After sweating and suffering through many Texas summers without a pool, I’ve decided this is the year I fully embrace playing in creeks, lakes and water holes around the city. I’ve been intimidated by the idea of being in charge of soaking wet kids, the amount of gear I need to pack up each time, and not knowing the family-friendly spots to go, but I’m doing my research and preparing for a water-filled summer.
Here are the best water spots, creeks, and swimming holes in the Austin area — and some tips on how to have the most fun while you’re there.
Blue Hole Georgetown: With a little waterfall and views of limestone cliffs all around, this spot on the San Gabriel River is a picturesque family outing not far from Georgetown’s main square. There’s an area for wading and plenty of space for swimming or floating.
Lake Pflugerville: This little lake has about 100 yards of sandy beach and beautiful blue water just a short walk from the parking lot. Besides two covered picnic tables, there is no shade here, so pack the sunblock and hats.
Emma Long: Ask long-time Austinites for their favorite water holes, and Emma Long is sure to come up. There’s a sandy beach, or you can find a more secluded spot along the water bank and spend a whole day here. Reservations required Friday through Sunday.
Lakeway City Park: Load up your floaties and take the short walk from the parking lot to the lake access at Lakeway City Park. The water is cool, and there’s a choice of the dirt entrance to the left or the rocky entrance to the right.
Barton Springs Pool: These three acres of cool water (around 70 degrees year-round) in the middle of Zilker Park are a well-known Austin landmark. Take a dip and relax on the grassy shores. Reservations required this summer.
McKinney Falls State Park: Jump from the rocks into the water below at the Upper Falls, or bring a chair and relax at the Lower Falls at this state park in city limits.
Places to find creeks to play in: Bull Creek District Park, Barton Creek Green Belt, Walnut Creek Metro Park, Gus Fruh Park, Mary Moore Searight Park, Brushy Creek Park, Pfluger Park, Roy G. Guerrero Colorado River Metro Park.
Tips From Veteran Moms about Swimming Holes
I asked moms on Instagram and Facebook for all their best tips and supplies for playing in swimming holes this summer, and here’s a roundup of what they said.
- Water shoes are a great investment each summer, so you don’t have to worry about stinky sneakers or kids stepping on anything dangerous. I went with Keens for all of us, which are pricier but are good for hiking. Other recommendations I got included Crocs, Natives, and Tevas.
- Buy a waterproof phone case or bag to hang around your neck. Nothing ruins your time in the water like rushing home to put your phone in a bag of rice.
- If you’re going to a sandy beach, a couple gallon jugs of tap water in your car can help keep the sand outside even if the park doesn’t have showers. Rinse off legs and shoes before you get in the car to go home.
- Bring a change of clothes and a wet bag in the car whenever you might find water to play in. You’ll keep your car seats and normal bags dry on the way home.
- Rash guards and some sort of quick-dry shorts (swim shorts, trunks or nylon shorts) help keep things simple and everyone comfortable.
- Don’t forget the travel potty for younger kids who can’t hold it as well!
- Bright swimsuits help you spot your kids if they slip under the water or even if they just roam too far.
- Pay attention to water quality. Clear, flowing water is the safest to play in, and you can check if water-quality tests have been performed before you go. Always wash hands before eating, and avoid getting water in your mouth.
So pack your go bag, pick a spot, and I’ll see you in the water this summer!