If Fredericksburg feels too fussy for you, Kerrville also makes a good base for exploring the Hill Country. What it might lack in historic charm, it makes up for in size, offering plenty of services for travelers as well as easy access to kayaking, canoeing and swimming on the Guadalupe River.
Johnson City & Stonewall
You might assume Johnson City was named after President Lyndon Baines Johnson, who lived here as a child and had a ranch nearby where he spent most of his life. But the bragging rights go to James Polk Johnson, a town settler back in the late 1800s. The fact that James Johnson's grandson went on to become the 36th president of the United States was just pure luck.
Twenty-three miles east of Bandera on Hwy 46 is the bustling little center of Boerne (pronounced 'Bernie'), settled by German immigrants in 1849. The town, which clings strongly to its German roots, is less overrun with tourists than Fredericksburg and is a pleasant place to spend a few hours.
Just up the road from Boerne on I-10 is the tiny town of Nelson City, which is notable mainly as the starting point for a drive along the Waring-Welfare Rd (SR 1621), a lazy country lane that dips and meanders past some beautiful scenery and a few hidden Hill Country escapes. Nelson City is really just a smattering of buildings off I-10 at the Waring-Welfare Rd exit.
As small as Luckenbach is – there are only three permanent residents, not counting the cat – it's big on Texas charm. You won't find a more laid-back place. The main activity is sitting at a picnic table under an old oak tree with a cold bottle of Shiner Bock and listening to guitar pickers, who are often accompanied by roosters.
Guadalupe River State Park
Thirty miles north of San Antonio, this exceptionally beautiful park straddles a 9-mile stretch of the sparklingly clear, bald-cypress-lined Guadalupe River, and it's great for canoeing and tubing. There are also 3 miles of hiking trails through the park's almost 2000 acres.
Enchanted Rock State Natural Area
What's so enchanting about a rock, you might ask? Well, when you see the dome of pink granite dating from the Proterozoic era rising 425ft above ground – one of the largest batholiths in the US – you certainly know you're not looking at just any old rock. (And remember, that's just the part you can see; most of the rock formation is underground.