PATAGONIA, AZ−If you travel just 50 miles southeast of Tucson you enter another world, referred to as either Arizona’s “Hidden Paradise,” or the “Mountain Empire.” Whichever name you decide to call this area it is well worth the visit. The towns that make up this Paradise are Patagonia, Sonoita and Elgin. They are nestled between the Santa Rita, Patagonia, Mustang, and the Huachuca mountains. The year round cooler temperatures, and the abundance of old growth trees such as cottonwoods, Arizona oak, willow forests and a lake make this a haven in the desert.
The first time I visited Patagonia I felt as if I had stepped back in time. Besides the charming beauty of the area I found a place rich in history and surprises. Each business is family owned and run. Nancy McCoy, who co-owns the Duquesne House Bed and Breakfast with her husband, told me she always plans extra time when she goes to pick up her mail at the post office. “You usually run into one or more town people and there is always an exchange of stories, it takes awhile to pick up the mail.”
McCoy’s Bed and Breakfast (B&B) is one of the many surprises to be found. It used to be a boarding house for miners; Regina (artist and B&B owner) refurbished the interior as only an artist can. Even the tile floors she put down are done with an artisan’s attention to detail. When the McCoy’s bought the Duquesne from Regina they added their own touches. I was struck by the true elegance and style of the B&B. It puts the more sterile and expensive modern hotels to shame. It is just one of many lovely B&B’s in the area.
The cuisine in Patagonia and Sonoita is another surprise. At the ‘Velvet Elvis Pizza” you can get truly gourmet pizza and other items daily. Another eatery is the “Gathering Grounds’, this small restaurant looks like a “hole in the wall” until you try the organic, gourmet menu, which is changed daily. I can tell you from experience the quality of the food won’t disappoint you and the atmosphere is friendly and welcoming!
Patagonia is an artists’ town, so you have several choices of unique shops to visit.
Other things to do are boating, water-skiing, hiking, birding, horseback riding, camping, visiting historical sites, and ghost towns. With so many beautiful sites and scenes it makes for a photographer’s bonanza. Some of the local citizens include a Pulitzer Prize winner and an internationally famous author.
Elgin is the southeastern wine country. If wine tasting calls to you, there are seven wineries in Elgin. Some of the wines have colorful names, like the Arizona Vineyards Rattlesnake Red, Coyote Red and Grand Canyon White. Just stay on Highway 82, head toward Nogales, Mexico and you can’t miss them! The wines range from an inexpensive $5.50 at the Arizona Vineyards to $200 for 1987 Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon at the Village of Elgin winery.
Sonoita has a mining and ranching history, as well as being used for filming over 50 movies. John Wayne was a regular visitor to the Sonoita area. The rolling hills, and wide spread ranches have a lot of history. One ranch was owned by a branch of the Phelps-Dodge mining company family. At one time their ranch covered thousands of acres in Sonoita. One member of the family sold off several thousand acres to buy an Ambassadorship to England.
So step back in time and enjoy the relaxing, peaceful environment, you might even visit one of the small spas while here, or perhaps find the quiet so yummy you never leave the spacious patio of one of the many B&B’s−all here to help you enjoy a unique vacation in paradise!
( For more information visit: www.patagoniaaz.com )