This Overlooked Town Is a Hidden Gem in the Hudson Valley

A misunderstood treasure awaits just outside the city.

DON EMMERT / Staff / AFP / getty images
DON EMMERT / Staff / AFP / getty images
DON EMMERT / Staff / AFP / getty images

A decade ago I was packing my bags for New York City just as the perfect neighborhood bar finally opened in my quiet hometown. And ever since, I’ve had FOMO for the very place I grew up, watching as its once-forbidden streets bloomed with genuinely cool cafes, breweries, restaurants, and boutiques with alarming speed.

A quick Google search paints the Hudson Valley’s Newburgh as a city of crime and economic struggle. It’s the former home to Founding Fathers and current hotbed for think pieces about gentrification. But come here yourself and your thinking will be challenged. “Newburgh Strong” is baked into community efforts by and for life-long residents to ensure Newburgh’s future thrives in spite of the haters-and the current pandemic.No doubt that Newburgh, a town of just 29,000 residents, is still struggling with its problems, but there is something special happening here too, and it’s giving Hudson and Kingston a run for their weekend-getaway money. The Hudson Highlands’ shades of red and orange in the fall evoke Bob Ross paintings. The OG Italian and Hispanic bakeries dotting Broadway remain true to their recipes. Creative arts and non-profit groups like Newburgh Community Photo Project and Greater Newburgh Parks Conservancy are thriving. And it’s all happening an hour north of Manhattan.

Most people come to Newburgh expecting it to be something different than it is, and most are pleasantly surprised.

“It’s about where you come from,” says Michele Basch, owner of Wherehouse, about the varying preconceived notions new visitors bring to the city. A former city council nominee and chairperson for Newburgh’s Architectural Review Commission, board members like her help protect Newburgh’s architectural authenticity as a stop-gap from buildings being flipped, sold, and gouge-priced. “I’ve seen a lot of new faces, a lot of artists and new interests.”

Newburgh’s a city that’s increasingly easy to love, and to visit is to witness a small town in the midst of a renaissance. Here’s what’s hiding in plain sight right near the city.

Stay in an old Victorian townhouse

Newburgh is made up of picturesque 19th-century buildings that vary block to block: from colorful Victorian townhouses to Greek revival churches and classic colonial remnants of the Revolutionary War. Newburgh’s East End Historic District is full of these stunners, and walking distance to the Hudson River waterfront and bustling Liberty Street and Broadway, where you can dine, shop, and tour history along the same corridor.
While there are plenty of motel and hotel options due to Newburgh’s convenient Tri-State location (I-84, 9W and NYS-87 all intersect here), splurge on a Victorian townhouse stay, which average $125+ per night. Just make sure to review COVID-19 travel restrictions before you book.

Ms. Fairfax
Ms. Fairfax
Ms. Fairfax

Eat, drink, shop, and play on Liberty Street

Liberty Street is poppin’ with window shopping, historical landmarks, diverse bars, and restaurants. New Jersey transplant Michael Carter and Newburgh native Christina Silvestris saw the area’s promise, both opening storefronts in 2017. Their bespoke art gallery-style shops include curated home goods available in-store and online. 

“[I’m] making connections with customers and brands online,” says Carter who runs M. Lewis Boutique now as an online marketplace. This is echoed at Silvestris’ shop, Field Trip, which started from her growing apothecary brand. 

Shopping small here is a way of life, when Hudson Valley tourists and neighbors like Amal Ishak of women’s boutique Cream Newburgh are year-round patrons and business-idea exchangers. 

This is also a place where you can experience a taste of the Hudson Valley’s past and future. To experience old-school Newburgh, real ones know to hit up Torino Bakery for fresh-baked morning rolls, coffee, and homemade Italian cookies. Then, class it up with dinner to-go from Cosimo’s, a longtime family-favorite Italian trattoria on Union Avenue.

Mama Roux
Mama Roux
Mama Roux

Newburgh Flour Shop is iconic for cakes and pastries, but opt for the sleeper-hit bacon, egg, and cheese breakfast sandwich: sunny side up egg and melted cheddar nestled in a soft poppy brioche-like bun with a layer of tomato jam. 

Ms. Fairfax is a brunch favorite for a modern take on the staples: diner-style eggs, avocado toast, pancakes, and BLTs. Take your order to their back patio for an urban oasis: spacious wooden picnic tables, overhead garden lights, and beautiful vines draping the brick walls around you. It’s the kind of relaxed, hearty start to the day you’ll need. 

On the other side of Broadway, New Orleans native Sterling Knight and her team are cooking Cajun-Creole dinner at Mama Roux, one of the more exciting newcomers to Liberty Street. Mama’s fried chicken basket, wedge salad, apple beignets, and a strong cocktail will set you straight. 

Consider a nightcap at The Wherehouse, which plans to expand their indoor/outdoor space for winter-themed events, or ask Carlos next door at Palate Wines for his favorite bottle of bubbly. In between rounds,  don’t forget to enjoy an al fresco break nearby at Washington’s Headquarters-where the first president plotted key events of the Revolution-or along Water Street if the weather holds out.

Photo Spirit / shutterstock
Photo Spirit / shutterstock
Photo Spirit / shutterstock

Explore the surrounding valley

Being in Upstate New York means making the most of the seasons, and Newburgh’s perimeters are brimming with beautiful things to see and do.  

Head 30 minutes north to the village of New Paltz, which offers quintessential small-town Main Street vibes surrounded by stunning mountains. Outdoors lovers flock to Mohonk Preserve for endless choose-your-own nature adventures: including hiking, biking, skiing, snowshoeing, and ice skating. Just plan ahead: day passes must be purchased online in advance, and the Preserve closes at sunset. 

You can also recreate all-day camp experiences at nearby Wallkill Valley Rail Trail, a 22-mile rail trail and linear park, or take self-guided tours of ice caves at Widow Jane Mine in Rosendale, favorites of locals like Victoria Curry of New Paltzing, who serves up all-weather inspo on her feed. 

Head back into town to the corner of Main and Church Street to see New Paltz’s vibrant and inimitable spirit on display with LGBTQIA flags and BLM signs that welcome all- from book lovers at Barner Books and family-friendly Water Street Market to beer nerds at Arrowood Outpost.Sign up here for our daily Thrillist email, get Next Flight Out for more travel coverage, and subscribe here for our YouTube channel to get your fix of the best in food/drink/fun.

Alisha Miranda is a contributor for Thrillist. 


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: 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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