Day Trips

The nine li'l cabins of the Blanco Settlement offer rocking chairs, Frisbee golf, and a Jacuzzi among other amenities for your vacationing pleasure

Rockin' by the river
Rockin' by the river (Photo By Gerald E. McLeod)

The Blanco Settlement looks like it could have been an outpost on the Texas frontier a hundred years ago. The nine little cabins occupy a perfect bend in the river shaded by ancient oak trees that would have made a good spot for a pioneer settlement. Instead, the modern version is a colony of temporary residents looking to discover the Hill Country around Blanco.

The first thing you need to know about visiting the area south of Johnson City is that the town, the river, and the county are all pronounced "Blank-o." The locals will often correct you, good-naturedly, if you try to use the proper Spanish pronunciation for the color white.

"It's part of the local identity to pronounce it that way," says Charlene Pace. She owns the riverfront RV park and bed & breakfast with her husband, Kenneth. "It took me a while to get used to it."

The Paces bought some property and built a house in the Blanco area about 12 years ago when their children enrolled in the University of Texas. Their children never left Austin after graduation, and they haven't left Blanco.

"We sold our restaurant in Crosby, outside of Houston, and retired to the Hill Country," Mrs. Pace says. "I've never worked harder in my life as I have since I retired. I had four children so my house was always like a bed and breakfast." After 40 years in the restaurant business, the hospitality industry is a lot easier, she says.

In 2003, Ken Pace and his brother purchased the strip of land between FM 165 and the Blanco River. It was a rugged piece of real estate overgrown with river cane and gnarly bushes. "I don't know how they ever saw the potential of the property," Charlene says.

The result of their labor is a parklike setting on a small ridge that gently descends to the river channel. Each of the cabins has a back porch with rocking chairs that look over the expansive lawn. Two of the houses are modeled after the old Texas dogtrot cabins with a bedroom on either side and a common living area. "They're perfect for families or couples traveling together," Charlene says.

All of the cabins – each is named for a relative – are equipped with a microwave, coffeemaker, toaster, and a small refrigerator. Cooking isn't allowed in the rooms, but barbecue grills are provided down by the pavilion. The day starts with a breakfast of muffins, coffee, and juice left in the room by their hosts. Guests can end their days in the Jacuzzi tub.

Charlene's favorite is the Sarah Sue Cabin, or cabin No. 1. She calls it "the honeymoon-anniversary-bridal suite. Of course, anyone can rent it, but it is the most popular room. "From the back porch you can smell the wild honeysuckle," she says.

Entering their third season, the Blanco Settlement is gaining momentum. Several family reunions are returning this year. A few weeks ago, a couple from Quebec, Canada, stayed with them. This will be the second year that a motorcycle club from Dallas will be visiting for a long weekend. "They're the nicest people," she says of the Harley-Davidson riders. "You'd never know it to look at them, but most of them are lawyers and doctors."

If folks aren't touring the back roads north of San Antonio or relaxing in a rocking chair on the back porch, there is plenty to do at the settlement. Ken Pace added a nine-hole Frisbee golf course and a small pond stocked with catfish. Charlene also operates a gift shop that doubles as the front desk. On Saturday nights a local bluegrass band sets up for an evening concert under the pavilion. "My husband and daughter love to join in with them," she says. Like everything else in Texas, the river needs some rain to make it deeper than the top of your foot.

The Blanco Settlement is about a mile east of FM 165. The cabins rent for $95 a night for two people; the double cabins are $125. For information, call 830/833-5115 or visit their Web site at

775th in a series. Day Trips, Vol. 2, a book of Day Trips 101-200, is available for $8.95, plus $3.05 for shipping, handling, and tax. Mail to: Day Trips, PO Box 33284, South Austin, TX 78704.

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The Blanco Settlement, Johnson City, Charlene Pace, Hill Country, Kenneth Pace, Blanco River, Frisbee golf, catfish, Blanco

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