Planning a Houston to Austin road trip?
Austin, located in the Texas Hill Country, is one of our favorite weekend getaways in Texas.
The drive from Houston to Austin is scenic and there are plenty of stops along the way to make the most of your trip.
Here is a guide to planning a road trip between two of Texas’s most vibrant cities.
Also Read: Houston to South Padre Island Road trip
Houston to Austin Drive Route
You can take two routes: US 290W or the I-10W and US-71.
US-290W is a scenic alternative while the I-10 up to Columbus and then State Highway 71 offers the fastest alternative.
Or plan a round trip – take the I-10 to Austin and 290 on the return Austin to Houston drive.
This is one of our favorite short road trips in the Lone Star State!
Also Read: 28 Best Road Trips from Houston
Houston to Austin Trip Distance
Wondering how many how many miles from Austin to Houston?
The straight line distance is under 150 miles but the driving distance between Austin TX and Houston TX is closer to 170 miles.
The total driving distance from Houston to Austin via US-290W is 165 miles while via I-10 is 162 miles.
Houston to Austin Drive Hours
Houston to Austin Drive time is about 3 hours, which means you can easily make it a day trip.
But we recommend spending at least a night or two in Austin so that you can experience all that the city has to offer.
Also Read: 21 Best Road Trips from Austin, Texas
Houston and Austin fly and drive trip
Visiting Texas to enjoy Austin’s famous music festivals such as Austin City Limits or South by Southwest?
Houston is always cheaper to fly into than Austin.
What we recommend is flying into George Bush Intercontinental Airport of Houston and then planning a road trip to Austin, Texas.
The IAH airport is well connected to all major US cities via several airlines including United Airlines, American, Spirit, and more.
Or you can also fly into Hobby airport.
Rent a car at the airport and then spend some time exploring the Bayou City and its attractions before driving to Austin.
Then fly out from Austin airport.
Also Read: Best Things to do in Houston, Texas
Essential Stops on Houston to Austin Road Trip via US-290 W
During spring, US-290W is our preferred and simply the best route from Houston to Austin.
You will see stunning flower fields along the route and can stop in small towns to enjoy local events and festivals.
If you’re looking for things to do on your Houston to Austin drive on US-290W, here are the best stops:
Waller and Waller County is a great stop on the scenic drive from Houston to Austin.
Many of Houston’s best farms such as Dewberry Farms and Neal’s Berry Farm are located here.
Eat some bbq at Waller County Line BBQ and check out the area’s flower fields while you drive.
The historic district has charming bed & breakfast inns and antique shops.
Chappell Hill, Texas is a pretty small town on the Texas Independence Trail.
It is located between Brenham and Navasota in Washington County.
Popular attractions in the area include Chappell Hill Museum, historic buildings, and the bluebonnet festival held every spring.
In fact, Chappell Hill is one of the best things to do between Austin and Houston during the bluebonnet season.
Washington on the Brazos State Park, the historic site where Texas’s Declaration of Independence was signed, is also located nearby.
Visitors can take a stroll through the park and enjoy nature trails, a visitor center, or see the exhibits at nearby Star of the Republic Museum.
Brenham, Texas is the county seat of Washington County.
It is also one of the biggest cities between Austin and Houston.
Brenham is known for its natural beauty.
Brenham’s most popular attraction is the Blue Bell Creameries Factory.
Visitors can take a tour of this famous creamery to learn about its history and see how the ice cream is made from the observation deck.
The small town of Brenham is also home to several historic sites, museums, bluebonnets in spring, and great eateries.
Located almost midway, Brenham is a great pitstop on the road trip from Houston to Austin.
Giddings, Texas is rustic and rural.
If you are looking for a sleepy little Central Texas town to explore, then Giddings is your best bet.
The downtown area has plenty of historic buildings including the Lee County Courthouse, Texas Wending heritage museum, and a vintage carousel.
You can also find some good Texas barbecue here.
Elgin is a popular stop before Austin and makes for a great break on your journey.
Fun fact: Elgin is also known as the Sausage Capital of Texas!
It is famous for its bbq, historic Main Street, and plenty of antique stores.
Austin, the capital of Texas, is always bursting with activities.
Take the time to explore the city’s different sights from the historic Congress Avenue to the hip Domain. Enjoy the skyline views along Lady Bird Lake from a bat-viewing cruise.
There’s no shortage of things to do in Austin, no matter when you visit.
Other popular tourist attractions include the State Capitol Building, Bullock Texas State History Museum, and The University of Texas at Austin.
Austin is also known as the Live Music Capital of the World.
You can explore the city’s enviable food scene, catch a live music show, visit a museum, or go hiking in Austin.
Essential Stops on Houston to Austin Road Trip via I-10W and State Highway 71
if you are planning a day trip to Austin from Houston, then along the I-10 is often the faster route.
If you’re taking the I-10W and State Highway 71 route on your Houston to Austin road trip, here are some stops you shouldn’t miss.
Katy is a great place to make a pit stop on the Houston TX to Austin TX drive.
The distance from Katy to Austin is 135 miles.
Popular things to do in Katy include Typhoon Texas Waterpark, a fun waterpark and the Katy Mills Mall.
Visit La Centerra to check out the eateries or go to No Label Brewing Co for a taste of their craft beer.
Families love Mary Jo Peckham Park for its trails, play areas, and lakes.
Bucee’s gas station chain is a Texas staple.
Along with gas for the car, you can find everything from barbeque sandwiches and fudge to Texas themed t-shirts and camping supplies at Bucees.
They are also famous for their exceptionally clean bathrooms and a stop at Bucee’s is sure to last at least an hour long.
Buy souvenirs, get road trip snacks, and explore the sprawling aisles at Buc-ee’s while you’re there.
The popular Texas gas station and convenience store is an essential stop on this road trip!
Columbus is a historic town located between Houston and Austin.
It is the perfect place to become acquainted with small town Texas.
Downtown Columbus is home to several breweries, historic buildings including the Colorado County Courthouse, and giant live oak trees.
It also hosts fun events including the Colorado County Fair.
The Country Market is another great spot to visit on Saturdays.
During the holiday season, you can visit the one-of-a-kind Santa Claus Museum in Columbus.
San Felipe and Sealy
Sealy, one of the cities between Houston and Austin, is home to the Stephen F Austin State Park and the San Felipe de Austin State Historic Site.
Stephen F Austin State Park is on the banks of the Brazos River and has amazing hiking trails through the river bottomland forests.
The park is also popular for its wildlife and beautiful Spanish moss covered trees.
Nearby San Felipe de Austin State Historic Site is where Stephen Austin established the first colony in Texas.
It is a perfect place to learn abut the early history of the Lone Star State.
La Grange is the county seat of Fayette County.
It is one of the charming small towns between Houston and Austin.
The town is known for its live music scene and has several bars and dancehalls.
La Grange also has an eclectic mix of shopping and eateries.
Timeless Texas Classics Car museum / dealer is also a popular attraction for car lovers.
Next up – Bastrop, a charming small town, is an essential stop on this road trip.
Bastrop State Park has scenic hiking trails.
Wondering what is between Austin and Houston for kids?
Take them to see the Dinosaur Park attraction.
You can see gigantic dinosaur sculptures and the gift shop has plenty of souvenirs, games, and toys.
McKinney Roughs Nature Park is another great place for nature trails and birding.
Also Read: Best dinosaur museums in Texas
Check in to a hotel and enjoy the popular attractions of the Texas Capital.
Read our itinerary Austin in a weekend to see the city’s major highlights such as the Texas State Capitol, Zilker Park, Barton Springs Pool, Congress Avenue Bridge bats, and more.
Austin to Houston road trip
Planning the drive from Austin to Houston to see Houston’s Rodeo or explore the Bayou City?
You can use the exact itinerary above in reverse order.
The best route from Austin to Houston to explore nature, enjoy hiking trails, and see some of Texas countryside is US-290W.
Be prepared to keep at least an hour of buffer for the driving time Austin to Houston, TX if taking the I-10E.
Things to do in Houston, Texas
Downtown Houston has many amazing attractions for all kinds of visitors.
In the Museum District, you will find museums such as the Houston Museum of Natural Science and The Children’s Museum.
At the Houston Space Center, you can enjoy an extraordinary experience; from simulated mission control rooms to seeing rockets, NASA has it all.
For those seeking outdoor activities, Discovery Park and Buffalo Bayou are perfect destinations.
Visitors can hike the nature trails or canoe or kayak down the waterways at these parks.
What is your favorite stop on the Houston to Austin drive?
Did we miss any amazing things to do between Houston and Austin? Let us know below!