Driving from Dallas to Austin generally means plenty of standard highway views as you make your way through from North Texas to the northern corner of the Hill Country–but with a little planning, you’ll find that there are more beautiful things to see between the two cities, from waterfalls to small towns to wildflowers and beyond than you might think!
If you’re planning a Dallas to Austin drive (this guide also works if you’re driving from Austin to Dallas), here’s how to make a fun, if quick, road trip out of the day!
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What’s the Dallas to Austin drive like?
The most direct route to drive between Dallas and Austin takes place mostly along I-35–which means that the views will generally be far from scenic, but there are plenty of fun Austin/Dallas road trip stops lurking just out of sight along the roughly 200-mile route.
If you opt for the backroads to try to avoid the least scenic spots, you’ll generally add a bit of extra time to your road trip, but be rewarded with sprawling country views and some charming small towns to drive through.
How long does it take to drive from Dallas to Austin?
In theory, it takes about 3 hours to drive from Dallas to Austin.
However, traffic can heavily influence your Dallas to Austin drive time, and fellow Texans will recognize this route along I-35 as one that is absolutely notorious for construction backups (over the years, places like Waco, Hillsboro, and Temple have all been known for their backups).
We highly recommend avoiding rush hour when driving from Austin to Dallas or vice versa.
Where to Stop When Driving From Dallas to Austin
Believe it or not, this list of road trip stops between Dallas and Austin is far from complete!
Just off the top of my head, you could also add a quick stop in Italy, Texas (just to say you’ve been there!), time in Hillsboro, a very quick stop in Jarrell, and a visit to Temple to this list.
A handful of the stops detailed below could be added to an ambitious one-day drive from Dallas to Austin, or if you’d like to extend the trip, you could also easily break up the drive by spending a night in Waco.
Located just south of Dallas, the historic center of Waxahachie is a fantastic place to stretch your legs during a road trip–and if you’re visiting in the summer, it’s also a great place to pick peaches!
Don’t miss the magnificent courthouse while you’re there, either.
Known for its Czech history and delicious kolaches, the tiny town of West, Texas is a favorite stop when driving from Dallas to Austin.
Two of the most popular bakeries–the Little Czech Bakery and Slovacek’s–are housed in gas stations on opposite sides of I-35.
The best way to determine who has the best kolaches and klobasniky?
Try both, of course!
Without a doubt, Waco is the Dallas to Austin road trip stop that can take up the most time if you let it–there’s just so much to do!
Consider stopping to shop at the Magnolia Market at the Silos, visiting Wooly Mammoth National Monument, checking out the Dr. Pepper Museum, or exploring the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame when passing through Waco.
Lurking just off of I-35, it would be easy to pass through Belton without ever knowing what a delightful town center is located just off the highway.
While you’re there, wander through the courthouse square, grab lunch with a view at the Gin at Nolan Creek (or one of the other restaurants in the complex), visit the oldest department store in Texas, and–my personal favorite–visit Chalk Ridge Falls Park to admire one of the prettiest waterfalls in Texas.
Known for its local artists (don’t miss Salado Glassworks!), many galleries and restaurants, and picturesque location along Salado Creek, the town of Salado makes a delightful road trip stop between Austin and Dallas.
This small city north of Austin is being increasingly absorbed by the capital–but Georgetown still maintains an aura all its own, and is full of cool sights.
Some of the best things to do in Georgetown include visiting Inner Space Cavern, touring the historic courthouse, strolling around the “most beautiful town square in Texas”, and in the summer, going for a dip in the Blue Hole (and yes–that’s a different Blue Hole than the one in Wimberley!).
Home to the legendary Round Rock Donuts, a visit to Round Rock is well worth a stop when driving from Dallas to Austin for the sugar fix alone!
Beyond the donuts, though, consider also exploring downtown Round Rock, visiting Old Settlers Park to stretch your legs, or tracking down Sam Bass’ grave while in town.
Alternate Routes to Drive From Austin to Dallas
Less concerned with taking the most direct route from Dallas to Austin than with sightseeing along the way?
Consider one of these more scenic routes below!
Eastern Route Via I-45 and I-35
By starting your drive from Dallas to Austin (or vice versa) via I-45, you’ll have a chance to pass through Ennis, famous for its Bluebonnet Trails, and Corsicana, Texas’ first oil boomtown and a beautiful, historic small city that is well worth exploring.
Your time would be well-spent in either or both cities–and if you happen to be driving from Austin to Dallas during bluebonnet season, you should absolutely take this route if you have the time (it only adds an extra 30 minutes or so).
Western Route Via US-67 and US-281
Without a doubt, this winding route between Dallas and Austin qualifies as the scenic route!
By trading interstates for US Highways, you’ll experience smaller roads and less traffic along the way.
Great stops on this route include Glen Rose (and nearby Dinosaur Valley State Park), as well as the small town of Lampasas (don’t miss the burger at Storm’s Drive-In!) and nearby Colorado Bend State Park, home to the gorgeous 70-foot Gorman Falls.
This is the longest drive between Austina and Dallas included here, taking roughly 1 hour, or 40 miles, longer than the most direct I-35 route.
Tips for Driving From Dallas to Austin
Make at least one stop along the way.
There truly is so much to see when driving from Dallas to Austin that it would be a shame not to enjoy at least one stop!
If you’re very short on time, kolaches in West or donuts in Round Rock are both easy additions.
For easy-to-access nature, I’m personally partial to Chalk Ridge Falls Park.
For a fun road trip photo-op that doesn’t take much time to see, the Old Jarrell Gas Station is perfect.
Avoid rush hour if you can.
I mentioned this above, but as someone who has spent a shocking number of hours sitting in traffic on I-35 between Austin and Dallas, I can’t help but repeat myself.
Traffic can be extremely heavy on this route, especially if you stay on I-35 the whole time.
The more you can avoid driving at peak times, the better!
There’s a Buc-ee’s in Temple.
Because there’s a chance that every Texas road trip, no matter how short, might require a Buc-ee’s.