Take a Texas-style safari and support Wimberley’s big comeback. Last year’s devastating floodwaters didn’t destroy the beauty or the spirit of this delightful Hill Country village.

Wild and wonderful Wimberley, a small Hill Country outpost just an hour from San Antonio, is the perfect place to go on safari.

No, you won’t spot a zebra or rhino there, but safaris don’t just mean African animal-viewing expeditions; safari is a Swahili word meaning “journey,” and it can be used to describe any outing or road trip. So why not start your next safari right here in San Antonio?

HillCountry-Wimberly4Drive up Interstate 35 toward Austin, then take exit 202 in San Marcos, and roll along the scenic crooked spine of the Devil’s Backbone ridge along Ranch Road 12. Just 13 miles outside San Marcos, Wimberley lies at the center of the Wimberley Valley, where the Blanco River and Cypress Creek converge. A jewel hidden in the hills, this little village is home to boutique shops; art galleries, restaurants and burger joints; bakeries, pie and fudge shops; an outdoor movie theater; bed and breakfast inns, RV parks and campsites; market days and music. In fact, Wimberley has been named a Texas Cultural District by the Texas Commission on the Arts. Wimberley is one of the Hill Country’s best-kept-secret towns, a diamond in the rough and rugged cedar- and cypress-filled Texas hills.

Twice devastated by floodwaters last year, Wimberley has made a remarkable comeback. The center of town, where most shops and restaurants stand, wasn’t destroyed, but cabins, restaurants, campsites, shops, inns and homes that once stood along the Blanco River were washed away. Because the community suffered such devastating damage and loss, Wimberley residents and merchants are especially grateful to see the visitors return, and they warmly welcome guests. Visiting to lend support to Wimberley, especially the artists and merchants as they recover from the floods, is important to that community. But Wimberley is also a destination full of unexpected surprises you’ll enjoy during your big Texas safari.

There are many guest houses, cottages, hotels and RV parks in and around the towns of Wimberley, Buda and Kyle, but why not try “glamping” if you’d like to experience a real African safari feel?

“Glamping” is a high-end travel trend combining the words glamour and camping, and it is popular among urban travelers who would like to enjoy nature but desire a level of luxury. Glamping might mean spending the night in an air-conditioned tree house or sleeping on a king-sized memory-foam mattress in a yurt. It could mean staying in a tepee with a fireplace inside or spending a romantic weekend in a modern sleek luxury airstream trailer. Sound fun? It is. So where can San Antonio women go to glamp?

HillCountry-Wimberly2A luxury safari-style tent, just like the five-star ones “glamping” fans adore in Africa, Sinya at Lone Man Creek is a high-end guest house on a bluff overlooking a fast-flowing stream. Texas’ most romantic honeymoon cottage, Sinya stands just a few miles from Wimberley’s town center.

Proprietor Lynn Gallimore went on safari in Africa and fell in love with the tented camps she visited there. Drawn to the solace of that experience, in 2009 she ordered a large luxury safari tent from Kenya and set it up on a strong wooden structure on a high spot overlooking Lone Man Creek. With its swimming holes and hiking trails around her five-acre property, Sinya is a special glamping spot that’s well appointed with a king-sized bed with high-end linens, a small sitting area, ceiling fans, energy-efficient air conditioning and heating, a gas fireplace, a claw-foot tub and a shower in a fully modern bathroom. Best of all, Sinya has all the amenities of a five-star hotel room. With decks in both front and back and even an outdoor shower, hot tub, hammock and barbecue grill, Sinya (named for an elephant in Kenya) provides everything guests need for a perfect “safari” stay.

The Grove House

If you’d prefer a small stand-alone guest house hidden in the hills, visit Grove House, a private cottage retreat located 15 minutes outside town, providing an ideal setting for a romantic getaway or a quiet weekend in the woods. Poet’s House, adjacent to it, may be rented if four are traveling together. Standing in the shadow of Lone Man Mountain, Wimberley’s highest peak, Grove House is a luxurious, eco-conscious sanctuary featuring one king-sized bedroom, a small kitchen area, a large bathroom with a century-old claw-foot tub and a private walled San Miguel-inspired courtyard with an outdoor shower and hot tub. Although it has a chef-friendly kitchen, guests can also grill outdoors and enjoy al fresco dining under oak trees. Owner Kim Miller, an Americana Texas singer/songwriter, created Grove House as a serene place of rest and retreat where guests can recharge their minds and spirits.

HillCountry-Wimberly3Go to Town

Restaurants, art galleries, antique shops, boutiques, coffee shops, bakeries and more are also a big draw for day trippers and weekend visitors to Wimberley, and just outside of town guests can visit vineyards and wineries, an olive farm, a glass-blowing studio and swimming holes and explore hike and bike trails. With regular Market Day events on the first Saturday of each month, March through December, shopping is big in Wimberley. The town is also known for its frequent concerts, fun festivals and flea markets and even an Old West pioneer village.

Eat Shop Play

After visiting boutiques like River House, Kiss the Cook, Ply yarn shop, Papa Hoo’s gourmet popcorn and candy counter, Wall Street Western vintage boots, and Queen Bee gifts and accessories, dine at local spots like Marco’s Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria, The Leaning Pear, Cypress Creek Café, Ino’z Brew & Chew or the Wimberley Pie Company. Then stroll down the storefront main street of Wimberley’s enchanting Pioneer Village, which was just taken over by new owners.

HillCountry-Wimberly1Cinema under the Stars

After dark, one of Wimberley’s best attractions is the Corral Theatre, the only walk-in outdoor movie theater in the United States still shows first-run movies from mid-May through late September.

What else to do? Take a tour of one of the area’s five wineries, tour the Bella Vista Ranch & First Texas Olive Oil Company, or watch glass-blowing artists at Wimberley Glassworks.

With scenic landscapes, rushing rivers, friendly people, great shopping, good eats and even luxury “glamping” spots — Wimberley is a wild, wonderful Texas safari destination.

While on safari, check out two of Wimberley’s neighboring towns:

Buda, (pronounced Buda), is called the “Outdoor Capital of Texas” because it boasts more parkland per capita than any other Texas city, including 268 acres of public park land, three miles of concrete and crushed granite trails, 13 public park areas, 10 playgrounds, nine pavilions and even an amphitheater. Buda has grown rapidly in recent years, and its quaint downtown has small antique and specialty shops and cafes, while along I-35 it is known for its enormous Cabela’s outdoor outfitter, fishing and hunting store. Locals especially enjoy Buda’s First Thursday events of each month, giving downtown visitors the chance to visit shops and enjoy restaurants and family-friendly activities.

Kyle, located between Buda and San Marcos off I-35, is also a nice place to visit, especially during its Second Saturday Market Days, featuring local vendors, arts and crafts, farm-to-market items, live music and more, April through September. While in Kyle, be sure to visit its charming downtown and pop into the Kyle Pie Company, or stay in a bed-and-breakfast inn, such as Sage Hill Inn above Onion Creek or the Plant at Kyle, a popular wedding venue outside town.

Near both Buda and Kyle, wineries, barbecue restaurants, golf courses and so much more make the area worth exploring on your next road trip.

By JANIS TURK