AUSTIN, Texas -- Many locals in this central Texas city don't even
know what's under their noses. A top-ranked destination spa? In
In fact, Lake Austin Spa Resort is cited as one of the 10 best
destination spas in the U.S. by the likes of Conde Nast Traveler,
Travel & Leisure and the 2003 Zagat U.S. Hotel, Resort and Spa
And the coming year is going to bring big changes to the
property, with greatly expanded spa facilities set to open either
in March or April.
The new buildings will raise the total area of dedicated
spa-facility space from 3,600 square feet to more than 25,000
Available to resort guests as well as day-spa visitors, the
facilities will include 21 indoor treatment rooms and nine open-air
treatment areas. One of the nine outdoor venues is a luxury suite
Also new will be a second outdoor swimming pool; an indoor
junior olympic-size lap pool housed in a new building; separate
men's and women's locker rooms, whirlpools, saunas and steam rooms;
and a full-service beauty salon.
expansion will enable the resort to accommodate larger group
functions, with the addition of a multipurpose meetings facility
with a private garden.
The expansion isn't limited to new building, though. Lake Austin
Spa Resort prides itself on its landscape design, and as I looked
at a model of what's to come, my eye was drawn to a serpentine path
in the lower right-hand corner.
This walkway will wend its way up a hill, heading for the new
spa buildings, and will be lined with new gardens and planting
Horticulture figures prominently in the Lake Austin Spa picture.
The grounds aren't solely ornamental, they're utilitarian as well.
The kitchen makes use of fruits and vegetables grown on site, and
herbs from the gardens are used both in the kitchen and in various
One treatment, called Essence of the Garden, lets guests choose
the particular herbs they want used right from the garden.
There's also a regularly scheduled, four-night Gardening
Package, which includes gardening workshops; classes and lectures
on using herbs and flowers; a guided tour of the Lady Bird Johnson
Wildflower Center nearby; and spa treatments.
Prices start at $1,670 for a double room. (All rates are per
person but don't include an 18% service charge or 6% room tax.)
The five-night Back on Track package focuses on ways to have a
healthier lifestyle. It offers such items as sessions with personal
trainers and licensed dieticians as well as multiple spa
This package starts at $1,995. A copy of the cookbook, "Fresh:
Healthy Cooking and Living from Lake Austin Spa Resort," featuring
recipes by the resort's chef, Terry Conlan, is included.
Lake Austin has a variety of themed weeks for overnight guests.
One week might be devoted to cooking, another to astrology.
Coming up in the fall are two perennial offerings. October will
bring the Gathering of Wise Women, a month-long series of workshops
that focus on women's health issues.
This year, speakers will include noted journalist Linda
Ellerbee, former White House press secretary Liz Carpenter and
Kathy Cronkite (daughter of TV newsman Walter), who will speak on
In November and December comes the "For the Love of Books"
series, with authors as guest speakers. A few will present writing
courses. This year's group of writers includes Molly Ivins, J.A.
Jance and Jill Conner Browne.
So what did I think of the place during my guided tour? The Lake
Austin Spa Resort has its charms. In its present state, it's more
compact than I had imagined, but I'd definitely choose intimacy
over sprawl any day.
Built on the shores of Lake Austin, on a stretch that's far from
the city's downtown and university areas, the resort is tucked
quite a way off the main road, and that main road is quite a way
from a major highway, which should please guests who want to get
away from it all.
There are only 40 guest rooms, and no new ones will be added in
the expansion, so I doubt it will ever feel crowded, even when
The rooms themselves are not huge, but they are more cozy than
cramped. The decorating scheme might be described as Texas Hill
Country, with ginghams and florals.
The Signature-level rooms all have lounge chairs in small
front-porch areas. A bump up to the Premier-level rooms brings
extra space, pleasant private gardens in the rear, fireplaces or
private outdoor hot tubs.
The location on the water is a draw, although lakes around here
are really dammed-up stretches of the Colorado River. Water-based
activities include sculling lessons. A dock for practicing yoga
extends out over the water.
Lakeside dining is an attractive option. The view across the
water is of rising green hills, part of a nature preserve, so the
view should remain pristine.
My tour guide told me the point of the place is to "rest, relax,
I don't expect the expansion to change that aspect of Lake
Austin. But in the future, guests will just have more room in which
Room key: Lake Austin Spa Resort
Address: 1705 So. Quinlan Park Road, Austin, Texas
Phone: (512) 372-7300
Reservations: (800) 847-5637
Room Rates: $410 to $540 per person, double (not
including an 18% service charge or 6% room tax). A three-night
minimum is generally required on weekends. Rates include three
meals daily, accommodations, unlimited fitness classes and other
activities. Various packages are available.
Noteworthy: Herbs from the resort's gardens are
used both in the kitchen and in spa treatments.
Not worthy: Doesn't have the glam factor of other