Straus Home Ranch: A New Take on a Family VacationSep 23, 2014
Straus Home Ranch, just north of San Francisco in West Marin, CA is an innovative artisan/organic/sustainable food and farmland that you and your family can rent
Kennebunkport, ME — No kids club. No kids menus.
Hidden Pond is just 16 spacious cottages spread over 60 wooded acres a mile from Kennebunkport’s famous Goose Rocks Beach that’s open just from May to October. It’s a place where kids can tool around on bikes, go for a hike, do cannon balls in the pool and gather around the fire pit for s’mores and even take an outdoor shower in the cottages or pick vegetables or herbs in the gardens. (I’ve never seen so many varieties of tomatoes in one garden! They can also see what the artist in residence is up to or order a lobster roll by the pool.
“When we were kids, we were booted out of the house and told to go play all day,” says owner Tim Harrington, who grew up in suburban Boston. “Kids can’t do that anymore. They aren’t connected to nature.”
He also remembers that when families rented Maine or Cape Cod cottages “it was all work for the moms. “ I have been one of those moms.
Instead, Harrington and his partners teamed to build a place that offered the freedom kids crave, the chance to reconnect with nature with the accoutrements that well-heeled families have become accustomed to. “We want it to be Four Seasons style service without the pretense,” he explains.
“Families want the fire in the woods with frette linens and maid service.”
“We do travel expensively,” acknowledged Janet Seidl, here from Boston with her daughter, her sister, a friend and four other girls for a girls weekend. “The location is fabulous and the idea is fabulous,” she said, opining the new resort had a few growing pains with regard to service.
“It’s fantastic,” says Dawn Beswick, staying here with her husband and three kids for a long weekend from Toronto. “A good place to unwind. We can spread out in the cottage and we don’t have to eat out every night. This is family time.”
“Kids are programmed every minute at home,” said Tim Harrington. “We don’t want that. We want them to listen for the breakfast basket.”
Every morning at 8 a.m. they come with muffins, fresh bread, jam, coffee and juice—even though we have a full kitchen. Again: cottage in the woods without lifting a finger.
OF course if you don’t want to cook or go to the resort’s new restaurant Earth—a private chef will come and cook in your cottage and clean up.
She’s become a fan of Maine too. “The kids are riding their bikes. It feels real,” Dawn Beswick says.
And expensive. Cottages can be nearly a $1000 a night. Each cottage — did I mention the fireplaces? — is designed differently with “finds” from local flea markets such as old books, paintings, even rock collections on a table that Harrington hopes families will add to, as well as board games. In one cottage, stones serve as checkers. They have different names. Ours is Morning Glory.
You can come here without kids too — there are 20 bungalows that are oversized rooms with porches. There is a separate pool for adults and a new tree house spa— cozy individual treatment rooms that literally in the trees. (Great place for the facial I enjoyed.)
The restaurant, Earth, is brand new with wood tables and a delicious menu that is farm to table. We had local oysters, peektoe crab cakes, seafood paella, buttermilk fried chicken and even a burger.
This is the kind of restaurant where you can have a lobster or lamb chops or a pizza or a burger. “If someone feels like an omelet, we will make them an omelet,” says Harrington.
I love the small “potting shed,” a private dining room designed to look like a potting shed where Harrington hopes will become a setting for proposals (couples can carve their initials in the table) and other special occasions.
The herbs come from the garden, as will the vegetables. It is a lovely spot.
Memo to parents looking for a total adult getaway: A mile down the road, across from Goose Rocks Beach, Harrington and his partners have opened The Tides Beach Club, a 21-room B&B that he likens to “St. Barts meets Maine.” It is laid back and lovely-a 100-year-old Victorian hotel transformed into a getaway for 21st century couples—all blues, tans and browns with oh-so-comfortable beds and ocean views.
|The Tides Beach Club in Maine|
Dinner was delicious here too with freshly caught seafood, local cheeses and deserts with what else—blueberries. We asked and the chef complied, making us a tasting menu that included “cod chowder” with fresh and cured cod, salmon with fiddleheads, roasted chicken and heritage pork loin with bacon marmalade. Yum!
The living room is ideal for a drink, or even to bring your laptop and do a little work. But be forewarned…you’ll be hard-pressed to concentrate for long with the beautiful Maine beach right across the road.
Next: A side trip to Freeport, LL Bean and a great lesson on kids in restaurants