Texas Road Trips Sampler

Take a leisurely drive and avoid traffic, feel reinvigorated along the coast, and how to enjoy a north-south road trip

Ready to take the roads less traveled? Along this pair of spring road trips you have an option to avoid the traffic of Interstate 35 from DFW to the Hill Country and feel invigorated along the coast. This drive takes you along Texas’ version of the Pacific Coast Highway. If you want to see the variety of vistas that Texas has to offer then load the RV, buckle up, and get ready for these fun spring drives.

Along the coast © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hug the Coast Highway

Distance: 217 miles

Overall vibe: Seafood and seaside breezes

Along the coast © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Don’t be fooled by the name. State Highway 35 is the antithesis to the behemoth with which it shares a number. Interstate 35 is a white-knuckle fight for highway survival while its country cousin is an easy cruise through green marshes and across bays with intermittent glimpses of the Gulf of Mexico.

Tricolored heron © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Otherwise known as the “Hug-the-Coast” Highway, this 35 predates I-35 by more than 40 years. With only one lane on each side most of the way, it’s a quaint retreat—a throwback to Sunday drives where the journey was the destination.

Related Article: 4 Texas Road Trips: These You Have to Take

Along the coast © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This slow ride begins south of Houston in West Columbia, the tiny town with the distinction of having been the capital of the Republic of Texas for about three months in 1836. 

Along the coast © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Continuing on the road as Route 35 steers you straight toward Matagorda Bay. In the town of Palacios, home to birders and fishermen, stop at The Point. The hybrid convenience store and Vietnamese and Mexican restaurant has become the social hub of the town. You can grab fishing gear, breakfast tacos, and authentic Vietnamese food or grab takeout for a picnic on the docks overlooking the bay. If you’re lucky, you might catch the flash of a roseate spoonbill in flight.

Port Lavaca

Grab your fishing pole, sunscreen, and beach chair…it’s time to go to Port Lavaca. This coastal town has all the seaside fun you could ask for but without all the crowds found in other Gulf Coast locales.

Port Lavaca © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Checking out Port Lavaca’s beaches is a no brainer, regardless of whether you’re looking for a quiet barefoot stroll, hunt for shells, or kick back and relax. Start at Magnolia Beach, also known as the only natural shell beach on the Gulf Coast. Lay out a blanket and soak up the sun, or cast a line from the fishing pier. For more sandy beaches, relax in the shade of a thatch-covered cabana at Lighthouse Beach or swim or paddle board in the tranquil waters of Alamo Beach.

Related Article: Texas Road Trip Playlist: Sing Your Way across Texas

Goose Island State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You can keep on trucking toward Rockport or take a 45-minute side trip to the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. This pristine sanctuary overlooking San Antonio Bay attracts more than 400 species of birds and is the winter home of the endangered whooping cranes. Heron Flats, an easy 1.5-mile walking trail, promises glimpses of leggy birds high-stepping through marshes as they seek their supper.

Big Tree © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The natural wonders continue 10 miles north of Rockport in Goose Island State Park where the Big Tree prevails. Scientists have calculated this live oak could be more than 1,000 years old—and it’s so resilient even Hurricane Harvey couldn’t knock it down.

Rockport © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fulton and its historic mansion and the seaside resort town Rockport are worthy stops, especially for dockside seafood at places like the Boiling Pot or Charlotte Plummer’s.

Fulton Mansion State Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From Rockport, it’s only 28 miles to Portland where it’s time to say goodbye to this laid-back coastal road as it merges south into the bigger US-181. 

Corpus Christi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Heading toward Corpus, you are thrust back into the rush of multiple lanes and cars in a hurry to get somewhere—a jolt after so many miles of traffic-free driving. The intensity of it brings to mind the other bigger, faster 35. It’s a reminder of just how good you’ve had it on the mellow side of the coast-hugging highway.

Related Article: Visit SIX Iconic Texas Landmarks on One Road Trip

San Antonio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The DFW Metroplex-South Texas Scenic Workaround

Distance: 370 miles

Overall Vibe: Pretty as a picture

San Antonio

No matter where you are or the time of day, Interstate 35 is a crapshoot. You never know when traffic is going to back up, or why. There is an alternative for a north-south road trip: US Highway 281 running between the western Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex and greater San Antonio. It is less traveled, less billboarded, and less congested—and usually, worth the extra hour especially whenever I-35 is all jammed up.

Texas Hill Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Alas, US-281 is no longer a secret thanks to Google Maps and Waze. The route which goes through Hico, Hamilton, Lampasas, Burnet, and Marble Falls has unpredictable bumper-to-bumper, stop-and-go traffic. To bypass these conditions the time has come to suck it up, factor in at least two more hours of drive time, and take the long way to South Texas. Fortunately, you’ll be passing through some of the prettiest western landscapes Texas has to offer.

Texas Hill Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

After leaving Dallas, make your way to downtown Fort Worth then drive 75 miles west on Interstate 30 and Interstate 20 to Exit 361, south of Strawn. Head south on State Route 16. The two-lane road starts in the Big Country and transects the Hill Country. If you’re relatively new to Texas, this is a fine introduction to some of the state’s finest natural beauty. Plus, you’ll be avoiding the horrible, ongoing interstate highway construction in Waco.

Texas Hill Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Granted, SR-16 is a longer way and posted speed limits drop below 55 passing through small towns. But since each one justifies stopping for one reason or another depending on your level of curiosity and available time, slow down at least and enjoy the scenery.

Texas Hill Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

On this route you’ll pass through the boomtown ghost town of Desdemona to Comanche where you can stop for a bite to eat at Stone Eagle Beer Garden. If in need of a beautifully crafted custom pair of boots set up an appointment at the family-owned and operated Kimmel Boot Company.

Related Article: Everything’s Bigger in Texas: Best Road Trips from Houston, San Antonio, and Austin

Drive past the wind farms of Priddy on your way to Goldthwaite, home to the Texas Botanical Gardens at Legacy Plaza and Mills County Historical Museum (note, the museum is only open Monday through Friday).

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Continue on SR-16 until you hit San Saba, the Pecan Capital of the World. If you have some time, park your car and take a walking tour of downtown and the lively main drag. Then, head to Cherokee where the bluebonnets should be in full bloom this time of year. If hungry, make a pitstop at Cherokee Corner Cafe.

Fredericksburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Next up is Llano, the heart of the granite part of the Hill Country and a traditional barbecue town with options that include the original Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que and Inman’s BBQ and catering (known for turkey sausage). Take the Farm to Market Road 965 junction to see the bulging pink granite mountain known as Enchanted Rock within Enchanted Rock State Natural Area. From here, you’ll drive to Eckert, a ghost town at the western end of the Willow City Loop wildflower drive, and Fredericksburg where all the action can be found on its charming Main Street.

Windseed Farms near Fredericksburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From here, you have the option of cutting away at Fredericksburg onto US-290 and going to Austin or taking US 87-and Interstate 10 for a more direct route south to San Antonio.

Texas Spoken Friendly

Worth Pondering…

After 7 days of trial and error,

God created Texas on the 8th day.

Discover Why Rockport is the Charm of the Texas Coast

The Native Americans figured it out first, as far as we know

Find yourself in Rockport-Fulton and discover why Rockport-Fulton is the Charm of the Texas Coast. You’ll find a sandy beach, a birder’s paradise, a thriving arts community, unique shopping, delectable seafood, unlimited outdoor recreation, historical sites, and great fishing.

Rockport harbor © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Life around Rockport-Fulton changed dramatically August 25, 2017 when Hurricane Harvey, a powerful Cat 4 hurricane, made landfall directly across the area.

Rockport © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The quaint fishing village of Rockport has been a favorite coastal hideaway and snowbird roost for many years. Rockport’s recovery since Hurricane Harvey two years ago counts among the great feel-good stories in Texas history. Rebounding in stunning ways, this little art colony beloved by visitors since the 1950s for its fishing, bay setting, and frequent festivals feels fresh again.

Rockport © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

On the shores of Aransas Bay, the Copanes—a band of the Karankawas—made the most of coastal resources to support their lives as nomadic hunter-gatherers. They wadded the shallow lagoons, spearing redfish with bows-and-arrows. They scooped up oysters, tossing the shells into middens that grew over decades into mounds 65 yards long. They ventured inland on the coastal prairie tracking deer and foraging for berries and cactus fruit.

Rockport © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The region provided sustenance enough to support them and their predecessors for thousands of years. Even today, the Coastal Bend’s natural resources and moderate climate remain the primary attraction for visitors to the Rockport-Fulton area. Be it sportfishing, bird-watching, seafood, shopping, the arts, water recreation, or simply relaxing in the shade of wind-sculpted live oaks life here still revolves around Aransas Bay.

Fulton © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Think of the Copanes as being the original Winter Texans. They would spend their winters here along the shorelines feeding on a diet of oysters, shrimp, and other seafood. And then during the spring and summer months they’d travel up the rivers and streams and hunt game.

Fulton © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Rockport-Fulton offers a range of activities to keep you busy for a week or so. Many visitors find the area inviting enough to stay for longer. During the cold months, Winter Texans nearly double Rockport-Fulton’s population of 10,000 residents.

Fulton © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A common starting point for visitors is the Rockport-Fulton Visitor Center. A timeline of local history spans a wall of the center and highlights important moments such as Spanish explorer Alonso Álvarez de Piñeda’s mapping of the Texas coast in 1519, U.S. General Zachary Taylor’s 1845 encampment on Live Oak Peninsula en route to the Mexican War, and the establishment of tourist attractions such as the Texas Maritime Museum in 1989.

Texas Maritime Museum, Rockport © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Maritime Museum sits across the street from the Visitor Center among a cluster of tourist sites adjacent to Rockport Harbor. The museum covers various subjects including the tale of French explorer La Salle’s ill-fated expedition to Texas—illustrated by a striking five-foot-long wooden scale model of the shipwrecked La Belle and artifacts from the shipwreck such as knives and axe heads. The museum also delves into other seafaring topics including navigational devices, boat-building tools, the Texas Navy, and offshore drilling.

Rockport © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Also at Rockport Harbor, the Rockport Center for the Arts hosts a wide variety of exhibits, special events, education workshops and classes for children and adults, performing arts, sculpture garden, and much more. The Center is a hub for The Arts in the beautiful coastal Rockport Fulton area. After 48 years, the Center re-established operations on South Austin Street in the wake of devastation sustained to the original building from Hurricane Harvey. The new facility is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday and admission is free. 

Rockport © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Aquarium at Rockport Harbor was destroyed in Hurricane Harvey. Plans are in the works for a new and improved center with exhibits about local habitats as well as the creatures that thrive in the rich blend of fresh water and seawater including oysters, blue crabs, and whooping cranes.

Rockport © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Come evening, after a day of exploring Rockport-Fulton’s coastal scene, a fitting way to reflect on the experience is from the shade of one of these magnificent live oaks. As the bright orange sun sinks into the horizon, a gentle breeze blows ashore, and the aroma of fresh fish smokes from the grill, it’s easy to understand why the Copanes chose this stretch of the Texas coast for their home and why others have followed them ever since.

Rockport © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Texas Spoken Friendly

Worth Pondering…

Winter Texan is Better Than No Texan