We all know that Austin is batty for bats. Austin is home to the largest Mexican free-tail bat colony in North America, and we love to celebrate these winged creatures that dwell underneath the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge. Seeing the bats swoop out from under the bridge is quite an amazing site!

But what’s the best way to see the bats? And when?

“Bat Season” takes place every year from March to November, and bats emerge around sunset, currently around 8:15 p.m., to feed on a variety of flying insects such as mosquitos and moths. Typically, late July and early August is considered “peak season” to see the bats, but we went in early June and saw quite a spectacular show.

You can certainly join the crowds and stand along the sidewalk of the bridge to wait for them to take flight, we we think the BEST way to see them is from the water.

We recently had the opportunity to hop aboard the Lone Star Riverboat Sunset Bat Watching Cruise, and it was a really special “true Austin” experience.

The one-hour Bat Watching Cruise leaves from the southeast side of the First Street Bridge about 30 minutes before sunset, and boarding begins approximately 45 minutes before taking off. (This will be specified when you make your reservation. For us it was around 7:15 p.m.) Passengers are encouraged to board early if you’re with a group or large family to ensure you can all sit together. You’re welcome to BYOB on the ride, so feel free to bring your drink of choice on your cruise.

The boats available for this Bat Watching Cruise include a large pontoon boat, the Southern Star, that seats up to 60 people and the smaller boat, Little Star, which carries 30. Both are open-air, so you’re sure to get a great view no matter where you’re seated.

The boat ride provides a fantastic way to see the city skyline and glowy sunset views of Lady Bird Lake. You’ll even feel a slight breeze to help keep cool on these hot summer nights. During the tour, the captain provides lots of informative sightseeing highlights as well as very interesting details about the bats.You can really get great views of the bats from below. Kids, adults, tourists and locals were all in awe of the huge number of bats in the air! Occasionally, there were folks on the boat who mentioned feeling a little falling bat guano, but the captain told us “it’s good luck”, and we’ll go with that.

For more information about the cruises — including the weekend sightseeing cruise, bat watching cruise, and Friday night moonlight cruise — please visit the Lone Star Riverboat website or call (512) 327-1388.