Summer is officially here, and with that comes the thought of a peaceful, relaxing vacation somewhere far away from our hectic city life. But if a long vacation is not in the cards for you, there is a perfect alternative a mere 25 minutes from downtown Austin and a little over three hours' drive from Dallas-Fort Worth.
The Sage Hill Inn & Spa sits atop a hill on 90 acres above Onion Creek, surrounded by over 2,000 acres of undeveloped land owned by the City of Austin, conservation lands, and a private ranch. This secluded location offers magnificent views of the Hill Country, spectacular sunsets, and a privileged location to enjoy the night sky.
The 16-room bed-and breakfast-was built as an inn and restaurant in 1994 and was purchased in 2012 by John Banczak and Eric Goldreyer, who conducted a large renovation that included multiple room upgrades and the construction of four cottages, as well as a huge pool deck, a 14-person hot tub, and Garden Spa. In an effort to help water conservation (the property sits atop the Edwards Aquifer), they added 25,000 more gallons of rain water storage, which is used to maintain the spectacular landscaping and edible gardens.
Driving up the winding road that leads to the inn, you feel miles away from the hustle and bustle, as it gives way to native plants, wildflowers, and sweeping vistas. The inn is as welcoming as expected, with a rustic yet elegant aesthetic designed to resemble grand structures from the 1800s, with details like original antique doors and wood and iron gates salvaged from a Mexican jail.
The rooms are impeccable, with luxury amenities in homey surrounds. All rooms are outfitted with fireplaces, sitting areas, satellite TV, a DVD player, and Wi-Fi. They have different gorgeous views of the Hill Country and are decorated with flowers freshly picked from the colorful gardens.
Outdoor activities include miles of hiking trails, a bocce court, and two horseshoe pits. There are hammocks and porch swings in select locations for a quiet nap or a pit stop to soak in the landscape.
General Manager Justin “Raif” Raiford, a veteran of the Austin hospitality industry, oversees operations with impressive attention to detail, adding touches that make the stay at Sage Hill Inn even more special.
The cozy library includes an extensive selection of DVDs, books, and board games. There are vintage-style coolers with ice cold water throughout the property, and the inviting pool area is stocked with towels, floaties, bug spray, sunscreen, and ice.
An endless supply of home-made cookies and energy bars is available in the dining room. All rooms have binoculars for watching the abundant birds, deer, wild turkey, and foxes that roam the property; an espresso machine; and a mini-fridge stocked with complimentary locally bottled water, Mexican cokes, and sparkling water. Ask in advance and Raif will have a bottle of champagne on ice waiting in your room when you arrive.
Sage Hill Inn is a popular destination for girls’ weekends, which is exactly why my best friend and I were there recently. After settling in our lovely first floor suite, we headed for the pool to cool off while admiring the view and sipping some sangria, where we met another couple of girlfriends who were doing the same. Before dinner we shared a drink on the comfy sitting area on the airy porch, which also boasts a few tables for dining al fresco.
The dining room does not require fancy dress — in the spirit of the property, it is rustic and relaxed. Accommodations include a three-course dinner and a full hot breakfast prepared with local vegetables, fruits, meats, eggs, and honey, plus whatever is seasonally available in their garden, including herbs and edible flowers. Dishes are unfussy, leaning toward home cooking with Texas flair. A small selection of wine and local beer is available, but wine buffs can bring their own bottles for a small corkage fee.
After dinner, our new friends joined us at the large outdoor fire pit, perfectly located to watch an impressive sunset that spurred us to an impromptu mini dance party before returning to our room. We sat on the private back porch and chatted, looking at the stars, before settling into the super comfortable beds.
The next morning we took a stroll in the gardens before our appointments at the peaceful Garden Spa, which is integrated right into the main garden. The spa staff is welcoming and friendly and provided excellent, relaxing services.
We were truly sad to leave this incredible place that combines a luxurious pampered experience with warm Texas hospitality. Good thing it’s so close.