I’ve been lucky enough to visit Austin, Texas a few times in the last year. My list of favorite eateries and low-key adventures expands with each trip. We shared several posts on Austin a few months back for South by Southwest, which you can view here.
On our recent road trip to California, I had the chance to spend another day in Austin and found a few more favorites worth sharing. Up first, the Hamilton Pool Preserve in Dripping Springs, Texas, just outside of Austin. Thousands of years of water erosion have created the collapsed grotto and canyon, experts say.
The 232-acre preserve has a few hiking trails and when weather permits you can swim in the pool. If you are set on swimming, call beforehand because when it is flooded visitors can hike down to the area but can’t swim. We couldn’t swim when we went, but that didn’t take away from the experience. The preserve has a rich history dating back to the 1800s, which you can read about here.
Austin is known for delicious barbecue, but you should be prepared for a long wait. The Salt Lick has a few locations in and near Austin, including one a short drive from the Hamilton Pool. The restaurant has a fabulous location spread across an enormous piece of land with space for a live band, their vineyard, and various picnic tables under gorgeous trees.
While the wait is long, about an hour to two, it is a delightful one as the grounds have an area just for children and an additional area with adult games and a spot where servers sell the Salt Lick’s beer. It is easy to relax here with a cold drink or a good book.
Be sure to taste test the original wine and beers. We loved the Salt Lick Cellars BBQ White wine, and the Maverick Lager from the Guns & Oil Brewing Co. Visitors should bring cash as the Driftwood location doesn’t accept credit cards or checks.
The best part of the experience, of course, is the food. You can opt for family-style, which means all you can eat, but we recommend the Rancher, which gives you a sampling of the restaurant’s staples and is more than enough food for hungry visitors. We loved the turkey and the sausage. See the full menu here.
Salt Lick barbecue is made without tomatoes, so it doesn’t burn or become bitter, according to the chefs. It is made with sugar, so it caramelizes, and chefs said they sear the meat then remove it from the hottest part of the fire. The meat then cooks slowly over an open fire, which is fed by oak wood. Restaurant owners said the live oak wood burns cleaner and more uniform. The meat is soaked in the Salt Lick sauce four times during the process.
We recommend following your lunch at the Salt Lick with a drive through the Texas countryside. You’ll be too full to do much more than shop in Austin, but that won’t come with the view pictured above.