Boating in Austin, Texas
Austin, Texas, is the world’s live music capital and is also known as a foodie’s paradise. WalletHub recently ranked it as the fifth best food-scene-city in the United States. Austin’s boating scene is lively and inclusive and less known but equally as great!
Austin has something for everyone, from boat-friendly restaurants to world-class fishing to incredible waterways perfect for kayakers, speed boaters, and yachters. Don’t believe us? Check out this list of amazing boating activities in Austin:
- Cool places to boat in Austin
- Top fishing holes in Austin
- Texas boating laws
Cool Places to Boat in Austin
The Colorado River is a hotspot for boaters and tube floaters alike. It carries shallow waters that move gracefully.
Lake Travis, Lake Austin, and Lady Bird Lake are reservoirs created by damming up sections of the Colorado River. If you want to boat down the Colorado River and skip the lakes, you’ll have to get in the water past the Longhorn Dam, which marks the end of Lady Bird Lake.
Stop at Top Secret Beach, part of the Roy G. Guerrero Colorado River Metro Park. It’s a rock beach with shallow water that is perfect for hanging out. You will see plenty of kayakers here too!
From Longhorn Dam to Onion Creek, you’re sure to see lots of wildlife, including deer, alligators, beavers, otters, wild hogs, songbirds, birds of prey, and snakes.
Lake Travis has fun and safe waters to explore. This lake offers plenty of excellent fishing opportunities, quiet and shallow coves, and wide-open deep waters for speedboat drivers, jet skiers, wakeboarders, and tow toy users.
It is part of the Chain of Lakes or Highland Lakes in Central Texas. This artificial lake was created to work as a flood-control reservoir and a water source for the city of Austin.
If you’re looking for an epic overnight experience, consider renting a houseboat for a few evenings. Lake Travis is full of them!
Be sure to check out our other guides that cover Lake Travis too:
- The Six Best Restaurants on Lake Travis to Access by Boat
- Fun Water Activities to Try On Lake Travis
- Everything You Should Know Before Boating on Lake Travis
- The Boater’s Guide to Visiting Devil’s Cove on Lake Travis (A Party Destination)
If you’re interested in the complete list, take a moment to read The Best Restaurants on the Water in Austin, Texas.
Lake Austin almost resembles a river. Its currents are slow-moving. Pontoon boats, stand-up paddleboards, canoes, kayaks, and lazy rafts or tubes are popular here.
Lady Bird Lake
Lady Bird Lake is a gorgeous body of water that stretches from the Tom Miller Dam (end of Lake Austin) to the Longhorn Dam (head of Colorado River).
If you plan on boating at Lady Bird Lake, keep in mind that you can not:
- Swim or wade in this lake.
- Stay overnight or camp on the lake.
Still, this lake is a sight for sore eyes. Lady Bird Lake wraps right around the heart of downtown Austin, making it a lovely sightseeing adventure for paddlers.
Want to learn more about lakes in Austin? Our Eight Best Lakes Around Austin, Texas roundup might be helpful.
Top Fishing Holes Near Austin
Lake Travis is best known for largemouth bass, black bass, and catfish. There is also a healthy population of smallmouth bass, white bass, striped bass, and Guadalupe bass. Bluegill, catfish (blue, channel, and flathead), gar, sunfish, crappie, and freshwater drum live in these waters too!
Spring and fall are the best times to fish at this location since they stay near the surface. This is because the extreme temperatures that come with summer and winter cause the fish to relocate to the center and swim deeper.
Make sure you check out this complete guide on fishing Lake Travis here.
Canyon Lake is a great rest stop between Austin and San Antonio. The landscape looks how you might picture it — rock ledges, steep underwater cliffs and drop-offs, flooded timber zones, and the occasional floating vegetation mats.
It is one of the best spots for rainbow trout and largemouth bass fishing.
These waters are home to largemouth bass, white bass, and striped bass. Smallmouth bass and crappie are also here, but they are a rare catch!
Here is our guide to visiting the Canyon Lake area.
Important: Texan Boating Laws
Boater education courses
If you want to operate a personal watercraft or a vessel that has more than 15 horsepower, and you were born on or after September 1st of 1993, then you have to complete a boater education course.
You can read more about boater education requirements on the Texas Parks and Wildlife Division site here.
Don’t get a Boating Under the Influence (BUI)
Having an open container on a boat is permitted. However, the boat’s operator must keep their blood alcohol content (BAC) under .08%. Being under the influence of drugs or exceeding the legal limit for alcohol will result in a BUI (boating under the influence) or a BWI (boating while intoxicated).
First-time offenders can face significant penalties– up to 180 days in jail and a $2,000 fine. Second offenders may receive up to a $4,000 fine and a year in jail. Third-time offenders can get up to a $10,000 fine and ten years in jail.
Use common sense and either stay sober or hire a designated captain to keep you (and everyone else on the water) safe.
Report any boating accidents
You have to contact TWPD or local law enforcement within thirty days if the accident injures any person in a way that requires medical treatment beyond basic first aid or causes damage to boats or other property in excess of $2,000.
You must immediately contact TWPD or law enforcement if the accident results in death. Legally, the limit for reporting a boating death is forty-eight hours, but you should do so as soon as you have cell service.
Boating is easy and affordable now, whenever you are! Be sure to snag up your boat (and a captain if you’d like) right away.