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Daytripper: Burnet

It’s Burn-et, Durn-it!
Written by Chet Garner.

(Photo courtesy of The Daytripper with Chet Garner)

It’s Burn-et, Durn-it! Can’t you learn it? So goes the popular saying in the town of Burnet, as natives poke gentle fun at out-of-towners and the dreadfully incorrect pronunciation—“Burr–nette.” But however you say it, this Hill Country burg near the Highland Lakes makes for a great destination.

10:00 a.m. I kicked off the day by digging into the history of Burnet County at the Fort Croghan Museum, which commemorates one of the first U.S. Army forts built in Texas after its annexation into the United States. The museum grounds, open spring through fall, and year round for group tours, feature two original fort buildings and eight period structures that were moved here and restored.

11:00 a.m. I jumped from the frontier to flight with a visit to the Highland Lakes Squadron of the Commemorative Air Force, housed in an airport hangar just outside of downtown. The organization keeps a number of immaculately restored aircraft and a small museum ready for curious visitors. It feels pretty cool to sit inside the cockpit of a World War II plane, especially the “Bluebonnet Belle,” a massive Douglas C-47 Skytrain used to transport cargo and drop paratroopers behind enemy lines.

12:00 p.m. The morning’s history theme extended into lunch at Burnet Feed Store BBQ, a repurposed feed and supply shop that makes old-fashioned pit barbecue, much tastier than the alfalfa cow pellets this building used to turn out. My ribs were fall-off-the-bone good and I chased them down with my favorite of their four cobbler choices—peach!

1:00 p.m. After lunch, it was time to explore the natural side of Burnet at Inks Lake State Park. Inks Lake is one of four “pass-through” lakes among the Highland Lakes, which means minor water-level fluctuation daily, but a constant level in drought (and the lake can flood in excessive rainfall). The weather was a bit too cold for a dip, but that didn’t stop me from hiking the trails that wind for miles through the area’s pink granite hills. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that Inks Lake State Park is all about the water, or else you’ll miss out on its remarkable landscape.

4:00 p.m. The rock underneath the Burnet area is beautiful, too, so I drove to Longhorn Cavern State Park. Because it was formed by an underground river, Longhorn Cavern is full of smooth, carved stone, as opposed to jagged stalactites and stalagmites. Throw in a room full of colorful crystals and a rock formation that looks exactly like Abraham Lincoln, and you have an incredible natural wonder—with an interesting human history. The cavern’s largest rooms have served as a Native American tribal council room, a Civil War gunpowder room, a speakeasy, and even a church (in some cases at the same time).

7:00 p.m. For dinner, I stopped at The Maxican, a family-owned-and-operated restaurant with downright tasty Tex-Mex. In fact, it is a rare day when owners Max and Amber Cardenas aren’t cheerfully greeting customers or working in the kitchen. Amber’s grandmother, Mam-Maw, is even the hostess and resident masseuse, handing each patron a menu followed by a vigorous back rub and a “How you doing tonight?” I had the Marsha’s Special, a combo plate consisting of a chicken chile relleno topped with a homemade cilantro cream sauce and a handful of “Angels on Horseback” (grilled shrimp wrapped in bacon and stuffed with slices of jalapeño). Needless to say, I shouldn’t have had room for a piece of Amber’s tres leches cake, but I found a way to swallow it down.

If you’re into natural or human history, or just searching for a place to savor some fine Hill Country cooking, look no further than Burnet. Just make sure you say it right! So, whether you follow my footsteps, or forge your own path, I hope to see you on the road.

Contact the Burnet Chamber of Commerce at 512/756-4297. Also go to

Chet Garner is the host of The Daytripper® travel show on PBS.

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