When you think of Texas, artsy Austin or bustling Houston might come to mind. But just an hour northwest of Austin, lies a natural oasis in Hill Country. Central Texas’s Highland Lakes Region is made up of seven lakes along the Colorado River and offers families the opportunity to enjoy stunning wildflower hikes, breathtaking watersports and even engage in some adrenaline-pumping fun, all while taking in some of the most gorgeous views the area has to offer. Read on to find out where to stay, eat and play in the Texas Highland Lake Region.

Stay

Canyon of the Eagles Resort
If spending time in nature while enjoying all the comforts of home (and more) is on your family vacation wish list, then book your stay at this idyllic resort. Located on the northeast shoreline of Lake Buchanan in Burnet, this full-service nature resort is perfect for families who want to fill their days (and evenings) with outdoor adventures and then relax and recharge in the comfort of cozy accommodations.

This pet-friendly resort offers 61 eco-friendly rooms to choose from. We suggest booking a suite with a view of the lake so you can watch the sun rise (and set) from a rocking chair on your own porch. If you’re looking for more camp and less glamp, there are plenty of tent and RV sites as well.

You’ll also find an onsite pool, two fantastic eateries (Overlook Restaurant and the Eagles Nest Lounge which offers a full-service bar and bar menu), an outdoor movie screen and s’mores around the fire pit.

Play

Water Play
Canyon of the Eagles offers kayak rentals for families who want to paddle Lake Buchanan. You can even book a guided two-hour tour that takes your crew out to explore the Colorado River. Kayaking is also available at Inks Lake State Park, situated on the east edge of the Llano Uplift. Whether on water or trail, the park is considered the geologic heart of Texas and offers visitors incredible views.

If you prefer water adventures on bigger boats, book a Vanishing River Canyon Cruise and take in incredible views of waterfalls while checking out the local wildlife including blue herons, bobcats, and wild Spanish goats. Additional cruise options include Scenic Wilderness, Winery and Ghost Town of Old Bluffton.

On Land
Nearby opportunities for adventure, that your little explores will love, include the Longhorn Cavern State Park. This river-formed cavern takes visitors on a one and ¼ mile adventure underground where they’ll see bats and travel through Crystal City, an area of the cavern covered in calcite crystals. Tours last about one hour and 20 minutes and include jaw-dropping history lessons from knowledgeable, friendly and fun guides. Outside the cavern, a series of paths offer those who prefer to stay above ground the option to get a little hike in.

The bird lovers in the family won’t want to miss a trip to the Balcones Canyonland National Wildlife Refuge. Located between the Colorado and Brazos watersheds, the refuge is home to 245 bird species throughout the year. Here you may even catch a glimpse of the rare golden-cheeked warbler and the black-capped vireo. Even if you aren’t a birder, strolling through the rolling grasslands with its spring-fed creeks and ample Ashe juniper is rejuvenating and inspiring.

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The older adrenaline junkies can get their kicks on a UTV excursion at Hidden Falls Adventure Park, a 2100-acre family outdoor and off-road enthusiast adventure park. Those skilled at mountain biking, can get their thrills at Thunderbird Resort’s Spider Mountain Bike Park where a ski lift hauls bikers (and bikes) to the top of the mountain so they can race their way down the hillside.

Night Activities
The fun doesn’t stop when the sun goes down. At night, the Canyon of the Eagles Resort offers guided moonlight hikes that allow for encounters with the local nocturnal wildlife along with seriously exceptional stargazing (you’ll be shocked by how many stars dot the Texas night sky). If stargazing is high on your list of things to do, then you’ll want to head to the Eagle Eye Observatory located at 1,100 ft. Visitors will find modern telescopes with computer-enhanced imaging. And the observatory is staffed by astronomers eager to assist you in getting to know the night sky better. Observatory programs include the Twilight Program and the Dark Sky Program.

Of course, after you are done taking in the mysteries of the universe, you can head back to the resort for a beverage, live music or an outdoor flick. Bliss.

Eat

Texas knows how to please a palate, and your culinary adventures start right at the resort with the Overlook Restaurant. Offering guests panoramic views of the lake, you can take in picture-perfect sunrises and sunsets while enjoying breakfast, lunch and dinner. For breakfast, we suggest the Ancient Grain Power Bowl or Canyon Pancakes for the kiddos. For dinner, young appetites will love the spaghetti. For the more refined tastes, we suggest the wild boar.

While adventuring off the resort, we suggest you stop by the nearby, charming town of Marble Falls where you’ll not only find excellent eateries, but also an opportunity to go shopping. Don’t miss catching a bite at mom-owned Rae’s RBar & Grill in the historic downtown area. They offer everything from fried pickle spears (yum!) and fried Okra to pulled-pork tacos and an array of burgers. They even have a Little Buckaroos menu.

You can’t leave Texas without having some BBQ! Also located in Marble Falls, Opie’s is a BBQ lover’s paradise. Housed in a big shed-like building, you have your choice of meats to choose from including brisket, sausage, pork ribs, 1/2 chicken and more. Once you’ve picked your protein, sides like coleslaw, tater tot casserole and spicy corn are waiting. But leave room for dessert! You don’t want to miss out on one of the cobblers, the banana pudding or the brownies and cookies (we suggest one of each!). The River City Grill offers customers seafood options like jumbo Texas Gulf Shrimp, or order up a slow roasted prime rib. The kids will love the burger baskets and dessert.

Finally, don’t leave the Highland Lakes region without a stop at the Blue Bonnet Café. This diner-style restaurant is known for its happy hour (3 – 5 p.m. every day) when it serves customers pie! You can choose from 14 varieties, each fresh baked.

The Highland Lakes Region of Texas gives your family the opportunity to see the state’s unmatched natural beauty. From the scenic lakes and rivers to fields that burst into color (beginning with the Blue Bonnets in early spring, followed by a rainbow of color through summer months)—this is a getaway you’ll want to relive the minute you arrive home. this is the stuff lifelong family memories are made of.

—Annette Benedetti

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