Towering pines, wooded lands and lakefront thrills await you in Conroe, a quiet retreat about 45 minutes north of Houston, the largest city in Texas. Stroll through the walkable downtown area filled with restaurants, nightlife, merchants, art galleries and theaters, then head out into nature where true adventure begins in the form of water activities, hiking, bird watching and more.
Lake Conroe is a water playground© Courtesy of Visit Conroe
At 22,000 acres and with 156 miles of shoreline, Lake Conroe is a water playground. Relax on its shores with a good book and a cocktail, or hit the open water for paddling, boating, fishing and water sports. Catch a record-sized largemouth bass or set out with a fishing guide to look for bass and other fish like black-and-white crappie, channel catfish and bluegill.
Several marinas are located along the lake, making it easy to refuel, grab bait, or grab a bite to eat before getting back on the water. Don’t have your own boat? Rent a private boat, jet ski, kayak or canoe from 1097 Watersports and spend the day exploring Lake Conroe at your leisure. North Lake Conroe Paddling Company also rents kayaks, and the waterfront location means it’s easy to jump straight into your adventure.
© Jacob Rhoades / Lonely Planet
For more relaxation and water-based celebrations, visit Cruisin’ Tikis, which offers raft-based tiki huts with a floating bar where you can relax while sipping your favorite beverage. Southern Empress Cruises, a 131-foot paddlewheel boat, offers romantic dinner cruises on Lake Conroe with delicious food, drink and dancing. And Waterpoint Marina’s Little Palm Yacht also offers dinner cruises, sunset cruises and more.
Texas Tidbits: Aside from the Lake Conroe Dinner Cruise, Southern Empress Cruises offers a number of other cruises, including a lunch cruise, a cocktail cruise, and even a crime cruise.
Bullfrogs rising in the morning in the Sam Houston National Forest © Junker Photography / Shutterstock
Sam Houston National Forest
Back on land, lace up your hiking boots and set off into the Sam Houston National Forest, one of only four national forests in Texas. This forest includes more than 163,000 acres and the Lone Star Hiking Trail, a 128-mile trail that is the longest wilderness hiking trail in Texas, with three main sections running through Conroe.
Camping is available in the woods at Cagle, Double Lake, and Stubblefield recreation areas. Canoes and paddle boats are available for rent at the Double Lake concession stand, which is stocked with bass, catfish and bream fishing.
Sam Houston National Forest also has 85 miles of multipurpose trails for horseback riding, biking, hiking and four wheel drive. For wildlife sightings, keep an eye out for deer, squirrels, bullfrogs, quail, pigeons, turkeys, foxes and ducks.
Texas Tidbits: Hikers love to visit the Lone Star Hiking Trail during the spring and winter months to escape the extreme Texas heat.
WG Jones State Forest is one of the largest managed urban forests in the country © Mikella Hammonds/Shutterstock
William Goodrich Jones State Forest
Located south of the city of Conroe, the WG Jones State Forest is one of the largest managed urban forests in the country. About 80,000 people visit the forest annually and it is recognized by the American Bird Conservancy as one of the 500 most important sites in North America.
The forest is home to the endangered Red-cocked Woodpecker and one of the few places where this enigmatic black and white bird can still be seen. Bring your binoculars and see if you can spot this woodpecker, which builds burrows in living pines to roost and nest. Nesting areas are closed from March 15th to July 15th to limit disturbance and provide better nesting space for the birds.
Geocaching, a fitness trail, fishing, picnicking, horseback riding, hiking, show gardens and growing areas are also available throughout the forest.
Margaritaville Lake Resort offers 303 suites and 32 waterfront cottages © Courtesy of Visit Conroe
Margaritaville Lake Resort
After all your activities on land and water, head to Margaritaville Lake Resort on the shores of Lake Conroe for some island rest and relaxation. The Jimmy Buffett-inspired resort offers 303 suites and 32 waterfront cottages, as well as multiple bars and restaurants throughout the property.
Take the family to the resort’s 8.5-acre water park, complete with slides, a lazy river, a splash pool, five swimming pools and two hot tubs, or take a break for a round of golf at The Golf Club, an 18-hole Place that meanders through the heights of pine trees, beaches and waterfalls. The St. Somewhere Spa offers facial and body massages for the ultimate in relaxation, and for a bit of exercise, the resort offers tennis courts, pickleball courts, and a fitness center.
Margaritaville Lake Resort features an 8-acre water park © Courtesy of Visit Conroe
Want to get out on the water? Rent a boat, paddleboard or pedal boat from Einstein’s Surf and Boat Shop on the resort. For dining, License to Chill is open all day for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, serving casual fare like salads, wraps, and killer cocktails. Don’t miss a round of drinks at the swim-up pool bar, 5 O’Clock Somewhere, and a night of live music and dancing at the Boathouse Bar and Lounge.
Texas Tidbits: During Labor Day, the resort offers a two-hour sunset cruise around Lake Conroe aboard a tiki hut party boat. Book your tickets by contacting Einstein’s Surf and Boat Shop.
Whether you’re there for a long weekend or a week-long retreat from the demands of reality, Conroe will leave you feeling refreshed, relaxed, and naturally inspired.