When you arrive in Burnet County, Texas, the first thing you’ll notice are the lakes that wind their way throughout the hill country. Some have staggering limestone cliffs that hug the shore and others have trees and soft banks perfect for launching boats, kayaks and paddle boards. You’ll see juniper, mesquite and oak trees, wildlife galore and historic downtowns filled with family-owned restaurants. Perfect for a low-key family vacation, if you love the great outdoors, and want to know what to do with kids in Burnet County, Texas, let us be your guide.Gabby Cullen
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Enjoy the Highland Lakes
There are five lakes in Burnet County: Lake Travis, Lake Marble Falls, Lake Buchanan, Lake LBJ and Inks Lake. Each one has a different vibe, which means whatever type of water fun you and your family want to experience, you can find it here. Whether you want to rent a boat, a kayak or a standup paddle board, this list will help you find what you’re looking for.
Longhorn Cavern, a Texas State Park that opened in 1938. Formed by an ancient underground river, a seasoned guide will take you 130 feet below ground, where you’ll follow the river’s path. You’ll see famous “rooms,” like the Indian Council Room, the Underground Ballroom (where live music events were held), the Hall of Diamonds and more. Be sure to ask about the infamous Texas Ranger incident!
If pre-historic geology, incredible hiking trails and a beautiful swimming hole are more your style, Inks Lake State Park is ideal. With 1200 acres and 220 campsites, visitors will be able to enjoy the natural beauty of this popular state park. Pre-Cambian geology can be found here (dating back 600 million years) as well as metamorphic rock and granite. The park is also home to Devil’s Watering Hole, a swimming hole located at the end of a short hike on the east side of Inks Lake. It gets its clear water from the Colorado River, and while it’s not as cold as some of the other swimming holes in Texas, it’s still an incredible spot to spend the day.
There are 16 miles of manicured trails at Canyons of the Eagles. It’s a resort, but a naturalist is on hand to do guided tours, or you are free to explore on your own. If stars are your passion, be sure to visit the Eagle Eye Observatory. Non-guests can book a spot for the 9 pm talk Wed.-Fri. and Sun. It’s $10 for the talk, plus $5 for the parking fee. If you want to bring your telescope, there are 31 observatory pads available.
Spider Mountain, the only ski lift in Texas, opened in 2019, and while five miles of it are just for mountain biking, a hiking trail was added in Dec. 2021. At the top of the lift, you’ll be awarded breathtaking views of the Highland Lakes region. You can bring your gear or rent a bike and spend the day enjoying nine trails that range from the Itsy-Bitsy (beginner) to the Stinger (expert).
A real gem is Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge. Established to protect the breeding grounds of the endangered golden-cheeked warbler, and with 25K acres, free admission 365 days a year and 10 miles of trails, this open space is truly worth exploring.
An incredible way to explore the lakes in Burnet County, Texas is to book a trip with Vanishing River Cruise. You’ll board an enclosed pontoon boat (good for summer or winter!) and head out to see the wilds of Lake Buchanan and the Colorado River. You’ll pass stunning cliffs, waterfalls and tons of wildlife, including cormorants, gulls, pelicans and egrets. In the spring, be on the lookout for the majestic bald eagles that migrate to the Highland Lakes to nest.
The Small Town Vibes
There are several towns in Burnet County, Texas, and each one has a distinct personality. You can find everything from candy shops to upscale boutiques, lakeside parks, wineries and historic forts. There’s always something to do, like shopping at the farmer’s market or attending the famous Bluebonnet Festival, watching the boats during Lakefest, going to the rodeo and much more.
Wondering where to eat? The Bluebonnet Cafe, in Marble Falls, opened its doors in 1929. Famous for its pies, many of which are still made using family recipes, they serve breakfast all day, and the pie selection makes it hard not to choose more than one slice! That’s why you’ll want to come in for Pie Happy Hour, Mon.-Fri. From 3 pm – 5 pm. Save The World Brewing Co. is a great place to spend an afternoon. They have food trucks that range from Jamaican Cajun fusion to hamburgers, tacos and nachos. Plus, the story behind the brewery is pretty amazing; the owners are former physicians who were inspired to open the world’s first 100% philanthropic craft brewery (after basic costs, the remaining profits are all donated to charities). If BBQ is on your mind, be sure to grab a bite at Wingman Brother’s Smoke House. All the classic offerings are available, as well as their awarding-winning fire-roasted cream corn and delicious stuffed baked potatoes.
The Unique Lodging
If spending time in nature while enjoying all the comforts of home (and more) is on your family vacation wish list, then book your stay at the idyllic Canyon of the Eagles Resort. Located on the northeast shoreline of Lake Buchanan in Burnet, this full-service nature resort is perfect for families who want to fill their days (and evenings) with outdoor adventures and then relax and recharge in the comfort of cozy accommodations.
This pet-friendly resort offers 61 eco-friendly rooms to choose from. We suggest booking a suite with a view of the lake so you can watch the sun rise (and set) from a rocking chair on your porch. If you’re looking for more camp and less glamp, there are plenty of tent and RV sites as well.
You’ll also find an onsite pool, two fantastic eateries (Overlook Restaurant and the Eagles Nest Lounge which offers a full-service bar and bar menu), an outdoor movie screen and s’mores around the fire pit. There is a calendar filled with family-friendly activities and every Saturday, the Shake, Rattle and Coil show allows guests to learn about (and even touch) snakes.
Container City is one of the newest spots to hang your hat in the Highland Lakes area. Located at the base of Spider Mountian, not only does it have direct access to the bike park, but all six cabins are built entirely out of shipping containers. Each one is unique, they all have great outdoor patios perfect for lounging. There are also camper and RV hookups, and there’s a gathering spot on the property—Templeton’s Tavern. It’s a full-service bar with pizza and a space for live music. Even better, you’ll be at the heart of the county, so you’ll have easy access to hiking, lakes, wineries, shopping and more.
—Gabby Cullen with Annette Benedetti