The Great Outdoors Offer Activities Galore for Austinites
Calling all adventure seekers! Brave the high temps to enjoy these essential summer pastimes
By Britni Rachal
For a different spin on kayaking, consider dropping your paddles all together. At Austin Pedal Kayak, kayaking is just like riding a bike.
“It’s kind of like a Cadillac Escalade out on the water. It’s basically a more premium experience,” says Austin Pedal Kayaks owner Zach Steen. “It’s by far the easiest boat to operate out here on the water. With a little bit of leg strength, you are able to move about two to five times as fast as a traditional kayak.”
The pedal kayaks are great for people between the ages of 10 and 80. Providing a mild leg workout, the kayaks also allow for your arms to be free for taking pictures or enjoying a beverage.
Austin Pedal Kayaks opened in May 2020, and the facilities are still somewhat of a hidden gem. Located in a “no wake” zone of the lake, the water is some of the calmest on Lake Travis. Due to the ease of operating a pedal kayak, it’s also a great way to travel a longer distance.
Pool Standup Paddleboard Yoga
Lady Bird Lake Rentals is sponsoring pop-up standup paddle board yoga classes this summer, with the most recent round of classes hosted at Gilleland pool in Pflugerville, and previous classes hosted at Circle C Swim Club in South Austin. The 60-minute classes are taught by certified instructors from Cypress Roots Movement School. Perfect for all ages, no prior experience is needed for this balancing and amazing core workout.
Hiking, Scenic Views and Swimming Holes
Pace Bend Park has some of the best views of Lake Travis, especially at sunset after a long summer day. Consider hanging out by a cliff that stretches over Lake Travis. The park’s two boat ramps and more than nine miles of shoreline offer ample ways to explore hill country beauty via hiking, biking and equestrian trails.
If you venture a little farther away, in Spicewood, Krause Springs offers 115 acres of hiking and swimming. Listed on the National Registry for Historical Places, there are 32 springs on the property, including a butterfly garden, complete with fountains and chimes. Unlike most parks in Texas, this one is also family-owned and operated. The Krause family has owned and operated the park for over 50 years.
Farther south, in Wimberley, you’ll find a little over 81 acres for hiking at Jacob’s Well. One of the hiking trails leads to a beautiful deep blue artesian spring and the second largest fully submerged cave in Texas. With water temperatures consistently 68°F, this is a great way to cool off, but be careful. The site is considered dangerous for divers, due to a slim opening of the well and slippery rocks. To scuba dive in Jacob’s Well, you’ll need a permit, especially due to its complexity. Reservations are also required for swimming, but not for hiking, which is available each day from 8 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Hyatt Lost Pines offers a good option to cool off and float the day away. Located just 20 minutes (16 miles) southeast of Austin Bergstrom International Airport, the resort’s lazy river is 1,000 feet and part of Crooked River Water Park, which boasts several swim-up bars along the float route.
Horseback riding, fire pits for making s’mores and a “Django” spa experience (which means “I am awake”) are also available. An 18-hole, par 72 golf course at Wolfdancer Golf Club allows patrons to admire natural views — a backdrop of native pecan trees and rolling hills.
Tuesday nights at the Circuit of Americas track are for public biking. With a reservation, all summer long, the track is open for riders to pedal through COTA’s stars and stripes track.
The track is also offering options to purchase refreshments, or to climb up COTA’s observation deck to take in views of the Austin skyline.
“It was exciting to be on the track with my bike, and I looked forward to biking with a friend,” says Austin resident, Camellia Falcon, who attended the event a previous summer. “I was a bit surprised by how challenging the inclines were and skipped the initial one after the first lap. But, overall, an amazing time and a truly unique Austin experience.”
If you don’t have a bike to bring to the track, consider trying Barton Springs Bike Rentals for the day.
Dreamland, just south of Austin in Dripping Springs, offers three levels of mini golf. Described as one of the most innovative mini golf courses, the course is easy to navigate. Guests of all ages can enjoy unique art through twisting courses, all built in stone.
The center is also home to a disc golf course, pickleball courts and a splashpad for kids.
More than a floating obstacle course, this park gets my vote for one of Austin’s most hidden gems. Lake Travis Waterloo Adventures is only a short three-minute boat ride to an area that’s not accessible by car.
A sandy beach area awaits, complete with hula hoops, a giant Jenga, hammocks, plenty of shaded lounge chairs, a bar serving up strawberry and mango frozen daiquiris and a food truck with everything from locally sourced barbecue, tacos and pizza rolls.
Your ticket to the park grants you full-day access to all beach amenities, including complimentary lockers and parking at either Cypress Creek Marina or Pocahontas Trail. You’ll get a one-hour window to the 600-foot obstacle course and unlimited swimming in the “open swim area” — which includes some floating slides and freestanding obstacles. A free fall supreme water slide that stands 16.5 feet tall, springboard jump tower with multiple levels and a 25-foot floating trampoline are just some of the highlights.
“I would say it’s a great date destination,” says owner Wade McNeil. “You’ve got the lake to enjoy and then the Cantina. The biggest thing people need to understand about this experience is that it’s not just a challenge course. This is a tropical getaway right here in Austin.”
Growing in popularity the last couple of years, due to social distancing, tennis is in high demand within the Austin community. The U.S. Tennis Association reports at least a 22% increase in tennis participation since the start of the pandemic, and here in Austin, enthusiasm for the sport doesn’t appear to be letting up.
“Tennis is so fun. You are learning a new sport — a new skill. Science has shown that just learning something new is good for us and our longevity,” says tennis pro with Tennis 78704, Jo Atherton. “It also gets your heart rate up. It’s good for fitness, and some people really like competing!”
Atherton has decades of experience and is motivated by seeing individuals within her classes progress and get excited about achievements. She also believes in building a welcoming tennis community, where people make lifelong friends.
In the summer, to be safe from the heat, Atherton recommends playing tennis earlier in the day, before 2-3 p.m. or as the sun is starting to go down.
“In tennis, you are always going to make some mistakes. That’s part of it,” says Atherton. “But there are also going to be so many little successes along the way, and they are going to be so beneficial, not only in tennis, but in life. When you start to feel good about what you are doing on the court, it transfers to other things.”
Getting started at Tennis 78704 is easy. You can enroll in a private lesson, or a group of friends can enroll in an intro class together. From there, the instructors will connect you to classes and clinics to join at your leisure, based on your own weekly availability.
Beginner, intermediate and advanced classes, anywhere from level 2.0 through 4.5, are available at Tennis 78704’s reserved courts at St. Edward’s University, Monday – Saturday. Another option, Caswell Tennis Center, offers lessons and private court reservations.