Since 1997, I have owned a home in beautiful Driftwood, Texas, just three miles from the infamous Salt Lick BBQ, http://www.saltlickbbq.com/. Recently, we invested in another property in town and leased our Driftwood home and I can't tell you how much I miss the sunsets, the farm fresh eggs from my neighbor, the stars and nature.
Wimberley, Dripping Springs and Driftwood are all within a 30-40 minute drive from downtown Austin. Before you know it, you are surrounded by wineries, artists' galleries, bed and breakfasts, lavender and goat cheese farms, an olive oil orchard, natural swimming holes and so much more.
There's so much to do you can't possibly do it in a day but that's the beauty of being so close; you can come back every weekend.
Living in Driftwood, Texas is the best of both worlds. Since Driftwood isn't in the city of Austin nor Dripping Springs, the tax rate is lower. Our children receive all the beneifts of the outstanding Dripping Springs' schools and we are only 22 minutes from downtown Austin.
Scott Roberts, the owner of the Salt Lick, is planning a 540 acre mixed use development on the family's property, http://www.driftwoodtx.com/. The word is he wants Driftwood, Texas to be Texas' Napa Valley. The Texas Hill Country is already second to Napa as the most visited wine region in the country.
Mr. Roberts' development will include 98 homesites, 215 acres of open space, 50 acres of vineyards,10 acres of orchards and organic gardens, a luxury hotel/resort/spa, nine miles of hike and bike trails and two miles of Onion Creek frontage.
Using ecologically responsible measures such as 14% impervious cover and mandatory raninwater harvesting, Mr. Roberts wants to ensure the next generation of Driftwood land owners honors and respects this beautiful land.
Long known as the BBQ destination, Driftwood, Texas has recently expanded it's palate with fine Italian dining. Mandola's Trattoria on FM 150 recommends reservations as the wait can often be hours. I don't mind waiting because you can go next door to the winery, grab some wine, bread and cheese and unwind on their gorgeous Tuscan-inspired grounds. I crave their doughnut holes with the vanilla bean custard sauce and the vanilla gelato with a shot of expresso. http://www.trattorialisina.com/.
In addition to Mandola's and Scott Roberts' vineyards, Driftwood, Texas has another winery worth noting. www.Driftwoodvineyards.com is open just about every day of the year for tastings. Bring lunch and have a picnic on their beautiful grounds overlooking the 14 acre vineyard.
DRIPPING SPRINGS AND WIMBERLEY
Exploring the the hill country requires nourishment so pick up some amazing pastries, soups and sandwiches at Rolling in Thyme and Dough Bakery on 290 West in Dripping Springs.
While in Dripping Springs, stop at New Canaan Farms, a few miles west of town on 290, http://www.newcanaanfarms.com/ for dozens of jams and sauces made on site. They'll put together a custom basket that makes the perfect gift for anyone and any occasion.
Next, head to Wimberley, http://www.wimberley.org/ one of the hill country's most popular tourist and artist towns. You can pick up a bottle of fresh olive oil at Texas first olive oil orchard, www.bvranch.com or have a fantastic meal from locally sourced ingredients at The Leaning Pear .
While in Wimberley, make sure to visit the famous square for dozens of quaint shops offering everything from hand-rolled cigars to gourmet cooking supplies. And by all means, grab a pie to-go from Wimberley Pie Company.
NATURE'S BOUNTY IN BLANCO
You can gather fresh produce, eggs and cut fresh flowers straight from the farm that stocks Whole Foods and Central Market at McCall Creek Farms in Blanco, http://www.mccallcreekfarms.com/. While you are there, find out why Blanco is known as the Lavender Capital of Texas and visit one of their many lavender farms, http://www.blancolavenderfest.com/.
Blanco is also home to the Real Ale Brewing Company, brewers of four year-round beers including their best selling Fireman's 34 Blonde Ale brewed with water from the Blanco river. For tour and tasting information, see http://www.realalebrewing.com/.
For the perfect getaway, www.juniperhillsfarm.com offers rest, relaxation and a cooking school at a private home in the hill country.
CREEKS AND SWIMMING HOLES
If you like outdoor activites, the hill country has plenty of creeks for swimming and kayaking, parks for nature walks and trails for biking. One of the more popular parks is Pedernales Falls. www.tpwd.state.tx.us/spdest/findadest/parks/pedernales_falls.
Hamilton Pool's natural swimming hole is the perfect escape from the Texas heat. www.co.travis.tx.us/tnr/parks/hamilton_pool.asp.
Wimberley also has a natural swimming hole that is open between Memorial Day and Labor Day, www.friendsofbluehole.org.
Serious nature enthusiasts should make time for a visit to David Bamberger's 5,500 acre ranch preserve near Johnson City, www.bambergerranch.org. There truly is no better conservation classroom around. Take a tour or take classes but plan on seeing a herd of endangered Scimitar Horned Oryx, a man-made bat cave, dinaosaur tracks and so much more.
Besides the beauty, the fresh foods, the artists and nature, the hill country's popularity and growth can also be attributed to its' schools.
Dripping Springs ISD is a Recognized School District with two Exemplary elementary schools and plans for a new middle school, www.dripping-springs.k12.tx.us.
In addition, Waldorf, St. Stephens, Rio Blanco Montessori and Cedars Montessori are just a few of the private school options in the area http://www.austinprivateschools.com/. For Wimberley school information, visit www.wimberley.txed.net.
For more information and a calendar of events in and around the hill country, visit www.hillcountrysun.com.