There’s an irrefutable charisma that begs you to pull the car over as the road brings you to the Norman Rockwell-ish town of Saugerties, N.Y.
Just try to resist the quaint, red-brick facades of a main street that effortlessly charms the pants off even the staunchest curmudgeon or the tranquil waters of a glistening Hudson River. Good luck passing on those homemade dipped chocolates — or not having your heart stolen by a menagerie of rescued farm animals.
There are only two things you need to think about when arriving at this historic town nestled between Poughkeepsie and Albany: rest and relaxation.
This isn’t just some haphazard collection of rocks that people walk all over while en route to a more interesting destination. The earthwork sculpture known as Opus 40 has its own YouTube channel and Facebook and Flickr pages.
Ironically, its origins have a Pittsburgh connection. In May 1938, sculptor Harvey Fite — a Pittsburgh native — happened upon an abandoned bluestone quarry nestled within the shadows of the Catskills.
Where others most likely saw collections of uninspiring earthen objects, Fite saw a work of art. Piece by piece, he began creating his outdoor sculpture gallery to represent a “world at peace, a reconciliation between all peoples and cultures” that would one day be crowned “one of the largest and most beguiling works of art on the entire continent” by Architectural Digest.
Visitors are welcome, although dogs are not. Guests are encouraged to walk the grounds and picnic. Although the grounds don’t officially reopen until Memorial Day, early birds are encouraged to schedule a tour. Details: opus40.org or 845-246-3400
Catskill Animal Sanctuary
When your travel companions begin to growl, make a pit stop at the Catskill Animal Sanctuary, where 3,500 rescued horses and farm animals have called this 110-acre haven home since it opened in 2001. Just prepare yourself: You’re going to have your heart stolen.
The current roster of 300 residents includes Mister Specks, an affectionate goat, Tucker the Guernsey steer, Emmet and Jailbird the chickens and Harry the horse.
The staff and volunteers of the animal shelter are passionate about educating the world against the harsh realities of animal abuse and neglect and encouraging a more compassionate lifestyle. If the thought of saying goodbye is too much to bear, you can stay overnight at the renovated, pre-Civil War Homestead, where a vegan breakfast offers a good morning. Your stay will include plenty of up-close and personal time with the animals as they roam freely around the grounds.
Tours are open year-round for members and guests of its Homestead lodge, while the general public can pop in on any weekend from April to October. Details: casanctuary.org or 845-336-8447
If you’re preparing to set sail on the next chapter of your life, you might as well get some guidance from the professionals. Sunset cruises, afternoon lunch charters, late-morning brunch on the breakers — Ophira offers whatever floats your boat.
You’ll want to call ahead and make a reservation, as this ship often sails at full capacity. While awaiting captain’s orders, Ophira’s Cafe offers plenty of munchables from Drambuie Horseradish Beef Kebab to a Goat Cheese and Pistachio Salad.
Details: ophirasailing.com or 845-247-5535
Saugerties Lighthouse & Bed and Breakfast
No body of water can call itself complete without the presence of an historic symbol of seafaring shipmates. This 1869 landmark harkens to a time when red skies at night proved a sailor’s delight. Replete with charm, the building now functions as a living museum.
Displays of maritime artifacts including whale-oil lamps and a fourth-order Fresnel lens are included in a showcase of the lighthouse’s history and the glory days of steamboat captains gliding over the Hudson.
It’s also a renowned bed-and-breakfast.
“Once people wander out here, and they realize it’s a B&B, their curiosity is piqued,” keeper Patrick Landewe says.
Guests can stay in one of two second-floor bedrooms, one facing east and one facing west — each utilizing a shared bathroom. You can rest your weary head year-round from Thursdays through Sundays.
Just be sure to book ahead — these rooms fill up fast. Details: saugertieslighthouse.com or 845-247-0656
I Paddle New York
For those interested in seeing the flip side of nature, a kayak tour down the Hudson might just be your ticket to an unspoiled paradise.
Gail Porter, a certified instructor, will guide you to tune out life’s white noise and watch “the sun and nature doing its thing.” She’s passionate about the rejuvenating powers of spending time in nature, of unwinding and feeling at peace.
Tours include a sunset or afternoon paddle and excursions up the tranquil waters of the Esopus Creek or to the Falling Waters Preserve. Trips typically last from two to three hours.
You need not be an expert to grab a paddle, but Porter recommends your ensemble consist of quick-drying materials that you don’t mind getting a little wet.
“It kind of changes you a little bit — for whatever reason, you come back and you’re brand new. It’s very relaxing,” Porter says.
Details: ipaddlenewyork.com or 845-532-7797
Krause’s Handmade Chocolates
If “on vacation, off the diet” is your mantra, indulging in the homemade confections of Krause’s Chocolates is a no-brainer.
Chocolate-covered vanilla wafers, chocolate, cookie dough or chocolate-walnut fudge, peanut brittle, organic chocolate, sugar-free chocolate, extra-dark chocolate — is your mouth watering yet?
Details: krauseschocolates.com or 845-246-8377
Kate Benz is a features writer for Trib Total Media and can be reached at [email protected], 412-380-8515 or via Twitter @KateBenzTRIB. ___
This article was written by Kate Benz from The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.