The Car-Free Traveler, Lauren Matison, co-founder and editor of offMetro.com.
The last time I woke to the sounds of cock-a-doodle-doo, I was in a farmhouse in the south of France, very far from home in Manhattan. While I haven't set my alarm ringtone to "rooster" since that trip four years ago, I do miss omelets with freshly laid eggs and the buzz of bees in the lavender bushes. On a recent morning that finally smelled like autumn in New York, I found myself wondering where a car-less New Yorker can wake up on a farm without having to drive or fly?
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, there are over 129,850 farms in the Northeast, but most do not offer farmcations or easily accessible roads. Not to be deterred, and hungry for a little peace and quiet—and those freshly laid eggs—I unearthed five outstanding spots celebrating a new farm to table to bed movement.
The Homestead at Seven Arrows East
Sustainable Slumber: Though just a 45-minute ferry ride from Manhattan, this year-round yoga retreat, education studio, and CSA farm could not feel farther away from the city. Perched on 20 acres of land on the banks of the Navesink River in Monmouth County, New Jersey, The Homestead is lovingly looked after by former Brooklyn farmers Meg, Michael, and Neil and their Maremma Sheep Dogs, trained livestock guardians that live with the goats, which you're welcome to milk. Nestled near 700-acre Hartshorne Woods and Sandy Hook, this sustainable sanctuary thrives on sharing its organic produce and pearls of agronomic wisdom while inviting city folk to roam free, read under an apple tree, and reboot. In addition to the monthly yoga retreats, The Homestead offers classes ranging from beekeeping to soup and bread making to growing and foraging edible mushrooms. If you want to check out the place before spending the night in their cozy, minimalist digs, attend one of their new BYOB vegan farm dinners (http://veganfarmtotabledinner-eorg.eventbrite.com/, $75), featuring a five course menu that, "we feel, demonstrates how luxuriously one can eat from one's own field." (Hartshorne Road, Locust, NJ, http://sevenarrowseast.com/, dorm room for $400, private room for $650 for a three-day retreat, which includes lodging, meals, and workshops.)
Get There: Seven Arrows is 45 minutes from Manhattan and reachable via Seastreak Ferry to Atlantic Highlands.
Chebeague Island Inn
Sustainable Slumber: On the tiny turtle-shaped island of Chebeaugue (that's shuh-Beeg, meaning 'isle of many springs') off the coast of Portland, Maine, this grand hilltop hotel dating back to the 1920s is the kind of hidden gem travelers want but rarely make the effort to find. The journey, which takes you from a scenic train trip to the Old Port to a ferry, is half the fun of the getaway and worth every step. Once you've arrived, there is golf, tennis, boating, bocce ball, free bikes, and plenty of secluded rocky coves reminiscent of a Hopper painting (visit Deer Point and Bennett Cove), but the draw for adventurous foodies will be the Farm to Table package(available late May—October 7). The special includes a two-night stay, daily gourmet breakfast, a box lunch and local bottle of Oyster River Wine, a guided tour of Second Wind Farm, and a three-course dinner for two using produce from the farm. The package requires a $100 donation towards the farm, where much of the Inn's menu is sourced. After learning about Second Wind, island farming and the deep-rooted relationship the hotel has with local farmers and fishermen, join Executive Chef Rowe as he creates your farm-to-table meal. (61 South Road, Chebeague Island, http://www.chebeagueislandinn.com, from $180/night, add on $100 for the Farm to Table package and call 207/846-5155 to book it.)
Get There: Take Amtrak to Portland. Hop a taxi or take the 5 Bus to the Metro Pulse station, and walk 10 minutes to the port for the leisurely 90-minute Casco Bay Ferry ride ($11.05 for a round-trip ride). Make arrangements prior to arrival and the Inn will send a complimentary van to pick you up.
Sprout Creek Inn
Sustainable Slumber: When you open the front door to your cottage, there won't be concrete or rushed pedestrians or cabs, and the only honks you'll hear will be from ducks. You'll want to greet the neighbors-chickens, goats, cows, pigs, sheep, and their babies-who you'll soon get to know on a first name basis. You never thought you'd feel at home on the range, but here, surrounded by green pastures, happy animals, and a private outdoor garden, the farm life suits you-if just for the weekend. Stock your cottage pantry with artisanal cheese, charcuterie, eggs, produce, pasta, and baked goods at the Sprout Creek Farm market, then roll up your sleeves to milk the cows, feed the sheep or gather eggs. In between a hot air balloon ride (that lifts off from the farm) and a cheese-making workshop, you'll discover this is the easiest place to unplug. Chef Mark Fredette can prepare lunch or dinner, which comes with a complimentary bottle of wine and a cheese plate, so you won't have to dine elsewhere and leave the farm-except for that aerial tour of the Hudson Valley. The next time you're in Whole Foods, pick up Sprout Creek's new Kinkead or Batch 35 cheese and remember how you spent a weekend on a farm two hours north of New York City. When was the last time you thought of cheese as something more than what goes on a cracker? (34 Lauer Road, Poughkeepsie, http://www.sproutcreekfarm.org, the Country Cottage Getaway at Sprout Creek Farm is $475 for a two-night stay for up to five people. To make a reservation, call Andrea 845/485-8438 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Get There: Take Metro-North Hudson line to Poughkeepsie, then a Del Ray taxi, 845/452-1222, for the 15-minute ride to the farm.
Sustainable Slumber: Overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, Montauk, and Block Island, the Ocean House on Watch Hill originally opened in 1868 and comprises 13 acres of oceanfront landscape and a 650-foot private white-sand beach, where you'll spend nights listening to crashing waves and a crackling bonfire. On any given day, complimentary resort activities might include tai chi, a croquet clinic, juicing and cocktail classes, art workshops and movie screenings, and sitting on a plush couch doing nothing but enjoying live jazz. Although there are many reasons to stay here, it's the Farm + Vine series that the Ocean House is most proud of. Every week, the program offers free classes led by a food forager or chef in Seasons restaurant's open exhibition kitchen or community farm. In addition to on-site cooking demonstrations and wine tastings, guests are invited to visit local farms, wineries and fishing docks to select the ingredients for that evening's meal. The monthly Farm + Vine dinner ($95/pp) brings the best New England chefs to prepare hors d'oeuvres and a three-course, wine-paired dinner. The monthly In the Kitchen Culinary Education series will send you home feeling inspired to cook using local, in-season fare after learning some secrets from the resort's chefs. (1 Bluff Ave., Watch Hill, http://www.oceanhouseri.com/, $400/night. Receive 20% off the best available room rate when you enjoy a Farm+Vine dinner. Call 401/584-7000 for rates and availability.)
Get There: Take the three-hour Amtrak ride to Westerly, RI. The resort will send a Mercedes to shuttle you the short drive back and forth; just let them know when you reserve.
Buttermilk Falls Inn & Spa
Sustainable Slumber: Green travelers and the city weary will find this 75-acre refuge on the Hudson River the best place near home to eat good food, reconnect with nature, and just be. You'll start the morning with farm fresh eggs, peach-topped buttermilk pancakes, homemade scones and fair trade coffee. Then you'll stroll a short distance across Swan Pond to visit the heritage chickens, honey bees, angora goats, donkeys, peacocks, and rescued llamas at the Inn's 40-acre organic Millstone Farm. After picking berries and apples in the orchard and eating them above the eponymous waterfall, you'll lie by the pool, looking through floor to ceiling windows that face lush grounds and the Hudson, never feeling more relaxed-and that's before a visit to the spa. Here in Poughkeepsie, you can have your farm and leave it, too. After tennis and a drink by the wood-burning fireplace in your room, you'll head to Henry's Farm to Table for dinner, where you'll smile at the food on your plate, knowing well, perhaps for the first time at a restaurant, just where it came from. (220 North Road, Milton, http://www.buttermilkfallsinn.com, from $300-$400 off peak, $350-$450 peak for two people)
Get There: Take the 90-minute Metro-North or Amtrak train ride to Poughkeepsie station. Take a 12-minute Del Ray taxi ride (845/452-1222) to the Inn.
offMetro.com promotes a “greener” lifestyle through inspiring day trips and weekend jaunts that are easily accessible via alternative modes of transportation, be it by bike, bus, subway, or boat. Visit offMetro.com for more vacation ideas.