A treehouse on the Sabinal river

Your childhood dreams are coming true: an adults-only treehouse resort is now open in the Hill Country. Appropriately named Treehouse Utopia, the resort sprouted naturally: Owner Laurel Waters also owns and operates The Laurel Tree, a gourmet restaurant just down the road in Utopia, a community of 200 people about 80 miles west of San Antonio.

To make reservations, visit treehouseutopia.com.

Waters created four luxury treehouse rentals that sit above the sights and sounds of a swimming hole tucked in the hills. Guests can relax among enormous bald cypress trees, surrounded by French antiques in air-conditioned rooms and on multiple porches.

The treehouses are about 17 feet above the ground. Waters partnered with Pete Nelson of Nelson Treehouse and “Treehouse Masters,” a TV series on Animal Planet, to design each with a different theme. Personal touches range from the real antique Catholic stoles adorning the walls of the Chapelle treehouse to the carefully curated books that fill the Biblioteque.

“Everyone keeps asking me what’s my favorite, and I don’t have one,” Waters said. “I can’t decide, which means to me that they’re perfect. Every single thing in here has a story behind it.”

Each treehouse comes with a sitting room, a kitchen area with a coffee maker and refrigerator, a bedroom with a queen- or king-sized bed, and a bathroom, two with clawfoot bathtubs and all displaying works of art built into the shower tile. The WiFi is speedy, but the resort is also an ideal place to take a break from technology.

Bedroom in a treehouse

More elegant bed and breakfast than wooden shed in the branches, it’s easy to forget the house is so far above the ground—until a glance out the window reveals the large trunk of a centuries-old bald cypress tree. But you don’t have to spend the whole time in the treetops.

A one-minute drive leads to The Laurel Tree, which serves up French-inspired dishes incorporating vegetables and herbs from the garden out back. Along with the original dining rooms, Waters’ restaurant has its own dining-room treehouse. Also built by Nelson and his crew,  it costs $300 to reserve for lunch or dinner on Saturdays, the only day the restaurant is open.

Outside deck of a treehouse

Less than five minutes from the restaurant is Waters’ shop Main Street Utopia, where she showcases local art and antiques she’s collected on trips to France. Her degree in fashion, eye for design, and hard work brought her treehouse idea to fruition.

“I think art is art, whether you’re designing clothes, designing a restaurant, or decorating [a treehouse] from the ground up,” Waters said. “It’s all color and balance.”

Right outside the treehouses sits a clear, spring-fed swimming hole where guests can float in the calm and quiet water of the Sabinal River. The water attracts all types of wildlife; birders could spend days identifying colors and chirps. Deer roam freely, and frogs provide background sounds as you drift off to sleep.

Sitting area on a deck

In the morning, an employee delivers a basket of fresh, seasonal fruit and homemade granola and muffins, best enjoyed with a sit on the porch of the Chapelle, Biblioteque, or one of the other two treehouses: the Carousel, whimsically designed with repurposed pieces of a carousel; or the Chateau, the largest of the four, with two stories connected by a spiral staircase.

Waters said she wants the resort to be more than a setting for important moments; she wants it to be the catalyst. “At the restaurant, we always have celebrations, birthdays, anniversaries, and that kind of thing,” she said, “but with the treehouses … I can just imagine the big life moments that people are going to be able to have and remember.”

As the sun sets over the Sabinal, it’s easy to see how a life might change, or a perspective could widen, from the vantage of a bald cypress tree. In Utopia, serenity is a short climb away, found on the porch of a treehouse.


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