We profile 10 farm vacation destinations in the South, including horse ranches, an avocado farm, a working cattle ranch and more.
The South is scattered with rural dwellings that are open to visitors. This gives city slickers, as well as any other intrepid travelers, a chance to experience firsthand how food is produced and what it takes to maintain a working farm. Sure, you can go to a restaurant that specializes in farm-to-table meals, but why not take it a step further? Here are some farm vacation destinations, much like The Farm we profiled in Kentucky, where you can become a farmer, even for a short stay.
1. Palo Alto Creek Farm
Located in the Texas Hill Country just outside of Fredericksburg, this bed and breakfast was once the farmstead of German immigrants Peter and Christine Itz and their 6 children. The farm remained in the Itz family for more than 100 years and today is a bed and breakfast, sitting along Palo Alto Creek, that retains all of its original 1856 buildings. Choose to stay in one of four guest houses, featuring fireplaces and sunken tubs; opt for full spa services at the the b&b’s day spa; or watch the night stars while sitting under the 800-year-old live oak tree on site. One of the highlights of this rural retreat are the farm mascots: donkeys, cats, dogs and goats that love to welcome visitors.
2. Cypress House Ranch Bed and Breakfast
Grab a rocking chair on the front porch and enjoy the view of the free-roaming horses who live on this ranch. Cypress House Ranch features three rooms in the main house, plus two rooms above the pavilion in the adjoining wing. All rooms are upstairs, have a private bath and a terrific view of the country. While there, you can book a horse for a lesson, either Western or English, or take a trail ride on over 200 miles of trails in neighboring Withlacoochee State Forest.
3. Stillwaters Farm
This more than 150-acre, working hay farm is primarily geared toward agritourism. As a nature preserve, it’s easy to spot a deer, turkey, red foxes, birds and coyote, making it the ideal place to bond with the outdoors. The Cottage is a 1,000 square-foot, free-standing guest cottage, complete with 2 bedrooms, 1 bath, a living room, fully-appointed kitchen and outdoor lounging area. So, when you stay here, it’s like you have your own house in the country. Plus, there’s also The Silo, the farm store on site. Activities include a free critter tour, access to the farm’s garden, free movies, and the chance to participate in any of the actual farm chores.
4. Paradise Farms
When an abandoned five-acre avocado farm adjacent to her home came up for sale, Gabriele Marewski bought it and founded Paradise Farms. That was in 1999 and since then, this working, organic farm has become one of the primary produce suppliers to many of the top chefs in South Florida. Stay on the farm, which lies minutes away from Everglades National Park and Biscayne National Park, and relax, while also learning more about organic farming. There are four different houses to stay in, and when you stay, the rate includes wireless Internet, bicycle rental and breakfast. You can also sign up for Brunch in Paradise, Learning Lunch or Dinner in Paradise, featuring meals made on-site and lessons on organic eating.
5. Twin Valley Bed and Breakfast Horse Ranch
While horses rule at this Smoky Mountain bed and breakfast, there are also a bevy of other furry friends, including a llama, goats, a pig, birds, rabbits, kittens and a donkey. Enjoy horseback riding on trails and stay in one of the many accommodations, including suites in the Ranch House, the private Luke’s Cabin and rustic camping in the Wilderness Shelter. Guests are treated to a full country breakfast and can enjoy campfire cookouts, the outdoor chapel on site, and swimming and fishing in the ranch’s pond.
6. Snug Hollow Farm
Enjoy fields full of wildflowers, babbling creeks, wildlife and stunning mountain views at this 300-acre, organic farm. Owner Barbara Napier has put Snug Hollow on the eco-tourism map thanks to her lush gardens and vegetarian cooking. Take long walks, help out in the garden, go stargazing or have a picnic by the pond. Rent a room or a whole cabin. Chosen by National Geographic Traveler as one of “50 Best Girlfriend Getaways of North America” and having appeared in the pages of Southern Living Magazine and Taste of the South, it’s clear this is a sure spot for experiencing rural living.
7. Tennessee Dude and Guest Ranch
At this rural escape, the minute you check in, you get your own working horse. That means while you stay, you have your own horse to call your own. You can also milk the cows, feed the chickens, collect eggs and grind wheat at this old-fashioned farm. It’s a chance to soak up the the beautiful Tennessee Sequatchie Valley and get a taste of what life was like in the 1800s. Hike the wooded trails, roll oats in a cooking class, go for a swim, picnic in their meadow or simply spend time riding your horse all day. Family games of horseshoes, Bible studies on the front porch and stargazing on the deck are other common scenes. And, the hardest part is saying so long to your horse once it’s time to check out.
8. The Inn at Serenbe Farms
Chatt Hills, Georgia
An hour outside of Atlanta, escape the rush hour traffic and hectic pace at this gorgeous, 900-acre getaway, featuring a working, 25-acre CSA-certified farm. You can take a tour of the grounds, explore the preserved forestland and wildflower meadows, hike along 15 miles of trails, go on hayrides, help feed the animals, and learn more about sustainability, organic practices and animal husbandry. Plus, there are two pools, a cabana, a croquet lawn, two hot tubs, a spa, and fresh meals prepared by chefs specializing in organic food. With 27 rooms spread across six buildings, there is room enough for everyone to experience country life at this relaxing, but not very rustic, inn.
9. Country Girl at Heart Farm Bed & Breakfast
The motto here is this is “A place where you can get your hands dirty or just put your feet up.” Sounds like just what the doctor ordered. Nestled among green rolling hills in Hart County, Kentucky this 140-acre, sustainable farm features five bedrooms, all with private baths. You can help Owner Darlene Rose in the garden, gather eggs in the barn, feed the goats, pet the horses, help move livestock from one pasture to another, spend some time in the workshop with any number of hands-on projects, or simply sit on the wraparound porch and listen to the Amish buggies pass by. For those who don’t want to go too rustic, there’s also a recreation room with magnetic chalkboard & whiteboard walls, ping pong and pool tables, foosball, air hockey, crafts, books, games, & puzzles, as well as a cinema room for movie nights.
10. Buffalo Creek Guest Ranch
Nestled in the mountains of southeast Oklahoma, this 1,000-acre, working cattle ranch offers a combination of authentic farm and ranch life with bed and breakfast lodging. Each room features a king or queen bed, a gas log fireplace, a flat screen tv, a dvd player, wireless Internet, a double shower and a double whirlpool tub. So, no, this isn’t exactly roughing it. To keep you busy and get you dirty, there’s fishing and swimming in private ponds, target and skeet shooting, horseback riding, and nightly fires in an outdoor pit. Owners Dave and Darleen Shaw help customize your experience, so all you have to do is plan ahead if you prefer to experience one thing over another.
All photos courtesy of Twin Valley Bed and Breakfast Horse Ranch.