Travel

This Farm in New Jersey Is the Cottagecore Weekend Trip of Your Dreams

Farm life is the good life.

Beach Plum Farm Cape May
Beach Plum Farm Cape May
Beach Plum Farm Cape May

If you’ve spent the last year immersing yourself in the cottagecore lifestyle-you know, baking bread, knitting, picnicking, waxing poetic about fresh fruit online-maybe it’s time to actually experience some real pastoral living. You could follow the Manhattan masses to upstate New York for a weekend of apple-picking and leaf-peeping. Or, allow us to suggest an alternative: go to Jersey instead.

Out in Cape May on the Atlantic Coast less than three hours from New York, Beach Plum Farm is an idyllic spot by the sea where you can rent a cottage for a weekend and spend a few days harvesting fresh produce, tending to friendly animals, eating extraordinarily well, and just generally soaking in the simple life à la Paris and Nicole.

Beach Plum Farm Cape May
Beach Plum Farm Cape May
Beach Plum Farm Cape May

Since 2008, the 62-acre working farm has grown over 100 kinds of fruits, veggies, herbs, and flowers, plus raised animals like pigs and chickens. The five historic cottages and barns on the property sleep 6-12 guests each, and all come outfitted with fireplaces and fire pits, chef’s kitchens and outdoor grills, and bicycles and golf carts, as well as Wi-Fi.

Now, you don’t have to get up when the roosters crow-but early birds will have a field day out here. Mornings at Beach Plum kick off with yoga, learning to take care of farm animals, and heading to the gardens to harvest fresh food. (The farm’s website even lets you know what’s in season before you arrive.) For more summer camp vibes, they offer special classes on gardening and archery.

Beach Plum Farm Cape May
Beach Plum Farm Cape May
Beach Plum Farm Cape May

But it’s not all hard work. After a morning in the sun, take a dip in the orchard pool, head down to the beach just minutes away, and hike or bike around Davey’s Lake and the Cape May Point Trail.

At the Beach Plum Farm Market, you can browse two floors of produce, local artisanal goods, and more, or stop in for ultra-seasonal bites at the Farm Kitchen, including breakfast sandwiches with fresh eggs or Southern-style biscuits. And speaking of tasty food: At Beach Plum, everything comes to a magical close in the evenings with (BYOB!) farm-to-table dinners, held several nights a week year-round (and included in the price with cottage stays).

Beach Plum Farm Cape May
Beach Plum Farm Cape May
Beach Plum Farm Cape May

Beach Plum Farm is just two miles from Cape May-America’s oldest seaside resort town and one of the best stops along the Jersey Shore, where horse-drawn carriages, old-school trolleys, and colorful Victorian homes line the streets. You can lounge near the ocean, go for a wine tasting, and still make it back to the farm in time for dinner. (Though if you want the best of both worlds, Beach Plum supplies the fresh produce on tables at The Ebbitt Room, The Rusty Nail, Louisa’s Cafe, and Exit Zero Filling Station.)

Beach Plum Farm Cape May
Beach Plum Farm Cape May
Beach Plum Farm Cape May

At $949 a night with a two-night minimum stay, you’re gonna want to grab a few friends to split the bill (and to compete to see who’s best at feeding chickens). Depending on the season, you can sometimes snag a deal for closer to $799, so book a fall stay if you don’t mind chillier temps. And even if your budget ultimately says no, no worries: there’s always the option to take a day trip, say hi to the animals, and make a reservation for dinner in the gardens.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, TikTok, and Snapchat.

Tiana Attride is Thrillist’s Associate Travel Editor. She lives in Brooklyn, so Animal Crossing is about as cottagecore as it gets for her.

Travel

Ditch your Phone for ‘Dome Life’ in this Pastoral Paradise Outside Port Macquarie 

A responsible, sustainable travel choice for escaping big city life for a few days.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

The urge to get as far away as possible from the incessant noise and pressures of ‘big city life’ has witnessed increasingly more of us turn to off-grid adventures for our holidays: Booking.com polled travellers at the start of 2023 and 55% of us wanted to spend our holidays ‘off-grid’.  Achieving total disconnection from the unyielding demands of our digitised lives via some kind of off-grid nature time—soft or adventurous—is positioned not only as a holiday but, indeed, a necessity for our mental health. 

Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, an accommodation collection of geodesic domes dotted across a lush rural property in Greater Port Macquarie (a few hours’ drive from Sydney, NSW), offers a travel experience that is truly ‘off-grid’. In the figurative ‘wellness travel’ sense of the word, and literally, they run on their own independent power supply—bolstered by solar—and rely not on the town grid. 

Ten minutes before you arrive at the gates for a stay at Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, your phone goes into ‘SOS ONLY’. Apple Maps gives up, and you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, driving down unsealed roads in the dark, dodging dozens of dozing cows. Then, you must ditch your car altogether and hoist yourself into an open-air, all-terrain 4WD with gargantuan wheels. It’s great fun being driven through muddy gullies in this buggy; you feel like Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park.  As your buggy pulls in front of your personal Nature Dome, it’s not far off that “Welcome…to Jurassic Park” jaw-dropping moment—your futuristic-looking home is completely engulfed by thriving native bushland; beyond the outdoor campfire lie expansive hills and valleys of green farmland, dotted with sheep and trees. You’re almost waiting to see a roaming brachiosaurus glide past, munching on a towering gum tree…instead, a few inquisitive llamas trot past your Dome to check out their new visitor. 

To fully capture the awe of inhabiting a geodesic dome for a few days, a little history of these futuristic-looking spherical structures helps. Consisting of interlocking triangular skeletal struts supported by (often transparent) light walls, geodesic domes were developed in the 20th century by American engineer and architect R. Buckminster Fuller, and were used for arenas. Smaller incarnations have evolved into a ‘future-proof’ form of modern housing: domes are able to withstand harsh elements due to the stability provided by the durable materials of their construction and their large surface area to volume ratio (which helps minimize wind impact and prevents the structure from collapsing). As housing, they’re also hugely energy efficient – their curved shape helps to conserve heat and reduce energy costs, making them less susceptible to temperature changes outside. The ample light let in by their panels further reduces the need for artificial power. 

Due to their low environmental impact, they’re an ideal sustainable travel choice. Of course, Tom’s Creek Nature Domes’ owner-operators, Cardia and Lee Forsyth, know all this, which is why they have set up their one-of-a-kind Nature Domes experience for the modern traveller. It’s also no surprise to learn that owner Lee is an electrical engineer—experienced in renewable energy—and that he designed the whole set-up. As well as the off-grid power supply, rainwater tanks are used, and the outdoor hot tub is heated by a wood fire—your campfire heats up your tub water via a large metal coil. Like most places in regional Australia, the nights get cold – but rather than blast a heater, the Domes provide you with hot water bottles, warm blankets, lush robes and heavy curtains to ward off the chill.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

You’ll need to be self-sufficient during your stay at the Domes, bringing your own food. Support local businesses and stock up in the town of Wauchope on your drive-in (and grab some pastries and coffee at Baked Culture while you’re at it). There’s a stovetop, fridge (stocked as per a mini bar), BBQs, lanterns and mozzie coils, and you can even order DIY S’More packs for fireside fun. The interiors of the Domes have a cosy, stylish fit-out, with a modern bathroom (and a proper flushing toilet—none of that drop bush toilet stuff). As there’s no mobile reception, pack a good book or make the most of treasures that lie waiting to be discovered at every turn: a bed chest full of board games, a cupboard crammed with retro DVDs, a stargazing telescope (the skies are ablaze come night time). Many of these activities are ideal for couples, but there’s plenty on offer for solo travellers, such as yoga mats, locally-made face masks and bath bombs for hot tub soaks. 

It’s these thoughtful human touches that reinforce the benefit of making a responsible travel choice by booking local and giving your money to a tourism operator in the Greater Port Macquarie Region, such as Tom’s Creek Nature Domes. The owners are still working on the property following the setbacks of COVID-19, and flooding in the region —a new series of Domes designed with families and groups in mind is under construction, along with an open-air, barn-style dining hall and garden stage. Once ready, the venue will be ideal for wedding celebrations, with wedding parties able to book out the property. They’ve already got one couple—who honeymooned at the Domes—ready and waiting. Just need to train up the llamas for ring-bearer duties! 

An abundance of favourite moments come to mind from my two-night stay at Tom’s Creek: sipping champagne and gourmet picnicking at the top of a hill on a giant swing under a tree, with a bird’s eye view of the entire property (the ‘Mountain Top picnic’ is a must-do activity add on during your stay), lying on a deckchair at night wrapped in a blanket gazing up at starry constellations and eating hot melted marshmallows, to revelling in the joys of travellers before me, scrawled on notes in a jar of wishes left by the telescope (you’re encouraged to write your own to add to the jar). But I’ll leave you with a gratitude journal entry I made while staying there. I will preface this by saying that I don’t actually keep a gratitude journal, but Tom’s Creek Nature Domes is just the kind of place that makes you want to start one. And so, waking up on my second morning at Tom’s —lacking any 4G bars to facilitate my bad habit of a morning Instagram scroll—I finally opened up a notebook and made my first journal entry:

‘I am grateful to wake up after a deep sleep and breathe in the biggest breaths of this clean air, purified by nature and scented with eucalyptus and rain. I am grateful for this steaming hot coffee brewed on a fire. I feel accomplished at having made myself. I am grateful for the skittish sheep that made me laugh as I enjoyed a long nature walk at dawn and the animated billy goats and friendly llamas overlooking my shoulder as I write this: agreeable company for any solo traveller. I’m grateful for total peace, absolute stillness.” 

Off-grid holiday status: unlocked.

Where: Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, Port Macquarie, 2001 Toms Creek Rd
Price: $450 per night, book at the Natura Domes website.

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