By June Naylor
Once the wedding celebration is a wrap, it’s time to exhale. You and your betrothed have earned the ultimate timeout known as the honeymoon. Why not make it easy on yourselves and find a romantic retreat for two right here in Texas? Whatever you’re looking for, from the sunny Gulf Coast to the wilds of West Texas, from the storied Hill Country to bucolic horse country, the Lone Star State generously provides. The point is for the two of you to relax in the outdoors and in luxurious digs, find good things to eat and drink, and simply enjoy quiet time for reflecting and planning your happily-ever-after. Here are four unique-to-Texas ideas for honeymoon bliss.
Sunflower Beach, Port Aransas
Just off Corpus Christi, Mustang Island is anchored at one end by the village called Port Aransas. Now remarkably recovered from Hurricane Harvey’s devastation two-and-a-half years ago, the town and its environs make for possibly the prettiest beach playground along the Gulf of Mexico. Among the new developments, Sunflower Beach is fashioned after popular Destin-area resorts such as Seaside and Rosemary Beach. In addition to homes and townhouses, a selection of charming modern cabins called The Camp gives you a stylish one-bedroom retreat with a kitchenette, living room, indoor-outdoor shower and a deep tub next to a fireplace. Just beyond your patio, a walkway takes you to two swimming pools and a boardwalk that crosses the wild dunes to a private beach area where Sunflower staff will set up your chaise and umbrella and bring snacks, drinks and lunch. Borrow a bicycle for the 3-mile ride into downtown Port A, where a nature center lets you roam a network of boardwalks to see alligators and assorted water birds (kingfishers, herons and many more) in picturesque marshes. Book a deep-sea fishing trip at the marina or fly kites on the windy beach beside the jetties. Souvenirs might include a watercolor by a local artist, found at the Port Aransas Art Center. For dining, try the grouper Reuben and shrimp and grits at the Black Marlin Seaside Grill, meatballs and spicy sausage and penne at Dylan’s Coal Oven Pizzeria, and crabcakes and chargrilled oysters at Tortuga’s Saltwater Grill. For more information, visit sunflowerbeach.com; book at turnkeyvr.com.
The Inn at Dos Brisas, Washington
Hidden away on a 300-acre ranch estate in rolling countryside about midway between Houston and Austin, The Inn at Dos Brisas is an elegant, intimate Relais & Châteaux resort that offers the complete five-star experience. Among nine accommodations, there’s the Hacienda, an 1,800-square-foot home with fireplaces in the bedroom and living room and an extraordinary bathroom, a private plunge pool and a lovely patio, where your breakfast is served. The inn’s restaurant is supplied by a 42-acre certified organic farm, which provides produce for the most lavish meals found in Texas and for the chef’s private cooking classes. The inn’s sommelier leads wine tasting classes, and there’s a daily wine and cheese reception. Take a horseback ride (lessons are available), book a carriage tour of the grounds or arrange a picnic lunch to enjoy beside a quiet pond. Tennis is another option, as is clay target shooting. In-suite spa services can be arranged, too. If you feel like wandering, head into the town of Brenham, settled in the 1800s primarily by German immigrants, to explore its charming downtown and a host of wineries, antiques shops and a bookshop. If you’re hankering for barbecue, Brenham has its share of joints. Just be back at the inn in time for one of those sumptuous dinners with wine pairings, followed by a poolside nightcap. Book online at dosbrisas.com.
Treehouse Utopia, Utopia
What better place to honeymoon than in a town called Utopia? Your fairy-tale setting is one of four luxury treehouses built into centuries-old cypress trees in the rocky western reaches of the Texas Hill Country, about an hour and a half’s drive from San Antonio. You’ll want to stock up on wine to sip while sitting on the deck, listening to the gentle flow of the Sabinal River tumbling over rocks just below you. One of the Treehouse Utopia quartet, the two-story Chateau bears a variety of rooflines, two decks and an interior of floral details and European forest paintings to evoke a mountain chalet mood. French antiques fill the treehouses, thanks to the owner’s annual buying trips abroad. If you can pry yourself out of this hideaway, wander to nearby Lost Maples State Natural Area for an exhilarating hike through beautifully forested hills or kayak along the crystal clear Frio River. In the petite town of Utopia, Main Street Utopia is filled with finds from the aforementioned French shopping trips, as is The Laurel Tree, an elegant restaurant owned by the treehouse proprietor, who’s also a professional chef. Utopia’s Lost Maples Cafe serves a fine chicken-fried steak and superb pies, too. At the nearby burg of Concan, find fabulous burgers at Hippie Chics River Shack, a good place to while away an afternoon before heading back to your treehouse. Book online at treehouseutopia.com.
Gage Hotel, Marathon
For exploring the vast Big Bend region, there’s no better home base than the beautiful, historic Gage Hotel. Built in 1927 as one of the premier railroad hotels in the Southwest, renovations and expansions rendered this a true oasis in the Chihuahuan Desert. Hotel staff can help outline a hiking day in Big Bend National Park, about 80 miles due south; just be sure to leave ample time to chill at the Gage. Splurge and choose between a room in the hotel’s Los Portales, an adobe addition of lavish rooms with fireplaces and cowhide rugs, framing a Mexican-style courtyard with an adjacent swimming pool; or one of the private casitas, renovated historic houses on and near the hotel grounds. Book spa time for massage therapy, facials, body treatments and hydrating in the eucalyptus-infused steam room. Meditative moments are found in the 27-acre Gage Gardens, a park with native landscaping, fountains, nine-hole putting green, rose garden, vineyard, fruit orchard and large firepit. Check out Evans Gallery, where famous local photographer James Evans offers T-shirts emblazoned with photos of Trans-Pecos wildlife, such as the horny toad, tarantula and javelina. Pick up picnic fixings at the French Co. Grocer, a good source for farmstand produce, sandwiches, beer, wine, snacks, hats, first-aid needs and books. You won’t go hungry, thanks to the 12 Gage Restaurant, a good place for steaks and wild game in a cowboy-chic setting; and the Brick Vault Brewery & Barbecue, known for craft beer and smoked goods. Toast your newfound happiness at the hotel’s White Buffalo Bar, home of one of the state’s truly great margaritas. Book online at gagehotel.com.