills over the past four decades and opened locations in Galveston, South Padre Island and Corpus Christi, there’s a reason why it’s remained a favorite water park for the past 21 years. At Schlitterbahn’s flagship water park sitting on the banks of the spring-fed Comal River in New Braunfels, families can counter summer’s blaze with four distinct adventures — Original Schlitterbahn, Surfenburg, Blastenhoff and Tubenbach — rolled into one water park with 51 water-themed attractions across 70 acres. Whether you’re capturing thrills on the Dragon’s Revenge, the first uphill water coaster, or floating the Falls, the world’s longest water park ride offering 3,600 feet of whitewater “transportainment” throughout the park, you'll find endless opportunities to keep cool when the weather is hot. Plus, Schlitterbahn’s bring-your-own picnic and free parking policies offer big savings for families. (New Braunfels. More at

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Float the Comal or Guadalupe Rivers midweek

Once you’ve made a splash at Schlitterbahn, stick around town to check New Braunfels’ other favorite way to keep cool off your bucket list — floating the river (or rivers). Two pristine rivers converge in this once-tiny German town sitting just 50 miles south of Austin, offering day-trippers ample opportunities for tubing, swimming, kayaking and rafting. If you’ve never experienced the thrill of riding the Guadalupe River’s rapids or gotten that sublime feeling that comes from lounging in a sunbaked inner tube while your limbs dangle in the cold, clear emerald waters of the Comal River, you are missing out on a quintessential summertime experience. The Guadalupe is an ever-changing river with rapids that fluctuate with the release rate of water from Canyon Dam, while the Comal River is spring-fed and offers a more leisurely floating experience until you reach the Tube Chute, sure to please rapid-hungry rivergoers. Expect to spend around $15-$22 per person to float the river, including the round-trip shuttle ride, tube rental and fees. While you are allowed to bring alcoholic beverages on your float, you must drink them responsibly from a nondisposable container. To avoid tuber traffic, plan a trip outside of weekends and holidays. (New Braunfels. More at

Rope-swing into summer at Wimberley’s Blue Hole

Any seasoned Texan will agree that there’s no better cure for summertime’s sizzle than rope-swinging into a cold, clear natural body of water. The chilly spring waters of Cypress Creek known as Wimberley’s Blue Hole offer one of the best opportunities for it. Just 40 miles from Austin, this swimming spot is fringed by towering cypress trees, several of which feature natural steplike formations ideal for climbing and ropes perfect for swinging. During the summer months, Blue Hole swimming operates on a reservation system with two time slots — 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Book your spot ($10 adult, $6 seniors and children 4-12, free under 3) online at

Plunge into breathtaking bliss at Jacob’s Well

While in town, don’t miss a trip to Jacob’s Well Natural Area — a sublime swimming hole just 10 minutes up the road from the Blue Hole that’s widely considered one of the Hill Country’s most beautiful and geologically significant gems. Jacob’s Well is an artesian spring and also serves as the headwaters to Cypress Creek — its water flows up from the Trinity Aquifer roughly 140 feet below the surface and remains a constant 68 degrees year-round. Take it from a native Texan: You’ll be hard pressed to find a more picturesque spot to plunge into than these brisk, glittering waters flanked by a lush bank on one side and layered limestone cliffs on the other. If you’re brave enough to launch yourself into this cool pool from the boulders above, wear water shoes, because the surface can be very slippery. Slots for summertime swimming fill up quickly ($9 adults, $5 children/seniors/residents, free children 4 and under), so book your required reservations in advance at

Cool off at no cost at Georgetown’s Blue Hole

When the temperature outside is stifling and swimming hole reservations have been snapped up for the day, set your sights on another Blue Hole just 30 miles north of Austin. Georgetown’s Blue Hole is a refreshing lagoon hemmed in by limestone bluffs blanketed in leafy trees along the South Fork of the San Gabriel River. Located five blocks north of Georgetown’s beautiful downtown square along N. Austin Avenue, this stress-free wading spot is completely free and open to the public — no reservations required. Grab the kids, pack some sunscreen and a picnic, and voila: you’ve got a cool way to play for the day without spending a dime. On Friday evenings throughout the summer, stick around town to enjoy Georgetown’s free Music on the Square Summer Concert Series that take place at the “Most Beautiful Town Square in Texas.” (Georgetown. More at

Splash, swim and row your boat at Inks Lake

When mercury rises to the tip of the thermometer, destinations lacking a pool are often the first ones to get crossed off the list. But at Inks Lake State Park, located 67 miles from downtown Austin, families will find endless ways to keep cool throughout the blazing days of summer. Plunge into Devil’s Waterhole, a small extension of Inks Lake surrounded by granite boulders — even when the outdoor temps hit triple-digits, this refreshing waterhole remains in the 80s. Swim and splash in the blue, glittering waters of Inks Lake or buzz around in a paddleboat, canoe or kayak — hourly rentals are available on-site. (Burnet. More at

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Plunge into the placid pools at Krause Springs

Just 35 miles west of Austin sitting on 115 acres in sleepy Spicewood, Krause Springs offers 68-degree spring-fed waters guaranteed to provide respite from the heat even on triple-digit days. Founded in 1955, this Texas swimming hole features 32 natural springs on the property, a handful of which feed the manufactured pool and natural pool flowing into Lake Travis. Bring the whole family to splash, sunbathe, swim beneath a waterfall and rope-swing into pristine, refreshing water — pack a picnic to spend a relaxing day here ($8 adult, $5 children 4-11, free for children under 4) or tote a tent to stay the night ($15 adult, $10 children 4-11/$15 per RV campsite). (Spicewood. More at

Retreat from the heat at Rock’N River Water Park

Here in Central Texas, water parks abound. But just an hour north of Austin, Round Rock’s Rock’N River Water Park is a wet and wild option the whole family can enjoy for less than half the cost of a single admission to other water parks. Admission to the municipal Rock’N River Water Park, located within Old Settler’s Park near the Dell Diamond, is $12 for adults, $10 for children over 2 and seniors, and $5 for children 2 and under, and from 5 to 7 p.m., tickets are half-price. The recently expanded water park features everything from a new spray ground area and four new waterslides to a 12-foot jumping platform and rock-climbing wall with a waterfall. Rock’N River Waterpark also allows guests to bring in their own coolers; just be aware that the water park is closed on Wednesdays. (Round Rock. More at

Everyone can keep cool at Morgan’s Inspiration Island

Located less than 70 miles down the road from Austin, Morgan’s Inspiration Island opened two years ago as the world’s first ultra-accessible splash park. An aqua-themed extension of Morgan’s Wonderland, both nonprofit parks were designed with special needs individuals in mind and built for inclusion. With a tropical paradise-themed design, Morgan’s Inspiration Island features five colorful splash pads, the River Boat adventure ride and three types of waterproof chairs that allow guests in wheelchairs who may have previously been unable to visit a splash park the opportunity to enjoy some water-themed fun in the sun. Admission is not only affordable for everyone — dual admission to both parks is $21 for children and $27 for adults, while admission to the splash park only on most summer days from 3 to 7 p.m. is just $12 for children and $15 for adults — but it’s completely free for guests with special needs. (San Antonio. More at

Chill lakeside in a cabana at Son’s Island

Son’s Island, just an hour outside of Austin, is a private lakeside paradise surrounded by the cool emerald-tinged waters of Lake Placid. An actual island dotted with towering cypress trees, tropical plants and Hawaiian-style cabanas, this lakefront property is a unique summertime spot where fun comes in the form of swimming, paddleboarding, boating, fishing, kayaking and rope-swinging into a refreshing lake. Daily cabana rentals average between $99 and $245 and include entry for eight people. Guests can bring in their own boats, canoes, kayaks and Jet Skis for free or rent equipment on-site. Not ready to leave paradise? Book an overnight tent glamping experience fully equipped with a roomy tent, two cots with queen-size foam mattresses, fans and lanterns. (Seguin. More at

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Rejuvenate on the water at Lake Austin Spa Resort

This one’s for Mom and Dad. If you haven’t escaped to Lake Austin Spa Resort recently, sitting just 22 miles from downtown, this is the summer to revisit this tranquil lakeshore property where you can dive into water-inspired wellness experiences sure to soothe the soul. In addition to pampering spa treatments and luxurious lakeside lodging — including recently revamped luxury cottages — guests can cool off with a new menu of water-themed activities from water wellness classes to boat cruises. Enjoy an empowering three-hour wellness-meets-the-water personal journey experience, BLUEmersion. Climb aboard a kayak, hydro bike or paddleboard for an aqua-hike along the scenic shores of Lake Austin. Get an unforgettable on-the-water workout with Board Balance and Lake Lotus Yoga Flow class taught on the resort’s stand-up paddleboard floating docking station. Or experience the hair-whipping thrill of tubing behind a ski boat. (Austin. More at