At some country getaways, “rustic” is code for mildew in the shower, “secluded” means covered in spider webs, and “charm” signals way too much plaid. Brown County is full of rustic, secluded charm. That’s not to say you won’t get a friendly greeting and clean sheets, but you can do better. We found three lodging places worth the stay: a dude ranch, an activity-filled resort, and a hideaway in the hills.
Rawhide Ranch. Dude! As far as the guys, and a few gals, at the Rawhide Ranch are concerned, broken-in jeans and cowboy boots aren’t the new look—they’re the only look. Take a cue from their attire: You, too, will be grubby, worn out, and perfectly comfortable after a day at the ranch. Rawhide’s 54 acres boast frame buildings, beds of bright flowers, a fire pit perfect for late-night ghost stories, a wide lawn with horseshoes, a stocked pond, and a scattering of charcoal grills. Next to the office, scuffed boots sit neatly on a welcome mat. Rawhide offers two lodging options: The Ranch House, a fully appointed residence with wraparound porches, and The Buck Inn Horsetel atop the horse barn, with hotel-style rooms. (The lack of horse odors upstairs is a testament to both the housekeepers and the horsekeepers.) The Inn’s common areas have wing chairs grouped around the fireplaces and help-yourself bookshelves that encourage guests to socialize. Outside, a long porch overlooks the horses patiently milling about in the corral, waiting for you to saddle up. The Ranch House: Sleeps 8, includes a full kitchen, 3 BR, 2 BA, washer and dryer. $125 to $350 per night. The Buck Inn has 11 rooms. One room sleeps six on its two sets of bunk beds (single-over-double), handcrafted by Amish woodworkers; the smallest rooms have king-size beds. All have private baths. $65 to $129 per night. A bunkhouse with four beds accommodates larger groups, and the ranch has recently added two new lodging options: the Brouse House, a private cabin ($125 per night), and the Tipi Village, with traditional Native American tents ($40 per night). Horseback riding costs $30 for a 45-minute trail ride ($20 for overnight guests). Hayrides, parent-and-child weekends, and other special events year-round. 1292 State Road 135 S, 812-988-0085, rawhideranchusa.com.
Twin Oaks Lodge. Quiet, Please! Getting to the Twin Oaks Lodge isn’t easy, even after you find the blink-and- you’ll-miss-it turnoff. The long, gravel lane is steep, the kind of steep that challenges drivers and discourages traveling salesmen. But that’s fine by the owners, a married couple who built this B&B three years ago. They set out to create a peaceful, secluded escape. Once you arrive, you’ll be content to stay put, lulled by the flower gardens, benches just right for sitting and reading, and the sounds of birds and crickets from the Hoosier National Forest at the edge of the lodge’s property. Inside the lodge, gleaming wood floors and furniture, softened by a quilt here and there, are equally soothing. A stately antique clock ticks in the foyer; a jigsaw puzzle on a table tempts you to lose an hour or two. In the morning, eggs, biscuits and fruit are served in the dining room. Four of the lodge’s six rooms have private balconies where you can relax at dusk and watch deer venture out of the forest. The lodge’s six rooms range in size from a small room with a queen-size bed, $89 to $129 per night, to a two-room suite with a king-size bed, sofa sleeper, whirlpool tub, sitting area, gas fireplace, and private balcony for $189 to $249 per night. On certain weekends, a two-night minimum applies. Breakfast included. 7939 S. Mt. Nebo Rd. 800-515-6050 or 812-988-1759, twinoakslodge.com.
Salt Creek Golf Retreat. Fore! For the work-hard-play-hard crowd, there’s Salt Creek Golf Retreat. Yes, it’s in the rolling hills adjacent to Brown County State Park. But serene it’s not: Golfers line up for tee times while kids splash in the pool and moms rendezvous for shopping excursions. At the end of the day, friends gather to cook out or dine in the resort’s restaurant. Only when darkness settles does the peaceful landscape make its presence felt. In the morning, maybe you can squeeze in a back-to-nature stroll before the day gets rolling. Thirty-six 2-BR condominiums line the property; each can be converted into two 1-BR units by closing a door. Condos have a full kitchen, two bathrooms, a family room with a fireplace, washer and dryer, and a balcony with a grill. Rates range from $149 to $190 per night; no minimum stay required. The Overlook Restaurant is open for lunch and dinner Monday, Thursday, and Friday, plus breakfast on Saturday and Sunday. Golf rates range from $20 for 9 holes to $44 for 78 holes on the weekend. Packages available. 2539 State Road 46 E, 812-988-7888, saltcreekgolf.com.
More Cozy Brown County Accommodations
The Annandale House. Nestled in deep woods and rolling hills, on a secluded private lake, the three-story stained-wood lodge manages to be rustic without the country-crafts clutter you will ﬁnd in so many Brown County inns and vacation rentals. Features include a grand stone ﬁreplace, a claw-foot soaking tub and a hot tub, and an expansive bi-level deck, plus most of the modern conveniences you’d expect. $225 per night (double occupancy). 1449 Olsen Ln. 317-490-1538, browncountyhouse.com.
Hester House. Located in a residential neighborhood in the town of Nashville, and oﬀ the madding main drag, this historic B&B is close to the shopping action—but not too close. Each of the rooms in the restored Greek Revival home (originally built in 1855 for a well-to-do county judge) has a four-poster bed and private bath, three of which include Jacuzzi tubs. $159 to $259 per two-night stay (minimum two-night stay on weekends). 190 N. Jeﬀerson St. 812-988-1751, hesterhouse.com.
The House at Stone Head. This 1891 countryside dwelling, named after the iconic “stone head” directional marker that sits out front, was originally a farmstead. But no farmer ever had it so good, what with the ﬂat-screen TVs and satellite service, Viking stove, and Sub-Zero fridge. Still, the Vermont-chic decor and pastoral setting remain true to the property’s historic character (at least in spirit). $250 per night (minimum two-night stay). 4645 Bellsville Pike. 812-988-9848, houseatstonehead.com.
Trinity Hill. Located east of Nashville, this cute little two-bedroom cabin sits on eight wooded acres and a private pond. It has everything you would expect in a rustic haven, including a handsome stone ﬁreplace, wood-paneled walls, and a separate picnic shelter with a ﬁrepit. But it also has the kind of comforts you want while on vacation (a hot tub, central air-conditioning, and so forth). $175 to $190 per night. 2759 S. State Road 135. 317-514-8879, browncountyindianacabin.com.
These articles originally appeared in the October 2005 and October 2011 issues.
Photos by Tony Valainis