By Catherine Hathaway
Strawberry is dreamy. From the towering pine trees, brisk air and quaint living, it’s hard to believe this travel destination is just two hours north of the Valley. The drive is simply stunning as you watch the mountains go from jagged and covered with cacti to lush, green and chilly.
With a relaxing pace of life to delicious food and cozy accommodations, Strawberry is a perfect spot for small families and couples who look to relax.
The Strawberry Inn is a self-hosted, eight-bedroom hotel. The stylish, luxury lodge is stunning, but holds the same genuine charm and quaint feel of the town. The navy and vibrant red exterior features a clock tower, deck with porch swings and rocking chairs, and a windmill. This place oozes charm and was made for Instagram pictures.
The interior is farmhouse chic with shiplap, woodsy inspiration from the inn’s surroundings and comfortable amenities. The room features seating, a plush bed, a coffee bar and a clean, white bathroom. Everything about this inn, inside and out, is crazy photogenic.
But it wasn’t always that way. Carson and Amber Eilers put rolled up their sleeves and fixed up the once-rustic and rundown inn.
“We could tell it was a really charming property,” Amber says. “It has the windmill and the doors and the railings which were so pretty. We thought we could fix this up. We could bring life back to this.”
The Eilers live in Scottsdale with their two little girls and work in real estate full time, as the Eilers Real Estate Team, in Paradise Valley. Through their work, they stumbled upon a business listing for the inn.
“It was pretty run down,” Carson says. “It needed a lot of work, and I kind of talked myself out of it. Then I showed her and there was no way I was going back on it because she fell in love with it.”
The inn opened in November 2016, but the couple says it took a lot of work to get it to where they wanted it to be. Nevertheless, they fell in love with the town and the property, like many of their guests.
“It was beyond just style,” Amber says. “It was deferred maintenance. Things that we didn’t even think about that had to be done.”
With family in nearby Pine, Amber Eilers wanted the Strawberry Inn opening to be a community event. That it was. The grand opening attracted nearly 200 neighbors.
“When we were here, remodeling it, it was super visible,” Amber recalls. “The town was really invested, we and wanted to see what was going on. We included people in that. The community has been really supportive I would say in kind of embracing us.”
Just down the street from The Strawberry Inn is The Strawberry Schoolhouse. The perfect spot for kids to run around, Arizona’s oldest-standing schoolhouse is open May to October.
A popular destination for dinner is Old County Inn one town over in Pine, Arizona. Opt to sit out on the deck and curl up with a blanket and heaters for a prime view of the elk moseying across the street. The atmosphere is enchanting. The food is beyond compare with a menu of delicious wood fired pizzas, craft beer infused green Chile beer cheese and their popular cast iron cookie for dessert all for a moderate price point.
Another delicious stop is just down the street from Old County Inn called The Randall House. They serve coffees, teas, hot chocolate, treats and a hearty breakfast. The restaurant is packed with trinkets for sale and a very homey vibe.
On your way out of town, be sure to stop by Pine Creek Fudge Ice Cream and Espresso for a treat. Their fudge is the talk of the town, but you can also find coffee and ice cream treats. Bringing friends back a half pound of fudge might be the best way to gloat about your blissful weekend.
Not far south of Strawberry is Tonto Natural Bridge State Park. The view driving down to the park is incredibly scenic, but the road is steep and curvy. Make sure you take a reliable, strong vehicle. Entrance to the park is $7 per an adult.
Strawberry and its surrounding community is such a relaxing treat for a weekend getaway. The peaceful vibe of the towering trees, friendly community and private accommodations will leave you feeling a little wistful as you drive back to the heat and desert of the Valley.
The Strawberry Inn, 5073 AZ-87, Strawberry, 928.202.7790, thestrawberryinn.com. Rooms average $85 Sunday to Thursday, and $150-$175 weekends and holidays. Rooms are best suited for adults, but there are rooms with single-size sofa sleepers for kids.