Ever wanted to do a classic American road trip? Emma Bangay hit the highway in Texas to discover the very best pit stops.
Texas is way more than tacos and rodeos. Whether you like to spend your holidays sipping cocktails by a pool, adventuring in the great outdoors, or taking in the cultural highlights of your destination, Texas really has something for everyone.
When roadtripping between Austin, San Antonio and Fredericksburg, I discovered Texas has the perfect balance of natural and cosmopolitan offerings. Here are my highlights.
Hamilton Pool Reserve
Between Austin and Fredericksburg lies the oasis that is Hamilton Pool Reserve. Float in the spring and enjoy the serenity as a waterfall runs gently over limestone. Jurassic in both appearance and enormity, the box canyon surrounding the swimming hole gives this area a very special feeling. Get in early. Lines to get there can be at a standstill for 45 minutes and upwards. Also check ahead for swimming permissions, as sometimes this isn't allowed.
Lunch at Jo’s, Austin
For nearly 20 years, Jo’s on South Congress Ave in Austin has acted as the heart of the shopping strip, serving up coffee, tacos, sandwiches and a birds-eye view for all. Be sure to check out the wall scrawled with ‘I Love You So Much.’ Too sweet!
Enchanted Rock, Fredericksburg
This enormous, pink granite rock lives up to its name. Taking a hike up the smooth face of this beast is a magical experience. Native Tonkawa, Apache and Comanche legend says this rock has magical powers and anyone who stays overnight will become invisible! The 360-degree views across many private ranches and the 500 species of plants found at the very top are well worth strapping on your hiking boots! The trekk is very family friendly, so you can also take the kids.
Luckenbach, near Fredericksburg
This stop was sensational! Renowned far and wide as the place to see country music – in the mid-1970s Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings had a hit with their song ‘Luckenbach, Texas’ – it maintains a dusty, ghost town feel that travellers and locals adore. With live music every weekend, visitors are often thrust into the spotlight with impromptu performances from the crowd.
Wine Tasting, near Fredericksburg
Few know that Texas is a good spot for fine wines! I loved checking out boutique vineyard Kuhlman Cellars, who produce their handmade wines from their beautiful hand-tended vineyard. If you prefer larger scale, more established wine trails, Beckers is your best bet. There are 46 acres of vineyards, a large tasting area and weekend tours available for groups.
Blue Star Contemporary art gallery, San Antonio
It’s a must to meander through the King William Historic District, with its wide streets of austere, majestic homes dating back to the 1790s, towards the Blue Star District. A hotbed of avant-garde shops, studios, and restaurants established by - and for - the art lover, this hub is home to Blue Star Contemporary, the longest-running nonprofit venue for contemporary art in San Antonio.
Paramour rooftop bar, San Antonio
It’s not every day you see a vintage Tom Selleck centerfold emblazoned across the female bathroom wall or sit next to the San Antonio Spurs, but the night we stopped by the incredibly sophisticated Paramour rooftop bar, we did. With the best views of downtown San Antonio and people watching that just won’t quit, this chic, tongue-in-cheek venue is fabulous!
Breakfast at Ocho, San Antonio
When it comes to locations and décor, Ocho wins. Situated in a vast glass conservatory overlooking the San Antonio River Walk, this light-filled space serves breakfast that any experimental Australian must try! The menu is heavily influenced by pan-Latin influences from Mexico, Cuba, and Texas, making it a great indication of the melting pot of dining influences in this state.
Spa at Éilan, San Antonio
Offering one of the best massages I’ve ever experienced - along with a steam room that won’t quit and a shower with three shower heads down the wall and one above you – this spa takes luxury next level. Be sure to wind up your day at Eilan Hotel and Spa with dinner at the adjoining Sustenio restaurant, led by Chef Scott Cohen, who adds twists to traditional fare taking the dining experience to the next level.
The Saga at San Fernando Cathedral, San Antonio
There is a truly mystical feeling around San Antonio. The history permeates everything you see. No more so than at the San Fernando Cathedral which shows a captivating 24-minute video art installation in the evening across its façade with the narration of San Antonio’s history is choreographed to lights and music. However, if a morning history lesson is more your speed, don’t forget the Alamo – the most famous historical site in Texas.