Craftsman-style cottages and sunset cocktails.
Craftsman-style cottages and sunset cocktails. (Rob Stark)

Thacher House

The sweet smell of orange groves overtakes you as you approach the Thacher House. It’s a sign of good things to come.

Craftsman-style cottages and sunset cocktails.

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Calvin Zara bought this 20-acre estate, built in 1898 in the small California town of Ojai (population 7,600), in 2010, and he spent the next five years renovating it. Now guests can stay in one of three Craftsman-style cottages, a new two-bedroom house, or a room in the spacious main house, which looks out on the Los Padres mountains. There are any number of beautiful hikes nearby—try the tree-lined, five-mile Horn Canyon Trail, which starts just up the road—or bike the 15-mile paved path to the coastal town of Ventura. The Mob Shop in Ojai provides rentals, in addition to good intel on mountain biking in the area (rentals, from $29; Of course, this presumes that you can drag your­self off Zara’s stunning property. Born in Iraq, where his father was a chef, Zara raises goats, sheep, and chickens, and has extensive vegetable and herb gardens and an olive grove. He starts your day with a made-to-order breakfast of just-laid eggs, homemade yogurt, and freshly baked sourdough bread—the smell of which will lure you out of bed—and also offers cheese- and yogurt-making classes. Hanging out in the kitchen cooking with Zara is one of the best ways to spend an afternoon. Whatever you do, don’t miss kicking back on the front porch for sunset cocktails, when he puts out a tray of homemade goat feta, pickled cauliflower, nuts, and olives, served with a collection of local wines. 

Access: Ojai is a two-hour drive northwest of Los Angeles and 50 minutes east of Santa Barbara. From $650 

Temps: Summers are hot and dry, with highs sometimes in the 100s. Winters are mild, with an average high of 70 and lows rarely below freezing.

Detour: Pine Mountain, 40 miles north of Ojai on highway 33, has limitless moderately rated bouldering options.

Indulge: Drop by the Ojai Vineyard tasting room to try Central Coast syrahs, pinots, and rieslings.

From Outside Magazine, January/February 2017
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Lead Photo: Rob Stark