Over the last few years Austin, sitting in the heart of Texas, has exploded into a space for young and old to become more active and enjoy the outdoors.
This means more companies are currently being created in order to accommodate this growing thirst for time outside. Hiking, biking, kayaking, and paddle boarding have all become a staple activity for the adventurer looking to spend much of their days in nature.
Anyone who has spent even a short amount of time in Austin will tell you, most people living there are extremely active.
However, one of these activities has particularly taken off over the last few years- that being SUP.
With the creation and proliferation of the brand SUP ATX, citizens of this booming city began to purchase boards for their own personal use while others have seized the opportunity to draw tourists into the fun activity by opening shops and outfitters.
And with these outfitters came tours of the Austin’s river systems pertaining to the wildlife found within these ecosystems. They quickly became incredibly popular, having thousands of people a year try out the fun activity for the very first time.
If you are traveling to Austin or currently live there or in a neighboring city, Perfect Paddles recommends checking out this Top 8 list of Wildlife Tours in the area. Get out on the water and feel the pleasant glide of a board underneath your feet!
Lone Star Kayak Tours (Austin)
You might be asking yourself, why does a company located in the heart of Austin only register at number eight on the list?
Well, that’s a very good question.
The reason is while this wonderful company offers beginner lessons on paddle boards as well as rentals, the only tours they offer take place in a different vessel- namely kayaks.
And while the team at Perfect Paddles specializes in SUP, we do not want to discriminate against other paddling methods. Which means, Lone Star Kayak makes our list despite only offering tours of the sitting-down variety.
But that just means their tours are not to be missed!
SUP activities include participating in a beginner lesson on Lady Bird Lake where participants are encouraged to ask questions and get the feel of the board for 30 mins with an instructor before they are left to their own devices and can paddle around the lake while taking in the wonderful views of the city.
This is a great way to spend an afternoon!
But regarding a Wildlife Tour, we recommend hopping into a kayak and participating in what Lone Star Kayak calls their Serenity Tour.
Taking place over the span of two hours, this guided tour takes groups through wider ranges of the lake where they will be shown the variety of species living within it- namely their enormous snapping turtles, and a variety of birds.
So, for those looking to only SUP, Perfect Paddles recommends this outfitter for lessons, but if you really want a deep dive into the wildlife surrounding Austin, a guided kayak tour would be the way to go! And additional good news, check out their page on Perfect Paddles here to receive discounts through our Buddy Deal!
Austin Kayak Tours (Austin)
Offering both kayak and SUP tours, this outfitter provides options for adventurers setting their sights to the water.
While they too offer beginner lessons and rentals for SUP enthusiasts and newcomers, where they really shine is in their Congress Avenue Bat Bridge Tour.
Perfect for first-time paddlers, this relaxing paddle culminates in the group being able to witness one of the world’s largest bat colonies fly overhead while crowds gather on the bridge to see the sights.
This tour can be a great way to both get on the water and immerse yourself in one of the world’s wonders as thousands of bats fly overhead. It’s both a thrilling and awe-inspiring event! And of course, we at Perfect Paddles highly recommends renting or taking a tour with Austin Kayak Tours, but also be sure to check out their Perfect Paddles page here for discounts on their services!
Lonestar Adventure Sports (Grapevine)
While they specialize in beginner lessons and rentals, they make it on our list due to their unique tours which include options in both SUP and hiking.
While paddling the Lake Grapevine, water seekers will be able to experience the natural beauty and immense wildlife found on its shores.
Paddlers can expect to see various species of fish including spotted bass, blue catfish and fresh shad- all native to its waters.
And on land it is often not unusual to spot the famous Texas armadillo, coyotes and foxes roaming the shores, searching for food and fresh water.
And as stated before, Lonestar Adventure Sports also includes an option for a hiking tour where groups are taken through the Northshore Trail, enjoying a guided hiking adventure, spotting various bird species and land animals.
The options provided by Lonestar Adventure Sports lands this outfitter at number six on our list! And be sure to check out their Buddy Deal here for discounts on their services!
Bayou City Adventures (Houston)
Bayou City Adventures is a company who serves all your paddling needs located in Houston, Texas.
From kayaking to SUP to surfing both prone boards and paddle boards, Bayou City Adventures is your go-to outfitter for aquatic adventures outdoors!
Offering a beginner lesson and advanced courses, all the way up to surfing adventures in the Gulf of Mexico, the expert instructors and guides of this outfitter will serve your every need in order to get you comfortable on a board and in the water.
As your experience grows, so do your opportunities to explore the area they are located in. Paddle down Buffalo Bayou, a slow-moving river which runs right through Houston, and get the chance to spot red-shouldered hawks, Carolina wrens, and other bird species while at the same time taking in the sights of the city surrounding the river.
This best of both worlds’ outfitter lands at number five on our list for good reason! For those traveling to Houston, don’t miss an opportunity to paddle right through the heart of the city.
Eh Brah SUP (South Padre Island)
While this outfitter lies considerably south of Austin, they still make our list due to their tours being completely customizable. Whether you want to spend a fun afternoon with friends and family, enjoy a sunset on the water, or discover the wildlife burgeoning from the shores of this popular area, they have you covered!
If you and your group choose the Wildlife Tour option, then you will find yourself paddling the shores of Laguna Madre, which is a body of water and surrounding area that accounts for almost 80% of Texas’ seagrass beds. These beds are homes to a series of wildlife species including spotted sea trout, redfish, flounder and a tremendous variety of birds which call the grasses their home.
For the adventurous type, the waters are also home to bull sharks, as they can live in both fresh water and salt water. If you are lucky enough (or unlucky enough depending on your point of view) to see one of these sharks it is always advised to stay away from their area or at the very least stay safely on your SUP!
Despite the distance from Austin, Eh Brah SUP makes it onto our list due to its unique location and customizable tours offered by the company.
Epic SUP (Austin)
Epic SUP’s perfect location on Lady Bird Lake near Austin Boardwalk’s East end, provides paddlers and vacationers with gorgeous views, a nearby island, and hardly any water traffic.
Providing a beginner lesson for newbies and refresher courses for the experienced, the expert guides at Epic SUP will not only get you comfortable on the board but tell you the best places on the lake to discover the diverse wildlife found in its waters.
Once the spots are pointed out, groups are encouraged to take to the waters themselves where they are sure to see wood ducks, egrets, heron, geese, as well as soft shell turtles, snapping turtles (don’t get too close to these guys!), turkey vultures and a few species of hawks.
Combine this diverse wildlife with a backdrop of the bustling city and any paddler is in for a real treat!
Frontera Tours (Austin)
What makes Frontera Tours stand out above the other outfitters and shops?
Well, a couple of things.
One, they also offer a bat tour on Lady Bird Lake but combine this with a beautiful sunset tour of the lake and the city at the same time.
And, they do these tours not on kayaks, but on paddle boards!
Sure, we may be biased at Perfect Paddles, but there is a good reason for our bias. We believe stand up paddling is one of the best ways to enjoy the water, with the freedom and flexibility of either standing on the board and paddling or comfortably sitting while remaining still and enjoying the views.
With the lake sitting in downtown Austin, groups will make their way to the bridge where the bats fly overhead, migrating from Mexico City and into the Austin caves.
This once in a lifetime tour take place at a specific time of the year so if this is currently on your bucket list be sure to reach out to Perfect Paddles or directly contact Frontera Tours to set up your trip today!
Austin Paddle (Austin)
What makes Austin Paddle stand out above the rest is their multiple option tours they offer in the area.
They too offer a Sunset Bat Bridge Tour, but they also have an Austin Skyline Tour as an option and what we are going to focus on, a San Marcos River Adventure Tour!
This guided eco-tour of San Marcos River, provides paddlers with the perfect spot to paddle, take in the surrounding wildlife, and share smiles and laughter with the rest of the group.
The river, fed by hundreds of springs that bubble up in the city’s center, remains a constant 72 degrees year-round and is the center of all types of aquatic fun.
Tours start 15 miles away from the noise of the downtown city on a private area located on the San Marcos. Guides will then navigate you and the group through the area as you discover Texas in a whole new way.
Paddlers can expect to see many different species of birds including egrets, geese, and hawks, while they also may have the possibility of catching a glimpse of a few endangered species such as the Texas blind salamander, the fountain darter, as well as an endangered plant species called Texas wild rice. While not as exciting as seeing moving species, this plant is very critical to the ecosystem of the river. And a chance to see what it looks like is growing ever rarer!
While Austin’s active lifestyle spreads to all parts of the city, most citizens are looking for new and interesting ways of spending time outdoors.
Because of this incessant need, SUP has exploded over the last few years, resulting in a growing sector of tourism and guided adventures.
While most people may not put the idea of wildlife thriving in the middle of a city, Austin is home to a wide range of species living in and around the outskirts.
By spending time on a SUP, paddlers can spot both land animals and aquatic creatures, effectively doubling their chances of connecting to the outside world.
If you are a traveler, avid outdoorsman, adventurer, or just want to find different ways of spending time in nature, Perfect Paddles highly recommends seeking out these shops and outfitters for their Wildlife Tours in the city of Austin and beyond. We promise you, you will not regret it!