There’s no shortage of beautiful scenery in the Lone Star State. Of course, it’s impossible to whittle down where the most beautiful places are, because there are just so many very diverse landscapes across this great state of ours. You can visit sandy beaches, rolling hills and cavernous canyons. We’ve selected three gorgeous drives that you can take in a weekend. If your heart desires to view those miles and miles of Texas that Asleep at the Wheel is so fond of singing about, check out one of these routes and, just like Willie would, get on the road again.
South Gulf Coast Drive
Time: 4.5 hours
Landmarks: Harbor Bridge in Corpus, King Ranch in Kingsville
Where to eat: Crofutt’s Sandwich Shop & Bakery in Bayside
Photo Op: Mirador de la Flor (Selena memorial) in Corpus Christi
If you haven’t spent much time in South Texas, you should. It’s got its own unique culture, and the landscape of the gulf coast is completely different than it is further inland. Once you get south of the Hill Country, the land evens out and even the tall pines and shady cypress trees turn to scrubby Huisache and Mesquite trees. You’ll also begin to see some Texas palms, but the foliage is so short and the land so flat that you can see for miles in any direction. Cattle grazing pastures are interspersed with pumpjacks (also known as grasshoppers to some) that fill the air with the familiar, if acrid scent of crude oil.
To see a little more of the coast head off Highway 77 south of Refugio to FM 774 and hang a right at FM 2678. Keep on that road until it turns into FM 136. Be sure to stop at Crofutt’s in Bayside for a cinnamon roll or an egg sandwich. FM 136 will take you into Corpus and over the Harbor Bridge. As you near Corpus Christi you’ll be able to smell the salt air and will begin to see the various types of sea birds in what has been known as “America’s Birdiest City”. If you want you can take about a 10-minute detour to Shoreline Blvd. and check out Mirador de la Flor, the Selena memorial. Keep heading south until you reach Kingsville, where you’ll drive through the historic King Ranch. You’ll know you’ve made it when the Queen Isabella Causeway comes into view. The best part of this drive is that it ends in the most beautiful beach in all of the Lone Star State.
The Canyon Tour Drive
Time: About two hours
Landmarks: Caprock Canyon American Bison
Where to eat: Feldman’s Wrong Way Diner
Photo Op: Happy, Texas city limit sign
On the other end of the state, we’ve got the Panhandle. The Texas Panhandle is largely under appreciated, I think. The plains region may seem stark, but the scenic views of the canyons more than make up for the barren hinterlands. Of the spectacular views in the Lone Star State, the Texas canyons are certainly near the top of the list.
This is a shorter drive than the gulf coast drive, but no less stunning. While near Caprock Canyons keep an eye out for the free range Southern Plains Bison, the decedents of the native herds to this region. Starting near Caprock Canyons on 1065, head south toward Quitaque, and then travel west on 86. From there head up to Tulia and go north on 87 and head toward Happy. Highway 87 will take you straight into Canyon. If you’re hungry, go for some catfish or a burger at Feldman’s, and when you’ve had your fill, head back out to 217 and drive east. Now all you have to do is follow the signs to Palo Duro Canyon State Park. If you want, you could head back toward Caprock Canyons via 207, following this route.
The Hill Country Drive
Time: About two hours
Landmarks: The Blanco River, Luckenbach
Where to eat: Old 300 BBQ in Blanco
Photo Op: The Luckenbach General Store
It is not a secret that the Texas Hill Country has some of the most beautiful landscapes in the Lone Star State. The towering shade trees and the fertile rolling green hills watered by the many rivers that flow through the area are simply beautiful, especially in the spring and summer. This drive is especially attractive because its short duration is combined with a lot of gorgeous scenery and plenty of bucket-list landmarks.
Of course, you could just take 290 all the way to Fredericksburg, but where’s the fun in that? Starting in Austin head out 290 past the Y in Oak Hill toward Dripping Springs, and stay on 290 until it dead-ends at a T-junction. Take a left to continue on to highway 281. When you come to Blanco, stay on Main Street until you come to the Old Blanco County Court House, and then take a left on to 4th Street. Just a couple blocks down is the Old 300 BBQ, where you’ll find the high caliber of barbecue you’ve come to expect from central Texas.
When you’re done chowing down, head the opposite direction back down 4th street until it passes the high school and becomes FM 1623. In Blanco FM 1623 is known as River Road, because it runs parallel to the Blanco River, which makes for a nice vista while cruising through the hill country. About four miles in, 1623 branches off to the right, but stay on River Road until it becomes RM 1888, and it will take you to the famed Texas town of Luckenbach, where you have to stop and look around, obviously. Next, get back on 1623 and stay on until it meets back up with 290 near Cain City. Go West on 290 until you reach the Heaven that is Fredericksburg. While you’re there, check out the National Museum of the Pacific War for a good dose of history, and check out all the adorable shops on Main Street.