Wide open acres, swimming holes, and the home of Country Music Legend Willie Nelson — these are just a few of the reasons that Spicewood, Texas is so loved around the Lake Travis area.
Nestled along the shores of Lake Travis in Burnet County, this Hill Country community is just 22 miles Southeast of the city lights of Austin. Spicewood has been hailed as the “Gateway to the Hill Country,” and rightly so. You can begin your Hill Country tour out to nearby towns such as Marble Falls, Burnet, Llano and Fredericksburg for a day trip, or plant yourself in Spicewood to take in its laid-back Texas vibes. It’s a quaint Texas town with a history all its own, and one you have to experience firsthand to truly comprehend.
Established in the late 19th century, Spicewood’s back story is filled with consolidating Texas towns, adding to their population growth over the years. The name “Spicewood” comes from the nearby sassafras or spicewood timber that grew so well in the area. This unincorporated land needed a name and over the decades the moniker caught on.
A major impetus for the growth of the area was the installation of their first post office in 1899. Under postmaster James B. Pangle the United States Postal Service was thriving in Spicewood, delivering mail to the many unincorporated areas that surrounded the community. In time, these neighboring communities slowly dwindled and began to vanish, and by the early part of the 20th century many of the denizens that were left started to focus on community life in nearby Spicewood.
Corwin, Clover and Rockvale all come to mind when naming these Hill Country communities that were eventually absorbed into the greater Spicewood area. Construction began on Farm Road 93, which would later become State Highway 71, in the 1940s, which brought much-needed economic development to Spicewood. However, the actual area that is considered Spicewood-proper sits at the intersection of C.R 404 and Spur 191, which currently houses a community center and the now defunct two-room schoolhouse that served the area in years past. In 1952 Spicewood ISD merged with nearby Marble Falls ISD to offer their students the best in educational opportunities.
Starting in the 1960s the area saw a multitude of growth centered around nearby lake life, and a resort area was being developed. Spicewood has a plethora of natural swimming holes and springs, including privately-owned Krause Springs just a short drive from Highway 71. Here you can swim, camp, explore, relax and get up close and personal with some of Spicewood’s best-kept natural springs. Lush, green ferns cling to the ever flowing waterfall at the base of this spring-fed pool, making this a must see for tourists and locals all over. Plan on a extended stay and bring your tent or Winnebago — there’s plenty of space even on busier weekends.
Dead Man’s Hole is another famous tourist spot — a treacherous hole near Spicewood and Marble Falls which got its name as a 155 foot deep pit that many men and women found themselves at the bottom of during the Civil War. The limestone fissures that developed at the South edge of Marble Falls served as a dumping ground for the many that were hanged during that time period. An eerie park with so many stories you have to see to believe.
Vines and Wines from Spicewood
Spicewood is also known for the vineyards that are thriving in the area. Grapes are grown and can exist in semi-drought conditions, giving these wines hearty and robust flavors so popular in the wine circuit. Take a tour on the Hill Country Wine Trail and warm up your palate in Spicewood at Stone House Vineyard, which focuses on crafting the finest in champagne, red and whites for their Hill Country fans.
Just down the way a bit sits award-winning Spicewood Vineyards, serving up some of the tastiest Texas wines around. You’ll just have to sip them yourself to experience the unique flavors that come from the Texas Hill Country.
The Future of Spicewood
Nowadays, the heart of the town is located on the strip at the corner of Spur 191 and Highway 71, which consists of Opie’s BBQ, a general and hardware store, an insurance store, a taco shop and art gallery. Other well-known establishments in Spicewood are Poodie’s Hilltop Roadhouse and Angel’s Icehouse. If coffee is your thing, be sure to set up a roastery tour at Cuvee Coffee, a specialty roaster that is quickly becoming a supplier to coffee shops all across America.
As the Lake Travis and Hill Country areas continue to grow, more people are moving to communities like Spicewood. Others stop by for an afternoon of swimming, water sports, wine sampling and as a portal to other Hill Country towns. Whatever your reason for checking out Spicewood, it’s easy to feel like you have gotten away from it all once you’re here. Let’s hope this small town never loses that laid-back Texas vibe.
Smyrl, Vivian E. “SPICEWOOD, TX.” SMYRL, VIVIAN ELIZABETH. Texas State Historical Association, 15 June 2010. Web. 24 July 2014.
Darrell Debo, Burnet County History (2 vols., Burnet, Texas: Eakin, 1979).
“Cofran’s Texas . . . Hill Country Portal.” Spicewood, Texas (TX). Hill Country Portal, n.d. Web. 26 July 2014.
Photo courtesy of the John M P Knox photostream on Flickr