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Whether you’re a local or visiting the capital of Texas, take one of these 9 road trips from Austin and explore more of the state.
If you live in the capital of Texas or want to expand your trip and explore a different part of Texas, here are nine road trips from Austin to show you more of the Lone Star State.
Road Trips from Austin Texas
I’ve provided the mileage and drive times from downtown Austin, according to Google. You’ll need to adjust based on your actual starting location and traffic. Several of the trips from Austin on this list are less than two hours each way, which makes them great possibilities for day trips. There are two that are on the longer end of what I’d personally want to drive for a three-day weekend (South Padre Island and Marfa) but they’re great spots to visit and everyone has different ideas of what a long drive is.
1. Road Trip from Austin to San Antonio
79 miles/1 hour 27 minutes
As a popular convention and tourist city, visitors to San Antonio usually spend time exploring the River Walk and the Historic Pearl, which is a former brewery that’s been redone as a luxury hotel, shops, a food hall, and lovely outdoor space. A weekend trip is the perfect length of time to spend in either location but the options in this large Texas city are almost endless.
The Alamo might already be on your list of things to check out and if you’re staying downtown, that’s easy to do. If you have time, the other four San Antonio missions are worth a little extra effort. The San Antonio Missions National Historical Park is the only UNESCO World Heritage Site in Texas.
Visitors from Austin may also be interested in checking out Six Flags Fiesta Texas, SeaWorld San Antonio, and the San Antonio Zoo, all of which offer special seasonal programming (i.e. special events for Halloween and Christmas).
This article outlines more things to do when you visit San Antonio.
2. Road Trip from Austin to Bastrop
29 miles/35 minutes
Although Bastrop is technically a part of the Austin Metro Area, it has zero of the big city, “Keep Austin Weird” vibe. Downtown Bastrop has fun shopping and dining options.
You can access the river walk from the town’s main drag. The river walk is a great place to stroll and take in views of the Colorado River. If you want something more adventurous, there are places to rent a kayak or paddleboard. Bastrop State Park has hiking trails and campgrounds and Lake Bastrop offers camping and places to fish.
I have stayed at the Pecan Street Inn, which is a small, bed and breakfast style hotel. I loved the personal attention and the proximity to downtown. If you’re looking for a luxury getaway, the Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort and Spa is a splurge worth checking out. You won’t see much of Bastrop because your desire to leave the resort will be zero. There are plenty of activities to do on-site and the river runs through the resort, so you can still take part in water activities that can be arranged through the resort.
This article outlines more things to do when you visit Bastrop, Texas.
3. Road Trips from Austin to South Padre Island
347 miles, 5 hours 38 minutes
If you want to escape the big city and head toward the beach, South Padre Island is one of the great trips from Austin to put on your list. Since enjoying the beach is probably already on your list of things to do, I’ll give you some ideas of other things to check out on South Padre Island.
Sea Turtle Inc is the place to go to learn about sea turtle rescue and rehabilitation. More wildlife watching opportunities are at SPI Birding, Nature Center, and Alligator Sanctuary. Kids, especially older kids or teens, will enjoy the activities (rides, go-karts, mini-golf) at Gravity Park. If you want to enjoy the ocean from a boat, this area has lots of fishing charters and dolphin-watching tours.
NOTE: South Padre is the place where college students gather for spring break, so if you’re planning a visit in March or April, you’ll find quite the party atmosphere. If this is not what you are looking for, pick a different time of year or a more family-friendly Texas beach, like Port Aransas or Rockport.
4. Road Trip from Austin to Gonzales
65 miles, 1 hour 7 minutes
If you want to really dig into Texas history, Gonzales is the place to be. You probably thought the Alamo was where the battle for Texas independence started, but it was actually up the road in Gonzales. For the best experience, I recommend visiting during one of Gonzales’ two festivals: Come and Take It Festival and Winterfest. Come and Take It is in October and Winterfest is in December. Check the Chamber of Commerce website for specifics.
Don’t miss the battle for Texas independence reenactment at Pioneer Village Living History Center. Pioneer Village is a fun place to visit year-round, but the reenactment is pretty special and unique to this area.
In town, you’ll find the Gonzales County Jail Museum and the Gonzales Memorial Museum, which houses the original canon the Mexican army was so keen to come and take. The downtown area is very walkable and you’ll find a few places to eat and shop. You can stay at the Alcade Hotel and join the ranks of notorious former guests such as Elvis and Bonnie and Clyde. I stayed here in 2018 and found the room and amenities really in need of an update. The property has since been bought by Oyo, so your experience now might be better.
Gonzales is dotted with historic homes that are, for the most part, very well-maintained. Some are bed and breakfasts or small inns but they’re really fun to look at if you’re an ooh and ahh about houses kind of person. I did a windshield tour that the Chamber of Commerce set up for me. I’ve also seen interior tours offered in conjunction with the Come and Take It festival and Winterfest.
5. Road Trip from Austin to Decatur
228 miles, 3 hours 28 minutes
Decatur is just a short drive from Dallas. There’s enough to do in Decatur for a fun weekend trip from Austin but it also makes a good side trip from Dallas or Fort Worth.
Decatur has a fun-to-explore town square with lots of places to eat and shop. A couple of my favorites are Trinity Street Coffee Bar (I haven’t been since they opened their new restaurant side) and Hey Sugar Candy Store, which is a great place to go for nostalgic sweets of all types. There are murals and quirky street art to discover all over downtown Decatur. If you want to try your hand at making something to take home with you, the Decatur DIY Studio has lots of class options. This was easily one of the most fun things we did on our visit and definitely worth planning your trip around.
Just off the town square you’ll find the Whistle Stop Cafe and the petrified wood gas station. The cafe, popular with locals, serves breakfast and lunch. The petrified wood gas station next door is a fantastic photo opp. If you plan to eat at the cafe, arrive early or be prepared to wait.
Bridgeport is a short drive from Decatur and also has a fun downtown area with murals. There’s also an animal sanctuary that is available to tour (reservations needed). The Center for Animal Research and Education is not a zoo and just recently reopened its tours. According to the website, they welcome kids over age 7, but I recommend using caution when taking younger kids. Visitors are very close to animal habitats and need to be able to be quiet and still and follow directions.
6. Road Trip from Austin to Boerne
85 miles, 1 hour 40 minutes
This charming Texas Hill Country city is close enough to Austin for a day trip but there’s so much to explore, I recommend doing at least a weekend if you can. The downtown area has lots of places to shop. The vintage Flashback Funtiques is a perennial favorite. The Dienger Trading Company features more high-end, boutique-style gifts as well as a bistro area where you can grab coffee and pastries or a meal. For great local brew plus food, you can’t go wrong with the family-friendly Cibolo Creek Brewing Company.
Located outside the downtown area, the Cave Without a Name and Cibolo Center for Conservation offer options to explore a bit of the outdoors. Cibolo Creek Nature Center is a great spot for an easy, scenic hike during cooler months. When the weather warms up, splashing in the creek is the thing to do.
7. Road Trip from Austin to Waco
101 miles, 1 hour 32 minutes
If you’re a fan of Chip and Joanna Gaines, Waco is probably one of the trips from Austin you’re already planning. The neat thing about the Magnolia empire is that it’s always growing and changing, so if you really enjoy visiting the Silos or eating at Magnolia Table, you can enjoy the experience multiple times.
Other things to do in Waco include the Cameron Park Zoo, the Dr. Pepper Museum, the Waco Mammoth National Monument, and the Texas Sports Hall of Fame. If you’re a college football fan, check out the schedule of games at McClean Stadium (Baylor University.)
I also recommend checking out Waco Tours, especially if you plan to stay more than a couple of days. It’s a great way to orient yourself to this growing city and if you’re a Fixer Upper superfan, you’ll get to see some of the rehab houses from the show up close.
Tip: If Magnolia is your primary reason for going to Waco, be prepared to stand in line, especially during busy periods, such as spring break or holiday weekends. I love having breakfast at Magnolia Table and it is the one thing I’ll get up uber early for on vacation. If you visit on a weekday and go right at opening, you can usually get seated right away. Also note the Magnolia attractions are closed on Sundays.
8. Road Trip from Austin to Marfa
428 miles, 6 hours 30 minutes
Marfa is quirky but in a different way than Austin is quirky. The stunning backdrop of the West Texas desert and seemingly endless wide open spaces make Marfa a popular spot for visitors from all over.
Marfa draws many artists and art lovers so if your primary focus is to spend your time immersed in the various types of arts, it will be easy to fill up your time. I recommend consulting Marfa’s art guide as you’re planning your trip. One of the most popular art installations in the Marfa area is “Prada Marfa” which is located outside the city limits in Valentine. This tiny store in the middle of nowhere is one of the area’s most well-known landmarks.
Another great and unexpected stop in Marfa is at Chinati. The contemporary art museum offers guided tours of the collection and outdoor viewing every Thursday through Saturday. It supports the work of its founder, Donald Judd, and various other contemporary artists.
No trip to Marfa is complete without going to check out the mysterious Marfa lights, which appear on the horizon after the sun goes down. These dancing red and white lights consistently appear east of town regardless of what the weather is doing and have been reported as early as the mid-1800s. There’s no logical explanation to what causes these lights, which is part of what makes the experience so fun.
Marfa, the county seat of Presidio County, is located near Big Bend National Park, Fort Davis National Historic Site, McDonald Observatory, and Davis Mountains State Park. Marfa’s neighboring city, Alpine, is also worth exploring.
9. Road Trip from Austin to New Braunfels
48 miles, 47 minutes
Located between San Antonio and Austin, this small German town located on the Guadalupe and Comal Rivers is big on fun options for things to do. New Braunfels is home to Wurstfest, a two-week German festival, that draws people from around the state. Floating in the rivers is the most popular warm-weather pastime for locals and visitors alike. There are lots of places in town to rent tubes that offer pickup service at designated points downriver.
If you want more thrills, New Braunfels is home to Schlitterbahn, a massive water fun park.
Landa Park is one of several parks in New Braunfels, although I think it’s the best one. You’ll have a lot of choices for things to do. There’s the famous Landa Park Train, the aquatic complex, various play spaces, paddle boat rides, miniature golf, and more.
Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch is a drive-through animal park, although there are designated spots where guests can get out and look around. Just next door, Natural Bridge Caverns offers various cave tours and above-ground adventures, such as a zip rails course and a maze.
The Gruene Historic District is a fun place to explore, with Gruene Hall, Texas’ oldest dance hall, being the most popular attraction. There are lots of stores to wander in and out of and beautiful river views.
I have a long list of favorite spots to eat in New Braunfels. Most popular is the Gristmill, although be prepared to wait. Other favorites are Huisache Grill, the brewpub at the Faust Hotel, and Union Station Diner for breakfast.
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Discovering Road Trips from Austin, Texas
Whether you’re a local or visiting the capital of Texas, these 9 road trips from Austin give you a chance to get out and explore more of Texas. We also have ideas for day trips from San Antonio and road trips from Houston. Some of the suggestions will overlap but many of these destinations can be adapted for trips from Austin. These are great ways to get out for a fun family adventure and enjoy a road trip!