The Highland Lakes Region extends from Lady Bird Lake in downtown Austin to 100 miles outside the city to Lake Buchanan. The chain of seven lakes formed from a series of dams along the Colorado River offer opportunities to boat, kayak, fish and swim while taking in the Texas Hill Country.
It’s a “serene environment,” says Salina McCullough, sales and programs manager at Canyon of the Eagles, “away from the hustle and bustle of the city.”
In the Highland Lakes Region, groups can escape the city noise and light to explore nature and take in a brilliant night sky. Or, they can enjoy water activities with all the excitement and urban amenities of the state’s capital.
Besides water activities, guests in the Lake Buchanan area can explore the local wineries, golf courses, boutiques and antique shops, as well as the Longhorn Caverns in Burnet and Lyndon B. Johnson’s Natural Historical Park in Stonewall. Burnet is also home to “Christmas on the Square,” a large Christmas festival featuring a replication of the city of Bethlehem. Crawfish, music and bluebonnet festivals are regular events in the area.
Around Lady Bird Lake, groups can take advantage of the food, music and nightlife of downtown Austin in addition to boating, kayaking and rowing.
Canyon of the Eagles
This boutique resort, which includes 61 guest rooms, is located on 940 acres of private nature park in the Texas Hill Country. The resort is located on the northeast shoreline of Lake Buchanan, about 70 miles outside of Austin. Canyon of the Eagles takes its name from the American Bald Eagles that nest in the area from October through March each year, according to McCullough.
Guests will find themselves “surrounded by bird song and an abundance of wildlife,” says McCullough. Guided nature walks are a popular activity at the resort, and groups can take part in a photo scavenger hunt. They can also stargaze at the observatory or enjoy beer and wine tastings.
The resort offers more than 11,000 square feet of meeting space on property that can accommodate up to 500 people. About 4,800 square feet of that space is indoors, including the Live Oak Ballroom, which can accommodate 230 people. Canyon of the Eagles also includes an award-winning hilltop restaurant (The Overlook), an outdoor swimming pool and 14 miles of nature trails. Nearby, guests can enjoy more than 20 wineries, fishing, paddle boarding, kayaking and horseback riding, among other activities.
The goal: to allow you and your guests to unwind.
“Canyon of the Eagles prides itself on maintaining a professional yet relaxing atmosphere that will leave you feeling rested on your return home,” McCullough says.
Thunderbird Lodge & Event Center
John Williams and his wife, Donna, have been co-owners of Thunderbird Lodge & Event Center since 1999. The lodge is located on the east side of Lake Buchanan in a protected cove.
The lodge was originally built in the late 1950s. After purchasing Thunderbird Resort, John and Donna added more acreage and added and improved the property’s cottages. Thunderbird Resort is now located on 26 acres and includes 24 rental cabins. The cabins range from rustic to modern.
The property offers beautiful views of the Texas Hill Country, John says.
“Our property is surrounded on three sides by hills, and on the other side is the lake,” he says. “It’s quiet, out in the country, and away from any major cities.” Plus, “the lake is never very crowded.”
The lodge includes a small marina and boat rentals, plus a pool, playground, basketball and volleyball, and nature trails. In their downtime, guests can also fish, take a lake tour, bird-watch or enjoy several golf courses and wineries that are nearby.
The majority of the lodge’s business is from repeat clients, according to John. Some family reunion groups have come back to the lodge for 40 years consecutively, he said. “People who experience us one time, once they see how much we care about hospitality and really go out of our way to please people and make sure the guest is happy, they always come back,” he says.
The event center can accommodate up to 150 people. It includes a projector and video screen, a full kitchen, Wi-Fi and windows on three sides. A balcony on two sides overlooks the lake. Groups can contact Thunderbird Resort up to a year in advance to reserve the event center.
Donna Williams is the lodge’s on-site caterer. “She’s been catering for over 35 years,” John says. “She can cook and prepare and serve anything people want.”
Waller Creek Boathouse
The Waller Creek Boathouse, built in 2012, has been recognized as one of Austin’s most unique venues.
“There’s no other facility like it in Austin,” says Elizabeth Webb, executive director at the Waller Creek Boathouse. “We do have a ‘Keep Austin Weird’ type of vibe. We’re not a cookie cutter facility.”
The Waller Creek Boathouse is the only event rental facility on the water of Ladybird Lake, Webb said. It is owned by the Austin Parks and Recreation Department and managed by the Austin Rowing Club.
The boathouse features an upstairs room with large windows, where guests can look out at the lake. An outdoor patio adjoins the indoor space upstairs. The space can accommodate 70 to 80 people for a sit-down dinner or 120 for a cocktail reception in the space. The boathouse’s large outdoor terrace below can accommodate up to 500 guests.
“The biggest benefit about our venue is that we have a very huge outdoor space, including grassy areas and docks that go out onto the water,” Webb says.
Planners can rent the indoor or outdoor space, or the whole facility.
The Waller Creek Boathouse’s location in downtown Austin puts the space a block away from the Austin Convention Center, making it an easy space to reach for off-site convention receptions or events. The venue has hosted holiday parties for Yeti, a magazine release party for Austin Way magazine, and is an official venue for South by Southwest, Webb says.
For catering, groups can choose from an accepted list of vendors for food. Being in Austin, hiring food trucks is a popular option. The boathouse provides alcohol on-site through its café.
Without much parking available at Waller Creek Boathouse, the venue works with the nearby Four Seasons to provide valet parking.
Webb recommends contacting Waller Creek Boathouse no less than two weeks in advance to book the space and three to four months in advance for social and holiday parties.