Austin, Texas offers an abundance of kayaking destinations for paddlers who live nearby. With its spring-fed rivers, gently flowing streams, and wide flat water lakes, you will never run out of places to kayak, paddleboard, and even fish. Add this to the rolling hills and diverse flora and fauna, what you have is the perfect paddling destination that all nature-loving paddlers will love. Whether you’re going on a solo kayaking trip or bringing your family or friends along for an excursion, we have here for you our top ten picks for the best places to go kayaking in Austin.
1. Red Bud Isle
Red Bud Isle, a 13-acre island situated at the foot of Tom Miller Dam, is without a doubt one of the best spots in Austin to go kayaking. Paddling around the island will reward you with beautiful sights of towering cliffs and healthy wildlife populations. It’s also a good spot for fishing, making it a favored destination for kayak anglers.
The water is generally calm and slow around the island, but do be careful when paddling close to the dam since the current can be very strong in that particular area. Besides, be wary of unanticipated current downstream when the dam opens.
Red Bud Isle is also a great spot for dog-loving paddlers as it is a designated off-leash dog park. So if you love kayaking with your dog, then this is the place to be. Do note that parking here is pretty limited so you may want to come earlier than usual to secure a good parking space.
2. Zilker Park
Zilker Metropolitan Park is a pretty popular destination in Austin, TX. If you ever find yourself in Austin, this is one place you should definitely see. In Zilker Park, you’ll find a small waterway called Barton Creek which is one of the better spots to go kayaking in Austin. As an aside, there’s a shop there that rents out kayaks and canoes to visitors. The creek is fringed with trees and bushes, and if you’re lucky, you may come across some ducks or even a turtle sunbathing in the banks.
Besides, there’s a nice spot called Barking Springs, a dog swim area just outside Barton Springs Pool. So if you’re bringing your pooch along, be sure to stop by and let your dog enjoy a dip in the cool waters.
3. Inks Lake
The flat and calm waters of this 800-acre lake is a popular destination for paddlers. An hour away from Austin, the lake offers excellent paddling conditions for canoers, kayakers, and paddleboarders alike. Kayak anglers will also have a great time here since there is plenty of crappies, bass, and catfish under the water. Here’s a tip: if you’re planning to catch some white bass in February, be sure to head to the upper end of the reservoir. White bass usually congregates there during this time of the year to mate.
Be mindful when the water levels are down though. There are rocks and downed trees beneath the water’s surface which can damage your kayak or canoe’s hull if you’re not careful.
There are many other activities which you can enjoy when in Inks Lake. There’s a deep sinkhole called the Devil’s Waterhole which is good for swimming. There is also night paddling events during the summer season. There are also spots for water skiing and scuba diving. You don’t have to worry about motorboats and skis whizzing past your kayak or canoe since there is a dedicated “no wake zone” available for paddlers.
And if you’re too tired to take the one hour drive back home, there are accommodations available if you’d like to stay overnight. You can rent one of the over 20 cabins available near the park or reserve at least one of the 200 campsites if you want to get more up close and personal with nature.
4. Lake Bastrop
Lake Bastrop is an excellent destination for people who enjoy a host of various activities aside from paddling. Located an hour away from Austin, Lake Bastrop is surrounded by a charming pine forest and offers an excellent escape from the usually dry and rocky terrains of Texas.
The 900-acre lake is perfect for kayaking with your kids, and in recent years many folks have found the flat waters of the lake suitable for paddleboarding and skiing as well. Fishing is also available in the lake.
In fact, Lake Bastrop is considered the go-to place for many bass anglers. The lake is stocked with a variety of fish including Florida large-mouth bass, channel catfish, and flathead catfish. There are also crappies present in the lake, though they’re smaller in numbers compared to the other species of fish mentioned.
Also, because Lake Bastrop is a power plant cooling reservoir, the water temperatures in the lake are warmer than in other lakes. The warmer water temperature keeps the bass active even in the colder seasons like winter and early spring. However, during the summer months, the water may become too hot which may negatively impact your fishing success.
Aside from the water activities, the landscape surrounding the lake also offers a host of other activities for paddlers and their families and friends to enjoy. There are campsites and cabins available for rent, so whether you’re spending the night with a few close friends or the whole family for your clan reunion, you shouldn’t have a problem looking for accommodations. There are also trails around the lake which is perfect for hiking, trail running, and biking.
5. Texas Rowing Center
If you don’t have your own kayak, canoe, or paddleboard, or if you want to try these vessels before buying one for yourself, you can head to the Texas Rowing Center where you can rent stand-up paddleboards, kayaks, or canoes. The dock here provides a convenient access point to Lady Bird Lake, or you can simply stay close to the dock if you choose to.
From the dock, you can paddle upstream to Tom Miller Dam, or you can head downstream towards Longhorn Dam. The currents are rarely strong in this part of the lake, so it should make for an easy and relaxing paddle. There are also night paddling events where you can enjoy the scenic view of the Austin skyline under the starry Texas sky.
6. Lady Bird Lake
Lady Bird Lake, formerly known as Town Lake, is a 400-acre man-made reservoir located in the Colorado River. Situated within the city itself, this is the most popular place for kayaking and other paddling sports for the residents of Austin and neighboring areas. The lake is always bustling with paddlers, especially during the weekends. The lake is off-limits to powerboats, so kayakers, canoers, and paddleboarders enjoy the smooth and quiet waters of the lake to themselves.
When paddling along the lake, paddlers can enjoy the scenic and breathtaking views of the city skyline. Lady Bird Lake also has numerous hiking and biking trails near the rolling hillsides, lined with beautiful cypress, sycamore, and elm trees. These trees are also home to a wide variety of birds, squirrels, raccoons, and other wildlife in the area.
Also, there’s the Congress Avenue Bridge where bats can be spotted at dusk. If you find yourself still in the water during such hours, it pays to visit the bridge. Here you’ll witness the emergence of over 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats as they fly off in search of their evening meal. However, there are tours around this area that are also waiting to watch this spectacle so it may get pretty crowded.
7. Lake Austin
If you are looking for a less-crowded kayaking destination, then Lake Austin is the perfect spot for you. Located a few miles north on the Colorado River, this man-made lake is a more secluded (though still popular) weekend getaway for many water sport enthusiasts. Although motorboats are allowed in the lake, they are relatively few so you should still be able to enjoy a quiet day of paddling in the water.
A lake is also a great place for kayak fishing. There are large-mouth bass and catfish in the lake for those who plan to bring along their rod and reel. Along that line, if you are looking for bass, you would do well by concentrating your efforts in and along the edges of the weed beds that line the lake’s shorelines.
Just keep in mind that the majority of the shoreline is privately owned, so tread carefully and be respectful. Also, don’t forget to visit the Pennybacker Bridge for a sunset photo before turning your kayak in for the day.
8. Walter E. Long Lake
Walter E. Long Lake (or Decker Lake as it is also referred to) is a 1,200-acre reservoir known for its excellent paddling conditions. Located east of Austin and surrounded by the Walter E. Long Metropolitan Park, the lake also offers a vast expanse of space for biking, jogging, and even picnics. Canoe paddlers, kayakers, and paddleboarders alike can often be found here during both weekdays and weekends. And because of its proximity to the city of Austin, some paddlers often come here after work for a quick paddle.
Aside from paddling, Walter E. Long Lake is also a popular destination for kayak fishing. The lake is home to a variety of fish like large-mouth bass and hybrid striped bass which range from 5-10 pounds. There are also channel and flathead catfish available, though in low numbers. There is also a healthy population of bluegill and redbreast sunfish in the area.
9. Lake Travis
Regarded as one of the cleanest lakes in all of Texas, the pristine waters of Lake Travis is definitely one of the best places to go kayaking in Austin. Surrounded by picturesque hills, this winding reservoir located on the northwestern side of Austin is a favorite destination for many water sports enthusiasts. Aside from kayaking, visitors can also enjoy a host of other water activities like fishing, paddle boarding, and swimming. And if you don’t have your own kayak or canoe, there are shops there that rent out single or tandem kayaks.
Paddlers will definitely have a grand time exploring the many inlets and limestone cliffs of the reservoir. You can also visit the Sometimes Islands, a group of islands which used to be hilltops until the dams that created the lake were built.
The whole reservoir spans over 250 miles of shoreline, providing paddlers and guests with numerous beaches and camping facilities, as well as dozens of public boat access docks.
10. San Marcos River
Half an hour away from Austin is a popular kayaking destination known for its slow currents and class 1 and 2 rapids – the San Marcos River. Although it is more popular for tubing, the easy and consistent currents present a mildly challenging environment for canoe paddlers and kayakers who are bored of the usual flat water terrains and would like to try their paddling skills in moving waters.
But aside from the water itself, one of the major reasons why paddlers frequent the San Marcos River is its diverse wildlife. The tree-lined waterway is home to turtles and several species of fish. It is also common to see hawks and other types of birds hovering above the river or perched on the trees. Although the river is more apt for paddling than fishing, there are areas where trout and bass are available. If you’re planning to do some kayak angling, be sure to bring along your fishing gear.
Globo Surf Overview
If you’re looking for the best spots to go kayaking in Austin, then you won’t go wrong by paying a visit to the kayaking destinations mentioned above. Best of all, there are many other things that you, your family, and friends can enjoy doing in the said spots. Whether you’re planning a kayaking trip, a short paddleboarding expedition, or a relaxing day of fishing, these waterways in Austin offer the perfect place to satisfy your thirst for a paddling adventure.
More Kayak Reviews:
- Kayak Cart
- Touring Kayak
- Fishing Float Tube
- Kayak Trolling Motor
- Canoe Paddle
- Float Tube Fishing Tips
- Pelican Catch 120
- Kayaking In Georgia
- What To Wear Kayaking
- Ocean Kayak Frenzy