Towering pine trees, forested lands, and lakefront thrills await in Conroe, a quiet retreat about 45 minutes north of Texas’ largest city of Houston. Take a stroll through the walkable downtown area full of eateries, nightlife, merchants, art galleries, and theaters, and then head into nature, where the real adventure begins in the form of water activities, hiking, birdwatching, and more.
At 22,000 acres and with 156 miles of shoreline, Lake Conroe is an aquatic playground. Relax on its shores with a good book and a cocktail, or take to the open water for paddling, boating, fishing, and watersports. Reel in a record-size largemouth bass, or head out with a fishing guide to look for bass and other fish such as black and white crappie, channel catfish, and bluegill.
Several marinas are on the lake, making it easy to fuel up, grab some bait, or a bite to eat before heading back out onto the water. Don’t have your own vessel? Rent a private boat, jet ski, kayak, or canoe from 1097 Watersports and spend the day exploring Lake Conroe as you wish. North Lake Conroe Paddling Company also rents kayaks, and their waterfront location means it’s easy to get straight into your adventure.
For more water-based relaxation and celebration, check out Cruisin’ Tikis, which offers raft-based tiki huts complete with a floating bar that allow you to relax while sipping your favorite drink. Southern Empress Cruises, a 131-foot paddle-wheeler boat, offers romantic dinner cruises on Lake Conroe, with delicious dining, drinks, and dancing. And Waterpoint Marina’s Little Palm yacht also offers dinner cruises, sunset cruises, and more.
Texas Tidbit: Aside from the Lake Conroe Dinner Cruise, Southern Empress Cruises offers an array of other trips, including a lunch cruise, cocktail cruise, and even a murder mystery cruise.
Sam Houston National Forest
Back on land, lace up your hiking shoes and hit the trails at Sam Houston National Forest, one of only four national forests in Texas. This forest contains more than 163,000 acres and the Lone Star Hiking Trail, a 128-mile trail that is the longest wilderness footpath in Texas, with three major sections running through Conroe.
Camping is available in the forest at Cagle, Double Lake, and Stubblefield Recreation Areas. Canoes and paddle boats can be rented at the concession stand at Double Lake, which is stocked with bass, catfish, and bream for fishing.
Sam Houston National Forest also has 85 miles of multi-use trails for horseback riding, biking, hiking, and off-highways vehicles. For wildlife watching, keep your eyes open for deer, squirrels, bullfrogs, quail, doves, turkey, foxes, and ducks.
Texas Tidbit: Hikers love to visit the Lone Star Hiking Trail during spring and winter months in order to avoid extreme Texas heat.
William Goodrich Jones State Forest
Just south of the town of Conroe, W.G. Jones State Forest is one of the nation’s largest working urban forests. About 80,000 people a year visit the forest, and it’s recognized by the American Bird Conservancy as one of the 500 most important areas in North America.
The forest is home to the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker, and is one of the few places left to see this enigmatic black and white bird. Bring your binoculars and see if you can spot this woodpecker, which creates cavities in live pine trees to roost and nest. From March 15 through July 15, nesting areas are closed to limit disturbance and provide a better nesting habitat for the birds.
Geocaching, a fitness trail, fishing, picnicking, horseback riding, hiking, demonstration gardens and growing areas are also available throughout the forest.
Margaritaville Lake Resort
After all of your land and water pursuits, head to Margaritaville Lake Resort on the shores of Lake Conroe for a bit of island-centric R&R. The Jimmy Buffett-inspired resort offers 303 suites and 32 waterfront cottages, plus several bars and restaurants across the property.
Take the family to the resort’s 3.5-acre waterpark for slides, a lazy river, splash pad, five swimming pools, and two hot tubs, or break away for a round of golf at The Golf Club, an 18-hole course meandering through tall pines, beaches, and waterfalls. St. Somewhere Spa offers face and body massage treatments for the ultimate in relaxation, and for a bit of exercise, the resort offers tennis courts, pickleball courts, and a fitness center.
Want to get out on the water? Rent a boat, paddleboard, or pedal boat from Einstein’s Surf and Boat Shop, located at the resort. For dining, License to Chill is open all day long for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and serves casual fare such as salads, wraps, and killer cocktails. Don’t miss a round of drinks at the 5 O’Clock Somewhere swim-up pool bar, and a night of live music and dancing at Boathouse Bar and Lounge.
Texas Tidbit: Through Labor Day, the resort offers a two-hour sunset cruise around Lake Conroe aboard a tiki hut party barge. Book your tickets by contacting Einstein’s Surf and Boat Shop.
Whether you’re there for a long weekend or a weeklong retreat from the demands of reality, Conroe will leave you feeling refreshed, relaxed, and naturally inspired.