Robin Raven explores the Highland Lakes area of Texas.
The natural beauty and diverse wildlife in the Highland Lakes area of Texas is enough to attract any adventurer to Burnet, Texas. It’s about an hour northwest of Austin, but it is a distinct area with a humid subtropical climate and a down-home country charm that I won’t soon forget.
I wasn’t sure what to expect, but as I arrived at the Painted Sky Inn, where I would be staying, my heart soared. To my utter delight, there were deer everywhere! They are protected in the area and linger in open spaces. On the other side of the inn, there was a beautiful panoramic lake view, as the hotel is situated on a quiet peninsula along the eastern shore of Lake Buchanan.
I had brought along vegan marshmallows on the trip to enjoy roasting over a cosy fire that’s lit each night at the inn. As I roasted the marshmallows I had a direct view of the lake and even while sitting on one of the beds in my room. It was hard to be anywhere at the inn and not have a beautiful view.
The room had a kitchen and full refrigerator, but would I need to use it? I was about to explore the plant based culinary options of the Highland Lakes area.
My first full dinner was at the Overlook Restaurant of the Canyon of the Eagles Resort, and it was certainly full in every sense of the word. The talented chef and team of staff offered a four-course plant based feast in an elegant, impeccably decorated dining room where I got to watch the sun setting over the Hill Country.
All the vegans enjoying dinner at the Overlook Restaurant were treated to a separate menu. Watermelon gazpacho started the evening, followed by what was the best hummus I’ve ever tasted (no exaggeration!) which was served with grilled pitta bread. The main course consisted of an ancient grains and mushroom trio, and it was difficult not to gobble down the dessert the homemade cantaloupe sorbet.
During my stay, I also enjoyed a leisurely river cruise on Lake Buchanan, which is the uppermost lake in a chain of seven scenic lakes. The two-hour Vanishing Texas River Cruise was named for the fact that the undeveloped areas of Texas are disappearing all too quickly. The next day saw a guided sightseeing tour which revealed three waterfalls, awe-inspiring geological formations, and the picture-perfect Ceremonial Rock.
Despite the weather being hot and humid, the refreshing breeze ensured that I kept cool under shade. However, after soaking up all that scenery and the excitement of seeing Spanish mountain goats, I had worked up quite an appetite.
I was more than ready for a delicious dinner at the next restaurant stop: Trailblazer Grille. Situated in downtown Burnet, Trailblazer Grille serves up traditional Texas fare, but also offered a few plant based dishes. I always try to eat at least one veggie burger in any town I visit (the more, the merrier when it comes to a good veggie burger!). The refreshing garden-style burger was complemented perfectly by a side of sweet potato fries. I savoured it whilst listening to live music.
The next morning, my inner foodie was thrilled to return to the Overlook Restaurant for breakfast. The chef and friendly staff, once again, went above and beyond for their vegan guests. There was heaps of fruit and a plant based apple cinnamon risotto. However, my favourite part of breakfast was befriending a cat named Boobery who lives on-site.
Before leaving, I headed to Russo’s Restaurant where a light but filling pasta primavera completed a great trip. Also, airport food may have a bad rep, but eating Tomato Florentine soup at the Saxon pub made me giddy. With live music and delicious food I had to get out my journal and start writing. Somehow I felt at home in a place I’d never been before.
Life is complicated so it’s always important to get away and escape the pressures of modern day living. I was glad to get a chance to escape to the Highland Lakes area to enjoy some of the most incredible plant based food you can enjoy anywhere. Should you find yourself having a break in the area, head straight to the Overlook Restaurant. They will be sure to accommodate you, particularly if you call ahead and tell them that you need a vegan menu.
Burnet’s motto is ‘Lakes, Hills, History’ and it’s easy to see why. Go and enjoy this special place alongside some delicious plant based food. You won’t go hungry here.
Things to do:
- Vanishing Texas River Cruise
- Longhorn Cavern State Park
- Perrissos Vineyards
- Fort Croghan Grounds and Museum
- Lake Buchanan Cruise