Just over the two hour mark from New York City, the North Branch Inn is an unlikely hotspot located in a tiny hamlet of the Western Catskills. Drawing in locals and tourists alike, weekends are especially busy here—whether its for a drink, a bite to eat, or a round of bowling at adjoining Bar Room & Restaurant. While the historic inn dates back to 1868, the remodel is fairly new, and was created by husband and wife team Sims and Kirsten Foster. After opening their first hotel, nearby The Arnold House in spring of 2014, the North Branch Inn followed in October 2015. The North Branch Inn is currently made up of of two buildings, but a third building is next, which will be part of their expansion and up their capacity to fourteen rooms. They can certainly use the extra space; the inn has gotten tons of press, and recently landed a feature in Time Out as the “#1 Best Bed & Breakfast Inns in the USA.”
In a town where there’s just one restaurant, special attention has been paid to make sure you never go hungry at North Branch Inn. In each room, a plate of baked goodies await guests, along with a couple glasses to be filled up at the bar with local cider, on the house. In the main building, five guest rooms sit above the restaurant called the Bar Room & Restaurant, where Executive Chef Erik Hill (previously of Hudson Clearwater and The Arnold House) cooks up seasonal, hyper-local fare—everything is from New York, even the sugar, which is made from New York maple syrup. The food is prepared in an open kitchen on a single stove by Erik and his small staff. If that’s not enough entertainment, just steps away from the chef station are two bowling lanes from the 1890’s, where diners can enjoy a few rounds of hand-set bowling before or after dinner. The combination of the amazingly prepared food, inventive drinks, and bowling alley at the Bar Room & Restaurant make this our favorite dinner spot in the whole region. The breakfast spread is impressive too, and included in the price of a room.
In both of North Branch Inn’s buildings, the shared living spaces are cozy and welcoming. One is equipped with a wood stove, books and magazines for curling up by the fire on chilly winter days or cool summer nights. Each of their nine rooms are simply, but very comfortably furnished, with big windows allowing plentiful natural light. The bathrooms especially shine here, several of them with claw foot tubs, and all are stocked with toiletries by Malin + Goetz—one of our favorites! Completing the experience, the staff at North Branch Inn is super friendly, quick to offer a suggestion for a nearby swimming hole, restaurant or other nearby recreation. (In fact, many of their recommendations for us are listed below!)
What To Do in North Branch: Explore the Delaware Valley Towns, Go on a Hike, Take a Dip in the Delaware River, or Visit the Site of Woodstock
There’s not much going on in North Branch’s main street—there’s quite literally no other businesses—but the nearby towns of Callicoon, Narrowsburg, Livingston Manor, and Roscoe are all worth a visit. Beginning with the closest, Calicoon is a picturesque river town with a few blocks worth of thrift and antique stores that are all worth popping into. While you’re there, don’t miss lunch at Ba & Me, a yummy Vietnamese take-out window that has a few tables on the sidewalk. In Narrowsburg, check out some the great shopping like Nest, a beautiful home and lifestyle boutique; Maison Bergogne, an antique shop in an old car garage; and One Grand Books, where the stacks are determined by “desert island” picks from celebrities, authors and artists. Afterward, snag a seat on the patio for drinks or a meal at The Heron. In Livingston Manor, sign up for a farm tour at Apple Pond Farm to hold some adorable baby animals and learn about renewable energy and off-grid living; then stop in for lunch at Main Street Farm or The Arnold House, and have a beer at Catskill Brewery, right in town. Last, check out Roscoe, the fly-fishing capital of the world. This “drinking town with a fishing problem”—or so say the tees at Prohibition Distillery—has no less than 6 hunting and fishing shops, and is also home to Roscoe Beer Company, fantastic Northern Farmhouse Pasta, and countless fishing spots.
For an outdoor adventure—or if you’re just looking for a great photo-op—head to Russell Brook Falls about 25 minutes from North Branch. Once you’ve reached the parking lot, the hard part is already over; the massive waterfall is just .1 miles into the trail. (If you wish to continue, follow the blue markers for a 4.9 mile hike. For more details on the hike, follow the link above.) Another great hike is at Jensen’s Ledges, which has a pretty steep ascent over the course of an hour, but the payoff at the top is worth it. It’s the best view of the Delaware River that we know of, plus there’s a waterfall near the top and remains of a rock quarry. Because of it’s unique geography, abundant blue stone slats are piled around the top of the mountain, where artists and visitors have been inspired to build sculptures including a giant sphere, chairs, and zen stacks. If it’s summer, check out Skinner’s Falls for a refreshing swim in the Delaware River. Though it’s a bit of a misnomer—there’s no actual falls—this scenic spot is made up of a series of shallow rapids and huge rocks that form little islands in the water. Visitors can walk out quite far, pick a rock, and sunbathe or perch for a few hours in-between dips. The access trail is through private property, so be prepared with cash for the entrance fee, which is a couple bucks.
Last, this part of the Catskills is also close to Bethel, the site of Woodstock. (No, Woodstock did not take place in Woodstock. In fact, Bethel and Woodstock are nearly 60 miles apart.) Park your car and wander the property at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts to see the field where the magic unfolded, along with the pond where festival-goers swam and bathed. The museum on-site is open from April to January and a must for music lovers.
Where to Eat and Drink Around North Branch: Dinner and Bowling, Dine Above a Gas Station, Have a Beer at a Bar in a Log Cabin or a Local Brewery
Though breakfasts and at least one dinner should be had at North Branch Inn, there’s a few restaurants and bars in the area it’d be a crime not to mention. (Note: see above for daytrip/lunch pairings!) First, the Arnold House is the sister property to North Branch Inn located 15 minutes away in Livingston Manor. The tavern atmosphere comes alive with a giant wood stove, juke box, and pool table; the food is good, with the menu created by the same chef, Erik Hill. Another foodie hotspot in the area is the new location of Henning’s Local. This farm-to-table joint is in the most inconspicuous place possible: above a Mobil station. (Yes, Mobil as in the gas.) By description alone, we thought the restaurant would be small and cozy—but it’s actually quite large and loft-like. Reservations are recommended for this meat-heavy menu, but vegetarians might want to look elsewhere to dine.
No doubt that if you’re one of our long-time followers, you know that we like to dig up the coolest dive bars everywhere we go, and this guide is no exception. One of our best discoveries as of late is the Welsh Cabin, a bar and restaurant housed in a log cabin on a mountain. Need we say more?! The food isn’t anything you’d consider to be healthy or gourmet—and it’s definitely not a “hot spot”—but what this place lacks in fancy food it makes up for in character. Inside, a wood-fire stove roars, the TV’s blare, and standard pub fare is served. Along with their selection of the usual bottled domestics, we were surprised and happy to see they were carrying our favorite local craft beer, Catskill Brewery—which aside from being a bar in a log cabin, is reason enough for us to go back again. The only downside is it’s cash only, so come prepared!