A true escape: Domovina Ranch in Smithville

By: Stephanie Denny
June, 2021

During the pandemic, like many of us, my husband and I found ourselves at our wits’ end. After months of quarantine, working from home, and homeschooling three kids through virtual school, we desperately needed an escape –– somewhere we could find the time and space to rest and restore on a soul level. 

After some searching, we discovered our go-to staycation gem. Nestled somewhere between downtown Smithville and Rosanky is a 50-acre slice of heaven owned by Tony and Amy Quitta called Domovina, which is Czech for “home.” Tony is a fourth-generation Czech and has lived in Smithville his entire life. After more than 30 years of teaching and coaching, Tony (or Coach Q, as his students knew him) is retired and runs cattle and cabins on his properties full time.

Domovina is a 50-acre staycation gem. Photo by Stephanie Denny.

In early 2020, Tony and Amy decided to share the beauty of Domovina, building two cottages on their property where weary city-dwellers could escape to nature. They combined their favorite things from their travels nearby and abroad and spared no expense in the thoughtful details found throughout the cottages. 

Both cottages are beautifully decorated and each pays tribute to two of Tony’s favorite people. The first cottage is named the FW in remembrance of Tony’s late brother, Bill, and the other is named Hemingway after Tony’s favorite author.  

Domovina FW Cottage lit up at night. Photo by Stephanie Denny

The Hemingway. Photo by Stephanie Denny

The FW. Photo by Stephanie Denny

The FW has a modern charm, reminiscent of the bright colors of his late brother Bill’s famous watercolor paintings, which you can see adorning the walls. The rustic feel of the Hemingway captures what Tony believes to be an environment where the author himself would choose to write on his typewriter, complete with wooden and leather finishes and accented with fishing and game decor. 

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Inside the FW. Full kitchen and bathroom with plenty of seating areas for reading and napping, complete with a cozy loft with an electric fireplace. Photo by Stephanie Denny.

Each cottage brims with all of the amenities you could ever need. The front windows face southwest, which is perfect for watching brilliant sunsets behind tall Texas pines. The soft sandy loam is blanketed by layers of pine needles and thick grass, which serves several dozen cows and calves, turkeys, colorful birds and other wildlife that call the ranch home. 

Sunset view from the porch at the FW Cottage. Photo by Stephanie Denny.

You will find Domovina on a sleepy dead-end road, far away from the noise of real life. The only sound heard on the property is pure nature. You can’t help but fall into a meditative state within moments of settling on the front porch with your favorite drink. You hear nothing but the wind in the trees, the birds singing above you or the lazy hoof steps of Dottie (the cow) as she solicits a head rub at the gate. 

Dottie, the friendliest cow Tony has ever owned. She loves greeting her human visitors. Photo by Stephanie Denny

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One warm day, we were able to pry ourselves from the hammock for a moment to hike a trail around the perimeter of the ranch, even getting caught in the rain once. Another time when it was cold and wet, the cottage provided a cozy refuge where we enjoyed a blissful nap and got lost in a novel.  

The McCollum-Chapman-Trousdale House used as Sandra Bullock’s home in the 1998 movie Hope Floats in Downtown Smithville. Photo by Stephanie Denny

We like to venture out to downtown Smithville for shopping and dining on Main Street. If we’re in the mood for comfort food, a burger or a rich risotto at The Blazer Bar & Grill hits the spot. If we want variety, we head to The Front Room Wine Bar for mouth-watering tapas.

With a population of less than 4,000, Smithville was named the first Film Friendly Community in Texas by the Texas Film Commission. Just a few blocks from Main Street, you’ll see the McCollum-Chapman-Trousdale House used as Sandra Bullock’s home in the 1998 movie Hope Floats. Many Smithville residents have participated in the movie filming –– Tony himself was an extra in the movie Hope Floats. (If you watch closely during the scene where Sandra Bullock walks across the football field with her daughter, you’ll notice Tony as the track coach in the background). 

But soon we are longing to be back at the cottage, savoring the lovely homemade caballero cookies and s’mores provided by our gracious hosts. 

A handwritten greeting with homemade caballero cookies from Tony and Amy. Photo by Stephanie Denny

My husband and I have traveled here both together and separately at different times, depending on our childcare arrangements. Since our first visit, we decided to make Domovina like our second home, coming as often as possible. When home life gets too chaotic, it’s the ideal place for us to escape and focus on creative projects, take a mini excursion or just enjoy doing nothing at all. 

A nap on the hammock. Photo by Stephanie Denny

If You Go

Getting there:

Smithville is 45 miles and about an hour’s drive southeast of Austin.

Stay:

Book either the FW or Hemingway cottages at Domovina on Airbnb. To preserve the unique, quiet sanctuary experience, Domovina is for adults only and no pets. There are plenty of other Staycation choices in Smithville, but you will find most of those centered around the historic downtown area.

Do:

Spend the day shopping around downtown Smithville, take in the history, or brush up on your theater trivia –– dozens of movies have been filmed in this tiny town. 

Eat and Drink:

For burgers or made from scratch risotto, try The Blazer Bar & Grill, or try tapas at The Front Room Wine Bar. Craving barbeque? Head to Zimmerhanzels BBQ (307 Royston St.). 

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