Approximately 60 percent of Arizona residents live in Maricopa County – the fourth largest U.S. county by population. For these folks, small-town living might seem unfathomable, as the “Valley” includes six of the top 100 most populated cities in America. So, it might come as a surprise to find out that a pair of unincorporated communities a couple hours north of Scottsdale are beginning to rise in popularity. An escape from urban surroundings and a focus on small businesses have allowed the towns of Pine and Strawberry to cement themselves as staycation staples in the Grand Canyon State. The Strawberry Inn is among the businesses helping lay the foundation for tourism in the area.
Located just off Highway 87, north of Payson, tucked within the Tonto National Forest is the quiet, little town of Strawberry, Arizona. As you come upon the “Entering Strawberry” sign, you’ll immediately notice the beautiful building on your right, accompanied by a miniature windmill that is impossible to miss.
The combination of beautiful green forestry and the fresh smell of pine is enough to make you wonder if you’re still in Arizona. Pair that with the midwestern decor that owners Amber and Carson Eilers used to renovate the property, and you have a rural ambiance that creates the perfect getaway setting for local residents.
Rest and relaxation at its finest
Toss away the itinerary and cancel all appointments, because a trip to The Strawberry Inn means doing things at your own pace and heading in whichever direction the wind blows. That’s the beauty of leaving your busy lifestyle behind and breathing in the fresh air of nature.
Falling asleep to the rustling trees and waking up to birds chirping in the distance is yet another benefit of this small-town staycation. And make no mistake about it, The Strawberry Inn is perfectly designed to maximize your ability to absorb the sights and sounds of your surroundings.
If you wake up on that first morning feeling more rested than you’ve felt in years, you’re certainly not alone. In fact, most guests logged their positive sleep experience in the guest journal featured in every room within the boutique hotel. Some even requested information about the mattress in hopes of purchasing one of their own.
Regardless, everyone can use a little pick-me-up on vacation, and The Strawberry Inn features the perfect spot for a cup of joe. Remember that windmill that was referenced a bit earlier? Well, it doubles as a coffee shop!
Owned and operated by Daniel and Marina Berryman, Windmill Coffee features a unique menu of gourmet beverages. Daniel has experience as a Starbucks barista, which combined with his engineering background makes for the perfect combination of classic and creative renditions of your favorite coffee drinks. I highly recommend ordering a chai tea. You will not be disappointed.
There are plenty of great hiking trails nearby, including the Pine Trailhead just down the road from The Strawberry Inn. It offers 360-degree, panoramic views of the forest and is well-marked for guests that may not consider themselves experienced hikers. In addition, there are a ton of yard games featured on-site, such as giant Jenga and cornhole. But if you’re like me, you can only beat your wife in cornhole so many times before it’s time to move onto another activity (sorry hun).
If that’s the case, then there’s no better option than to just relax and read a good book. If you are looking for something to read, there is a wonderful take-a-book, leave-a-book shelf featured on the lower level of the building. It’s hard to miss, as it was built in the shape of a strawberry and is mounted near the right-hand stairwell.
Small businesses have huge value in Pine
While there are many terrific restaurants within walking distance of The Strawberry Inn, you might want to take a quick drive to nearby Pine to experience some of the wonderful small business establishments in town.
Right on the edge of town is a place called The Honey Stand, which specializes in different flavors of homemade honey and jams. The sweet and creamy combination of the peanut butter whipped honey is enough to make your taste buds burst.
Just down the road is a store called the Herb Stop. Opened as a little 300-square-foot shop in 1992, this establishment is owned and operated by Natalie Haidu and has grown to manufacture over 3,000 health and wellness products on-site that are sold nationwide via their online store.
Haidu expressed that Pine was one of the last small towns in Arizona and went on to tell a story about when a Big Lots! was scheduled to open in town a while back. While some towns may welcome big corporations in hopes of attracting more customers to the area, residents and small business owners were adamant about keeping them out of Pine. It spoke volumes about the pride that the local community takes in its small businesses, as well as the comradery of the individuals that live and work there.
In fact, Haidu went on to plug several other local businesses, including the outdoor kettle corn stand that’s open seven days a week across the street. The way she spoke about her fellow business owners really demonstrated a sense of partnership and cooperation, as opposed to competition.
Ultimately, The Strawberry Inn and its surrounding communities make for an amazing experience that cannot be replicated anywhere else in Arizona. So, if you’re looking to get away, then I suggest booking a reservation as soon as possible.