Summer is here in the Texas hill country. The green foliage, blooming flowers, and occasional buzzing bee have us excited for the season and all that it encompasses.
Some people find the heat in this part of the country oppressive, but I say, “bring it on!”. The sun is admittedly hot. It only makes the libations taste colder, the water feel more refreshing, and the sweet relief of a late-setting Texas sun all the more fulfilling. The cleansing sweat, beading on our foreheads, is just what the doctor ordered to make other indulgences seem less like a study in gluttony and more of a well deserved refreshment.
What better way can there be to get out and enjoy all of the sunshine and picturesque vistas than a tour of natural watering holes, and the man-made “watering holes” surrounding them? So carve out an afternoon for yourself and try one of my suggested outings. Just be sure to bring along someone that you like, love, or find marginally tolerable, your perfect summer playlist, and a picnic basket (with wine canteen;).
**Note: glass bottles and public display of consumption is prohibited at these parks so bring an alternate container for the wine you take in. *Also, remember: If you pack it in, Pack it out. Don’t mess with Texas. Littering is unlAWFUL. etc…
First Outing: Hamilton Pool
I have encountered too many Austinites that have yet to visit this beautiful preserve, and it boggles my fa-reak-ing mind.
GO. Just GO. You won’t be sorry. Admission: $10 per car. Call ahead to inquire about swimming conditions.
For this outing, I will only suggest one winery visit to maximize the time spent at the park. Go to Westcave Cellars. It’s just a little farther down Hamilton Pool road. (If you are coming from Austin) continue down past the preserve, and the winery will be on your left. Spend some time visiting with the tasting room staff and pick out a bottle or two. I might suggest the Malvasia Bianca or the White Merlot for something that will stand up to a hot summer day. Now head to the spectacular formation that is Hamilton Pool. Lounge on the rocky beach while enjoying your favorite picnic foods. Explore the fern riddled rock formations and take in the trickling waterfall that rains into the glacier-blue water.
On your way back into Austin, stop at Verdes for some more refreshment on the patio and the best queso around. Order some Bell Springs wine, or a tasty margarita. You’ve earned it.
Second Outing: Pedernales Falls State Park
On your way out to the park, take the scenic route that is fitzhugh rd. Stop in at the Texas Hill Country Olive Company and taste some wines from many of the area wineries. Especially be sure to try those coming from Lewis Wines. They are brand new and don’t yet have their own dedicated tasting room, but I have heard great things from those who have tried their offerings. Afterwards, hang a left and visit us here at Bell Springs winery. If it’s a Saturday, Grab a brie burger or whatever appeals to you from our menu, and enjoy a glass of wine on our shady patio, before continuing on to the falls. There, you can take advantage of the various hiking trails and waterfall observation area. Then take yourself over to the designated swimming area to bask in the sun on the crushed granite beach and float in the Pedernales river. If you’re feeling even more adventurous bring your tent to the park and work in a visit to Texas Hills Vineyard in Johnson City. It’s about 15 minutes away and on the same road. Drink enough wine and you won’t even notice that you’re sleeping on the ground.
Third Outing: Blue Hole (Wimberley)
From Austin, take RR12 towards Driftwood. there are several wineries in that area, but for our purposes I recommend that you stop in at Wimberley Valley Winery. In the summertime they blend up ice, blush wine, and lemonade. They garnish this with an umbrella, and it is a perfectly delightful and whimsical beverage on a hot day. The kind of drink that just makes you smile. Do a tasting, grab a wine slushy, and go have a chat with the mini donkeys out front.
From there it is a short drive to the Blue Hole. With its well manicured lawns and ever-so-popular rope swing, it’s a wonderful place to bask in the sun. Lie on the banks of cypress creek, take occasional dips in the cool spring-fed waters, and watch the local teens show off on the swing. After a while you should probably show them how it’s REALLY done.
On your way back out of Wimberley stop at the Leaning Pear for some locally sourced, farm-fresh-fare, or trot on over to the salt lick for some bbq.
Last Outing: Krause Springs
From Austin: get on 71 towards Spicewood/Marble Falls. On your way out to the springs, stop in to Spicewood Vineyards (on the left,) for a tasting and to look around at the vines and beautiful property. If they have something that fits your fancy then you’re done. Continue on to the springs. If you are still looking, then Stop at Stonehouse Vineyard. Or just stop there anyway. Seriously,The sun doesn’t set until almost 9pm. You have time.
The vineyard and tasting room is situated on a flat piece of land that abuts Lake Travis. Yes, I know, I said butt. The champagne here is pretty awesome and you should probably walk away with a bottle. Continue on to the springs. You will turn off of the highway at Opies bbq and then follow the signs. Here you will find what looks like the live-action equivalent to Fern Gully. I once heard a little girl express that exact sentiment while I was there, and could not agree more. Enjoy the garden, the upper pool, and the natural pool that is fed by 32 cold springs. Swim under the waterfall and jump off of the rock for me while you’re there.
When you have OD’d on all of that vitamin D and are feeling that special hunger that only comes from a good swim, stop into Opie’s for some bar-b-que or go to Angels Ice House on the way back into Austin. Best fried pickle and jalepeno basket EVER. The rest of the food is pretty good too.