Much like everything else in the state, the boating life in Texas is big. Bigger and better than most people give it credit for. The lone star state has plenty and famous bodies of water that offer a vibrant boating and sailing scene.
Whether you prefer gentle lake cruises in your pontoon boat, exploring and fishing a lake on your bass boat, or sailing the Gulf coast, Texas ticks all the boxes of an epic boating destination.
So, before I talk about each of the boating places in depth, here’s a quick list to summarize the best aspects of each of them.
|Rank||Boating Destination||Best For|
|2||Lake Conroe||Boating near Houston|
|3||South Padre Island||Exploring the Gulf of Mexico|
|4||Possum Kingdom Lake||Scenery|
|5||Caddo Lake||Unique scenery and wildlife|
|6||Lake Lewisville||Boating near Dallas|
|7||Lake Amistad||Remote exploring|
|8||Lake Texoma||Striper bass fishing|
|9||Lake Granbury||Camping adventures|
|10||Canyon Lake||Water sports|
|11||Lake Austin||Boating near Austin|
|12||Inks Lake||Scuba Diving|
|13||Eagle Mountain Lake||Lake sailing|
|14||Lake O’ the Pines||East Texas scenery|
|15||Sam Rayburn Reservoir||Largemouth fishing|
|16||Galveston Texas||Dolphin sighting|
|17||Corpus Christi||Sailing and other wind-related activities|
Famous for its sparkly blue waters, Lake Travis is considered the Crown Jewel of the Central Texas Highland Lakes. This gorgeous lake has a 271-mile shoreline and a surface area of over 7,660 hectares for you to sail. Its scenic settings, clear waters, luxurious resorts, and proximity to Austin are what make it popular for recreational boaters.
Lake Travis is overflowing with fun things to do, including swimming, cliff jumping, diving, jet-skiing, camping, and ziplining. Fishing is also a popular activity, with largemouth bass, striped bass, catfish, and sunfish being the most caught fish living in the lake. The shore is lined with many public access points, as well as marinas, boat rentals, and guide shops.
If you don’t want to venture too far from Houston, head to Lake Conroe. It’s a top boating lake in Texas, sitting on the west fork of the San Jacinto River. This man-made lake was created in 1973 as an alternative drinking water reserve for the City of Houston. Today, this 26-mile reservoir has over 10 marinas and is an awesome destination for water and non-water activities.
There is no shortage of things to do and see, from swimming, waterskiing, jet-skiing, hunting, and, obviously, pleasure boating. When you’re ready for a break on land, you can go golfing, check out the local restaurants, or experience the live music scene in the adjacent city of Conroe.
There’s hiking in the evergreen forests of Sam Houston National Forest and excellent fishing with good-sized largemouth, white, and striped bass, and bluegill.
3. South Padre Island
Situated near the southern tip of Texas, South Padre Island, is a gorgeous resort town with all attractions a boater can dream of. The wide Texas skies, 35 miles of gorgeous white sands, and the dazzling clear waters make it a spectacular place to hop on a boat, swing with the waves, and soak in the gulf views. Sailing is also very popular hear.
Whether you bring your vessel, rent one, or book a boat tour, you’re sure to have fun. You can snorkel in the clear waters, watch and greet dolphins, sport fish, catch and release some marine animals, admire long jetties, observe waterfowl, or have fun basking in the sun. In addition, watersports, such as kiteboarding, paddleboarding, and jet skiing, can be experienced here.
4. Possum Kingdom Lake
Fondly known as PK, Possum Kingdom Lake lies on the Brazos River 70 miles west of Fort Worth. Boaters can’t have enough of this 20,000-acre lake, thanks to its blue waters, scenic shores, breathtaking cliffs known as Hells Gate, and a wide array of activities. You can swim, boat, fish, or even spend some quiet time soaking in the dazzling scenery.
Because this lake has some of the clearest blue water you’ll find in Texas, it’s a popular place for scuba diving and snorkeling. Cliff jumping is also possible at Hell’s Gate. If you’re looking for somewhere to spend a night as you explore the diversity in the lake, camp or book a cabin at Possum Kingdom State Park.
5. Caddo Lake
Set between the Texas and Louisiana border, just three hours from Dallas lies Caddo Lake. It offers one of the most unique water experiences in the Lone Star State. Ponds, low-hanging cypress trees, and floating lily pads create an amazing scenery.
This internationally protected wetland is home to many endangered, threatened, and rare species, including bobcats, waterfowl, mink, otters, beavers, gators, raptors, and over 70 species of fish.
There are public boat ramps and a few privately owned marinas where you can launch your personal or rental vessel. Other attractions are paddling, hunting, hiking, biking, horseback riding, and camping. At the Caddo Lake State Park, you’ll find picnic tables, nature trails, and a fishing pier.
6. Lake Lewisville
One of the largest lakes in North Texas, Lake Lewisville is another man-made reservoir less than an hour’s drive from Dallas. It features 233 miles of shoreline, and it’s a favorite among boaters for its crystal clear waters, beautiful parks, tons of family activities, world-class marine facilities, and thousands of acres of protected nature.
The lake has over 20 marinas, and it’s easy to rent all kinds of boats, from houseboats and pontoon boats to party barges. When you aren’t boating, fishing or skiing, you can bike, hike or camp. If you want a nice place to sit back, relax, and soak up the sun, Westlake Park is the perfect spot. Party Cove is another popular where boaters tie-up with other boats, listen to music, and party on the water.
7. Lake Amistad
Sitting along the US and Mexico border is Lake Amistad—a unique and wildly beautiful desert oasis. It has a reputation for being the most family-friendly lake in Texas, yet it’s not as crowded as many others in the state. Its remote location is part of its lure, so are its clear, sprawling waters. You have 10 boat launch ramps to pick from.
One of the most interesting activities boaters can enjoy is viewing the 4,000-year-old Native American rock art. You can also take a refreshing dive in one of its numerous coves. If you love impromptu exploration, the steeply walled canyons on the lake’s edges are perfect for discovery and snapping photos. There are also hiking trails, opportunities for birdwatching, and limited hunting.
8. Lake Texoma
Straddling the Oklahoma and Texas border, just 80 miles north of Dallas, Lake Texoma is a good example of why people say everything is bigger in Texas. The lake is one of the largest reservoirs in the country, and the mild breezes and clear waters make it the ideal spot to launch your watercraft. It has a shoreline stretching over 580 miles, perfect for year-round boating.
There are 12 marinas where you can bring your sailboat or pontoon. You can also float your fishing rig as there’s also lots of great fishing to be done on the lake. Smallmouth, spotted, and striped bass are among the 70 different species of fish you can expect to reel in. The lake is also home to several small islands, hotels, two wildlife refuges, golf courses, and hundreds of camping areas.
9. Lake Granbury
Lake Granbury is a long, narrow lake located in North Texas on the Brazos River. Its 100 miles of coastline draws boaters who prefer low-key boating and fishing expeditions. Although narrow, it reaches depths of over 75 feet, and it’s well stocked with fish, making it a convenient location for casting a line.
You can also have fun waterskiing, wakeboarding, paddleboarding, swimming, and sightseeing some of the most picturesque Texas landscapes around this reservoir. Five parks line the shore, all with lake access spots and recreational areas open year-round. There’s also a diverse collection of stores, restaurants, and boat rentals. For accommodation, you have several options, such as campgrounds, cozy cottages, and historic resorts.
10. Canyon Lake
A special gem of Texas Hill Country, Canyon Lake is known as the Water Recreation Capital of Lone Star State. This beautiful turquoise lake is located halfway between San Antonio and Austin, on the Guadalupe River, and covers over 8,000 acres. It’s a fabulous getaway for any nature lover, with 23 boat ramps, two marinas, and several rental facilities.
One of the major draws is the Canyon Lake Gorge, where you can discover evidence of the prehistoric creatures that once ruled the earth in ancient times. Other popular activities include boating and tubing, but the lake is also famous for its rainbow trout fishing. When you want to take a break from the water, you can explore nearby trails, enjoy a picnic or soak in the Texas sun on the beach. Cliff jumping is also possible if you’re daring.
11. Lake Austin
Situated in the heart of Austin, yet away from the busy life of the city, this magnificent lake is one of the best places for boating in Texas. It’s a 647-hectare reservoir that’s part of the Colorado River. You’ll find 7 boat ramp locations to utilize, some with no fees, and you can rent pontoon boats along the shoreline.
Boaters who love angling come to Lake Austin because of its huge stock of largemouth bass, many weighing over 10 pounds. Apart from boating, you can wakeboard, water ski, canoe, play volleyball, or soak up the sun on the beach. You’ll love the landscape views of the surrounding hills and the nearby hiking and biking trails.
12. Inks Lake
This is a stunning reservoir lying in the heart of Texas Hill Country on the Colorado River. It’s 50 miles northwest of Austin with a lush landscape and desert-oasis setting. You’ll love the sparkling blue water, rugged pink rocks jutting near the shore, and the charming night sky.
Inks Lake is great for all types of boating. Other water-based pursuits include swimming, water skiing, scuba diving, paddling, and fishing. Adrenaline lovers can leap off the cliffs that rise more than 40 feet above the water. On land, you can hike, bike, sightsee, view wildlife, and have fun at the picnic areas and playgrounds.
13. Eagle Mountain Lake
Eagle Mountain Lake, located north of Fort Worth, is another of Texas’s best sailing/boating lakes. This hidden gem is known for its splendor, lively boating scene, and fishing adventures. It covers 8,694 acres and is surrounded by captivating landscapes. Apart from recreational boating, other activities include wakeboarding, skiing, kayaking, and swimming.
Anglers love the variety of sport fish in the lake, from spotted bass, flathead catfish to white crappie. And if you want some inland activities, try hiking some of the famous trails in Eagle Mountain Park. The lake is also known for its wild party coves. Just scout for a cluster of boats on the water, and you’ll most likely be in the company of partying sailors.
14. Lake O’ the Pines
Found east of the Lone Star state, Lake O’ the Pines is considered one of the best lakes for boating in Texas. This 18,700-acre lake is encompassed by piney woods, making the surroundings even more alluring. Alongside the mesmerizing scenery, these woods also provide shade to hiking trails and campgrounds next to the shore.
Although it’s an under-the-radar destination, it still has the creature comforts of other more popular lakes. You’ll find well-stocked waters, with a regular variety of bass, giant catfish, and chain pickerel. Along the shoreline sits 7 parks with playgrounds, picnic areas, campgrounds, boat ramps, and beach areas.
15. Sam Rayburn Reservoir
Found north of Beaumont in Deep East Texas, Sam Rayburn Reservoir is a famous recreation lake operated by the Army Corps of Engineers. It’s over 288 miles long and encompasses over 110,000 acres, making it the largest lake located entirely within the state of Texas.
Sam Rayburn Reservoir reaches a depth of 80 feet and has a thriving population of bass, catfish, and crappies, making it a popular spot for anglers. Numerous parks and public places dot the shores of the lake, and many of them have hiking trails, picnic areas, scenic overlooks, and boat ramps. The surrounding trees and rolling hills help create a stunning natural backdrop.
16. Galveston Texas
On the eastern edge of the Gulf Coast, you will find Galveston. This large port town is home to a number of marinas, the kind of place that suits boaters of all kinds. Along its coastline, you’ll find family-friendly parks, complete with pavilions, restrooms, playground, fish cleaning stations, and parking.
Boaters looking for a rowdy experience can find wild beach parties and entertainment in Galveston. Those who want to escape the crowds can enjoy boat tours, dolphin watching, sport fishing, stand-up paddleboarding, and jet skiing.
17. Corpus Christi
Corpus Christi is one of the best locations in Texas for boating and other water sports. In fact, It’s the 7th windiest city in America. With all the aquatic beauty the area has to offer, there’s no better way to experience the area than from a boat. Here, miles and miles of gulf coast shoreline and pristine bays beckon you.
The boating scene is well-developed, and you’ll find everything you need to get on the water, including boat rentals, sailing lessons, fishing charters, marina slips, and tour companies. In addition, you can enjoy kiteboarding, windsurfing, and kayaking. Inland, you can visit their superb restaurants and clubhouses in the cities or go wildlife and bird watching outdoors.
Texas doesn’t disappoint when it comes to beautiful and spacious areas to launch boats. With over 300 days of sunshine every year, a large diversity of lakes, and an excellent coast, the state is a water recreation paradise. Whatever kind of boater you consider yourself to be, one of these boating destinations is right for you!