When you talk about Texas, a lot of folks think about cowboys, rodeos, and country music right off the bat. Paddle boarding isn’t usually the first thing that comes to mind.
But it kind of should be. Besides all the cool stuff Texas is famous for, it’s actually an epic spot for stand up paddling!
Texas offers more paddling spots than you can imagine. You have lakes in cities bustling with life, fast-moving rivers for the adrenaline junkies, secluded trails with magical views, picturesque beaches, and more!
There’s something for everyone; you just need to know where to look.
That’s why I reached out to local paddling experts for their recommendations on the best places to paddle board in Texas. And now I’m letting you in on the secret.
Top 7 Paddle Boarding Spots in Texas According to Locals
Surfside Beach or just Surfside, as the locals call it, is a small beach town on Follet’s Island with a population of about 600.
According to Justin Dupree of Explore More, “Surfside Beach has been named the bird city of Texas by the Parks and Wildlife Department due to the number of different species that live and migrate through the area.”
The beach town is ecologically diverse, and there are more than 300 migratory and resident bird species. Paddle boarders can spot stilts, gulls, brown pelicans, herons, terns, egrets, and the magnificent frigatebird all year round.
Other than bird watching, there’s so much more to do on your paddle board in Surfside, like paddle board fishing.
Justin says, “We have lots of fish, including black drum, redfish, trout, and lots of bigger game fish farther out in the ocean. Many people like to go crabbing as well.”
Surfing is also big here, so you’ll be able to put your SUP surfing skills to good use. One thing is for sure, a paddler can’t run out of paddling adventures in Surfside Beach.
Christmas Bay may be small, but it’s a paddler’s paradise, especially for SUP anglers and birdwatchers. It’s nestled in the Gulf Coast, not far from Freeport. Justin says they have over 19 miles of paddling trails, and it’s one of the best places to kayak and paddle board.
The 4,173-acre bay is mostly undisturbed and has a rich ecosystem. In fact, it is protected by the Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge.
When paddle boarding in Christmas Bay, expect to see different types of birds–both permanent and migratory. These include the brown pelican and piping plover, which are now endangered.
The bay receives water from different sources, fresh and salty. The odd mixture means you will see a diverse marine life, and it’s a haven for anglers. In addition to oysters and crabs, Christmas Bay is home to different finfish, such as the speckled trout, red drum, and black drum.
Eager to paddle board with dolphins? Even more reason to check this location out! You may just spot bottlenose dolphins in the bay and surrounding areas.
The paddling trail has long loops and shorter ones, so you can have a day-long adventure or a quick two-hour trip.
Barton Creek is a great location for paddle boarders who like to be where the party is.
According to Aaron Bell from Boats and Bats, “if you want to come to Austin and paddle board during the day you’ve got to check out Barton Creek. This is the spring water river section created by the spring at Barton Springs pool.”
The area offers great views of Austin–and they are even more magical while on a paddle board. A part of the creek is within the Barton Creek Greenbelt, which is a protected public recreation space. It is home to a wide range of indigenous plant and animal species.
Endangered animals here include the black-capped vireo, golden-cheeked warbler, and the rare Guadalupe bass.
Aaron says there are awesome views, “both of the natural type like fish and turtles below the surface of the water, but you should also expect to see people keeping Austin weird.
Paddling this section during the day, you’ll see people jumping off the bridges and rope swings, some slackliners walking across a line going over the river, and a cluster of 30-somethings partying where the creek meets the Colorado River. Locals call it Party Island.”
Downtown Austin on Lady Bird Lake
Lady Bird Lake is a reservoir in Austin, named in honor of Lady Bird Johnson, a former first lady of the U.S.
One fantastic thing about this paddling location is that most motorized vessels are prohibited. So you can have a fun, relaxed time paddling alongside other paddlers without constantly worrying about large vessels zooming past you.
Kate Knifton from Texas Rowing Center says:
“You can paddle right into the heart of downtown Austin. Popular sights include Barton Springs, the Stevie Ray Vaughan statue, Austin’s skyline, and the iconic Congress Bat Bridge.”
Aaron Bell of Boats and Bats adds that paddle boarding downtown at sunset “with the bats” is one of the best experiences the area has to offer:
“You paddle along the skyline while the sun sets, then you watch 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats fly out. On the way home, it gets dark, and you see the same skyline, but now it’s night, and the buildings are glowing, and it’s epic all over again.”
What a way to wind up your day!
Galveston Island State Park
The 2000-acre Galveston Island State Park is on the Gulf Coast, on the western side of Galveston Island. It offers a wide range of activities, including paddling. It’s an ideal destination for all kinds of paddle boarders, from SUP anglers to those looking to have a good time as a family.
According to Nathan Stevens of Texas Camp Company, “The bayside of the park provides numerous launch points for paddlers to access West Bay’s diverse ecosystem. There aren’t many public launches outside of the park.
Not only will paddlers enjoy the marine life, but the marsh grasses and salt flats hold an incredible number of birds and other wildlife. The park has three marked paddle trails, which are extremely helpful for paddlers unfamiliar with the area.”
The park has many trails to enjoy gorgeous views of the area and wildlife. There is a beachside and a bayside–you can’t run out of ways to have fun. Paddle leisurely as you feast your eyes on the scenery, take some SUP surfing lessons, go fishing, or spend your day bird-watching.
This city on the south side of Texas has tons of stunning beaches, and you’ll be spoilt for choice. If you’re looking for calm water for relaxed paddling or SUP yoga classes, you’ll find it here, but there’s also no need to look elsewhere if you want something more exciting, like SUP surfing. Talk about variety!
Wind and Wave Watersports’ Nathan Floyd describes it as “a beautiful city nestled along the Gulf Coast of Mexico.”
He adds, “it is surrounded by the Laguna Madre and Corpus Christi Bays. We have miles and miles of waterways that allow for constant new adventures.
If it’s a windy day, try paddling along the backside of the island for a nice wind block and some shallow water excursions. Our waters are teeming with marine life, and Nueces County is known as the “birdiest” county in America. In the summer mornings, enjoy light wind conditions and beautiful sunny skies.
Make sure you try one of the paddle board yoga classes held downtown Corpus inside the Marina. Explore the paddling trails at the Lighthouse Lakes near Port Aransas too. Our proximity to endless waterways is what makes the Coastal Bend a great place to visit.”
Little Elm Beach and Lake Lewisville
Little Elm is a city situated along Lewisville Lake’s shores and part of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. Justin Hammond of DFW Surf highly recommends this spot to visiting paddlers. He says that it is “North Texas’ largest public beach.”
The Lake is usually bustling with activity, especially during summer. It’s the right place to be if you’re looking for a more lively scene. After your SUP session, you can have fun partying with the locals and other tourists at the famous Party Cove in the middle of the lake.
One interesting SUP adventure is paddling out to the Old Alton Bridge, which the locals call the Goatman’s Bridge. Justin says there’s a spooky story behind it; “it has been premiered on multiple Ghost Hunter series with its old and eerie tale of Texas’ past.”
If you love paranormal stories, this would be quite the adventure.
Fishing is a popular activity in this area, and it’s sometimes referred to as the urban bass fishing capital of Texas. It’s ideal for SUP anglers. You’ll find spotted bass, largemouth bass, white bass, sunfish, and channel and blue catfish.
Besides paddle boarding, Justin adds that there are “miles of biking and hiking trails that surround the whole city as well as restaurants. Whether your eyes are on the water, in the sky, or scanning the trees, you are guaranteed to see something that piques your interest.”
Top Paddle Boarding Spots in Austin, Texas
Austin is a large city bustling with activity, and there’s so much to see and do. It’s also referred to as the Live Music Capital of the World, thanks to its incredible live music scene.
The state capital of Texas has some cool paddling locations too. Check them out.
Lake Travis on the Colorado River is one of the best paddle boarding spots in Austin. Its clear, calm waters are perfect for newbies and anyone looking to try SUP yoga.
There are a few things more magical than catching a sunrise or sunset view on a paddle board. You can enjoy this on Lake Travis anytime you want to escape to nature without driving too far from the city.
The lake is also a nice fishing location, and anglers can expect to find sunfish, Guadalupe bass, largemouth bass, catfish, and white bass.
You set the limit for how long you can paddle on Lake Travis. You can paddle out to some of the small islands and give your paddling muscles a good workout. Or you can just paddle lazily along the shore as you enjoy the scenery.
Spring Lake offers a truly one-of-a-kind experience for paddle boarders. The lake has a limestone bottom, so you can paddle on incredibly clear and glassy waters–a paddle boarder’s dream!
Spring Lake has a rich history, and you can glimpse it as you glide over the crystal-clear waters on your stand up paddleboard.
This place used to be a water theme park; some people may remember it as Aquarena Springs. It is now under the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment.
To paddle board in Spring Lake, you will have to book an educational tour with the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment. They will provide everything, including paddle boards and safety equipment.
Where to Paddle Board in Dallas, Texas
Dallas is one of the largest cities in the United States. It’s also the hometown of Bonnie and Clyde, the infamous criminal couple.
There are many ways to explore this beautiful city, and paddle boarding is one of them. Here are some of the best paddling spots in Dallas.
White Rock Lake
This is the largest lake in the city, and it’s quite popular, so it can get a little crowded, especially on the weekends.
Motorboats are banned here, though, and you can enjoy some peaceful float time on your board.
Many animals call White Rock Lake Park home, including river otters, red foxes, white-tailed deer, bobcats, and several bird species. The lake also contains many fish, such as bass, catfish, carp, sunfish, and crappie.
Cruising the lake on a paddle board is a unique way to see the natural beauty of the Dallas area.
There’s an interesting urban legend about a young girl who haunts White Rock Lake–the Lady of the Lake. If you love spooky stories, definitely check out this brief account of the Ghost of White Rock.
This lake covers about 8,000 acres and is a center for all kinds of water activities, including paddle boarding and fishing. It’s in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.
Given the lake’s size, there are so many ways to have fun here, along with other Texas paddlers. You can paddle out in the evening for a sunset view or try to catch some waves on your paddle board.
Expect to see a wide range of wildlife here, both in and around the lake. You might spot the migratory waterfowl, great blue heron, great egret, white-tail deer, raccoons, and more.
If you’re an angler, the most common fish species in Grapevine Lake include the spotted bass, largemouth bass, white bass, channel catfish, and white crappie.
Best Places to Paddle Board in Houston, Texas
In addition to being a diverse and culturally rich city, Houston is also an amazing place to visit for paddlers. Here are some of its top paddling locations.
Armand Bayou runs through the Armand Bayou Nature Center, about 30 minutes from Houston. It’s the largest urban wilderness preserve in the country, covering about 2,500 acres.
Being a nature center, you’re guaranteed to see a wide range of wildlife, including gorgeous birds and scary reptiles.
As you drift down the bayou, you will find yourself lost in nature, and the views here are picturesque. Over 220 bird species can be found here, as well as some large alligators.
There are different trail options, depending on your skill level. Advanced paddlers, for instance, can put in at Clear Lake Park and paddle the entire trail upstream.
SUP anglers can fish for both freshwater and saltwater fish species in the bayou.
You don’t have to travel too far from the city to have a great paddling adventure. Buffalo Bayou flows through the city of Houston into Galveston Bay.
The slow-moving water body has a diverse ecosystem. It’s home to a large population of birds, and you may see turtles, snakes, and alligators too. This is also where you’ll find the Waugh Drive Bridge–a famous bat-watching site.
If you’re looking to fish, you’ll find bass, sunfish, and catfish in the bayou.
While paddle boarding in the evening, you can marvel at the beauty of the Houston skyline. It’s nothing short of breathtaking. Early morning paddles are peaceful, and the sounds of nature will make you want to stay in that moment forever.
Beautiful Paddle Boarding Locations in San Antonio, Texas
Did you know that San Antonio is the most visited city in the Lone Star State? That’s right. The city has some popular attractions, including the Alamo.
If you’re a paddler, here are some paddling spots you can add to your list when visiting this remarkable city.
Boerne Lake in Boerne City Lake Park is about 40 minutes from the heart of San Antonio.
One remarkable thing about this location is that it doesn’t allow motorized boats. This means kayakers and paddle boarders can enjoy cruising on calm, clear waters, without speedboats whizzing by! Paddling during the week is much more peaceful, as it can get crowded during the weekend.
You are free to fish on Boerne Lake. The different types of fish here include bass, bluegill, and sunfish.
Before you go out on your paddle board, check the wind conditions; it can get a little too windy sometimes.
The Guadalupe River runs through the Guadalupe River State Park, just a short drive from San Antonio.
The river is usually a hive of activity, with the most popular activities being paddling, tubing, and whitewater rafting. The upper part of the river is in the Texas Hill Country, while the lower part begins at Canyon Lake.
Paddle boarding on Guadalupe River allows you to immerse yourself in nature, thanks to its diverse ecosystem. That park has many different types of plants, including cypress trees, poison ivy, frostweed, Ashe juniper, lace cactus, and more.
White-tailed deer, raccoons, foxes, and armadillos are some of the animals you may spot, as well as a ton of bird species.
Fishing is popular along the entire river as it is home to many fish species. The section in the Guadalupe River State Park has catfish, crappie, carp, and Guadalupe, white, striped, smallmouth, and largemouth bass.
The river has quite many fantastic paddling routes. Nichol’s Landing Paddling Trail is popular and ideal for advanced paddlers, as there are rapids along the trail.
Where to Paddle Board in Fort Worth, Texas
Some people say Fort Worth is the most typically Texan city in all of Texas, and it even hosts a real cattle drive twice daily. The city also has some fantastic spots for paddle boarders to show off their paddling skills.
This 710-mile river has four branches–East Fork, West Fork, Clear Fork, and Elm Fork–and offers diverse paddling trails. The river flows through Fort Worth, and paddlers can launch their paddle boards from several locations.
Paddling along the river, you will enjoy gorgeous views of the city and some of its landmarks as well as natural scenery. Many different animal species call the river home, and they may even keep you company as you paddle.
You might spot ducks, turtles, egrets, herons, hawks, deer, and more.
The Trinity River has several fish species, so it’s a nice location for anglers too. There are catfish, sunfish, largemouth bass, crappie, and white bass. You can paddle along the river to Lake Worth for an even more interesting and varied fishing trip.
Lake Worth is right inside Fort Worth, on the West Branch of the Trinity River.
The best thing about Lake Worth is that it’s less crowded than most of the other spots here. The flat water and wind-protected shores also make this the perfect location for paddlers of all skill levels, including beginners.
You can paddle casually and immerse yourself in the gorgeous scenery as you exercise your paddling muscles. Alternatively, get a wide paddle board and try a few yoga poses as you interact with other paddlers.
This is also another great place for anglers, with abundant fish species. The predominant ones include white bass, spotted bass, largemouth bass, white crappie, and catfish.
Texas Paddle Boarding Laws
When paddle boarding anywhere, it’s essential to obey the laws for your own safety. You also don’t want to get in trouble with the authorities and ruin what’s supposed to be a good time.
All paddle boards must have a USCG-approved personal flotation device for everyone onboard. Everyone under the age of 13 has to wear their PFD.
It is illegal to operate any vessel under the influence of drugs and alcohol in Texas. You can get a BWI (Boating While Intoxicated).
You must have at least one white light when paddling at night or in low visibility, and it needs to be bright enough too.
Lastly, you’ll need a whistle for emergencies.
For the anglers, here are the general fishing regulations in Texas.
Most paddleboard rentals will provide all the necessary accessories. They will also explain what you should or shouldn’t do. If you’re unsure about something, always ask.
How to Pick the Right Paddle Boarding Location
This will depend on where you are and what kind of paddling experience you want. The different locations here offer different kinds of experiences.
You will find spots that are ideal for anglers, bird watchers, families, SUP yogis, whitewater paddlers, and more. Some locations are crowded and lively, while others are secluded and quiet. Find something that fits your mood and paddling style.
Paddle boarding may not be the first thing that comes to mind when someone mentions Texas. However, the Lone Star State will surprise you.
Local experts have given their best recommendations for where to paddle board in Texas, and each one of these locations has something unique to offer. There are multiple spots in or close to the major cities, so you won’t have a problem escaping to nature, even for a couple of hours or so if you’re visiting.
If you’re new to Texas or are planning to visit, be sure to check one or two of these spots out.