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Spots for Soaking

9 of the best swimming holes in and around Austin

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Austin Photo Set: News_Peter Lewis_Swimming Holes_blue hole_wimberley_june 2011_manue reynolds2
The Blue Hole in Wimberley, Texas.  Photo by Manue Reynolds
News_Stephan Lorenz_Hamilton Pool Preserve_The pool's cool waters beckon visitors to take a dip and lounge at Hamilton Pool Preserve
Hamilton Pool.  Photo by Stephan Lorenz
Jacob's Well best swimming holes Austin, Texas
Austin Photo Set: News_Peter Lewis_Swimming Holes_blue hole_wimberley_june 2011_manue reynolds2
News_Stephan Lorenz_Hamilton Pool Preserve_The pool's cool waters beckon visitors to take a dip and lounge at Hamilton Pool Preserve

In this hot, hot town blessedly surrounded by a plethora of sparkling swimming spots, skipping out of town with a few friends and a six-pack to spend a glorious day soaking in the sun is not an option: it’s a necessity.

In that spirit, here's a roundup — carefully curated by CultureMap and expert Austinites with a whole lotta summers under their belts — of the best natural swimming holes to dive into. Our guide is complete with descriptions, links and what you really need to know before you set out (like when to bring your cooler with wheels, how to get to the secret rope swings, and where you can pump up your inner tubes). 

Now: go swimming. You can thank us later.

Barton Springs
How could we leave it off the list? Our iconic, ice-cold and bright blue spring-fed pool is a magical oasis existing a mere five-minute drive from downtown. Theoretically, you could take a dip in this haven during your lunch break, shower in what has got to be one of the most beautiful public swimming pool bathrooms ever (open-aired with flowers!) and head back into work. Actually following through with that plan after treating yourself to a cannonball off the diving board and a power nap on the lush, grassy hill? Good luck with that. Oh, and after months of renovations and lack of lounging spots, Barton Springs is finally improved and 'hipster hill' is back in full swing

2101 Barton Springs Rd. No food or drink allowed inside. Lifeguard. Open year-round, summer hours: 5 am -10 pm. Closed on Thursdays. 
Cash only: $3 for adults, $2 for ages 12-17, $1 for ages 11 and under and $1 for seniors. More info here.

Hamilton Pool
At Hamilton Pool, 50-foot falls of impressive, cascading water fall over a limestone shelf and into a big, round, blue-green lagoon. Walk the path underneath and around the waterfall for a cave-like experience, then splash around in the cold water underneath and let it shower you. There's a good amount of flat space for posting up with your beach towels and beers, and between the waterfall sounds and actual sand, it’s the next best (and closest!) thing to lying on the actual beach around these parts. There's about a 15-minute hike involved to head down to the water, so pack light, or better yet, invest in a cooler with wheels. Get there early on the weekends: the pool imposes a limit on the amount of people let in, and wait times can be long. Occasionally, the pool is closed for high bacteria levels, so make sure to call ahead. 

24300 Hamilton Pool Rd., Dripping Springs, Texas. Food and drink allowed, no glass containers. No lifeguard. Open daily 9 am - 6 pm, no entry past 5:30 pm. Cash only: $15 per vehicle. 512-264-2740. More info here

Hippie Hollow
This is where you should run off to for a swim and a sense of freedom when you're feeling extra inhibited, since it's the only fully "clothing optional" park around. Yup, it's a nude beach. It's also a beautiful 109-acre park tucked off in the Hill Country, and a nice break from the clammer and uh, restrictions, of city life.

7000 Comanche Tr. Food and drink and pets and nakedness all allowed. Cash only: $12 per vehicle. Entry for 18 and older only. No lifeguard. Daily, 9 am to dark, no camping. More info here.

Krause Springs
Pretty damn close to paradise, Krause Springs has it all, but in a natural and laid-back kind of way. A deep pool fed by a few tumbling, steep waterfalls covered in bright green fern. Cypress, oak and sycamore trees drape richly over the sacred spot offering shade, and, over on one side, a rope swing. There are spots for grilling and camping up above, and another man-made, spring-fed pool that just begs for a midnight, moonlight dip if you decide to pitch a tent and spend the night. Privately owned and family run, being at Krause feels like someone is welcoming you onto their property for a casual swimming party where they’ve thought of everything — there are even several pumps to blow up your inner-tubes.

404 Krause Spring Rd., Spicewood, Texas. Food and drink allowed, no glass containers, no smoking allowed. No lifeguard. Cash only: $7 for adults, $5 for ages 4-11, and free for kids under 4. 830-693-4181. More info here

Jacob's Well
A different kind of swimming hole, in that it's an actual, can't see or touch the bottom, deep, deep hole. (Rumor is no one's ever found the bottom.) Nothing says summertime quite like standing on the rock ledge and jumping into the water below, which, since Jacob's Well is the end of an underground spring, is some of the clearest and most pristine around. Free public tours are led every Saturday starting at 10 am, but if you can, try and go on a weekday instead, when you can have the place more to yourself. While there are some shaded areas for lounging, and an area surrounding the hole for wading, both are a little limited — the real draw is jumping in.

1699 Mt. Sharp Rd. Wimberley, Texas 78676. Free. Open daily, 9 am to 9 pm. No pets, glass or alcohol allowed in the park. Picnic tables available. Please bring drinking water as it is not provided on site. No lifeguard. 512-847-2140. More info here.

Deep Eddy
Another city gem. Sure, it’s technically not a swimming “hole,” but the fact that it’s spring fed means that Deep Eddy is still breathtakingly cold in the dog days of August, when every other pool has turned that icky late-summer, lukewarm temperature. It’s got an entire pool for lap swimming, another for wading, and lots of grass for lounging. No food or drinks allowed down below, but you can enjoy a picnic up above with views of Lady Bird Lake before heading down onto deck. 

401 Deep Eddy Ave. No food or drinks allowed in pool area. Lifeguard. Open year-round, daily from 8 am -8 pm. Cash only: $3 for adults, $2 for ages 12-17, $1 for ages 11 and under and $1 for seniors. More info here.

Pedernales Falls
More than 10 miles of hiking trails and vegetation and the sound of water rushing down scenic, flat rocks make this an ideal spot for a peaceful, reflective day. While it might not be the best place for soaking and boozing, Pedernales Falls is perfect for a day of hiking and wading — especially when you're itching to get out of town and the Greenbelt feels a little too close to home. To get to the top of the rushing falls, drive past the swimming area and take a hike — it's worth it for the views alone. 

585 Park Road 6026, Johnson City, Texas. Open daily 8 am - 10 pm, overnight camping allowed. Adults $6, free for children under 12. 830-868-7304. More info here.

Pace Bend Park
Over nine miles of shining Hill Country shoreline around Lake Travis make Pace Bend a goldmine full of scenic spots ideal for taking a dip. On the west side of the park, climb the high, limestone cliffs and explore rocky coves (head up during sunset for the best views). When you’re ready to cool off, go to the east and north sides of the park for the most accessible beaches and swimming spots complete with sloping shorelines and both sandy and gravel beaches. There are primitive camping sites close by — and you’re even allowed to camp right on the beach. And while boating is popular at Pace Bend, there’s three coves designated just for swimming: Mudd Cover, Kate’s Cove and Gracy Cove. (Note: Kate’s Cove is temporarily closed for restoration.)

2805 N. Pace Bend Rd, Spicewood, Texas. Day use is $10 per vehicle, cash only. Leashed pets allowed. Food and drink allowed, no glass containers, no smoking. No lifeguard. Open daily from daylight to dusk, overnight camping allowed. 512-264-1482. More info here.

Wimberley's Blue Hole
With an expansive, pristine lawn space, several rope swings and a practical cathedral of tall, old trees offering their shade, Blue Hole provides an idyllic, quintessential summer scene. There are trails to walk, a children's playscape and even a basketball court, but we find it pretty hard to do anything but float lazily in our inner-tubes (pro-tip: bring a tube with a cup-holder) and gaze out at the picture-perfectness of it all. 

333 Blue Hole Ln., Wimberly, Texas. Food and drinks allowed, no pets. No lifeguard. Open daily Monday through Saturday from 10 am - 6 pm, Sunday from 11 am - 6 pm. Cash only: $9 for adults, $5 for ages 4-12 and 60 or older, free for kids under 3. 512-847-0025. More info here.

Red Bed Isle
Editor's note: A few readers kindly pointed out that while you may spot a renegade swimmer or two at Red Bud Isle, swimming is not technically permitted in Lady Bird Lake by the City of Austin Parks Department.

If you want to give your pup a chance to cool down, head to this leash free dog park. After your dog takes a dip, have some fun at the fishing pier, picnic tables or on the short but lush hiking trail, too. It's easy to spend a whole day here, but close enough to come for just a few hours.

3401 Redbud Tr,. Free. No lifeguard. Open dawn to dusk. More info here.