I learned to waterski years ago on Lake Lyndon B. Johnson, known locally as Lake LBJ. Back then, it was less crowded, and the water was glassy early in the morning, perfect for waterskiing.
The lake, which dates to 1950 and is located about 45 miles northwest of Austin, is a reservoir on the Colorado River in the Texas Hill Country. Beginning in Kingsland, Texas, it follows the river for 21 miles to Horseshoe Bay. Originally called Lake Granite Shoals, the name was changed in 1965 to honor President Lyndon B. Johnson, who owned a ranch on the lake.
At 6,534 surface acres and up to 90 feet deep, Lake LBJ offers the best fishing, boating, water sports, and overall fun in the Austin area. Here are 10 fantastic things to do on a visit.
1. Relax At Horseshoe Bay Resort
Cruise around Horseshoe Bay and Applehead Island to view multimillion-dollar mansions owned by professional athletes, local astronauts, Hollywood personalities, and other ultra-rich Texans.
Horseshoe Bay Resort is the place to stay on the lake, with luxurious accommodations, family-friendly amenities, and world-class golf. The 400-room resort boasts eight different dining options with lakeside views, a relaxing day spa, tennis, fitness facilities, and a full-service marina. A private executive airport makes Horseshoe Bay the premier Texas Hill Country destination.
The Whitewater Putting Course, an intriguing par 72 putting course designed to play like an actual course, only in miniature, is my favorite. You’ll see waterfalls, rose gardens, exotic birds, and a trail across the zoysia grass through fairways with challenging bunkers and water hazards.
2. Have Some Fun On Sunrise Beach
You may want to avoid — or not! — Sunrise Beach, a shallow sandbar in the middle of Lake LBJ where boaters cast anchor and spend hours partying with friends. In the shallow waters, people play frisbee, set up volleyball nets, jam to music, and soak up the sunshine. Don’t forget your sunscreen!
3. Go Fishing
Fish for largemouth bass, white bass, crappie, and catfish on the lake. Several bass-fishing tournaments take place each year, and you can hire a fishing guide to help you catch trophy bass in secret fishing holes.
4. Customize A Cruise
To get a sense of the lake’s layout, customize a 2.5-hour cruise on a 21-foot pontoon boat with WorryBGone Cruises. Experience the wildlife, learn about the lake’s history, and don’t forget your swimsuits. They will pick you up on the water; you bring the snacks and drinks.
5. Rent A Boat At The Lake LBJ Yacht Club And Marina
The Lake LBJ Yacht Club and Marina at Granite Beach in Horseshoe Bay is the prettiest marina in Texas, and it’s a popular place for families to play. You’ll find boat rentals, boat slip rentals, cabin rentals, a bar and grill, and waterfront real estate options.
6. Grab A Bite To Eat
Forno’s Bar and Grill at the Lake LBJ Yacht Club and Marina offers excellent food and waterfront dining all year long. Choose from butterfly shrimp; catfish; hamburgers; insalata di mare; Italian-style mains like melanzane, cannelloni, and veal piccata; and more.
Nestled in a protected cove on Lake LBJ, Boaters Bistro is open year-round and accessible by car or boat, with docking space available as well as boat valet service. Deliciously tender Akaushi beef steaks from the C5 Ranch come with two sides. Plus, there’s good home cookin’ for lunch or a casual dinner. Head to the new wine cave to purchase a bottle to go or to enjoy with your meal.
Horseshoe Bay Resort is home to eight different restaurants. The Yacht Club offers an elegant menu of specialty dishes, including chicken-fried lobster, seafood, and steaks, plus an extensive wine list. Get the best hamburger in the Texas Hill Country at Slick Rock Grill & Bar, or go for breakfast or a pregame snack.
Pick up Starbucks coffee, quick-grab items, sandwiches, and breakfast pastries at Market Fresh. The Whitewater 360 Sports Club, where you can savor pizza, wings, cold beer, or craft cocktails next to the Whitewater Putting Course, overlooks an artificial water feature filled with exotic birds.
Café Del Sol, located poolside at the Resort Tower, offers plenty of Texas sunshine as well as tasty appetizers, sandwiches, cocktails, and children’s snacks. Bayside Spa & Fitness serves up healthy appetizers, sandwiches, salads, and drinks with a side of fantastic lake views. The casual Waterfront Bar & Grill on two outdoor patios specializes in Texas Gulf Coast seafood. At J’s Restaurant and Bar, which serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, you can savor a strawberry jalapeño margarita, a mesquite-grilled cheeseburger, barbecue, or chicken-fried steak.
7. Find A Public Boat Ramp
Several public boat ramps are available at Lake LBJ. The Wirtz Dam/Cottonwood Ramp, located on the south shore near the dam, is a one-lane concrete ramp with parking for 20 to 30 boats and trailers. It’s operated by the Lake LBJ Yacht Club and Marina. There is a boat launch fee.
Kingsland Lions Park, located on the Llano River arm on the north side of the lake, has a one-lane concrete ramp. This ramp, operated by the Kingsland Chamber of Commerce, also has a boat launch fee.
In order to use the Granite Shoals Boat Launch, visitors must pay $10 per day or obtain an annual pass at the city hall.
Sunrise Beach Village has three accessible public ramps maintained by the city. The McNair Park ramp is sheltered from south winds and has good parking. A second ramp with parking is located on East Lakeshore Drive. To get to the third ramp, in north Sunrise Beach, you’ll need to stay on 2233, take a right onto Circle, and then turn left onto Park.
You’ll find private boat ramps at Horseshoe Bay, Oakridge Estates, Deerhaven, Blue Haven, The Trails, and Sandy Harbor.
8. Experience Water Sports On Lake LBJ
There are plenty of places to rent equipment for water sports on Lake LBJ.
Lake LBJ Resort in Sunrise Beach offers pontoon boats, ski and wake boats, jet skis, kayaks, and stand-up paddleboards.
Wave Chasers in Kingsland offers pontoon boats, Sea-Doos, ski boats, and water mats, plus tubes, skis, kneeboards, wakeboards, kayaks, and gasoline.
Splash Boat Rentals has more than 30 watercraft available, including jet skis, ski boats, tritoons, pontoons, and paddleboards.
GetMyBoat lists boats available at many locations, including Lake LBJ. Listings include a Bennington luxury pontoon, an Avalon Catalina luxury pontoon, and jet skis for rental by the hour.
9. Venture Beyond The Lake
About 25 miles from Lake LBJ is Longhorn Cavern State Park, the national cave of Texas and the perfect place to seek a refreshing retreat from the summer heat. The 2-hour tour features scenic cave carvings, historic tales of the old West, and Civilian Conservation Corps architectural work from the 1930s. Read more about Texas Hill Country caverns here.
Save the World Brewing Company believes in making the best Texas craft beer and giving back. This 100 percent philanthropic brewery gives all its profits to charity. Come for wagyu burgers, pulled-pork sandwiches, craft pizzas, and the latest beer release. Check the website for hours.
Winemaker Ron Yates makes quality wines from Texas-grown grapes at Spicewood Vineyards. He combines award-winning wines with a memorable experience, blending a Texas family’s heritage with a passion for Spanish wines. Savor 2017 Estate Tempranillo with aromas of black cherries and violets and flavors of pepper and blueberries. Read more about Texas wineries here.
The current sculpture display at the historic downtown Marble Falls area called Sculpture On Main represents the best artists from around the region. A November festival will kick off a new collection and art sale.
Spend an afternoon at The Falls on the Colorado Museum in Marble Falls, housed in a historic granite school building constructed in 1891. You’ll see displays highlighting Native American artifacts, farm and ranch life, local geology, dinosaur tracks found in the riverbeds, and the remains of Rockie, a 700-year-old bison.
Under the pecan trees in Marble Falls, Johnson Park is an excellent place to picnic. Take the grandkids to play at the two playgrounds, watch beach volleyball, play horseshoes, or put in your kayak for a leisurely paddle. Explore the hiking and biking trails, or take in an event at the theater.
10. Have A Memorable Stay
Log Country Cove on Lake LBJ features rustic log cabins with anywhere from one to five bedrooms. Some have pools, jacuzzi tubs, and patios, and some have monthly winter rates.
Use Vacasa to compare 61 Lake LBJ vacation rentals. Enter your trip dates to find lake houses, condos, and cabins. You’ll find dozens more Lake LBJ resorts, cabins, homes, and vacation rentals on
Pro Tip: Visit the Horseshoe Bay Lighthouse, completed in 1972, at the end of a 200-foot dike north of the Thomas C. Ferguson Power Plant on Lake LBJ. You’ll see a lighted navigational beacon, chimes, and an observation room. This lighthouse is the largest in the state and the oldest inland lighthouse.