Nestled in the mountains just off Hwy 1, among a cathedral of towering redwoods, lies one of Santa Cruz’s best kept secrets, the Flipjack Ranch. Located on 10 acres in picturesque Bonny Doon, this bed and breakfast is an enchanting place to relax, reconnect with nature, and experience life on a working farm. The property owners, Robin and David Colleen go the extra mile to make guests feel welcome and at home. The property offers plenty of relaxing amenities including a pool, hot tub, fire pit, trampoline, and amazing farm to table meals sourced with ingredients straight from the property. There is also a farm store on site full of treasures and Robin’s delicious jars of preserves and pickled veggies.
We arrived to the ranch in the evening. Robin was there to greet us and show us to our room while providing a rundown on the property. We stayed in the upstairs Cowboy Room, a rustic western-themed room with a wood burning stove and a private deck. On each pillow was a box of delicious chocolates, and in the mini fridge a bottle of Prosecco with a note “Compliments of FlipJack Ranch”. Robin and David sure know how to make their guests feel special.
The next morning, we woke to a fresh tray of coffee and pastries delivered to our room. You know it’s going to be a good day when it starts with delicious coffee and pastries on a private deck under a redwood tree! After relaxing on the deck for a bit, enjoying the sounds of nature and the calls of the resident sheep wandering by, we made our way downstairs for a nice hearty ranch-style breakfast with the other guest while Robin and David shared a bit about the rich history of the property. The historic farm dates back to 1882, originally settled by Italian immigrants. In the 1950’s, the property was purchased by the Strong family, who added onto the one-bedroom house in order to accommodate their growing family of 11 children. After the children grew up, the Strongs ran a bed and breakfast until eventually selling the property to David and Robin in 2013. David is somewhat of a renaissance man, while Robin likes to joke that she’s a YouTube farmer, having learned some of her ranching skills from the internet.
Following breakfast, we headed out to explore the property. Just steps from the front door are trails winding through old redwood trees. Despite being a short distance from Highway 1 and surrounding attractions (Beauregard Vineyards, Bonny Doon Beach, Henry Cowell Redwood Park), the property has the feel of being miles from civilization.
We spent some time visiting the farm animals, including the cutest little lambs I’ve ever met, Licorice and Chewie, and Licorice's mom and dad, Lightning and Blackjack. One thing that is very apparent is the amount of care Robin and David show for the welfare of the animals they raise.
Also on hand to help with daily chores are the volunteer WWOOFers (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms). We chatted a bit with Emily & Dusty, recent college graduates who left Georgia last year to embark on an epic road trip, traveling to the west coast while working on organic farms along the way.
While wandering around, we ran into Robin who invited us to forage with her for ingredients for that evening’s dinner. We walked the property looking for sorrel and miner’s lettuce, and stopped to see what kind of bounty the chickens had laid. Aside from the serene location of FlipJack Ranch, the best part about being at a farmstay is actually seeing the origins of your food supply, and enjoying the direct farm to table experience.
After venturing off to explore the surrounding area, including wine tasting at neighboring Beauregard Vineyards, and sunset at nearby Bonny Doon Beach, we returned to enjoy an evening of hors d'oeuvres by the outdoor fire pit with the other guests. Robin’s experience in the restaurant business is apparent in her delicious creations and the presentation of everything she prepares. The main course was a ranch produced mangalitsa pork that, in all honesty, was the BEST pork I have ever tasted. Following dinner was a delicious homemade candy cap mushroom ice cream we took turns churning around the table before eating. With bellies full of delicious food, and tired from a night of great storytelling and laughs with our new friends, we retired to our room for a quick game of Scrabble by the fireplace before dozing off in our cozy bed.
We woke the next morning to another amazing breakfast. Adding to the unique ranch experience, before heading out Robin invited us and the other guests to join her and the WWOOFers while they took the pack goats on a walk to a nearby limestone quarry.
After returning from the walk, it was time to grab our things and head for home. We said goodbye to Robin and David, the WWOOFers, Chewie, Licorice, Lightning and Blackjack, and headed down Highway 1, feeling like we had just discovered a hidden mountain treasure, and knowing FlipJack Ranch is definitely a place we will return to again.