If you think vacationing on a ranch means roughing it, think again. All over the world, there are spots that combine the best of the great outdoors with five-star amenities, so get ready to saddle up for an active day on the trail before settling down for pampering at the spa and a gourmet meal. From Montana to Texas, and Argentina to New Zealand, these ten ranches are great places to enjoy wide-open spaces while luxuriating in first-class extras.
The Resort at Paws Up
WHERE: Greenough, Montana
This 37,000-acre working cattle ranch provides every amenity for outdoorsy people who also enjoy a bit of pampering. That means a personal “camping butler” and private ranch “homes,” complete with hot tubs. The on-site gourmet restaurant serves “rustic ranch cuisine,” and hosts some of the country’s most recognized culinary artists during the annual Montana Master Chefs weekends. Despite all the luxury, there’s no question that you’re in Big Sky country, with hundreds of elk and cattle also in residence.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Montana Guide
WHERE: Cordoba, Argentina
This Spanish Colonial-style estancia offers a day-in-the-life of the well-bred gaucho experience. Begin with a morning horseback ride along the lush mountain trails, followed by an afternoon polo match on fields below the main house. End your day with an authentic Argentine asado (barbecue), made with meat from animals raised right on property. Before retiring with a glass or two of the spectacular wines, take a moment to admire the house’s valuable antiques, including a mirror that belonged to President Marcelo T. Alvear and ancient Bolivian weaves.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Argentina Guide
WHERE: Glenorchy, New Zealand
If the scenery looks a tad familiar it’s because the Kiwi Alps backdrop here served as the location for the Lord of the Rings films. You’ll have plenty of chances to get close to nature in this beautiful area set between two national parks, with fly-fishing available in the summer and heli-skiing in the winter, while the lakeside locale features kayaking and jet boating in the milder months. Even better, the spaciousness extends inside, with the smallest rooms coming in at roughly 600 square feet.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s New Zealand Guide
Hacienda De San Antonio
WHERE: Colima, Mexico
Something for all tastes awaits at this former coffee plantation. History buffs will love the historic hacienda that dates to 1890, built to import java beans to the German royals. Geology geeks will adore the volcano-side setting, best explored on horseback. Locavores will love the restaurant that serves vegetables, fruit, cheese, and meat cultivated right on property. Finally, birdwatchers can break out the binoculars here, too.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Mexico Guide
Smith Fork Ranch
WHERE: Crawford, Colorado
Saddle up a morning’s ride at Smith Fork Ranch that will take you through the sprawling property, crossing Rocky Mountain passes and rivers to a well-shaded scenic clearing where cooks await with a sumptuous morning meal. This breakfast leaves nothing to be desired, with scrambled eggs, biscuits and sausage gravy, bacon, fruit, and fresh-brewed coffee—the perfect fuel for an afternoon practicing your aim at the archery range, casting a rod, or shooting sporting clays. Unwind at dinnertime, where much of the menu comes from the on-site farmstead.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Colorado Guide
Protea Hotel Ranch Resort
WHERE: Polokwane, South Africa
Some might fantasize about dancing with wolves, but how about walking with lions? You can at Protea Hotel Ranch, a 1,000-acre picturesque conservancy that has appeared in over 400 films, including The Gods Must Be Crazy. There are also horseback safaris and game drives available, not to mention a sprawling golf green for those who love the links.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s South Africa Guide
Spicer’s Peak Lodge
WHERE: Maryvale, Australia
At what claims to be Australia’s highest non-alpine lodge, you’ll find luxurious rooms with stone fireplaces, Jacuzzis, and outdoor tubs perched on the verandah. Guests can see the acres of grazing cattle via a helicopter safari, or experience the wildlife and winning views of Queensland’s famous Scenic Rim on a bushwalking trek and picnic.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Australia Guide
Echo Valley Ranch
WHERE: Jesmond, BC, Canada
It’s the perfect marriage of East meets West: Englishman Norm Dove and Thai wife Nan Dove found their paradise in British Columbia, and their retreat celebrates that global balance, with Asian touches to the rustic ranch architecture and a spa that offers the best treatments from both worlds. The ranch offers a slew of active pursuits, including guided horseback rides, white water rafting, and gold panning excursions.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Canada Guide
Le Mas de Peint
WHERE: Arles, France
Learn how to become a gardian (cowboy) on the grounds at Les Mas de Peint. Housed in a 17th-century stone building, formerly a sheep barn, the property celebrates the traditions of the rough-riding ways of the Camargue region, known for its distinct white horses. Guests can learn how to ride and harness them, and even enjoy the company of real-life gardians. Fitting of the Provençal surroundings, the on-site restaurant is a stand-out.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s France Guide
Cibolo Creek Ranch
WHERE: Marfa, Texas
Soak up all of the authenticity of Tex-Mex culture while staying in a historic adobe fort. Originally established in 1857, and lovingly restored in the 1990s, the property sits on 30,000 acres, home to deer, elk, buffalo, quail, turkeys, and over 500 species of exotic birds. The wildlife viewing is slightly upstaged at night, however, when the stars come out in the Big Bend sky and fireside “star parties” begin.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Texas Guide