The exterior of a lodge in golden sunset light

Canyon of the Eagles. Photo by Kenny Braun

As Texans got a front-row seat to a magnificent total solar eclipse this month, interest in astronomy has reached a record high. But stargazing in this state is fantastic all the time, not just during eclipses. You only need to travel just outside of the state’s major metropolitan areas, where pitch black night skies are punctuated with swirls of galaxies and planets, to experience some of the best stargazing around. These resorts, motels, and dude ranches are the perfect places to stay if you are a budding astronomer­—or have one in the family.

Canyon of the Eagles

BURNET

Situated at the upper end of Texas’ chain of Highland Lakes, Canyon of the Eagles overlooks Lake Buchanan. The resort offers a secluded, comfortable getaway on 940 acres of mostly undeveloped land about a 90-minute drive from Austin.

Sixty-one guest rooms have cozy accommodations featuring spacious private porches with rocking chairs—some overlooking the lake. Resort amenities include a swimming pool, a bar, on-site dining options, hiking trails, and sightseeing cruises along the Colorado River and Lake Buchanan, depending on water levels.

Resort guests can make reservations to visit the Eagle Eye Observatory, located down a gravel road, for an additional fee every night of the week except Mondays. Staffed by an astronomer, the observatory has sliding roofs and several telescopes, ideal for stargazing. Rooms start at $179/night; campsites are also available. 16942 Ranch Road 2341, Burnet. 512-334-2070; canyonoftheeagles.com

A tall neon red hotel sign reading "Motel" in front of a starry sky

Marathon Motel, RV Park & Skypark. Photo by Sara Reeves

Marathon Motel, RV Park & Skypark

MARATHON

Far West Texas is known for its expansive dark skies, and the Marathon area is ranked a perfect Class 1 on the Bortle Light Pollution Scale. Visitors here are treated to a sky crowded with stars­—so crowded they can’t make out constellations.

One of the best places to take in this celestial scene is at the Marathon Sky Park, on the north side of the Marathon Motel, a circa 1940 property. Star parties take place here every night of the year, except when moonlight inhibits ideal visibility. Guests use provided binoculars and telescopes to view planets, nebulae, the passing International Space Station, and other seasonal surprises.

Stay at the no-frills retro motel, featuring wood-paneled bedrooms with private baths, or at the accompanying RV park. Meet fellow travelers around the fireplace on the Southwestern-style adobe patio, or head to quaint downtown Marathon half a mile away. Rooms start at $130/night. 701 US 90, Marathon. 866-386-4241; marathonmotel.com

The exterior of a small cabin under a deep blue and starry sky

Mayan Dude Ranch. Photo by Kenny Braun

Mayan Dude Ranch

BANDERA

Established in 1951, the Mayan Dude Ranch is one of a handful of all-inclusive ranch resorts in this beloved Texas cowboy capital town. Guests receive three home-cooked meals a day, including cowboy breakfasts and barbecue cookouts; go on two horseback trail rides; and do other activities, such as tennis, archery, and—yes—stargazing.

With amenities including a pool and basketball and volleyball courts, the emphasis is on wholesome, screen-free fun. On select scheduled evenings, an astronomer from Star Party America facilitates a wildlife hayride that culminates in a night of surveying the stars. “There’s no industrialization here, so people are able to see the Texas sky like they couldn’t see it anywhere else,” says Kelly Orion, the ranch’s entertainment and sales director. Rates are $185/night (two-night minimum) per adult, $100 for ages 13 to 17, and $80 for kids 12 and under, including meals and horseback rides. 350 Mayan Ranch Road, Bandera.  830-796-3312; mayanranch.com

Two Adarondak chairs on a wooden deck overlooking a beach scene

Reel ’Em Inn. Photo by Kenny Braun

Reel Em Inn

ROCKPORT

This 1950s motor court located on the shores of Aransas Bay was recently given a glow-up as the nine-room Reel ’Em Inn. With an emphasis on beachy convenience, updated amenities include keyless self-check-in and an espresso machine in each room. Guests can cook their catches in the shared outdoor kitchen, and arrange for a golf cart or stand-up paddleboard to be delivered through the virtual concierge service. Canine friends weighing less than 30 pounds are also invited to join in on the fun.

Perhaps the best feature of this boutique property is the private 1,000-foot pier exclusively for guest use 24 hours a day. The pier is an ideal spot to take in the sunrise while sipping coffee, reading a book, or fishing for speckled trout and redfish. After sunset, it glows from underwater lighting. “There’s something extra special about walking the pier at night, hearing the waves of Aransas Bay, and letting your thoughts run free,” co-owner Trisha Atwater says. Rooms start at $229/night. 1603 S. Water St., Rockport. 361-558-5200; reeleminnrockport.com

From the May 2024 issue
The June 2024 cover of Texas Highways: Treasures from the Coast

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