Texas Road Trip: Austin to the Hill Country

Texas Road Trip: Austin to the Hill Country

I had a conference in Austin, and so Kenny and I decided to make a Texas Road Trip out of it, driving through the Hill Country and visiting Johnson City and Marble Falls.  Even though we’re both native Texans and have visited most of the state, we’ve never really spent time in the Hill Country.  I don’t know how we’ve missed out on this fun and beautiful part of Texas before!

Texas Road Trip

Our Texas Road Trip Route

Our starting point was Austin and we wanted to end Georgetown, a far north suburb of Austin, so we took a sort of half-loop west of Austin and I-35.

hill country map

We headed out on highway 290, which is also known as the Texas Wine Trail, for many wineries between Johnson City and Fredericksburg.  We spent most of our time in Johnson City, but we definitely would have continued west to Fredericksburg if we’d had more time.

Tip: DO NOT SPEED through Johnson City.  Every time we walked from one shop to another, someone else was getting pulled over. The speed limit drops in town, and you will get busted if you don’t take note.

The scenery is just beautiful.  We both grew up in the flat plains of Texas, and really enjoyed just driving through this area, taking in the rolling hills and limestone bluffs.

First Stop: Whittington’s Jerky

Hill Country

Whittington’s Jerky is a great stop for clean restrooms and stocking up on car snacks.  They cure their own jerky in a facility right next door and have loads of Texas-centric food and gifts to choose from.

After Whittington’s, we continued our Texas road trip down the Highway 290 Texas Wine Trail for a wine tasting.

Next Up: Wine Tasting

I specifically sought out a winery that made wine with Texas grapes.  Surprisingly (to me at least), many of the wineries along the Texas Wine Trail don’t use Texas grapes.  Even those that do use Texas grapes get many of their grapes from other parts of the state. So, if you’re REALLY into wine and visiting the place where your grapes are grown, know that the Texas Wine Trail is largely a commercial concept.  If you’re just interested in tasting lots of wine, this is the place to be!

Tip: A wine can’t use “Texas” on the label unless at least 75% of the grapes come from Texas. A back label says “For Sale In Texas Only” means that the grapes are from out of state.

Because of time limits and because we were self-driving, we only visited one winery. We chose William Chris Winery, which is exclusively Texas wines (although most of the grapes come from the Texas High Plains).   The grounds were very nice with gorgeous views of the Hill Country over the vineyards.

Hill Country Winery

The tasting room is large, but it was a busy Saturday and the acoustics made it very noisy.  There were outdoor tables, which would have made for a much more pleasant experience, but I never saw a way to request or book the tables, either in person or online. The tasting room attendant was very pleasant and friendly, but the experience felt rushed.  Glasses were not switched or rinsed in between tastings, and we had no choice of wines.  We prefer reds, and our selections were primarily white and most were sweeter than we care for.

Browsing Johnson City

 

Courthouse
Blanco County Courthouse in Johnson City

After our tasting, we headed the few miles back to downtown Johnson City to browse the shops and galleries on the square. There’s not much to Johnson City, but we managed to kill a couple of hours browsing on the square.  Our favorite was the “non-gallery art gallery” called Echo.

 

beer flight

After shopping for a bit, we stopped by Pecan Street Brewing for lunch. The food was good enough, and there are plenty of craft beers on tap. The atmosphere is fun, and it’s worth of stop if you need food or drink on your visit.

Wandering Marble Falls

After filling our bellies in Johnson City, we headed on to Marble Falls, about half an hour up the road.  Marble Falls is much bigger than Johnson City and located right on the Colorado River, so there are plenty of options for water activities.  It was after 4:00 p.m. when we arrived, so we didn’t have a lot of time to spend there, and we headed straight toward the downtown area.

Downtown Marble Falls is filled with shops, galleries, and restaurants. There are many more shops to choose from in Marble Falls. We popped in a few and walked a bit down the main drag, where there are sculptures all along the median. The shops in Marble Falls are a bit more preppy-polished and more expensive than those in Johnson City.

We wanted to try out the pies at the Blue Bonnet Cafe, but we were just too full.  We’ll have to save it for another trip!

Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge

As we made our way back to Georgetown, we passed the Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge, and I made a quick right turn to check it out.  We didn’t see much wildlife, but we did enjoy an easy hike under the old oak trees.  This is definitely worth a stop you if want to stop and stretch your legs for a bit.  Or walk off some of those wine and beer-flight calories.

Balcones

Overall, this was a great way to spend the day.  We will definitely make more Hill Country road trips in the future.  There are lots of other towns and wineries that we need to check out!

Texas Road TripTexas Road Trip

I am a 40-something lawyer and mom of 3 teenage girls. I love exploring new places, and when I can't be on the road, I'm planning my next trip. Over the years, I've learned a lot about how to travel in a pack of five. Our trips range from budget-friendly road trips with the family, to more luxurious trips for work, either solo or with my husband, Kenny.

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