staycation's all i ever wanted
Westlake's unique new boutique hotel brings Hill Country views to Austin
Tucked away in the rolling greenery of West Austin are eight traditional Texan cottages. Board-and-batten in style, the one- and two-bedroom structures, set among the shade of matured trees, harken back to the early days of the Texas Hill Country.
The property, opened in December 2018 as The Wayback Cafe & Cottages by mother-daughter duo Vicki Bly and Sydney Sue, is a welcome escape from the hustle and bustle of Austin life. In addition to the eight cottages, guests can enjoy a saltwater pool, cabana, fire pit, hillside views, and on-site cafe serving locally sourced food and wine.
Before becoming co-owners of The Wayback, Bly, a serial entrepreneur, ran the Bremond House Bed and Breakfast downtown, while Sue dreamt of a career in event planning for professional sports teams.
The idea for Wayback, explains Sue, began in 2014. “Vicki was driving down Bee Caves Road and saw the property with a for sale sign,” her daughter recalls. “The owner wasn’t particularly interested in selling and was waiting for the right opportunity.”
While the pair weren’t exactly sure of what they would build there — they didn’t even have a business plan yet — they did know they wanted to “create a place for people to feel relaxed, happy, free-spirited, and light-hearted."
In developing plans for what would become The Wayback, which the two drew on graph paper, Sue and Bly came to discover the land's interesting history. Among the property's unique features was an oversized industrial building where the cafe currently stands, a woodshop, and a metal-forging shop that did work for the Texas Capitol.
During a meeting with Warbach Lighting, a custom light fixture company in East Austin, the duo discovered even more quirky facts about the property.
“We had a two-hour conversation with the guys and told them where our property was and they said, 'Oh The Wayback When? Families used to go out there all the time and play music,'” Sue recalls. With its rich history and important place in Austin music, the pair knew they wanted to honor the land's energy, something that continues to enchant everyone who visits.
Throughout the original design process, permitting and construction, even more discoveries were revealed. The property, once dense with overgrown, rambling trees and a thick brush, was hiding expansive hillside views.
“We were the girls that dug through the shrubs and hiked down Barton Creek a mile back to see what was there,” Sue says. “Now, off Cabin 6 and 7, you have these incredible views and can see the clay roofs of Westlake in the distance, almost like you’re looking at another village cross the canyon.”
In getting to know the property at 9601 Bee Cave Rd., one of the most important things for the pair was to respect the land, and thus every tree but two were left as is. “We placed our cottages and cafe everywhere where there was already something and tucked them under the trees. People don't take time to do that now,” Bly says.
During the four-year process building, the mother-daughter took a relaxed, organic approach. The pool came first, followed by the cabana, cottages, and the drive-thru coffee hut — organic offshoots each contributing to the magical essence.
“The last thing we thought of was the cafe,” Sue says. “What gets people together more than food and wine? Our neighbors wouldn’t come if we didn’t have that." Off the cafe used to be a shrine to the Virgin Mary. As rumor has it, Janis Joplin and other famous musicians like Willie Nelson, would jam there.
In continuing this tradition of creative, communal space, Bly and Sue will also be hosting numerous events like an art journaling class with Mint and Maple on April 8 and a men’s retreat.
Since opening just two months ago, The Wayback Cafe & Cottages has become a destination for weekend brunch, weekly pizza nights, afternoon happy hour complete with a Texas-only wine list, or for an overnight getaway. The air is still, the grounds are tranquil, and the cottages are cozy — what more could you ask for?