If I were to dream up the perfect kingdom, it would be a land of flowing rivers, abundant vineyards, smoky barbecue, and maybe even some gold. I searched for all of this and more on a recent day trip to the Texas Hill Country and the aptly named town of Kingsland.
8:00 a.m. I rolled into town and headed straight to Kingsland Coffee Company, a small business with bold brew. With a fresh cappuccino and locally made muffin in hand, I grabbed a seat on the outdoor patio and planned out the rest of my day.
8:45 a.m. Kingsland sits at the convergence of the Colorado and Llano rivers and the spot where Inks Lake flows into Lake LBJ. It was a bit cold for a dip (even for The Daytripper), so I opted to appreciate the Highland Lakes from dry land. I stopped at the excellent overlook on RM 1431 (Lookout Mountain) to take it all in.
9:30 a.m. While lake swimming was off the table, the water was still calling my name. So with my fly-fishing rod in hand, I parked at The Slab, threw on my waders, and forged up the Llano River in search of white bass making their annual spawning run upstream (January through April). Two hours later, I had caught enough fish for a Sunday fry, but instead of eating sushi, I released them to finish their task of making little bass babies. After all, I needed a much more convenient lunch.
12:30 p.m. I opted for turf over surf and headed to Spyke’s BBQ, where I found enough meat to feed a king’s army. However, being just an army of one, I ordered a two-meat plate of delicious pork ribs and smoked turkey.
1:30 p.m. Needing a kingly beverage to wash down my feast, I headed to nearby Perissos Vineyard and Winery for some local wine. Embracing the challenges of growing grapes in Texas, the Martin family plants varieties suited for Hill Country soil such as tempranillo, viognier, and aglianico. I hadn’t heard of many of them, but after sampling them all, I can say that as long as it says “Perissos,” it’s gonna be good.
I purchased a few bottles of my favorites to enjoy later.
3:30 p.m. Like a moth to a flame, I returned to the water, but instead of hunting fish, I was in search of GOLD! Long ago, the “Llano Uplift” turned up all sorts of minerals in this area, and just northwest of town I found Long’s Fish and Dig, where I bought a small pan and headed toward the water. I spent hours sifting through rocks and mud in search of my fame and fortune. Sadly, all I found were pebbles, mud, and a boatload of quartz; nothing worthy of a kingly treasure. I left with pockets as empty as my stomach and decided to find dinner.
7:00 p.m. Back in town, I stopped at the Antlers Hotel, a grand, two-story lodge opened in 1901 for railroad tourists. Today, the grounds hold a number of rail cars turned into private lodges and the tasty Grand Central Cafe. I walked in and an eerie feeling descended on me as I learned that this Victorian structure served as the set of the 1974 classic Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Throughout dinner I constantly checked over my shoulder imagining the buzz of a distant chainsaw. Luckily, the waitstaff was much nicer than “Leatherface” and my steak covered in blue cheese was much more delectable than anything he ever served his guests.
As I savored my steak, I realized that this had truly been a day fit for a king. And while we can’t all be royalty, in Kingsland we can certainly day-trip like it. So whether you follow my footsteps or forge your own path, I hope to see you on the road.
Chet Garner is the host of The Daytripper® travel show on PBS.