Austin is wonderful, but it’s hot as hell in summer. Everyone knows this, but often forgets. Until June, when the Texas heat starts its simmer, we begin the ritual of searching out cool water spots. Every swimmer has their Austin favorite, many of which aren’t on this list because they’re either too secret, or because, well, every Top 10 has to stop somewhere. Regardless, this list will give you a sampling of the variety of swimming holes Central Texas has to offer.
1. Barton Springs Pool
Many reasons keep Barton Springs Pool on top of every Texas Swimming Holes list. Year-round 68-degree, clear water. Both deep diving and shallow kiddie areas. Grassy hills for sunbathing. Central location. You name it, this place has it. And everyone knows it, so get there early if you want a parking spot.
Open 5am-10pm. Admission: $3 for residents; $8 for non-residents. Closed 9am to 7pm on Thursdays for cleaning.
2. Deep Eddy Pool
If you’re looking for a traditional public pool experience in the heart of Austin, Deep Eddy is it. Having been around for 100 years, it’s the oldest public pool in Texas. Today, it’s a super popular swimming hole operated by the City of Austin and featuring lots of fun events throughout the summer. For instance, they’ve got Splash Party Movie Nights when they show films on an inflatable screen. Check their site or call for show times.
Open 8am to 9pm. Admission: $3.
3. Krause Springs
Like Barton Springs and other spots on this list, the water at Krause Springs is a constant 68 degrees and flows continuously from its source, even during the current Texas drought. But this is a private park outside the city, so it is slightly less crowded and is strictly maintained as a natural oasis. In addition to swimming, you can camp overnight, bring a boat, and enjoy other activities that are more difficult right in the city. The 40-minute drive from downtown to Spicewood is well worth it.
Admission: $7 for adults, $5 for kids.
4. Comal River
Because of the Comal, nearby New Braunfels is the epicenter for Texas tubing. If you’re in Austin in summer, or anywhere in Central Texas (or sadly, if you don’t even know what tubing is), tubing the Comal is something you simply must try. You can rent tubes or bring your own, and there are plenty of tube-shuttle options so you can park and enter the river on one end and get picked up on the other. You should know that this is a party place with herds of college drunkards, and recent rule changeshave re-allowed everyone to bring the beverage of their choice, generally as long as it’s not in glass. Whether it’s a good microbrew or water in your travel mug, you will have a great time floating the Comal.
Float from drop-off to pick-up usually lasts 2 hours. River entrance is free, but tube rentals and shuttles are in the $15-$20 range. Tip: Get a tube with a bottom! Your butt will thank you.
5. Hamilton Pool
A 40-minute drive from town takes you to another world at Hamilton Pool . It’s a preserve, not your average “park,” so conservation of the pristine watershed here is paramount, but the waterfall and cave steal the show. The water is nice and cool for swimming, but be sure to check their website for water quality, as sometimes after-rain pollution spoils the show.
Open 9am-6pm daily. Admission: $15 per vehicle. Reservations must be made in advance.
6. Hippie Hollow
Hippie Hollow is your best (and only) legal public clothing-optional option in Texas. Lots of rocky perches along the beautiful Lake Travis shoreline as well as raft parties make this place a fun spot for adults (only).
Admission: $15 per vehicle
7. Bob Wentz Park—Windy Point
Lounging with the kids by the shoreline, scuba diving, and windsurfing—especially windsurfing—all work perfectly at Windy Point . Although it is populated in summer, it’s a big park, so there’s plenty of parking and lots of space for everyone.
Admission: $10 per vehicle.
8. San Marcos River
If you want to try snorkeling in the middle of Texas, this would be the place. The San Marcos River , including its headwaters at Spring Lake , has a long history as one of the state’s most treasured rivers. It’s great for paddling, including some whitewater after a good rain, but when the water’s moving slower, it’s definitely a top swimming destination, with lots of holes to find.
9. Jacob’s Well
A quintessential example of Central Texas aquifer and spring formations, Jacob’s Well Natural Area gives visitors the unique opportunity to swim directly in an artesian spring. About 40 minutes from Austin, outside Wimberly, it’s close enough but far out too. The spring’s cool, clear water surrounded by rock ledges and lots of trees represent what all Texas swimming holes used to be, and should be. Read more about it and reserve a swim slot before you go; wwimming is allowed by reservation only from May 1 – September 30, with the rest of the year being set aside as an aquatic restoration period to keep this location pristine.
Open 8am-6pm. RESERVATION REQUIRED (see above). Admission is $9 for adults, $5 for seniors and Hays County residents, free for children.
10. Inks Lake
If you want to get out of town a little farther, and prefer to dodge the tubing crowd south of Austin, head northwest to Inks Lake . Here you’ll find more of a rural Texan lake culture. A little quieter, slower, not quite as cosmopolitan, and still plenty of fun. Rent boats, swim, fish and even take a winery tour at nearby Fall Creek Vineyards while you’re in the area.