Some of the Best Texas Hill Country Swimming Holes, Restaurants, Breweries, and More
Take a dip, then fill your piehole
It's that time of year when the heat plateaus into constant saunalike temperatures, and the best we can do is submerge ourselves in liquid, inside and out. Neighborhood pools and Barton Springs guarantee a nice quench for thirsty bodies any day of the week, but Texas summers also mean it's road trip season. There's a handful of natural swimming holes between Wimberley and Spicewood, which nicely align with the blossoming craft food and beverage scene west of Austin. The Hill Country is buzzing with restaurants, breweries, and distilleries that are becoming destinations of their own. Pack your floats, sunscreen, and swim shoes, but leave the cooler at home – the tastiest indulgences are already there.
Similar to Hamilton Pool, though much smaller, a fern-covered limestone wall creates a stunning backdrop and cavelike setting to explore above the natural spring. Trees around the water's edge offer shade and long roots to assist you into the water, while smooth limestone rocks provide ample space to sprawl. The family-owned property also features campground, picnic areas, a man-made pool, and a cared-for home garden at the entrance. Krause is the only swimming hole on this list which doesn't require reservations. They're open daily from 9am to 9pm, except during the winter.
Only a few minutes apart from each other, it'd be easy to mix and match Spicewood's destinations in any order. Opie's is a traditional barbecue joint with the classic look, feel and flavor – brisket and ribs hand-cut to order from an indoor pit, multiple flavors of cobbler, and all the butter beans and pickles your heart desires. Order your barbecue to-go to picnic at the pool or while staying hydrated at one of the following tasting rooms: Iron Wolf pours their craft spirits in a ranch-style structure surrounded by acres of outdoor space for bar games like corn hole and bocce ball. And just down the road, long-established Spicewood Vineyards serves their Texas-made wine amidst rows of green vines.
Iron Wolf Ranch & Distillery
101 Co. Rd. 409, Spicewood
9504 Hwy. 71 W., Spicewood
1419 Co. Rd. 409, Spicewood
Hamilton Pool Preserve/Hamilton Pool Road
Technically a grotto, Hamilton Pool has been the most popular swimming hole in the Austin area for decades. While reservations have already reached max capacity through Labor Day, you can still book through the end of October. The natural pool is set in a canyon, halfway encased by a 50-foot fern-covered limestone overhang which provides shade and a perch for a continuous waterfall. The pool is tucked within 232 acres of nature preserve, with plenty of hiking trails to explore. Be prepared for a mini hike from the parking lot to the swimming hole.
Two destinations have arrived close to Hamilton Pool, located on the very same road which leads to it. Proof & Cooper offers an old-fashioned Hill Country menu in a modern, yet still rustic setting where everything is well-crafted, even the fried chicken. To emphasize the Americana, live music and one-off events like Chicken Poop Bingo fill the calendar. Just five minutes away is Family Business Beer Co. with a bright, welcoming tasting room and ample outdoor seating in their oak grove. You'll also find live music here and a playground for the kids.
Family Business Beer Co.
19510 Hamilton Pool Rd., Dripping Springs
Proof & Cooper
18710 Hamilton Pool Rd., Spicewood
Just 10 minutes northwest of Wimberley is Jacob's Well, another natural gem and place to ice your body. The Trinity Aquifer sources the 68-degree spring water, which rises up through the well from about 140 feet below the surface. On a clear sunny day, you can see straight down into a portion of the well, the perfect place to plunge from the makeshift diving board, a limestone rock jutting out above. Flat rocks surrounding the well create a shallow place to wade and rest, but can get slippery, so bring your favorite aqua socks. Swimming reservations are possible daily through Sept. 30, with two-hour time slots from 10am to 6pm.
Between Austin and Jacob's Well is Driftwood, an area once mostly known as home to the Salt Lick. Driftwood is now filled with other enticing destinations too, like Desert Door Distillery. The first sotol distillery to open in the country, Desert Door harvests wild Texas sotol plants to create a one-of-a-kind spirit, akin to tequila, and more commonly found in Mexico. Their entire experience is intricately crafted, from the tasting room to the bottle design. A short drive away are more libations to choose from: Vista Brewing – a modern microbrewery, farm, and restaurant; and Duchman Family Winery – a Tuscan-style property within a lush vineyard.
Desert Door Distillery
211 Darden Hill Rd., Ste. A-200, Driftwood
Duchman Family Winery
13308 Farm to Market 150, Driftwood
13551 Ranch to Market Rd. 150, Driftwood
Pedernales Falls State Park/Fitzhugh Road
About one hour due west of Austin is a state park with over 5,000 acres designated for camping, hiking, and most importantly for this list, swimming in the Pedernales River. The river winds through the park, passing over and through limestone rocks, creating various pools and depths to descend into. With miles of hiking trails, and parking lots situated a distance from the designated swimming areas, you'll want to be prepared for long walks. Along the way, you may spot birds or wildlife that thrive in the park's ecosystem or discover a panoramic overlook showcasing Hill Country's undisturbed natural beauty. Pedernales recently joined the reservation bandwagon and offers advance purchasing of day passes, though they are optional.
Since Jester King Brewery made its mark on Fitzhugh Road in 2010, other craft beverage companies have followed suit, making this road worth the slight detour on the way to or from Pedernales. Jester King is an expansive property with a brewery, farm, restaurant, and event space. They produce farmhouse-style products influenced by the local environment and in relationship with one another, like the pizza dough which uses fermented yeast from the brewery. A short drive away, Treaty Oak Distillery serves a full line of high-quality spirits in a contemporary tasting room. Leave room for a stop at Pieous to taste their perfectly formed wood-fired pizza, homemade pastrami, and decadent desserts like chocolate pot de crème.
166 Hargraves Dr., Bldg H
Jester King Brewery
13187 Fitzhugh Rd.
Treaty Oak Distillery
16604 Fitzhugh Rd., Dripping Springs
Blue Hole Regional Park/Wimberley
Less than a five-minute drive from Wimberley's town square is an oasis called Blue Hole. The name hints at its appearance – a bright blue waterway surrounded by cypress trees. There's a shallow area for wading and a deeper section for endless rope swinging. Adjacent to the water's edge is a perfectly maintained lawn to comfortably lounge and store your belongings. While the 126-acre park is open year-round, swimming dates are regulated by a reservation system like most of the parks in this list. Reservations are possible every day until Labor Day, then weekends-only in September.
The hardest part about dining near Blue Hole isn't finding options, it's choosing amongst them, but luckily they're walking-distance apart. Longleaf Craft Kitchen & Bar's appreciation for select, high-quality ingredients is apparent in their refined food and cocktail menus, featuring a grilled peach salad and weekly specials like crispy fried shrimp. Across the street, Community Pizza & Beer Garden features customizable wood-fired pies, daily handmade pasta, and a lengthy beer menu. Before leaving Wimberley, take a short drive south to taste a flight at family-owned Roughhouse Brewing, or north to watch the sunset at the Shady Llama – llama sightings very possible.
Community Pizza & Beer Garden
111 Old Kyle Rd. #330, Wimberley
Longleaf Craft Kitchen & Bar
314-A Wimberley Square, Wimberley
680 Oakwood Loop, San Marcos
The Shady Llama
18325 Ranch Rd. 12, Wimberley
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