When you think of how much Austin has grown over the years, it’s hard to imagine that within a short 20-minute drive you can be an an environment completely different from your normal stomping grounds.
A place just west of town in a deep pocket of rolling hills along the banks of Lake Travis where a dramatic sunset is guaranteed every night from a private lakeside room, and the only traffic you hear is from the occasional speedboat winding its way from the marina into the expanse of the lake.
Approaching its 50th year as one of the Hill Country’s top destination getaways, Lakeway Resort and Spa has seen its fair share of growth and change, yet it still stands as one of the best summer “staycation” getaways you can find.
I grew up in the Lakeway/Bee Caves area. It was back when Bee Caves Road (F.M. 2244) and State Highway 71 were only two lanes and the Hill Country Galleria was just ranch land for grazing cattle. I graduated Lake Travis High School in a class of slightly more than 100 people with a football team that had an equally perfect record compared to the one the recurring State Champs have today — only then, the “0” was in the “wins” column, rather than the “losses” column.
Growing up, Lakeway was known for leisurely golf courses, retired folks driving big oversized Buicks, and speed traps — one mph over 30 and you were guaranteed a speeding ticket. I used to watch my brother’s little league games near The World of Tennis, swing on the playground at Dragon Park with my friends after school and I had my first kiss behind the Stoney Creek Condominiums off of Lakeway Boulevard.
In the summer months, my friends and I would grab a burger at the Lakeway Resort and swim at their lake view pool. (Although I’m not sure we were really supposed to do that.) We never seemed to notice the steady flow of guests coming in and out from other places.
For us, what was once a quaint little 1970s ranch-style hotel built into the side of a hill on Lake Travis was just part of the neighborhood rather than a destination resort. It was small and quaint with a decent restaurant. (There really weren’t many options out there in the 90s.) It also had access to the Lakeway Marina where you could take a pontoon ferry out to Shades, a floating restaurant for greasy burgers and nachos.
But today, the Lakeway Resort and Spa has a whole different feel. Perhaps it’s because my most recent adventure to my childhood hangout was as a resort guest rather than a teenage resident.
For one, it’s about three-times bigger than it was when I was growing up. Though still considered a boutique hotel, the resort has 168 rooms as well as seven 2- and 3-bedroom condos available
Though the original resort lobby with its graying limestone exterior still stands as the primary restaurant space for the hotel, everything else is not only new, but significantly upgraded with all of the contemporary amenities you’d expect from a high end destination spot. The rooms are spacious and comfortable with many offering lakeside views as well as private balconies — excellent for sipping wine and watching sunsets.
But in addition to size and comfort enhancements, Lakeway Resort has also grown up a lot in the way of guest activities, amenities and spa services. First of all, those traveling as a family with kids will be happy to find an almost permanent spot alongside one of the three expansive pools boasting mammoth water slides, hot tubs and, thank goodness, full service wet bars.
Those looking for a refuge will no doubt enjoy the San Saba Spa built in to the main hotel overlooking both the lake and the pools. Despite its proximity to what can be very “boisterous” pool activity at times, the spa remains unbelievable quiet and tranquil making it possible for adults to actually escape some of the more “family friendly” entertainment.
The spa in particular is a treat with spacious men and women’s lounges, a private outdoor spa terrace and any number of treatments available from pedicures and deep tissue massage to a rejuvenating anti-oxidant facial — a personal favorite for prepping your skin for the summer heat.
And dining at Josey’s Restaurant in the original hotel building is now a lot more intriguing than my typical burger-and-fry days from childhood. Although you can still get a pretty damned good burger here, you can also enjoy a wide range of menu items — many of which are made with locally sourced ingredients, an important part of Executive Chef Jeff Axline’s culinary program.
The Dr. Pepper-fried Texas quail and the Creole BBQ Texas Gulf Shrimp appetizers are a must as is the steak sandwich with Brazos Valley blue cheese and chimichurri on foccacia. My favorite is the roasted Vital Farms chicken with roasted potatoes and seasonal vegetables followed by ridiculously large helping of house-made “Snickers” bread pudding with caramel, chocolate sauce and heaps of roasted peanuts.
Even with the rather large wedding event taking place on the night I stayed here — the hillside windowed ballroom makes for breathtaking sunset weddings — I found my cozy king-sized room quiet and undisturbed, almost as if I were in the comfort of my own home. And that’s something you just can’t put a price on when some of the larger resorts seem to pack masses of visitors during the summer time.
Driving down the windy Lakeway roads to this somewhat historic resort, I still noticed the “golf cart crossing” signs connecting the myriad courses throughout the neighborhood, the side streets leading to the homes of friends I used to know, and the little cafe where I had my first latte — think gigantic coffee mug a la So I Married An Axe Murderer from the 1990s.
You can still see remnants of old classic ranch-style homes mixed in with modern, big-box houses looming along the streets and you can still run into a ticket-happy Lakeway cops ready to write you up for a minor infraction.
And while there are tiny pieces of the Lakeway Resort and Spa resort that are relatively unchanged, the comfort and luxury you can find here make for one of this summer’s best little “staycations” around.