June 24, 2015
Austin may be the capital of all things cool and quirky, but come summertime this city is hot in more ways than one. Fortunately, you’ll find plenty of places to cool down around town, from natural springs to wild swimming holes. Here are some of the best outdoor spots to go swimming in Austin.
This is the quintessential swimming spot in town, beloved by virtually all Austinites. In fact, it’s practically required for residents to take a dip at least once in the underground spring-fed pool that is a constant 19 degrees year-round. Yes, it’s chilly, but on those baking summer days there’s no better antidote. Soft grass hills surround the water and the public bathhouse is very nice. Adjacent to the pool bathhouse is Splash!, an educational exhibit were patrons can learn about the history and biology of Barton Springs and the Edwards Aquifer which feeds it. Located right in the middle of the city as part of the 358 acres of Zilker Park, known as the Crown Jewel of outdoor Austin, Barton Springs is one of our favourite places to go swimming in Austin.
This picturesque little place just outside Austin is a must for those looking to enjoy wild swimming in the area. The historic, natural swimming hole, located in a preserve at the Pedernales River, spills out over limestone outcroppings to create a 50-foot waterfall as it plunges into the head of a steep box canyon. The pool is a grotto formed by a collapsed canyon thousands of years ago, giving the water rich shades of cerulean and turquoise. The rock overhangs create shaded, cave-like areas, and because it’s fed by the river and waterfall, even in the driest seasons the water levels in Hamilton Pool stay pretty constant. The surrounding preserve is home to a wide variety of birds, native grasses, wildflowers, and rare plant species, and hiking trails provide a great way to see some of it. There are toilet facilities, picnic tables and a parking area at the site, but there are no lifeguards or concessions (you may bring food and drink). The amount of visitors allowed in is monitored, so during the busiest times there may be a bit of a wait.
Krause Springs shares some similarities with Hamilton Pool, in that they are both wild swimming holes with cool water and a lot of natural beauty. But Krause, also a short drive outside Austin, has more amenities available on-site. This gorgeous spot is surrounded and shaded by massive cypress, oak and sycamore trees, some of which are hung with rope swings. In the Krause family for more than 50 years, the 115-acre grounds are akin to a family retreat, with campgrounds available for both tents and RVs as well as picnic pavilions and grills, a manmade swimming pool, fountains and even a butterfly garden. Listed on the National Registry of Historical Sites and with 32 springs on the property (some of which feed both the manmade and natural pools), this place is amazing for a few hours or a whole weekend.
At first glance, Deep Eddy might seem like any other man-made, municipal pool, but there’s a lot more to it. Built in 1915, it’s the oldest swimming pool in Texas and once served as the centrepiece of Deep Eddy Bathing Beach, built around a large boulder in the Colorado River that formed a swirling eddy. The 600,000 gallons of water are cleaned out and replaced with fresh well water every day, and it’s surrounded by grass and trees. It’s also a major community gathering place, showing family-friendly movies at night during the summer months.
This place has something of a reputation around Austin, and is part of what gave the city its legendary “hippie weird” status. The reason? It’s the only clothing optional public park in Texas; in other words, it’s a nudist beach. The fact that it’s also a Travis County Park will give newcomers to Austin a feel for the attitude of this city. Spread over 109 acres at Lake Travis, just west of town, the steep and rocky shoreline offers amazing views of the lake, among other things. There are restrooms and drinking water at the site but no lifeguards, and only visitors aged 18 and up are allowed. Don’t think that just anything goes here, though. The common rule is to ask permission before taking photos that include other people, and as the website states: “nudity is acceptable, lewd behaviour is not.”
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Written by Shelly Seale