Lifestyle

A Romantic Weekend Exploring Revitalized San Saba

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Looking for a romantic weekend or girls’ trip? A place where the people are still warm and inviting, where hats are often seen but optional, a place where there’s no wait for a table or fight for a parking spot? And, yet, boasts world-class golfing, award-winning wineries with tasting rooms, restored downtown boutique hotels, and shopping for unique western wear? If this sounds like a dream to you, then head to San Saba and enjoy a few days doing something completely different. San Saba was originally founded in 1854, a shipping point for ranchers, cotton, wool, and pecans. It’s now becoming a great spot for a weekend getaway as it revitalizes its downtown historic buildings.

Feeling a little cabin fever, we headed out of Austin for a just-over-an-hour trip north to Hotel Dofflemyer, a boutique hotel in a restored 1913 building that at one time hosted the San Saba Bank. As part of a downtown restoration of several finely architected buildings, the owners uncovered old stone walls and wood floorboards from its original days as a bank and gentleman’s social club. Located on the second floor, the hotel features six rooms, all outfitted with contemporary luxuries in a setting that features exposed brick, period photographs, and Edison lighting. An upstairs coffee bar ensures a quick trip for a cup of complimentary joe. Downstairs, a coffee and sandwich shop, Oliver and Co., showcases the old bank safe and purveys options for breakfast, lunch, or goodies, including pecan pie. The building is conveniently located at the corner of Highways 190 and 16, within walking distance to several nice shops and tasting rooms. Some things to know: Because you are in a historic building at the busiest intersection in town, you may hear some traffic toward cattleman’s rush hour. As the evening progresses, the silence follows. Also, know that there is no elevator, so you must be able to traverse the iron and wood staircase. There may be a fix for that in the future. If you are looking for more of a B&B experience, try Three Sisters Ranch House with a small, private lake stocked with bass.

A Romantic Weekend Exploring Revitalized San Saba

Photo: Eliza Bushn

Once we arrived, we toured Wedding Oak Winery tasting room, situated two doors down, where we met and talked with owner Mike McHenry. Wedding Oak, named after a famous local tree, is an award-winning winery that features world-class reds and whites from only Texas vines located in Lampasas, Hye, and Brownfield. 300 barrels and 18 stainless vats make small-batch, wonderful wine. While talking among the barrels, Mike shared the history of the winery and how it’s grown from one vineyard, one site, and now to three, San Saba, Fredericksburg, and Burnet. Tastings are available daily but spring for the flight and enjoy the stay. The staff is warm, and the atmosphere is wonderful. We left our tasting and walked past Old Man Scary Cellars where one could do more tasting and listen to live music, a popular place for locals.

Our first night, we ate at Napoli’s Grill, an Italian restaurant, walking distance from the hotel. It has a full Italian menu with salads, seafood, chicken, veal, steak, and pasta dishes. The food was good, and service was great. You must bring your own wine, which wasn’t an issue.

A Romantic Weekend Exploring Revitalized San Saba

Photo: Eliza Bushn

After a restful night, we arose to tour some of the more natural areas of town. We grabbed a full breakfast at Larry’s Corner Café and sated, headed to see the famous Wedding Oak. The Wedding Oak is said to be at least 1,000 years old, a live oak whose perfect canopy made for many a wedding photo. However, in 2017, storm damage took off a portion of the canopy and the famed heart that was a natural anomaly of bark. Still a stately oak, it stretches across the road. Not far from Wedding Oak, is the Beveridge Bridge, a suspension bridge built in 1896 to provide access over the San Saba. Designed by an Irishman by the same name, the bridge was built for just under $2,300 and stands yet today. After 2004, you can no longer drive Beveridge bridge, but you can still walk across all 190 feet of it.

Further northwest, we drove to Regency Bridge, the last drivable suspension bridge in Texas spanning the Colorado River. At 343 feet in length, it was built mostly by hand in 1939 and restored in 1997. To get there, you must travel a few miles on gravel and dirt roads, but it’s worth the trip and may be worth doing before this last suspension bridge takes the test of time. Great views from the top of the Colorado River make it worth the trip.

On the road back, we stopped in at the San Saba Pecan company. Situated along the pristine San Saba River that winds its way through town, San Saba boasts the state’s title for Pecan Capital and the claim of World leader in Pecan production. At least eight pecan companies’ package and sell some of the tastiest varieties of pecans. You can sample them at a variety of shops downtown. We toured the San Saba Pecan Company orchard store and sampled natives known for their flavor density, Nekonahs for their buttery taste, and Choctaw for mild flavor.

A Romantic Weekend Exploring Revitalized San Saba

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Our original agenda included golfing the world-class, par 72 San Saba Golf Course. However, the winds were contrary, so we opted instead to see the nature trails. We headed to Mill Pond Park and walked the trails along the creek toward the river. The famous Mill wheel was being restored, so we did not get to see it. However, we followed the trails to Risien park and the bordering LCRA park natural area. Large pecans towered over lush green grasses with the creek running toward the San Saba River. The LCRA park was so serene, one of the prettiest spots we visited.

That left us a little time for shopping. The JC Campbell and Co. Mercantile was situated in a restored building adjacent to the hotel, filled with vendors with a variety of goods and clothing. Just across the street is Harry’s, a destination shop for western wear, boots, and hats in architecturally interesting buildings as well. One of the newest additions, the San Saba Soap Company sits on the street behind the hotel. Proprietors Marcus and Leanne Holley have married art and science to create the most delicious fragrances of soaps and lotions with quality ingredients. They are one to watch as their brand is growing.

Our last night we dined at Agave Jalisco, a new Mexican restaurant in San Saba, with authentic Mexican dishes, cold beers, and margaritas as well as nonalcoholic options. Other food options are Bar D Brewhouse, Pepperbelly’s, or Gages BBQ, to name a few. If you are opting for a fancier meal, Diggs steakhouse and bar is just east of town. Coming later in 2020 will be a top-notch steakhouse in a restored building across from the Hotel Dofflemyer that is being developed by the same owner as Hotel Doffelmyer.

San Saba boasts many things, but its people were most memorable. Warm, southern hospitality. Everyone wanted to share a story, fill in the blanks of history, and have you come stay and sit awhile.