With its abundance of swimming holes, lakes and other waterways, Central Texas is a great place for SCUBA diving. In a place with so many options, however, especially for visitors, it’s nice to get pointed in the right direction on which specific spots are the best.
I spoke with local Dive World instructor and longtime diving expert, Matt Jacobs, on which spots around the Austin area hold the best dive opportunities. Matt has taught SCUBA in Austin for years, including specialties in everything from enriched air to deep diving and underwater navigation, and instructs local Boy Scouts in diving, so he knows what he’s talking about when it comes to diving Austin. Here are his Top 5 Austin-area picks:
1. Meadows Center at Spring Lake (formerly Aquarena Springs)
The Meadows Center is not only a great water education center but one of the best dive spots locally. But – and maybe this is unfair to mention at the top of the list – only the few determined souls will ever dive here, because to get in, you have to take and pass their Scientific Diving course , which runs around $250. The water is 72 degrees year round and spring-fed, so the visibility is really great. Max depth is about 25 feet. It's also fun to wave at the tourists peering down at you from glass-bottom boats. If you’re a diver in the Austin area and want to dive in pristine conditions, it’s worth the time and money to pass their course and get access to this beautiful spot.
2. Windy Point Private on Lake Travis
There are two Windy Point parks. Travis County runs Bob Wentz Park, and the Barstow family lives next door and runs the park known as Windy Point Private. It caters specifically to scuba divers and is a great place for training and working on buoyancy control, navigation, and just getting your diving dialed in. It offers a variety of sunken boats of different sizes to explore, and has a tank fill station onsite. It’s relatively inexpensive to get in. Stairs down to the water. Picnic tables for setting up gear.
3. Starnes Island, Lake Travis
In the summer, it's a nice Friday evening dive. Party barges tie up there, so there's lots of sunglass search-and-recovery to be had. To make it there, you have to go by boat, and there are a few dive charters that can run you out. Dive World and other dive shops have contact information for those charters.
4. Reveille Peak Ranch, Burnet
This is an old quarry out in the country; and secluded, on private property. An hour-and-a-half drive out of town, but when the water levels at the main lakes are dropping like they are, there's no walk down to the water here. Just set up and get in the water. Large platform for training, but novice divers had better have their buoyancy dialed in or when they come off the platform, because it's a vertical wall dropping down to around 80 feet.
5. Comal River
Max depth is 13 feet and there's a current to clear up the visibility if new divers are kicking up a lot of silt. You can drift down, and kick back. There are lots of little critters hiding in the vegetation and tubers going overhead. Also, it’s spring-fed so there's a constant temperature year-round and you don't have to be scientific-diver certified to dive here. Plus, you can stop at Coopers BBQ before heading back to Austin.
Bonus: Mansfield Dam Park, run by Travis County
They have an area set aside for diving which is nice when the lake is full. Now, with the boat ramp closed, they're allowing divers to drive down the ramp, unload gear, then pull back up to park. Makes for a short walk with heavy gear. They only ask that divers leave room on the ramp for kayakers to get in and out of the water too.