By Jessica Dupuy
Photography by Eric Kiel Photography and T-Axis Graphics
Named for the captivating shimmery-blue waters that once cascaded abundantly over nearby limestone cliffs, the town of Marble Falls lures visitors with its prolific native Hill Country charms and slower-paced lifestyle. And even though the town is gently riding a burgeoning cultural and developmental wave that will soon include a new visitors center, a Scott & White hospital and a dual bridge at the entrance of town, visitors will be pleased to discover that the soulful, low-key attitude-without-pretense this town is known for remains alive and well, and flows freely through the community that’s a mere stone’s throw from bustling Austin.
“My sister likes to say that Marble Falls is the Hill Country without the hassle,” says Bill Rives, executive director of the town’s chamber of commerce. “We have a different pace here with a tremendous amount of natural beauty. And we have a new sense of energy that you find in our arts [and] food and wine scene.”
Marble Falls’s 19th-century Main Street houses a quaint shopping district and offers a handful of clothing and jewelry shops as well as a number of home-furnishing and antique boutiques. The avant-rustic style at Elements features a variety of tasteful home accents, furniture and gifts. And around the corner is The Mews, a Dallas-based concept store that includes an array of fine European antiques and pastoral knickknacks showcased in a historic 1860s house. An exquisite assortment of artwork from a number of regional and national artists graces the whitewashed walls at The Mews—a collection from the sister-occupant gallery of Marta Stafford Fine Art.
Also in the heart of the Main Street district is the stately Wallace Guest House. Originally opened as the Bredt Hotel in 1907, the historic property features five well-appointed guest suites, each named for a Highland Lake, and is outfitted with lavish vintage furniture, antiques and fabrics.
Visitors looking for more of a Hill Country lodging experience can stretch just five minutes outside the town’s border to a sprawling lakeside property known as Bella Vista Bed and Breakfast and enjoy the solitude—save for the faint symphony of croaking frogs and crickets—on the private patio under a blanket of stars. Built as a weekend refuge for travelers, the Bella Vista cottages are run by Houston-based owners Andy and Mary Doerfler, who longed for a lakeside Hill Country getaway and fell in love with the Marble Falls area after a longtime friend invited them out to his property for a visit. Andy, a practicing dentist, and Mary, a retired schoolteacher, were eager to find a place where Mary could begin her lifelong dream to run a bed-and-breakfast. “I spent most of our marriage building my career in dentistry,” says Andy. “This is Mary’s turn to build something of her own from scratch.”
Breakfast at the cottages welcomes guests each morning, and includes an array of different delectables from build-your-own breakfast tacos to baked goods and casseroles—featuring ingredients picked fresh from Mary’s sprawling garden.
For visitors with a thirst to discover nature’s local gifts, tour one of the nearby farms like Hairston Creek Farm or Sweet Berry Farm. Hairston Creek Farm owners Gary and Sarah Rowland founded their organic farm in 1990 and sell their seasonal vegetables, jams, pickles and pesto to their community-supported agriculture program members as well as at farmers markets in Austin, Cedar Park, Burnet and Fredericksburg. Depending on the time of year, a walk through pick-your-own Sweet Berry Farm may yield a basketful of fresh strawberries or a big Halloween pumpkin. Or enjoy a hike through the cool, calcite-adorned Longhorn Cavern for an awe-inspiring glimpse at its unique caves, formed by the forces of calcium carbonate-rich underground lakes and rivers, and the surface water seepage that formed many of the Hill Country’s caves and aquifers.
For visitors with a thirst of a different kind, Perissos Vineyard and Winery is along the same road as the caverns, just past the Falkenstein Castle—an exact replica of a Bavarian castle. Winery owners Seth and Laura Martin have spent the better part of a decade creating craft wines that raise the bar for Texas wines. From crisp, dry whites with floral character such as their 2010 roussanne to the fruit-forward 2010 petite syrah with hints of herbs and black pepper, the Martins’ deep commitment to the land, family and fine wine is present in each sip.
“It’s not just about winemaking and grape growing for us,” says Laura who, together with Seth, has raised five children on the vineyard and thinks of the grapes they grow as their children as well. “You can read about how to do this, but it’s living out here, tasting it, touching it and feeling it through every step of the process that makes you really get it. Each year we learn a new lesson from these grapes in the same way you learn as you grow with your family.”
Why not make it a winery weekend and visit not only Perissos, but Stone House Vineyard, Spicewood Vineyards, Flat Creek Estate and Fall Creek Vineyards, as well. All boast amazing, award-winning wines and bucolic settings, and all are located within an hour’s drive of Marble Falls.
Back in Marble Falls proper, wander into Noon Spoon Cafe, where owner Jennifer Cayce puts a deft spin on her homemade soup-and-sandwich menu. The Hummus Veggie Wrap will leave you feeling guilt-free, while the decadently tasty Chili Pie—a beefed-up spin on the classic Frito pie—will certainly satisfy a Texas-size appetite.
Of course, no getaway is complete without a little relaxation. Book a spa appointment at nearby Sana Vida, which offers more than just the standard menu of massage treatments, but also specializes in restorative skin care, acupuncture and ayurveda and yoga therapy. If you’re lucky, you might even catch one of their educational and inspirational tea classes, which focus on the variety of teas found around the globe and the particular health benefits each one provides.
For evening dining, try the Double Horn Brewing Company. Austin native Jason Harrelson originally helped open 24 Diner with celebrated chef Andrew Curren, and oversees the Double Horn with brother Chris. Though the menu has the requisite burger and steaks, it’s the Pulled Pork Nachos on thick housemade potato chips or the Wild Boar served with garlic mashed potatoes and roasted bell peppers that might catch the eye. Opt for a flight of house-crafted brews from head brewer Eric Casey who earned his chops working alongside the Texas beer masters of Real Ale Brewing Company in Blanco.
For visitors looking for something beyond big Texan food, there’s Thai Niyom. Originally opened as a counter-service spot in the back of a yellow gas station, the popular restaurant has grown to become a freestanding house and is operated by Orathai Bussaraporn and Jenjira Busarakorn—two sisters who’ve consistently put out truly authentic Thai food, even while ensconced in the small-town atmosphere.
Round out the night with a show at the Uptown Marble Theater, where well-known musicians like Marcia Ball and Gary P. Nunn often perform. Marble Falls may not be a far off, exotic destination, but sometimes the best places to escape to are a lot closer than we think.
Visit the websites in the resource directory below to help you plan your trip.
MARBLE FALLS DESTINATIONS
Listings below are destinations found in the story and are in Marble Falls unless otherwise noted. Find more Marble Falls lodgings, restaurants and recreational opportunities online at marblefalls.org
BELLA VISTA BED AND BREAKFAST
1455 Cimarron Ranch Rd.
DOUBLE HORN BREWING COMPANY
208 Ave. H
204 Main St.
FALL CREEK VINEYARDS
1820 CR 222
FLAT CREEK ESTATE
24912 Singleton Bend E. Rd.
HAIRSTON CREEK FARM
4300 CR 335
LONGHORN CAVERN STATE PARK
6211 Park Rd. 4 S.
MARTA STAFFORD FINE ART
112 Main St.
NOON SPOON CAFE
610 Broadway St.
PERISSOS VINEYARD AND WINERY
7214 Park Rd. 4 W.
507 Hwy. 1431 E.
1419 Kromer Ln.
STONE HOUSE VINEYARD
24350 Haynie Flat Rd.
SWEET BERRY FARM
1801 FM 1980
909 Hwy. 281
112 Main St.
UPTOWN MARBLE THEATER
218 Main St.
WALLACE GUEST HOUSE
910 Third St.