A Solo Afternoon in Texas Hill Country.

Normally when I’m travelling I have an entourage in tow; my husband, family, friends or coworkers. I love having the company, sharing my enthusiasm for exploring and giving experiences for those closest to me; but with each person comes new needs, wishes and perspectives. On a recent Wednesday afternoon, having arrived a day earlier than a coworker for some training in Austin, I found myself with four wheels and a half a day to do whatever I wanted.Being in Austin I was spoiled for choice; I could explore the city, have an impromptu spa day, or check out the live music scene. But I had a car and an itch to go exploring, Texas Hill Country it would be.

The thing is I didn’t know much about Hill Country other than it was close to Austin. I thought I has heard something about there being a few wineries around as well.


A quick google search revealed that was indeed correct. I set my coordinates for a winery that looked good and made my way out of Austin. Within the span of 30 minutes the city transitioned to suburbs which gave rise to gently rolling scrub covered hills. Driving along the backroads the landscape was punctuated with Texas live oak, sage and the occasional sprawling ranch. This was the kind of drive that begs you to kick off your shoes, roll down the windows and throw some Tom Petty on the radio.

The gently rolling hills of Texas Hill Country make a great day trip from Austin. www.casualtravelist.com

Arriving at Duchman Family Winery, I was surprised to find an ivy covered Italian villa framed by moss fringed oaks facing rows of late harvest vines. I was expecting a barn, some dust and a lot more cowboy hats. This was Texas right? In the tasting room I opted for a flight, I could choose 6 of their wines but I told the assistant to surprise me. I got a mix of three whites and three reds, Italian and Spanish in style but all made from 100% Texas grown grapes. Personal favorites were the crisp Vermentino and the slightly spicy Temperalillo. While enjoying my tasting I asked what else I should see in the area. “The town of Wemberly is cute” chimed a woman from Illinois; “Hamilton Pool is pretty” piped the girl from behind the counter. The later sounded vaguely familiar and warranted some checking out.

Duchman Family Winery, located in Texas Hill Country produces Italian and Spanish style wines all from Texas grown grapes. www.casualtravelist.com

But first, barbecue.

I made a beeline for the Salt Lick, a Texas institution for all things smoked. Fairly deserted on a Wednesday afternoon (Saturdays are a different story with live music and lines out the door), I more or less had the place to myself save a few young families getting an early dinner. With an entire communal picnic table to myself it didn’t take long to place my order.

This steer greets wou as you enter the Salt Lick BBQ in Texas Hill Country. www.casualtravelist.comThe pit is where all the magic happens at the Salt Lick in Driftwood, Texas. www.casualtravelist.com

Ribs, sausage or brisket? This is the carnivore’s dilemma.

Ribs, smoked sausage or brisket? Everything is good at the Salt Lick in Driftwood,Texas. www.casualtravelist.com

Thurman’s Choice solves that dilemma with a sampling of pork ribs, achingly tender brisket and the best damned smoked sausage I’ve had anywhere. Somehow there was also room on the plate for smokey baked beans, tangy potato salad and a thick slice of white bread to sop it all up. Elbows and barbecue sauce flying, it wasn’t pretty and I ate way more than I thought possible. When in Texas you go big or go home and that applies double when it comes to barbecue.

Windows rolled down and radio turned up to 11 I was back on the road, the further I got the fewer cars I encountered. It brought me back to my Las Vegas days in grad school where many weekends were spent driving down the back roads with no particular place to go and no particular intention except to see what lay ahead. It had been far too long since I’d had a drive like that. I pulled the parking lot of Hamilton Pool Preserve to find there would be a short hike down to the pool.Making my way down the stone path I enjoyed the silence of nature, aside from a crinkle of a leaf or a chirp of a bird it was beautifully quiet. Turning a corner it came into view, a crescent shaped grotto with the slightest hint of a waterfall trickling into the emerald water water below. I shared this cove with a few swimmers and a photographer snapping pictures around the periphery. I kicked off my shoes and waded knee deep into to the cool, still water; taking a few pictures myself but more just enjoying the moment.The emerald water of Hamilton Pool in Texas Hill Country is perfect for a swim. www.casualtravelist.com The beautiful emerald water of Hamilton Pool in Texas Hill Country is perfect for a swim. www.casualtravelist.comThe emerald water of Hamilton Pool in Texas Hill Country is perfect for a swim. www.casualtravelist.com


Sometimes the best moments happen without a plan. Texas, thanks for giving me a great afternoon.

Have you discovered Texas Hill Country? Tell me about it in the comments!


42 Comments on “A Solo Afternoon in Texas Hill Country.

    • Both places were amazing, I definitely want to explore this part of Texas further.

  1. I’ve never been anywhere in Texas, except for driving through the panhandle a few times. My friend and I kind of did what you did once and discovered Palo Duro Canyon and went horseback riding there.

    I’ve never heard of Texas Hill Country before, but it looks wonderful! Will remember this if I ever make it to Austin! Thanks for the suggestions! Looks like you had a great day!
    Christina @ Christina’s Cucina recently posted…A Recipe for Paccheri con Sugo di Mare (Pasta with Seafood Sauce) and A Drive from Rome to SperlongaMy Profile

    • Need to do that before the meat coma, there is a little bit of hiking involved.

  2. Wineries?! I’m sold 🙂

    Hamilton pool reserve looks incredible as well, I love travelling around Texas, this is definitely gonna be somewhere I explore one day. Beautiful photos as well!

    Great post – I’m full of wanderlust now.

    • I was amazed at how pretty it was in person, pictures really don’t do it justice.

  3. WOW. I haven’t been to Austin myself, so my first instinct would be to stick around and get a feel for the city. But this post proves that the best things are often beyond big city limits. The winery sounds fantastic (I haven’t heard of those particular wines before, so I would opt for surprise blends as well!), and the swimming area is gorgeous. It looks like something I might see in a post about Central America. Hard to believe it’s just outside Austin! I’m feeling a little inspired to seek some local stuff out for myself.
    Beth | Adventuring the Great Wide Somewhere recently posted…Experiencing La Dolce Vita at the Loews Portofino Bay HotelMy Profile

    • Just goes to show you don’t have to venture to far from home to have an adventure!

  4. I have never been. Never crossed my mind a beautiful place like this is in go big or go home Texas. I would love to take a dip in that water.

  5. Mmmm…Salt Lick Barbecue. That’s one of our favorite spots and definitely one of the top five joints in Texas. And Hamilton Pool…being the area several times a year, we haven’t been there. One day we’ll have to resist the call of Salt Lick and get over there. (#notlikely!) #WeekendWanderlust
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  6. Wow, I’ve seen photos of Hamilton Pool reserve, though haven’t had a chance to get there myself. You’ve shattered all stereotypes I held about Texas, I also thought it was a wind swept desert with cowboy hats and boots! Fabulous idea to stop at the winery first and have the locals make recommendations for the rest of the day. Locals know best!

  7. I have only been to the bigger towns in Texas and none of the surrounding area, something I am sure happens to a lot of people. Wine – there are wineries in every state and it is now my mission to seek them out when I visit a place too, you never know what you will discover!
    Andi recently posted…A Year to #ExperienceBuickMy Profile

  8. We live about 10 mins from @DuchmanWinery and the Salt Lick — members of the Duchman wine club. People are amazed when they try their wines — can’t believe they are from Texas. Salt Lick is a one-of-a-kind experience. But there is MUCH better barbecue available in the Austin area.

    Many more choices w/ of Austin between Duchman and Hamilton Pool — @jesterkingbeer brewery and Stanley’s Farmhouse Pizza, Twisted X Brewery, @pieousATX pizza, @DeepEddyVodka distillery, and @TreatyOakTX distillery. Further west, a continuous string of wineries, Garrison Brothers bourbon distillery, @LuckenbachTexas and the Albert Dance Hall. Enjoy!

    • I definitely want to go back and explore Hill Country a bit more, thanks for the great recommendations!

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