“Bovina?! What the hell’er you doin’ there? Ain’t nothin there but cows!” asked a local with a guffaw. We’d just told him our plans to spend the weekend there after asking directions from Delhi. Though a tad dramatic, the guy’s reaction wasn’t unwarranted, because what he said was true. On the drive into Bovina, we pulled over multiple times to take photos of cows. And horses. And chickens. Because we are Brooklynites, and because–cows! Horses! Chickens! We like that stuff.
Indeed, the drive from New York City into Bovina is half the fun, and it is definitely roadtrip worthy. As you enter Catskill Park, the mountains are almost immediately huge and its winding roads are framed by massive pine trees. Before long though, the massive mountains give way to the beautiful rolling hills and farmland that’s quintessential Delaware County. Many of the roads in this neck of the woods are dirt, climbing massive hills that overlook the Northwest edge of the Catskill mountains. The sides of the roads are framed with century-old barns and wildflower fields.
Though Bovina’s main drag is indeed tiny, the people here are what make Bovina so special and “big.” From its resident quirky farmers to A-list musicians–everyone’s got a story. (And generally, since there’s not much else to do, they’re more than willing to share it!) Without too much digging, you can find out if anything is going on in town just by asking someone. That said, there’s a handful of great events taking place here annually: Bovina Open Barn & Studios in August and Bovina Farm Day in September. For all Delaware County Events, check out Great Western Catskills’ event forum.
Where to Stay in Bovina: An 1850’s Home That’s Coffee-Centric, An Apartment Above a Restaurant, or Camp on a Sheep Farm
Though there’s a number of inns and bed and breakfasts in the area, we really love staying in the Airbnb properties around here. Our most recent stay was at the Fosterbuilt Inn, an Airbnb home from the 1850’s with four separate rooms. Each of the four rooms are on the second floor of the house, with its own private entrance, which is right on Bovina’s main street. Each room is thoughtfully decorated with antiques and cozy blankets. Downstairs, a common area has a kitchen with a refrigerator and complimentary FosterBuilt Coffee, which host Mark Foster roasts himself in his garage and front yard. Speaking of Mark, he’s not only a coffee guy, but also a pillar of the Bovina artists and farmers community, and you’ll often find he and his friends circled in the chairs in his front yard, or hanging out in the garage. Feel free to join in, or hang back –whatever experience you wish to have is totally up to you. We stayed in Suite Judy Blue Eyes, which had an additional smaller bedroom connected to the main bedroom. The room was sunny and we appreciated the extra space, which we used both as a reading nook and extra storage space for our bags. Before you leave, pick up a souvenir from his little shop, built into one of the closet nooks upstairs stocked with Bovina tees, wool blankets from a nearby farm, notebooks, and more. The rooms start at $110 a night.
We’ve also had a couple great experiences at Above Brushland. As the name suggests, it sits atop Brushland Eating House–the amazing restaurant just a few flights of stairs away. The minimal yet warm, cozy design feels straight out of a Kinfolk magazine–in the most unpretentious way possible. There are two different apartments (front and back) available, both of which are two bedrooms and multi-level. Each of the spaces makes use of natural light with big windows and open, lofty rooms. They both have kitchens too, and though you don’t really need that because of the amazing food cooking below you–it’s nice to know that that they’re there. The spaces start at $135 a night.
For a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience, consider camping at Green Shepard Farm. The campsite, which is pretty bare bones, sits tucked behind a hill below an impossibly picturesque pond. It has a firepit, space for two tents, and a little stream. The entry to the campsite has paths to both the sheep pasture and also up toward the owners house. The couple who runs Green Shepard Farm, Stephen and Anette, escaped New York City themselves, giving up their NYC-paced lifestyles to move to the country and start a sheep farm. Of course, the stay wouldn’t be complete without a tour, where visitors feed both babies and adults pistachio shells–their favorite treat. We couldn’t think of a more Bovinan way to enjoy what Bovina has to offer. This amazing experience is only $35 per night.
What to Do in Bovina: Go to an Auction, Take a Hike, and Visit a Farm
Since you’re in the mountains, exploring the Catskills is a must. Check out the nearby Shavertown Trail which overlooks Pepacton Reservoir; or opt for taking in scenery the easy way by hopping on the Delaware & Ulster Country Scenic Railroad in Arkville. There’s also tons of fishing in the area–and if you stay with Sara and Sohail, maybe he’ll tip you off to his secret fishing spots. (The west branch of the Delware peaks out onto many of the roadways in Bovina, and many fishermen bushwack their way to the water from the side of the road.) We were lucky enough to get tipped off to a great swimming hole in Delhi–it’s about 30 minutes from Bovina, but well worth the trip on a hot day. Probably the biggest tourist destination in the area is Plattekill Mountain, offering skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking (or just regular biking–you can rent bikes for $30/day and do the scenic trails!) It’s only thirty minutes away, so if you’re planning a weekend skiing this winter, Bovina would be a lovely place to settle in for the night.
If you’re in the market for affordable antiques, be sure to check and see if Fisk Auctions is happening when you’re visiting. (Check out the auction previews to get an idea of what they sell.) For the more traditional shopping experience, the nearby town of Andes has a few really lovely stores–our favorite is Kabinett & Kammer for antique oddities, unique taxidermy, furniture and prints. Just across the street is the awe-inspiring The Annex, where Sean of Kabinett & Kammer has paired up with Wayside Cider in the most beautiful pop-up space we’ve ever seen. It’s decorated with Sean’s signature antiques, large taxidermy, pop-up vendors like Treadlight Farm, and tastings by Wayside Cider. (Note: no word on if The Annex will be open summer 2016. We’ve got our fingers crossed!) Another great shop in town is Clementine, offering up quality vintage clothing. Otherwise, there’s lots of barn sales/antiquing along the sides of the roads–keep your eyes peeled for flea markets too. We found a great unlisted one in Margaretteville!
Lastly, Bovina is true farming country–and it’s really fun to visit the many farms in the area. We recently spent an afternoon at Burnett Farms, with NYC ex-pat Steve Burnett who showed us around his property where he raises livestock and grows fruits, veggies and herbs. (He’s also known to throw a killer party!) Even if you don’t camp there, you can also arrange a tour with Green Shepard Farm to meet, feed, and play with the sheep; just call or email to make an appointment. In fact, most farmers in the area are happy to show you around–check out this list of Bovina Farmers for a list and description of each of these farms.
Where to Eat and Drink in Bovina
There are only two places in town to eat out in Bovina–fortunately, they’re both fantastic! First up, Russell’s General Store is your one-stop shop for breakfast, lunch, snacks, and even groceries for your stay here. If nothing else, be sure to hit them up for the breakfast egg sandwiches using farm fresh eggs and local meats. For dinner, Brushland Eating House blew us away. Named as homage to eating houses of the early 19th century, Brushland offers a space that is as comforting as the food is. From start to finish, we had an absolutely perfect meal, and in such a lovely atmosphere it was easy to kill an entire evening here. Owned and operated by a couple that, not surprisingly–once lived in the city–the menu seasonally inspired and goes down great with a Genesee. Definitely show up hungry and don’t miss out on the appetizer carrots and toasts!