Each night, about a half-hour before sunset, one of Capital Cruises' double-decker boats launches out onto Lady Bird Lake. Austin's skyline peeks its head over the tree-lined banks as the vessel floats toward the Congress Avenue Bridge. Once there, passengers watch the sun drop below the horizon and paint a streak of burnt orange across the sky in an action that seems to bring the bridge to life. Here, at one of the largest urban bat colonies on the continent, thousands of bats take flight and soar into the sky.
These bat tours are just one way Capital Cruises explores Lady Bird Lake. The crown jewel of its fleet, a 75-foot yacht, sets the stage for floating wedding parties and specialty cruises such as the Riverboat Gambler. During these trips, passengers play roulette and nibble fajitas, pasta, and barbecue catered by the Hyatt Regency hotel. Additionally, Capital Cruises' staff lets customers chart their own adventures with rentals of standup paddleboards, swan-shaped pedal boats, and 21-foot electric Duffy boats.
Stretching across more than 6 miles, Lady Bird Lake's tranquil waters reflect the Austin skyline, the cliffs at Red Bud Isle, and the Congress Avenue Bridge, home to the largest urban bat population in the world. Throughout the year, Rowing Dock’s instructors take visitors into this manmade lake and teach them to paddle in kayaks or row within stand-up paddleboards. For customers who feel comfortable with their paddling prowess, the staffers rent everything from one-, two- and three-person kayaks, paddleboats and paddleboards, and canoes. As these human-powered vessels float across the lake, passengers can view the area's many native birds or canoodle with their oars at sunset.
Shore Club Restaurant & Bar serves up both gourmet food from the land and sea and a picturesque view of Volente Beach at Lake Travis. While staring out at the rippling water, diners devour Texas rib-eye steaks of marbled Angus beef and black-and-blue bacon burgers. From the sea comes barbecue bacon-wrapped shrimp?stuffed with jalape?os and glazed with Myers Rum barbecue sauce?as well as lobster mac 'n' cheese with lobster claw meat saut?ed in spiced coconut oil.
Shore Club Restaurant & Bar encourages folks to come in for a full meal in the restaurant or a quick bite at the bar in between jaunts to Shore Club Volente Beach's sprawling water park. After a day out on the water, many diners head to the bar's outdoor patio to sip cocktails and toast to not running into any krakens.
Sail & Ski Center's amiable staff of sports enthusiasts and shipwrights keep outdoor voyagers plying the waves and skimming down mountainsides with boat-maintenance services and an array of watersport and snow-sport accouterments. Like snagging an entire tray of cheese samples, the vast emporium of snowboards, skis, and wakeboards allows visitors to try out wares before they buy, sending thrill-seekers sailing over seas and snowdrifts atop such brand names as Hyperlite, Liquid Force, Saloman, and Mission 7. The talented servicefolk at Sail & Ski Center also sell, repair, and refurbish a broad spectrum of watercrafts, including yachts, jet skis, motorboats, and rocket-powered dinghies.
Since 1987, the staff at Texas Rowing Center has spent nearly three decades sending patrons skimming across the waters of Lady Bird Lake on paddleboats, canoes, kayaks, and racing boats. Novices can enroll in the shop?s Introduction to Rowing course, wherein they?ll learn crew techniques with guidance from a staff comprised of former college rowers. After the course is over, the newly knowledgeable graduates can sign up for a membership good for unlimited rowing and coaching. Casual water-goers, meanwhile, can rent a paddleboat for a relaxing spin about the lake?a more inexpensive way to enjoy a day on the water than barefoot waterskiing behind a helicopter.
Live Love Paddle matches clients up with rental kayaks and nudges them out onto Lady Bird Lake for guided tours or self-directed exploration. Rentals are available by the hour. Live Love Paddle's hallmark tour, however, is the Austin Congress Bridge Bat Tour, which leads kayakers up to the urban bat colony that resides beneath the bridge and leaves them with a great vantage point from which to observe the mammals' nocturnal movements. Full-day river trips, two-day overnight kayaking and camping trips, and team building activities are also available.