By WARREN RESEN
Member: North American Travel Writers Association; and International Food Wine & Travel Writers Association
A stay at a Bed & Breakfast should be more than just about bricks and mortar and an overly sugared pseudo Southern-style breakfast. I have stayed at some physically gorgeous homes where the proprietors were more concerned about the condition of their “things” than the comfort of the guests but a recent visit to a new B&B was a wonderful experience that I’d like to share.
My last outing was to the southeast Georgia coastal area where I stayed at the Horse Stamp Inn (more about the name later on) in Waverly, Georgia, literally a dot on the map. This delightful oasis of beauty and serenity is just three miles west of I-95. Exiting the recently opened Horse Stamp Church Road exit on the Interstate it is a straight line to the Inn’s front gate. Turn off the two lane road into the Horse Stamp Inn’s driveway and stop for a moment, if there is no traffic.
The view is breathtaking. The road passes through fenced horse pastures at the end of which is a “traditional” plantation home mini mansion with white columns, porches and wide brick stairway sweeping up to a double door entry. It might look like it has always been there but was built as a private home in 2006 so it’s too new to have the traditional ghost stories.
Tom and Kris Hutcheson, formerly of Denver, bought the property along with 16 acres of woods and pastures in March 2012, opening the property for guests in May. This has to be one of the fastest conversions from private residence to Inn in modern times. But with the exception of adding a pool, the house only needed cosmetic touches and Kris’ interior design talents with furnishings and accessories.
The property was ideal for its present use as an inn. A large entry leads directly into a soaring two story, comfortably furnished, great room surrounding a two-story, two-sided brick and stone fireplace. It is a perfect setting for relaxation or meetings. Down the hall is a separate sitting/reading room. The formal dining room comfortably accommodates all of the Inn’s guests.
There are five large second floor bedrooms, all named after a famous race horse. Every room has an en-suite bathroom. All rooms have wall mounted flat screen TVs and Dish TV reception. Because of its modern construction, there is central AC and heating, not the usual noisy wall or window units. Amazingly there is also an elevator to make bedroom and luggage access easy, a feature usually not associated with two- or even three-story inns. The bedroom windows overlook pastures and woods. Free Wi-Fi is a click away.
So much for the physical attributes of this beautiful inn. Now let’s talk about the soul of the Horse Stamp Inn: Kris and Tom and the kitchen. As in most homes, the kitchen is where everything happens and everyone hangs out. This is a rarity in B&Bs where the kitchen is often behind closed doors.
Guests gather here in the morning around the large island counter to get their coffee fix before breakfast is served in the main dining room. Sometimes inn guests choose to dine in the casual kitchen or on the screened-in porch. In the kitchen everyone, including Kris and Tom, chats about what’s happening and their plans for the day. Information is exchanged about things to do and see in the area. This is Tom’s office. He is occasionally the head chef, much to Kris’ delight. After the first morning, everyone at the inn is family.
Breakfast is real food. Depending on the availability of fresh local produce, the day’s fare might include family favorite recipes: omelets with grilled peppers, onions, spinach, local sausage, various cheeses and breads or Kris’ now famous specialty…Georgia Peach French Toast topped with hot peach sauce, served with slices of local apple wood smoked bacon. They respect guest’s dietary needs and will work with them to create luscious satisfying breakfasts.
At about 5 p.m., more or less, the inn serves Tom’s homemade hors d’oeuvres accompanied by suitable wines, coffee, tea or lemonade. The social “hour” and conversation usually continues for hours. Then the most momentous decision of the day has to be made. Where do we go for dinner?
My first night’s dinner outing was just down the road south of the Inn in the town of Woodbine, GA, another dot on the map and home to Capt. Stan’s Smokehouse. Using local superlatives, this is where you’ll find “One of the most acclaimed coastal Georgia BBQ restaurants.”
It is truly unique.
The restaurant is eat-out or eat-in. Set around a large fire pit are picnic tables, an open air bar and bandstand where local musicians perform without the aid of highly amplified instruments. They are good and so is the food, lots of it, and at reasonable prices. The menu is varied enough with Cap’ Stan’s smoked ribs, chicken, seafood, oysters and Southern specialties. Anyone should be able to find something to their liking. Patrons have the option of using the inside dining room but it’s not as much fun.
If you are wondering what to do when staying at the Horse Stamp Inn the answers are: nothing, something or everything. Relax, vegetate, wander country lanes, arrange a fishing trip through Tom, play a few rounds at the nearby Sanctuary Cove Golf Club or drive east to the nearby Golden Islands of Georgia and visit Jekyll Island with its mansions and beaches or St. Simons Island with its shops, restaurants and beaches
The Horse Stamp Inn has quickly become a magnet for weddings and even the growing trend of vow renewals. There are many places throughout the property and in the house for those romantic, memorable photos. Kris can put you in touch with her favorite wedding planner, Emily Burton, who has arranged many elegant weddings and other functions at the Horse Stamp Inn.
After three days as a guest at the Inn, I departed with the feeling that I was leaving family behind. My wife and I plan to return in the Fall for a “family reunion.”
As to how the name Horse Stamp originated, I’ve heard several versions, but this is the one I liked best. During the War of 1812, a troop of horse soldiers were in the area when an outdoor meeting, or church service, was to be held. In order to provide ample outdoor space, the soldiers were ordered to use their horses to stomp down the tall grasses. It was then an easy and perhaps natural transition from stomp to stamp by the locals.
Take a look at the web page for information about the Horse Stamp Inn. But remember, the photos don’t really do the Inn justice. It’s even more beautiful in person and the warmth of Kris and Tom cannot be captured in a picture.
For more information, visit their website at www.horsestampinn.com