13 Best Stops on Houston to Austin Drive

Published By Ketki

Last Updated

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.

Enjoy an evening stroll on Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge in Austin Texas
Enjoy an evening stroll on Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge in Austin Texas

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.

Texas state capitol building in Austin is a must visit attraction
Texas state capitol building in Austin is a must visit attraction

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

Greetings from Austin mural is one of the best things to do in the city
Greetings from Austin mural is one of the best things to do in the city

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.

Views of the Texas Capitol from South Congress Avenue in Austin Texas
Views of the Texas Capitol from South Congress Avenue in Austin Texas

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

Murals inside Galleria Mall Houston
Murals inside Galleria Mall Houston

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.

Public art at George Bush Intercontinental Airport Houston
Public art at George Bush Intercontinental Airport Houston

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.

Mural inside Houston airport
Mural inside Houston airport

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.

Bluebonnet and other yard decor for sale at the Bluebonnet festival
Bluebonnet and other yard decor for sale at the Bluebonnet festival

If you’re looking for things to do on your Houston to Austin drive on US-290W, here are the best stops:

Waller

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.

Roads around Waller Texas in spring
Roads around Waller Texas in spring

Chappell Hill 

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.

Chappell Hill is a charming little town
Chappell Hill is a charming little town

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.

Washington on Brazos State Historic Site is one of the best day trips from Houston for history lovers
Washington on Brazos State Historic Site is one of the best day trips from Houston for history lovers

Brenham

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.

Blue Bell Creameries in Brenham Texas is a fun place to visit
Blue Bell Creameries in Brenham Texas is a fun place to visit

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.

Brenham downtown buildings
Brenham downtown buildings

Giddings

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.

Historic Giddings Railroad Depot is a charming structure
Historic Giddings Railroad Depot is a charming structure

Elgin

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.

In Giddings Texas you can experience Home Town Hospitality
In Giddings Texas you can experience Home Town Hospitality

Austin

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.

The bats are barely visible during the day
The bats are barely visible during the day

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.

Soco Mural South Austin
Soco Mural South 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.

Mary Jo Peckham Park in Katy Texas
Mary Jo Peckham Park in Katy Texas

Katy

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.

Katy Railroad Depot is a great place to visit for history buffs
Katy Railroad Depot is a great place to visit for history buffs

Buc ee’s

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.

Buy some Texan souvenirs while you are at Bucees
Buy some Texan souvenirs while you are 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!

Bucees Snacks lineup cookies crackers and chips galore
Bucees Snacks lineup cookies crackers and chips galore

Columbus

Columbus is a historic town located between Houston and Austin.

It is the perfect place to become acquainted with small town Texas.

Beautiful Colorado County Courthouse Texas
Beautiful Colorado County Courthouse in Columbus, 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.

Columbus is home to several breweries and wineries
Columbus is home to several breweries and wineries

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.

A Nine banded Texas Armadillo digging a hole
A Nine banded Texas Armadillo digging a hole at the state park

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.

Bluebonnets on the way from San Antonio to Houston
Bluebonnets on the way from Austin to Houston on I-10

La Grange

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.

Timeless Classics Car Museum in La Grange is a must for car lovers
Timeless Classics Car Museum in La Grange is a must for car lovers

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.

Bastrop

Next up – Bastrop, a charming small town, is an essential stop on this road trip.

Bastrop State Park has scenic hiking trails.

Cabin constructed in the 1930s by the CCC in Bastrop State Park near Austin
Cabin constructed in the 1930s by the CCC in Bastrop State Park near Austin

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

A scary beast in the Creteceous Garden of the museums outdoor dinosaur park
A scary beast in the Creteceous Garden of the museums outdoor dinosaur park

Austin

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.

Crowds gather to watch the bat flight at Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin
Crowds gather to watch the bat flight at Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin

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.

The Houston Rodeo is a great time to plan the Austin Texas road trip
The Houston Rodeo is a great time to plan the Austin Texas road trip

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.

Houston Museum of Natural Science
Houston Museum of Natural Science

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!

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