Beautiful Austin, with its Hill Country setting and much-lauded love of the outdoors, is no shortage to lake life–thanks in large part to just how many beautiful lakes in Austin that there are!
Whether you’re looking for a place to enjoy a day of boating, soak skyline views from a SUP board, go for a swim, take a stroll along the water, or watch a sunset, one (or more) of the Austin lakes is ready to welcome you.
We’ve rounded up the most popular lakes in Austin to visit below, as well as some of the nearby lakes that make popular day trips from Austin.
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Beautiful Lakes in Austin, TX
Lady Bird Lake
Many of the best lakes in Austin and the surrounding areas are actually large reservoirs that are part of the Texas Highland Lake system, and that includes iconic Lady Bird Lake.
Located smack dab in the center of Austin, Lady Bird Lake (originally known as–or if you ask the occasional stubborn Austinite, still known as–Town Lake) began as a cooling pond for Austin’s new city power plant in 1960.
Scattered all around the lake are local businesses that will rent you all the equipment you need to canoe, stand-up paddleboard, or, if a more relaxing activity is more your style, innertubes are available to float your afternoon away.
As an added bonus, start or end your day at Austin’s Hike and Bike trails that run along (and across) the lower portion of Lady Bird Lake.
While you traverse the 10 miles of a combination of a dirt trail and paved pathways, take in the views of Austin’s diverse city skyline.
And before you end your day, be sure to check out the southernmost leg of the trail, where you’ll find the famous Congress Street Bridge.
This bridge is home to over a million Mexican free-tailed bats, and you can catch them heading out for dinner around sunset just about every night between March and October.
Only a hop, skip, and a jump from the center of the city you’ll find the beautiful Lake Austin.
If you’ve visited Mount Bonnell, Lake Austin is the body of water that you admired from above.
Just 20 minutes from downtown, this beautiful body of water is known for the high cliffs along its shoreline, resulting in a natural barrier from the wind for any of your boating activities.
There are multiple access points to Lake Austin, and two of the most popular are those at (or rather under) the beautiful architecture that is the Pennybacker Bridge, along 360 or Emma Long Park, which also offers campsites and picnic and grill spaces.
Forgot your boat? Not a problem when you can rent from one of many local establishments you’ll find on the way.
Heading to the water for a special occasion? Check out one of Austin’s Famous “Party Barges” for yourself and a large group of friends.
Onboard you can enjoy dinner, drinks, and music while you float down the lake and take in the views of some of Austin’s most lavish private homes (carefully situated at the tops of the cliffs, of course). Maybe you’ll even catch a local celebrity or two!
And in case you miss the party barge when it sets sail, you still have plenty of opportunities to sample Austin’s local fare.
Along Lake Austin’s shore, you’ll find a plethora of restaurants to choose from.
Whether it be Tex-Mex, a coffee house, pub fare and so much more, you’re sure to find something for everyone in your group.
Lake Walter E. Long
One of the best-kept secrets in Austin (for now), Lake Walter E. Long is located 20 minutes east of the city center.
Lake Walter Long is well known by the local anglers for its abundance of freshwater fish including largemouth bass and catfish.
You’ll even find a bait shop at the entrance of Walter E. Long park, so top in and restock your tackle box.
While the lake is most popular for boating and fish, the park surrounding this beautiful lake allows for hiking, picnicking, and wildlife watching.
And if you have any little ones in your group, make sure you stop by the splash pad and playground area, located at the front entrance to the park.
Many refer to Lake Travis as the “Crown Jewel” of the Highland Lakes chain, and it is indisputably among the most iconic of these Austin lakes.
It’s the longest of the lakes in Austin, and covers 65 miles and beginning in Western Travis County, and stretching outside of Austin, just past the charming town of Marble Falls.
For the day-trippers, you can visit one of the whopping 17 parks along the shores of Lake Travis.
Windy Point, the most popular of these parks, offers beautiful camping grounds and bathrooms and showers, so you’re not completely “roughing it”.
Another major draw to Windy Point is that it’s become known as a major diving spot on Lake Travis.
This massive underwater canyon can reach depths of 100 feet but offers several levels to explore, depending on your comfort level.
And, for those feeling more adventurous, check out Hippie Hollow for nude sunbathing or ziplining at one of the local proprietors found near the lake.
Last but not least is the fishing scene on Lake Travis, which is home to a variety of freshwater fish including catfish, sunfish, and different types of bass like Largemouth, Guadalupe, and White.
Keep what you catch and take it back to your campsite for dinner!
Fun Lakes Near Austin, TX
Lake Marble Falls
Lake Marble Falls is located a little over an hour’s drive northwest of the center of Austin, nestled in the stunning Texas Hill Country.
At the bottom of the lake, you’ll find the falls which the little town was named for.
The “marble” is actually a layer of limestone that is a dark blue and has the hard characteristics of its namesake.
While it may be the smallest lake in the chain of the Highland Lakes, you’ll find the list of things to do in the area is anything but.
Located in the small town of Marble Falls, this lake is worth the short trip out of town and is a popular destination for boaters, skiers, and stand-up paddleboarders.
Ever thought about giving wakeboarding a try?
This increasingly popular water sport has made its way to Lake Travis, and you’ll find plenty of folks riding boat waves across the water.
The town of Marble Falls has no shortage of accommodations that include RV Parks, bed & breakfast inns, motels, and cabins available for rent.
While you’re in town, check out historic Main Street, which is chock full of wineries, antique shops, and a wealth of unique shopping for local wares.
Located 45 miles south of Austin, just off I-35, Canyon Lake provides you with more than plenty of activities for all ages.
This lake is known as one of the deepest in the state of Texas and with its 80 miles of shoreline, you’ll have plenty of room to stretch your legs.
Multiple public parks around Canyon Lake provide access to all of your favorite fun-in-the-sun activities like fishing and swimming.
Because Canyon Lake is fed by the Guadalupe River, this makes it the perfect spot to enjoy a relaxing float downstream.
With a slow water flow, you’ll have more than enough time to check out the breath-taking scenery along the shores of the river.
Be sure to snag an extra tube to hold your ice chest for drinks and snacks!
Are you looking for something a little off the beaten path? Head over to the Heritage Museum of the Texas Hill Country.
Here you can take a guided tour of over 300, perfectly preserved dinosaur tracks that date back to the Cretaceous period.
On the tour, your guide will provide you with the history of the site, explain the different species of dinosaurs found at the site, and the geology of the area.
Before you leave the area, you’ll definitely want to check out Inks Lake, just an hour outside of Austin in the Hill Country.
The second of the Highland Lakes, Inks Lake maintains a constant level of water, making this a great choice for year-round outdoor entertainment.
From scuba diving, water skiing, and swimming, you’ll find that there is no shortage of water-based activities here.
One of the most favored spots along the lake is Devil’s Hole.
Here, the extremely brave visitors can dive off the tops of giant boulders into the cool, clear water, and relax on the calm shores.
Devil’s Hole is plenty deep, and you’ll need a floatation device if you want to hang around to observe the cliff jumpers. And don’t forget your water shoes, as the terrain around the lake can be rough on bare feet.
Like virtually all of the best lakes near Austin, around Inks Lake you’ll find campsites, outdoor picnic areas, and even an area to take in a game of volleyball.
And should you feel like taking your plans off of the water, you may want to explore almost 10 miles of trails for hiking, backpacking, and geocaching in Inks Lake State Park.
Texas wildflowers dot the trails and you’ll find panoramic views of the Hill Country.
Several points of interest along the route include a top-notch bird blind to observe our feathered friends without disruption, the Valley Spring Creek Waterfall, a popular fishing spot known as Stumpy Hollow, and finally, a 1000ft overlook of Inks Lake and the surrounding area.