Paddle Boarding in Austin
Delicious barbecue, live music, and a “stay weird” mentality aren’t the only things Austin, Texas is known for. Believe it or not, Austin is also known for its natural beauty and water sports.
Despite Austin being a city, it offers a plethora of fun outdoor activities for residents and visitors alike. In fact, Austin is a great place for water sports of all kinds. From kayaking on Lady Bird Lake to tubing down the Guadalupe River, Austin offers a wide variety of water sports for all ages. Today, one of the most popular water sports in Austin is stand up paddle boarding.
The Colorado River carves its way through Texas, creating a handful of calm lakes, creeks and rivers that are ideal for paddle boarding. If you find yourself in Austin, it is highly recommended that you bring your stand up paddle board or rent one at the many local paddle board rental spots.
Best Places to Paddle Board in Austin
1. Lady Bird Lake
The most popular place to stand up paddle board in Austin is Lady Bird Lake. This 468-acre reservoir on the Colorado River allows you to paddle into the heart of Austin’s downtown. From your paddle board, you can enjoy the view of the Austin skyline as you glide under the Congress Avenue Bridge. Experiencing the city of Austin from your paddle board will give you a unique perspective of the city.
The water conditions are perfect for beginners on Lady Bird Lake because motorized boards are not allowed. Since this is the most popular paddle board destination in Austin, expect crowds on the weekends. The “Keep Austin Weird” mentality can be found on Lady Bird Lake on the weekends especially when the entire body of water turns into a giant party barge.
If you don’t own a paddle board, there are plenty of places where you can rent paddle boards and join in on some fun paddle board tours. The Rowing Dock is a SUP rental business local to Lady Bird Lake that offers a variety of paddle board tours, including the popular Sunset Bat Paddle Tour.
Fun fact: Austin has the largest urban bat colony in North America. In the summer, over 1 million bats can be found flying around the city at sunset.
2. Lake Travis
Take a drive 30 minutes northwest of Austin and you will discover the Texas Hill Country where Lake Travis exists. Otherwise known as the ‘Crown Jewel’ of Central Texas Highland Lakes, Lake Travis is the most visited flat water vacation destination in all of Texas. Its limestone bottom makes the water appear crystal clear. In contrast to urban paddle boarding at Lady Bird Lake, Lake Travis offers beautiful scenic views of grassy hillsides, marinas, sandy beaches and a wealth of coastal mansions.
Lake Travis is huge, covering over 18,000 acres and stretching 63 miles long, you can easily spend the whole day exploring new territory. A great spot to launch your paddle board is at Lakeway Marina (also has paddle board rentals) located in the heart of fancy, cliff side mansions. Compared to Lady Bird Lake, the crowds will be slim here. To add to the fun, Lake Travis is the only clothing-optional lake in the area.
Fun fact: Lake Travis’ Hippie Hollow is the only nude beach in all of Texas.
3. Secret Beach
If you’re looking to explore a more secluded paddle board destination that is close to downtown Austin, then you need visit Secret Beach. Just east of downtown Austin is an undeveloped getaway on the Colorado river. This isolated paddle board spot is so tucked away that it will be difficult to locate even with your GPS, hence the name Secret Beach. For step-by-step instructions on how to find Secret Beach, go here. There are no places nearby to rent paddle boards so you will either need to bring your own SUP or rent from an Austin SUP rental business ahead of time and then drive there with your board strapped to the roof of your car . Once you’re finished paddle boarding, the fun doesn’t stop. Next to Secret Beach, there are super amazing restaurants with frosty beverages.
4. Lake Austin
Just south of Lake Travis on the Colorado River is Lake Austin. Paddle boarding on Lake Austin offers some of the best SUP fishing in Austin’s city limits. Over the years, it’s been stocked with several species of fish to improve the area’s recreational fishing. If you’re lucky, you can catch largemouth bass, sunfish and catfish. The only thing you need to be cautious of when paddling Lake Austin is the influx of boats cruising up and down the Colorado River. It is recommended to keep to the outside perimeter of the lake when paddling. If you don’t have a paddle board, we recommend renting a SUP at Peace Paddling.
5. Spring Lake
Formerly known as the site of an old water theme park, Spring Lake is the most unique body of water on our list. It’s about 40 minutes south of downtown Austin, but the experience is worth the drive. Since the water theme park closed, Spring Lake has transformed into an environmental preservation that is constantly researched for the Meadows Center of Water and the Environment. So far, their research suggests that this lake has been a water playground for over 10,000 years.
Because of the lake’s environmental sensitivity, it’s only open to the public through paddle board tours by REI Austin. On this interactive tour, you’ll see springs bubbling at the bottom of the lake’s surface and wacky artifacts like mermaids and giant clam shells that were said to be decor in the water park. Like Lake Travis, Spring Lake has a limestone bottom which makes the water look tropical.
Fun fact: Spring lake is said to be the clearest body of water in Texas.
Believe it or not, the city of Austin has a handful of awesome places to stand up paddle board. There are beautiful places to paddle board both in the city and on the outskirts via lake or river. If you don’t have a paddle board, don’t worry. There is a booming market of SUP rental companies with a wide range of paddle boards to choose from.
Interested in learning more about our favorite paddle board destinations? Check out our post on the 10 Best Places to Paddle Board.