15 Best Places to Paddle Boarding in Austin, Texas
In this guide to the 15 best places for paddle boarding in Austin, we delve into diverse locales from the peaceful waters of Lady Bird Lake, providing a picturesque backdrop of the Austin skyline, to the charm of Secret Beach; each destination brings its own unique flavor to your paddle boarding experience.
1. Lady Bird Lake
For avid travelers and water sports enthusiasts, Lady Bird Lake is an absolute treasure. Nestled in the heart of the city, this spot is ideal for paddle boarders of every level. Glide over its tranquil waters and soak in the stunning cityscape, including Austin's skyline, the Congress Avenue Bridge, and the green expanse of Zilker Park.
But there's an added thrill – the lake is home to North America's largest urban bat colony, offering a spectacular natural show at dusk. Lady Bird Lake is also a welcoming haven for beginners and seasoned paddlers alike, making it an ideal family-friendly destination. Begin your aquatic adventure from various launching points like Auditorium Shores, Festival Beach, or Red Bud Isle, each promising a distinct view of Austin's vibrant life.
- Time to Get There from Austin: Just 5 to 15 minutes drive from downtown Austin, varying with traffic and your chosen launch point.
- Water Type: The lake features calm and flat freshwater, perfect for a smooth paddle boarding experience.
- Skills: Whether you're new to the sport or a pro, Lady Bird Lake caters to all skill levels.
- Launch Points: Options include Auditorium Shores, Festival Beach, or Red Bud Isle, offering various perspectives of the city.
- Amenities: Equipped with parking, restrooms, picnic areas, and more for a comfortable experience.
- Cost: Free to launch with your own board, or rent one for $20 to $25 per hour from local providers.
2. Lake Austin
Lake Austin, another splendid paddle boarding destination in Austin, offers a serene and picturesque setting for water enthusiasts. As a reservoir on the Colorado River, it's surrounded by lush hills, cliffs, and opulent mansions, providing a unique backdrop for paddle boarding. This lake is not just about the scenic paddle; it's a hub for various water activities like fishing, boating, and swimming.
Paddle boarding here allows you to immerse in the natural beauty and spot local wildlife like turtles, herons, and ducks. Attractions along the lake, such as the Pennybacker Bridge, Hula Hut, and Mayfield Park, add to the experience, allowing for delightful stops during your journey.
- Time to Get There from Austin: It takes about 15 to 30 minutes to get to Lake Austin from downtown Austin, depending on traffic and your starting point.
- Water Type: The lake is a freshwater reservoir, known for its calm and clear waters.
- Skill Level: Lake Austin is suitable for all skill levels, but it's especially appealing for intermediate and advanced paddlers who wish to explore more of the lake.
- Launch Points: You can start your paddle boarding adventure from various points like Walsh Landing, Loop 360 Boat Ramp, or Emma Long Park.
- Amenities: The lake is equipped with facilities such as parking, restrooms, picnic areas, trails, and boat ramps at select locations.
- Costs: Launching your own paddle board is free, but if you need to rent, costs range from $15 to $25 per hour. Rentals are available from Austin Paddle Shack, Rowing Dock, and Texas Rowing Center.
3. Barton Creek
Barton Creek is a great spot for adventurous paddle boarding in Austin. Flowing through the Barton Creek Greenbelt, it offers a dynamic experience with natural features like rapids, waterfalls, and caves. You'll be surrounded by beautiful scenery, including popular spots like Sculpture Falls and Twin Falls.
Here’s a quick guide for paddle boarding on Barton Creek:
- Time to get there from Austin: It takes about 15 to 30 minutes to get there by car, depending on where you start and the traffic.
- Water Type: Barton Creek is a freshwater creek that can be shallow and fast-flowing, especially after rainfall.
- Skill Level: This creek is best for those who are at an intermediate or advanced level in paddle boarding, as it involves navigating through rapids and rocks.
- Launch Points: You have several options for launch points, including Loop 360 Access, Spyglass Access, or Barton Springs Pool.
- Amenities: At some launch points, you'll find amenities like parking, restrooms, picnic areas, and trails.
4. Secret Beach
Located along the south shore of the Colorado River and near Roy G. Guerrero Park, Secret Beach is Austin's little-known spot ideal for paddle boarding enthusiasts. As you paddle along the river, you can enjoy the scenic views of Austin's skyline, the Montopolis Bridge, and the Riverside Golf Course.
A nearby island accessible from Secret Beach adds an element of adventure with a rope swing and treehouse. Visitors should be aware that Secret Beach doesn't function as an official park, so it lacks facilities like restrooms and food concessions. Accessing the beach requires a short hike of about half a mile from the parking area, so prepare for a bit of a walk with your paddle board.
- Time to get there: Expect a 15 to 20-minute drive, plus a half-mile hike from the parking area to the beach.
- Water type: The beach is situated along a river with shallow, calm waters, ideal for paddle boarding.
- Skills: Secret Beach welcomes paddle boarders of all levels, from beginners to families.
- Launch Points: You can start your paddle boarding adventure directly from Secret Beach or use the nearby boat ramp.
- Amenities: Secret Beach lacks facilities like restrooms or food vendors, so remember to pack essentials such as water, snacks, sunscreen, and trash bags.
- Costs: Launching your paddle board at Secret Beach is free.
5. Festival Beach
Festival Beach, nestled on the north shore of Lady Bird Lake near the Holly Power Plant, is a favored locale for a variety of festivals, events, and community activities, especially paddle boarding. The lake offers picturesque paddle boarding in Austin, showcasing views of the city's skyline, the Holly Power Plant, and Edward Rendon Sr. Park.
An additional charm is paddling beneath the I-35 bridge, where vivid murals and graffiti adorn the bridge pillars. The beach's facilities, including a boat ramp, dock, and ample parking, make it an ideal and easily accessible spot for paddle boarding enthusiasts. Options for launching include using the boat ramp or dock, and paddle boards are available for rent from Live Love Paddle or Texas Rowing Center.
- Time to get there from Austin: Approximately 10 to 15 minutes by car.
- Water type: Calm and flat freshwater lake.
- Skills: Ideal for all levels, particularly beginners and families seeking a city-close paddling experience.
- Launch point: Either the Festival Beach boat ramp or dock.
- Amenities: Includes parking, restrooms, picnic areas, playgrounds, trails, and a boat ramp.
- Cost: Launching your own paddle board is free; paddle board rentals range from $20 to $25 per hour at Live Love Paddle or Texas Rowing Center.
6. Congress Avenue Bridge
The Congress Avenue Bridge stands as a celebrated icon in Austin, famed for housing North America's largest urban bat colony. It comes to life every evening from March to October, when over a million bats take flight into the twilight, offering an awe-inspiring spectacle. Experiencing this from the water while paddle boarding in Austin, especially under the bridge, affords a unique perspective of the bats' emergence.
As you paddle board along Lady Bird Lake, take in the stunning views of Austin's downtown skyline, Auditorium Shores, and the Long Center. There are numerous launch points for your paddle board adventure, including Auditorium Shores, Festival Beach, and Red Bud Isle. For an enriched experience, consider joining a guided tour or a themed event like the 'Bat Paddle,' organized by local outfits such as Live Love Paddle or Rowing Dock. This activity is a must-do for anyone interested in paddle boarding in Austin and witnessing its famed bat spectacle.
- Time to get there from Austin: Approximately 5 to 15 minutes by car, varying with traffic and chosen launch point.
- Water type: Calm and flat freshwater lake.
- Skills: Ideal for all levels, particularly beginners and families interested in bat viewing.
- Launch point: Various along the lake, including Auditorium Shores, Festival Beach, and Red Bud Isle.
- Amenities: Parking, restrooms, picnic areas, playgrounds, trails, and a dog park at select locations.
- Cost: Free for launching your own paddle board; rentals range from $20 to $25 per hour at Live Love Paddle, Rowing Dock, and other companies.
7. Walter E. Long Lake
Walter E. Long Lake, also referred to as Decker Lake, is part of the Walter E. Long Metropolitan Park and lies along Decker Creek. Covering over 1,200 acres with depths up to 60 feet, the lake is a pleasant spot for activities like fishing, boating, water skiing, and paddle boarding in Austin. This charming spot in relaxed East Austin is comfortably uncrowded, and it's a favorite for SUP enthusiasts and their delightful dogs.
The lake's environment, with its rolling hills, a nearby power plant, and a golf course, provides a modest yet appealing setting for paddle boarding.
- Time to get there from Austin: 20 to 30 minutes by car.
- Water type: Deep and clear freshwater reservoir.
- Skills: Best suited for intermediate and advanced paddlers seeking a large, open lake experience.
- Launch point: Boat ramp or beach at Walter E. Long Metropolitan Park.
- Amenities: Includes parking, restrooms, picnic areas, trails, and a boat ramp.
- Cost: Park entry is $5 per vehicle. Launching your own paddle board is free, or rent one for $15 to $25 per hour from Austin Paddle Shack or Live Love Paddle.
8. Barton Springs Pool
Barton Springs Pool, a natural spring-fed oasis located in Zilker Park, is a celebrated attraction in Austin, particularly for its refreshing and crystal-clear waters at a consistent 68°F. As you paddle across the pool, you're enveloped by picturesque views of surrounding trees, rocks, and grassy areas, and may even glimpse aquatic wildlife like fish and turtles.
Interestingly, Barton Springs Pool transitions into a seasonal paddle boarding destination from October to March when it's closed for swimming. Paddle boarders can launch from the pool's south gate. Additionally, for those needing equipment, paddle board rentals are available from Rowing Dock or Texas Rowing Center, providing a distinct paddle boarding in Austin during these months.
- Time to get there from Austin: Roughly 10 to 15 minutes by car.
- Water type: Cold and clear freshwater spring.
- Skills: Ideal for all levels, particularly suited for beginners and families interested in paddling in a natural pool.
- Launch point: South gate of Barton Springs Pool.
- Amenities: Includes parking, restrooms, showers, changing rooms, and concessions.
- Cost: $Entry fee to the pool is $5 per person. Launching your own paddle board is free, or you can rent one for $20 to $25 per hour from Rowing Dock or Texas Rowing Center.
9. Snake Island
Snake Island, tucked away on Lady Bird Lake near the Tom Miller Dam, offers a secluded and natural setting ideal for paddle boarding in Austin. On the island, adventurers can find enticing features such as a rope swing, a fire pit, and a hammock, enhancing the sense of adventure.
However, the presence of snakes and the need for caution near the dam's currents and waves add an element of challenge and are worth noting for visitors. For access to Snake Island, paddle boarders can launch from various points around the lake, including Walsh Landing, Loop 360 Boat Ramp, or Emma Long Park. Additionally, paddle board rentals are available from Austin Paddle Shack, Rowing Dock, or Texas Rowing Center, suitable for those looking to explore this unique and adventurous paddle boarding spot.
- Time to get there from Austin: 15 to 30 minutes by car.
- Water type: Generally calm and flat freshwater lake, though with some turbulence near the dam.
- Skills: Best suited for intermediate to advanced paddlers seeking an island adventure.
- Launch point: Options include Walsh Landing, Loop 360 Boat Ramp, or Emma Long Park along the lake.
- Amenities: Availability of parking, restrooms, picnic areas, trails, and boat ramps varies by location.
- Cost: If you have your own paddle board, it's free. But if not, it costs $15 to $25 per hour to rent a paddle board from Austin Paddle Shack, Rowing Dock, or Texas Rowing Center.
10. Quarry Lake
Quarry Lake, located in Quarry Lake Business Park in Austin, is a small, private lake owned by Pure Austin Fitness. It was originally a rock quarry, and now offers paddle boarding and other recreational activities. The surroundings include cliffs, trees, and office buildings.
Activities like swimming, fishing, and relaxing on the lake are also available. However, Quarry Lake is not open to the general public; access is restricted to Pure Austin Fitness members and their guests. For paddle boarding in Austin, you can launch from the lake's beach or dock, and paddle board rentals are available through Pure Austin Fitness.
- Time to get there from Austin: Approximately 15 to 20 minutes by car.
- Water type: Calm and clear freshwater lake.
- Skills: Ideal for all levels, perfect for beginners and families seeking to paddle on a private lake.
- Launch point: Available at Quarry Lake beach or dock.
- Amenities: Parking, restrooms, showers, changing rooms, and concessions are offered at Pure Austin Fitness.
- Cost: A $25 daily access fee for guests of members, with free launch for personal paddle boards.
11. Lake Travis
As Austin's largest and deepest lake, Lake Travis, covering over 18,000 acres with depths up to 210 feet, is a reservoir on the Colorado River formed by the Mansfield Dam. It is well-known as a hub for water sports, including boating, jet skiing, wakeboarding, and of course - paddle boarding in Austin.
Paddlers on Lake Travis are treated to picturesque views of hills, islands, and mansions, and can explore attractions like Hippie Hollow, the Oasis, and Volente Beach.
While its beauty and diversity make it an appealing spot for paddle boarding, Lake Travis also presents challenges due to changing water levels, wind conditions, and boat traffic. Paddlers should be cautious of waves, wakes, and currents and should stay within a safe distance from the shore for an enjoyable paddle boarding experience.
- Time to get there from Austin: Between 30 to 60 minutes by car.
- Water type: Freshwater reservoir, deep and choppy.
- Skills: Best for intermediate and advanced paddlers looking for an experience on a large and varied lake.
- Launch point: Available at several spots around the lake, including Pace Bend Park, Mansfield Dam Park, or Volente Beach.
- Amenities: Many locations offer parking, restrooms, picnic areas, trails, boat ramps, and concessions.
- Cost: Entry to some parks costs between $10 to $15 per vehicle.
12. Spring Lake
Spring Lake, a natural spring-fed body of water located in San Marcos Springs near Texas State University, is the origin of the San Marcos River and one of North America's oldest continuously inhabited sites. As you glide over the lake's clear, blue waters, you can view underwater springs, diverse aquatic life, and archaeological sites.
The experience is enriched by educational insights from guides and informational signs about the lake's history and ecology. You can either launch your paddle board from the center's dock or participate in guided tours and special events like the Mermaid March Paddle or the Full Moon Paddle.
- Time to get there from Austin: Approximately 30 to 45 minutes by car.
- Water type: Cold and clear freshwater spring.
- Skills: Ideal for all levels, including beginners and families, keen on exploring a lake with historical and ecological significance.
- Launch point: Launch your paddle board from the Spring Lake dock, located at the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment.
- Cost: A fee of $15 per person for the Glass-Bottom Kayak Tours, covering paddle board rental, life jacket, paddle, and a guided tour.
13. Red Bud Isle
Nestled near the Tom Miller Dam on Lady Bird Lake, Red Bud Isle is a charming, small island in Austin known for its dog-friendly park atmosphere. It's a perfect spot for spending a day paddle boarding, swimming, and playing with your furry friends.
When you're on the waters, you might spot local wildlife like ducks, turtles, and fish. For those looking for a bit more adventure, paddling to the nearby Snake Island is an option, while Red Bud Isle offers a laid-back setting for paddle boarding in Austin.
- Time to get there from Austin: Typically 10 to 15 minutes by car.
- Water type: Freshwater lake, generally calm and flat, though with some variations near the dam.
- Skills: Ideal for all levels, including beginners and families, and great for those wanting to paddle with their dogs.
- Launch point: Available at the Red Bud Isle boat ramp or beach.
- Amenities: Includes parking, restrooms, picnic areas, trails, and a dedicated dog park.
- Cost: No charge for launching your own paddle board. Rental options range from $20 to $25 per hour at Rowing Dock or Texas Rowing Center.
14. Lake Georgetown
Surrounded by forests, hills, and cliffs, Lake Georgetown is a favored spot for fishing, camping, hiking, and especially paddle boarding. As you paddle board across Lake Georgetown, you can immerse yourself in nature, enjoying views of the local wildlife including deer, foxes, and eagles.
Along the way, attractions such as Crockett Gardens, Tejas Camp, and Cedar Breaks Park add to the experience. Despite its beauty, Lake Georgetown presents certain challenges for paddle boarding; it's known for its large, deep waters that can become windy and choppy, particularly in the afternoons. Paddlers need to be mindful of the wind, waves, and boat traffic, and staying close to the shore is advisable for safety.
- Time to get there from Austin: Nearly an hour by car.
- Water type: Deep and occasionally choppy freshwater reservoir.
- Skills: Best suited for intermediate and advanced paddlers seeking a scenic and tranquil lake experience.
- Launch point: Options include Jim Hogg Park, Russell Park, or Cedar Breaks Park along the lake.
- Amenities: Many spots offer parking, restrooms, picnic areas, trails, boat ramps, and campgrounds.
- Cost: Entry to some parks costs between $5 to $10 per vehicle.
15. Pace Bend Park
Pace Bend Park, located on a peninsula of Lake Travis near Austin, is a large park known for its extensive shoreline, which includes coves, cliffs, and beaches. It's a popular place for many outdoor activities like biking, hiking, and camping, and it's especially great for paddle boarding.
When paddle boarding in Austin, you can enjoy views of the hills, the lake, and nearby islands. The park has interesting spots like Mudd Cove, Gracy Cove, and Levi Cove, and you might even see wildlife such as deer and raccoons. Although it's a beautiful place for paddle boarding, Pace Bend Park is quite open, so sometimes the wind and waves can be strong.
- Time to get there from Austin: About 45 to 60 minutes by car.
- Water type: Deep freshwater lake with choppy conditions.
- Skills: Best for intermediate to advanced paddlers looking for a challenge on a large, varied lake.
- Launch point: Choose from several spots in the park, including Pace Bend Boat Ramp, Kate’s Cove, or Tatum Cove.
- Amenities: Offers parking, restrooms, picnic areas, trails, boat ramps, and campgrounds.
- Cost: Entry to the park costs $10 per vehicle. Launching your own paddle board is free, or rent one for $20 to $30 per hour from Viking Ship Kayak Rentals or Lakeway Marina.
Paddle Boarding Tours and Activities in Austin
For those looking to be fully immersed in paddle boarding Austin's journey, there's a variety of tours and activities provided by local experts and companies.
Below are some top picks to enhance your paddle boarding adventure:
- Live Love Paddle: They offer an impressive array of tours on Lady Bird Lake, including unique experiences like the sunset bat paddle tour, the full moon music paddle, and the skyline tour. Equipment such as paddle boards, paddles, life jackets, and lights are all provided.
- Austin Paddle Shack: Specializing in Lady Bird Lake adventures, they host tours like the bat paddle, skyline, sunset, and all-day tours, ensuring a comprehensive paddle boarding experience. All necessary gear, including paddle boards, paddles, life jackets, and lights, is available.
- The Meadows Center: Providing a variety of experiences on Spring Lake, including paddle boarding tours, glass-bottom boat tours, and snorkeling adventures. They guide their participants with everything needed for paddle boarding, including boards, paddles, life jackets, and expert guides.
With these locations, you can enrich your paddle boarding experience with unique and memorable adventures.
Paddle Boarding Adventures in Austin
Paddle boarding in Austin truly offers an enriching blend of aquatic fun, natural beauty, and urban scenery. Whether your interest lies in a serene glide, an exciting exploration, or a learning journey on the water, Austin's paddle boarding scene satisfies it all. It's time to pick up your paddle board, and set off for an unforgettable experience on the water. And for those in search of top-quality paddle boards, come to iROCKER – they're a great companion for enhancing your paddle boarding adventures.