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What better way to spend a beautifully warm day in Texas than out on the water? From picturesque beaches to shimmering lakes and natural spring waters ideal for snorkeling, Texas is full of hidden natural gems. On your next visit to the Lone Star State, be sure to consider these top outdoor spots for great water activities.
North of Wimberley, just 40 minutes from Austin, you’ll find the 30-foot-deep artesian spring known as Jacob’s Well that’s considered one of the best natural wonders in Texas. The spring’s cool, clear water surrounded by rock ledges and an abundance of trees, represents what all Texas swimming holes used to be, but are hard to find these days. It’s also a popular spot for divers, but only by permit for research. Its various chambers holding natural wonders like bioluminescent algae and unique limestone patterns. With false exits and fine silt that can cloud vision, it’s potentially rather dangerous too, with a number of divers losing their lives exploring the caverns below, so if plan to dive here, be sure to proceed with caution.
With centuries-old cypress trees draped in Spanish moss, at Caddo Lake, you might think you’re in a Louisiana bayou. There are few lakes as enveloping as this one, with its pristine water boasting top-notch fishing and full of wildlife, including alligators, river otters, mink, wood storks, owls, eagles and great blue herons. This getaway offers the chance to paddle through the waters in a swamp boat or enjoy hiking and biking on land. Caddo Lake State Park in Karnack offers camping and cabins along with kayak and canoe rentals.
This freshwater lake in North Texas is popular with Dallas watersport enthusiasts, offering visitors a variety of activities on the water, including fishing, swimming, water skiing, jet skiing, sailing, sailboarding, and more. One of the largest lakes in the state, it spans 29,000 acres and boasts some 233 miles of shoreline. It’s set inside Lewisville Recreational Park which also offers picnic areas, an 18-hole golf course, campgrounds and hiking, and biking trails.
The Blue Lagoon is a swimmer, and even a snorkeler’s paradise, with extraordinarily clear blue spring-fed waters lined with limestone rocks and towering pine trees. There is arguably nothing more inviting than a refreshing dip in a huge pool of cool swimming pool-like waters on a hot, humid summer day. If you’ve always wanted to dive, this is an ideal place to learn to dive or to just experience diving in a tropical environment outside of the tropics.
South Padre Island is popular with spring breakers for partying as well as snowbirds in the winter who are looking for a budget-friendly beach vacation, both short- and long-term. The island is not only jam-packed with bars for partygoers, but it’s renowned for hosting 35 miles of gorgeous white sands, and for the wide variety of water sports available to enjoy almost year-round. Whether you’re a fishing enthusiast looking for that big catch, a nature lover who wants to enjoy personal encounters with sea turtles and dolphins, or a thrill-seeker, you’ll find it here. Everything from sailing, kiteboarding, and paddleboarding to kayaking, jet-skiing, snorkeling, and diving can be experienced here. At Pirates Landing Fishing Pier, the longest pier in Texas, you’ll see fishermen 24 hours a day and one of them always seems to have a fish on the line.
The Highland Lakes is a chain of lakes on the Colorado River just north of Austin, and are considered some of the most popular destinations for water sports in all of Texas. Their crystal clear waters even offer good enough visibility for diving and snorkeling, while avid paddlers – kayak or canoe – can enjoy scenic paddling on any of them. You can choose from a number of rental companies and river guides, depending on which waterway you want to explore. Or, spend a relaxing day fishing at any one of the lakes – if your goal is to snag a trophy fish, fishing guides can be hired to help you navigate the best fishing spots. A variety of motorized watercraft is also available for rent, and camping can be enjoyed throughout the region, including Big Chief on Lake Buchanan.
Created in 1941, Lake Travis is more than 60 miles long and snakes through the scenic Texas Hill Country. Its clear waters, scenic surroundings, and close proximity to Austin have made it one of the most popular lakes for watersports, particularly recreational boaters. Rent a boat, wave runner, party barge, or other watercraft, and afterward, be sure to catch the fiery sunset from the Oasis, which overlooks the lake. If you’re looking for a shot of adrenaline after a lazy day of fishing, a zipline tour is sure to fit the bill. Lake Travis Zipline Adventures offers a tour that launches from a 20-story cliff, utilizing five zip lines that whiz across canyons and inlets on Lake Travis, ending on a pristine beach.
The 21,000-acre Lake Conroe lies just an hour north of downtown Houston. With its easy access from the nation’s fourth-largest city, Conroe is one of the busiest lakes in the state when it comes to recreational boating traffic. It offers an abundance of activities out on the water, including fishing, sailing, swimming, waterskiing, jet skiing, and pleasure boating, with boating the No. 1 activity and the primary reason for a visit. When you’re ready for a break on land, hiking and golfing can be enjoyed too. You’ll find a myriad of accommodation options in the area catering to all of the visitors that come to enjoy this popular lake, from campgrounds and RV parks to hotels and resorts.
While Galveston offers little in the way of pristine white sand beaches, it does offer some rowdy beach parties for all sorts of entertainment as well as amusement at the Pleasure Pier and Schlitterbahn Waterpark, along with a wide variety of recreational activities on the water. Stand-up paddleboarding is becoming increasingly popular as one of the country’s hottest water sports, it takes little skill and no experience is required, though you can take lessons here through the Galveston Paddleboard Center. Other opportunities include parasailing, where you’ll have the chance to watch dolphins while zipping through the harbor out to the Gulf, as well as kayaking. There are three marked trails that range from 2.6- to 4.8-miles at Galveston Island State Park, known for its calm waters that are ideal for paddling.
Formed by damming the cool, clear waters of the Guadalupe River near New Braunfels, Canyon Lake is a popular destination for boaters, jet skiers, water skiers, fishing enthusiasts, and more. It hosts 80 miles of scenic shoreline and covers more than an 8,200-acre surface area. One of the deepest lakes in the state, it has an average depth of 43 feet and is famous for outstanding fishing, particularly for largemouth bass, white and striped bass, and catfish, with a number of record fish caught here. Right below the Canyon Dam, visitors can go tubing down the Guadalupe River. There are also eight public parks along the shoreline, each offering picnic areas, boat ramps, and campsites.
Corpus Christi hosts numerous tourist attractions along with beautiful Gulf Coast beaches and the opportunity for a wide array of water sports. With average wind speeds of 18 miles per hour, is especially renowned for kiteboarding and windsurfing, though it’s popular with kayakers thanks to its paddling trails and diverse water conditions, and it’s great sailing too, home to the deepest bay in Texas. Corpus Christi Marina offers sightseeing boats, sailing lessons, and fishing charters, along with a smattering of restaurants.