Road trips are really popular travel pastime in the United States. I needed to be in Austin, Texas for work and decided that this was the perfect opportunity for a Houston to Austin drive since I would be flying into George Bush Intercontinental Airport to start my business trip. How far is Houston from Austin? About 165 miles (definitely doable). The most important question then became: where should I stop on a Houston to Austin road trip? What pit stops might I expect? I found a few helpful TripAdvisor posts but not terribly much information on things to do on the Houston to Austin TX drive. Fortunately, Google Maps also helped me identify some possible spots for a quick break on the approximately 3 hour Houston to Austin drive time. I decided to take Highway 290 on the way to Austin and Route 71 to Route 21 to Route 290 on my return for a bit of variety (As an added bonus, you can find the best BBQ in Lockhart Texas just a short detour off of Route 21).
Houston to Austin Drive Stops
Let me start by summarizing the points of interest on this Houston TX to Austin TX Drive.
- Buc-ee's - the rest area to top all rest areas
- Chappell Hill Kolaches - Eastern European pastries in the heart of Texas Hill Country
- Blue Bell Ice Cream - Sample some amazing flavors for $1 a scoop
- Brenham - to experience small town America
- Old Potato Road - get off the highway and check out some scenic country byways
- Texas Big Sky - Pull over and get some great photographs
- Roadside Attractions - at Weikel's Bakery
Now let's delve into the details of what we saw on this Houston to Austin road trip.
Houston to Austin Pit Stop at Buc-ee's
Buc-ee's is the classic Texas road trip stop. I might have driven right by if not for the recommendation of a friend. What is Buc-ee's? It's an awesome rest area and gas station. You can stop and use the restroom, shop for snacks, and generally bask in the kitsch. Buc-ee's is also a go-to place for Texas-sized souvenirs. How can you resist this face?!
Chappell Hill Kolaches on a Houston to Austin Road Trip
Apparently, the corridor between Houston and Austin was settled by Czech and Slovak immigrants. Because of this, look for kolaches on your Texas road trip. Based on a Google Maps recommendation, I stopped at Chappell Hill for a sweet glazed kolache. I opted for the sour cream variety which is most popular according to the person working there.
Blue Bell Ice Cream Pitstop on the Drive between Austin and Houston
Is there anything to do on a road trip between Houston and Austin? Yes, apparently there is lots of eating :-) Based on my research before the trip, I'd identified Blue Bell Creamery in Brenham as a must-stop along the road on the way to Austin. For a dollar, you can sample a scoop of their delicious ice cream. I opted for the maple pecan. Blue Bell was set-up like an old-fashioned ice cream parlour and also featured a small gift shop. I had the place to myself when I visited on the drive from Houston to Austin a Monday morning. I read online that they used to do creamery tours. Apparently, they don't do tours anymore which was fine by me since I was tight on time.
Experience Small Town Texas on a Houston to Austin Road Trip
Driving back to Route 290 after my stop at Blue Bell Creamery, I drove through Brenham proper and got a taste of small town Texas. It's worth turning off the highway on the trip between Houston and Austin to see any number of charming towns.
Scenic Country Byways on a Texas Road Trip
On my way from Houston to Austin, I pretty much took a straight shot on Route 290. On my return trip from Austin to Houston, I decided to take a few more detours to see what I was missing. On a whim, I turned onto Old Potato Road near Paige, Texas. It was like being transported into another world. I saw rusty oil drilling equipment (a pumpjack), an alpaca farm, and of course plenty of Lone Star motifs.
SIDEWALK SAFARI SPOTLIGHT: Looking for other destinations to consider for a U.S. road trip? Why not drive from Naples to Tampa Florida to enjoy pristine beaches and fascinating museums like the Ringling Museum and the Edison and Ford winter estates? Alternatively, head to the Northeast for a New England road trip from Boston to Portland Maine for sea views, plenty of craft beer, and vestiges of America's colonial history.
Experience Texas Big Sky on a Houston to Austin Drive
One thing that really impressed me on the road from Houston to Austin was not strictly a thing to do but awesome nonetheless. Driving along, my jaw dropped just looking at a view of that famous Texas big sky. For a while, happy little clouds dotted the landscape and swirled into interested patterns that kept me entertained and fascinating on the long straight drive.
Texas Roadside Attractions at Weikel's Bakery
Road trips in the U.S.A. are never complete without stopping at a proper roadside attraction. Based on another Google Maps recommendation, I stopped at Weikel's Bakery. I was pleased to see an over-sized metal dinosaur outside to greet me. Across the street was an antiques shop selling old signage. It was all very kitsch but charming at the same time.
So what's the verdict? As you can see, there are a number of things to entertain road-trippers on the Houston to Austin drive. I wouldn't go out of my way to do this Texas road trip but if you have another reason to get out of the city and travel between Austin and Houston (like I did for business), you'll definitely be able to keep yourself entertained along the way.
Looking for tips once you arrive in Austin? Make sure to eat all that amazing Austin food and perhaps take an Austin Detours tour of the Texas capital.
Map of the Houston to Austin Drive
Explore for yourself the distance from Houston to Austin. Click on the image below to visit an interactive Google Map of things to do between Houston and Austin.
Houston to Austin Drive FAQ
This post covers a ton of information about the drive between Austin and Houston. Let me finish by summarizing the answers to some frequently asked questions.
Q: What is the Houston to Austin drive time?
A: People often wonder how long is takes to drive between Austin and Houston. The trip isn't that long by American standards. Without traffic congestion or stops along the way, you can drive from Houston to Austin in less than 3 hours.
Q: How far is the drive from Houston to Austin?
A: Houston and Austin are about 165 miles apart. The exact distance varies depending on where you start your road trip within the city of Houston.
Q: How many hours should I allow for the Houston to Austin drive?
A: Allow a full day to make the most of a Houston to Austin road trip. This will give you plenty of time to see the top road stops from Houston to Austin outlined in this post. Allowing a full day will also ensure that you have time to explore some of Texas' scenic byways between Houston and Austin.