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Lake Austin Spa Resort’s History is as Colorful as the Texas Wildflowers: Fishermen, Nudists and Cowboys Paint the Tale of an Award-Winning Destination Spa in Austin, Texas
Guests of the 40-room Lake Austin Spa Resort have not always been greeted with delicious meals prepared from the resort’s own organic gardens nor have they been greeted with a 25,000 square foot spa where you can choose from more than 100 spa treatments, uniquely designed for and inspired by the location on the shores of beautiful Lake Austin. Tracing the lineage of this Texas Hill Country retreat from the 1940’s to today reveals a rich story filled with fishermen, nudists, cowboys and two best friends from college who had a vision to create the number one destination spa in the country.
More than twenty years ago, on January 1, 1997, Michael McAdams and William Rucks, best friends and fraternity brothers at Louisiana State University purchased this diamond in the rough on the shores of Lake Austin in the Texas Hill Country. What they discovered was a soulful spa experience encapsulated by facilities and rooms that were outdated and in need of major repair. Immediately they began transforming the physical elements to be more in sync with the delicious food, mind altering spa treatments and unforgettable activities that were already in place. Since that time and after introducing the LakeHouse Spa in 2004, the property has taken home honors as the #1 destination spa in the US and as one of the top in the world from esteemed travel publications. Today the duo continues to update and refresh guest areas to keep with the times and changing behaviors of the affluent consumer. By peeking into the past, one can appreciate the humble beginnings from which this magical place took root.
In the late 1940’s Lake Austin Lodges was built as a fishing camp comprised of ten guests rooms and 36 boat slips on the lake. It offered activities such as waterskiing, boating, sailing, swimming, hiking and access to deer and turkey hunting. The brochure advertised a pool with a snack bar, and the dinner menu at their public restaurant included top-grade steaks and dining was advertised as “an occasion”. Evening entertainment included dancing and live music. Non-guests boaters were encouraged to either anchor on the water or come ashore to enjoy the live music, drinks and food provided by Lake Austin Lodges. The fishing camp’s winning recipe of water sports, social activities and an ideal location attracted guests for decades.
This success, however, wasn’t experienced by the next venture. Sunshine Nudist Camp was a short-lived venture in the early 1970’s; the winter weather was not kind to the enthusiasts of the nudist colony, and they moved to a warmer location.
In the mid 1970’s Steiner Rodeo Ranch, a working cattle ranch with a bull riding school, used the property to lodge cowboys and rodeo clowns from around the country that trained on the ranch and called it Steiner Ranch Rodeo Camp.
Following extensive renovations and construction of 10 additional guest rooms, The Bermuda Inn, Reducing Resort opened in November of 1978. A sister property of a weight loss facility located in Lancaster, California, The Bermuda Inn’s slogan was “Bermuda Inn…where you can lose up to a pound a day, the fun way.”
Meal plans were portion controlled and prepared under medical supervision for those observing 500-, 700-, and 900-calorie diets. Dinners were often preceded by a “dietetic cocktail hour.” Guests received trophies at milestone pound losses including 25- and 50-pounds. Some extended stay guests were reported to have lost up to 100 pounds.
The resort even put out an exercise cassette tape and a 45-rpm record titled Top-to-Toe-Tunes. The record was comprised of “The Diet Song” by Shell Silverstein and “Wastin’ Away Again at the Bermuda Inn”, a reworked version of Jimmy Buffet’s hit. Memorable lyrics include:
Wastin’ away again at the Bermuda Inn/
No use looking for that shaker of salt/
As a prevention against water retention/
It’s been locked…in the manager’s vault.
The summer 1981 issue of The Bermuda Inn-formant glimpsed into the future and ultimately at the resort’s fate when it included a small blurb reporting that a dietary consultant had submitted menu ideas based on the nutritional values of whole fruits and fresh fish. The newsletter added the reasoning behind updating the menu was to add variety and interest to menus in hopes of relieving the monotony that dieters and repeat guest may face. Soon after research began to indicate the dangers of highly restricted calorie diets and the difficulty in maintaining rapid weight loss, The Bermuda Inn was replaced by Lake Austin Resort, a resort focused on teaching healthy lifestyle choices.
In 1994 the name changed once again to Lake Austin Spa Resort and its activities and fitness programs and menu offerings continued to evolve allowing guests greater opportunities to achieve a healthy, active lifestyle, not a quick fix.
Seeing potential in the resort’s activity programs, cuisine and especially the staff, Michael McAdams and William Rucks purchased Lake Austin Spa Resort on January 1, 1997. Under their leadership, Lake Austin Spa Resort’s offerings continued to guide guests to discover balance through healthful eating, moderate exercise, therapeutic spa treatments and relaxation.
Soon after purchasing the resort, the owners started the move towards offering luxury accommodations and services to create an all-encompassing destination spa experience. Grounds and garden redesigns kicked off these efforts and over the next few years there were widespread renovations throughout the resort including the front desk, Garden Library, the Lake Room, Living room, training room, lounge areas, the dining room, boutique and all guest rooms including the addition of the Lady Bird Suite. In spring of 2004 after extensive renovations, the 25,000 square-foot LakeHouse Spa opened with spacious men’s and women’s locker rooms, the outdoor Palm Pool with a hot tub and cabanas, the Pool Barn (which is home to an indoor Junior Olympic-length lap pool), 30 treatment areas including garden tents and suites and the Bamboo Room (a private outdoor treatment suite with in-ground hot tub), the Iris Salon, the Aster Café and two acres of terraced foliage and aquatic gardens. Since 2004, Mike and Billy have continued to enhance the property with guestroom re-designs, common area refurbishments, adding new fitness equipment and offerings and welcoming top chefs and best-selling authors and noted experts for guest programs throughout the year.
Not long after the new spa opened, Lake Austin Spa Resort quickly became recognized for its casual elegance centered on comfort and beauty. Recently it has been named the #6 Wellness Retreat in the World by Condé Nast Traveler and as a Top 10 Spa in the Travel + Leisure World’s Best Awards.
Overnight packages are all inclusive of healthy spa cuisine, luxurious spa treatments, fitness classes and activities. For reservations and information, call 800-847-5637 or visit lakeaustin.com.