The Ultimate Guide to Seeing the Bats in Austin, TX
Austin is an exciting, diverse city that offers many unique experiences for its visitors. This major Texas city draws well over a million tourists every year, thanks to the variety of indoor and outdoor activities.
If you are looking to immerse yourself in nature, you can take advantage of the lakes, rivers, and hiking trails. For those of us who prefer a metropolitan experience, we can take a tour of the local breweries or see a show in the Live Music Capital of the World.
Regardless of how you fill your time on a trip to Austin, you are almost guaranteed to partake in activities that are unique to the city: take a dip in Lady Bird Lake, attend Austin City Limits, or marvel at the Texas State Capitol.
One of the most unique attractions in Austin is a chance to see a dark cloud of Brazillian and Mexican free-tailed bats bats fly under an iconic bridge. While this might not sound like a headlining attraction, many people travel to the city of Austin specifically to see these bats in action.
Here is everything you need to know about seeing them, as well as some recommendations for your trip to Austin.
Where Are the Bats? A Guide for Bat Watching
You won’t have any luck spotting this large colony of bats during the day; they’re hanging out in a bat cave or cavern. However, we have some tips to help you get to the best position to watch them take flight.
Congress Avenue Bridge Bats
The Congress Ave Bridge is a Texas landmark and one of the largest urban bat colonies in North America. It connects downtown Austin to south Austin and has been attracting Brazilianfree-tail bats since it was expanded in 1982. Bats flocked to this bridge specifically due to the crevices that sit in between the concrete box beams. Only 3/4 to 1-1/2 inches wide, these crevices are an ideal landing place for bats, who seek dark, warm, and narrow hiding spots to sleep during the day.
The bridge stretches across Lady Bird Lake, which is another iconic Texas landmark. Named after former First Lady Lady Bird Johnson due to her restoration efforts, this lake is a wonderful place to spend an afternoon.
What Time of Year Do Bat Watchers Have the Most Success?
Bats follow regular migration patterns, so you cannot expect them to be nestled under the bridge no matter what time of year you visit. While Austin might be your warm-weather destination of choice, bats need something even warmer, so they fly further south every winter.
The bats usually will fly out of Austin after the first temperature drop, which usually occurs in late October. They stay away for a few months until temperatures start to increase consistently. Residents usually see the bats fly back into their city around early March, which marks the start of the so-called bat season.
An easy way to ensure the bats will be in Austin during your trip is to check the websites of Austin bat tour companies to see if they are active or still closed for the season.
What Is the Best Time of Day To Watch the Bats?
We all know that bats are nocturnal, so you might be wondering how you can watch them take flight in the dark night sky. Luckily, bats begin their day right before the sun sets, while there is still light in the sky. They usually depart from underneath the bridge thirty to sixty minutes before the sunset, which means you can watch this impressive swarm leave the bridge against the golden hour light.
Check what time the sun sets during your visit, so you can plan accordingly. This is an extremely popular activity in Texas, so you should consider arriving at the bridge ninety minutes before sunset if you want to get a good “seat.”
Where To Stand When Watching the Bats
Speaking of getting a good spot for viewing, you should plan ahead of time where you want to position yourself for the unique experience. You can either do this yourself or via a professional service.
There are a few different ways to watch the bats fly by, but the most common is to stand on the bridge. Although the space can get crowded, standing over the water as the bats fly out from underneath you is an exciting experience.
However, if you arrive later than planned or you are worried about seeing past someone taller in front of you, you can head to the designated bat viewing area. Located on the south Congress Bridge and Lady Bird Lake, this Austin bat refuge fills up with excited viewers every night of the week.
If you want a guaranteed front-row spot for this spectacular event, you can book a seat on one of the many bat-viewing tours in Austin. Book with Capital Cruises or Lone Star Riverboat to get a relaxing ride on a boat, a tour of Lady Bird Lake, and a front-row seat to watch the bats fly.
For a more personal experience, you can go on a solo kayak tour and paddle out onto the water near the bridge where the bats roost. Keep your kayak stationary as the sun sets, and watch the bats emerge from under the bridge and take flight, their dark bodies contrasting against the orange and yellow light of sunset.
What Are Other Tourist Attractions Near Austin?
Watching bats soar across the sky is far from the only unique attraction in Austin. Here are some of our favorite activities.
If you enjoyed Lady Bird Lake and want to explore more outdoor attractions in the city, head to Canyon Lake. Located just outside of the city, this outdoor paradise boasts a perfect climate year-round and many opportunities for activities. Several parks surround the lake, and each park is located next to a designated swimming area.
Take a refreshing dip in the water before drying off and enjoying a park picnic. Just remember to stay within the parks, as the rest of the shoreline is private property.
If you prefer to stay on top of the water, businesses surrounding the lake offer rentals for wakeboarding, fishing, paddling, and kayaking.
Lastly, be sure to take a walk on one of the many trails that surround the lake for impeccable views. Some of the most popular trails are the Hancock Trail and the Madrone Trail.
McKinney Falls State Park
Another main attraction of Austin, McKinney Falls State Park is a must-visit for outdoor lovers. To see the beautiful waterfalls, unique rocks, and wildlife that make this park popular, take a hike on the Upper Falls trail. Once you are finished with the hike, hop in the water, underneath the waterfalls, for a refreshing swim.
If you want to take your time on a leisurely walk, with the space to spread out for a midday meal, walk the Picnic Trail. This trail is lined with many picnic tables that are conveniently positioned for breathtaking views of nearby foliage and bouldering rocks.
Explore Hill Country
Located between Austin and San Antonio, Texas Hill Country is one of the state’s best treasures. Beautiful, peaceful scenery that includes lush foliage and rolling hills makes a serene backdrop for a wide variety of activities and experiences.
We understand there are an overwhelming amount of ways to spend your time in Hill Country, so we have compiled our favorite Hill Country activities on the Collective Retreats ranch. As a guest, you will have immediate access to intimate experiences unique to Hill Country.
For a restorative weekend, relax with an in-tent massage, book a spot in our sunrise yoga sessions, and lay back and ease your mind during our sound meditation classes.
End your days by roasting marshmallows over the nightly campfire, gaze at the stars, and take a deep breath of the fresh Hill Country air.
If you want to have an outdoor getaway but don’t want to give up the everyday luxuries you are used to, count on Collective Retreats to provide you with comfortable accommodation options. Our most popular Hill Country accommodation option, the Summit Tent, truly encapsulates outdoor/indoor living while still offering high-quality amenities.
Start your mornings by watching the sunrise on your private deck, and get ready for the day in your en-suite bathroom. After a day of exploration and activities, retreat back to your tent and tuck yourself into your king bed, dressed with high thread-count sheets.
It’s a Bat Fest
Whether you are visiting Austin for the first time or are a resident of the city, taking the time to watch the bats take flight from the Congress Avenue Bridge is an experience you will never forget.
After you watch the bats fly far into the distance, you can take a short drive back to the Collective Retreats ranch to end your day with a campfire, a warm shower in your en suite bathroom, and a restful night of sleep in your cozy bed.