My husband and I stayed three nights at this excellent guest ranch. They have several room categories, ours was mid-range and we were quite pleased with it. Spacious, airy, clean and quiet. We had a king bed which was medium firm, just the way we both like it. The bathroom was a bit dated, but well kept and in good functional condition. We had the choice of several rooms when we arrived and chose the one called Seminole.
We were on the all-inclusive plan with up to four hours of horseback riding per day. The food was good and had several options for all the meals, varying from day to day, with an emphasis on Southern cooking and Mexican dishes. It was served buffet style and we could eat in the cheerful dining room or outside on the patio. They did not have a license to serve alcohol, but it was fine to bring your own and they had a large fridge for guests to use.
As with all things on Southern Cross, you had a choice to join a larger group at the table or to have a more quiet meal with your loved one. Not being a morning person, I liked having the last option for breakfast.
The pool area is really as pretty as in the pictures on the website. To get around on the big ranch, they have bikes you can use for free. We used them to get between the house and the stables.
The riding is what make this please really special. They have more than 200 horses there, and most of them are literally on vacation at any given time. The horses are working for a few weeks, then they are rotated out to the pastures again, so they don't get bored or turn sour.
We have stayed at several guest ranches and we have never come across horses like these. Gentle and well trained, these horses are so nice that you actually get to go out in the forest on your own with them. You must have a guide for your first tour, after that you can go without - unless you would rather have a guide along, of course.
They ask you to brush down your horse before and after riding. I think the idea is that you get to know the horse a bit better. We thought it was a quite nice experience, but we heard some people comment that they didn't expect to do that work themselves.
The horses on Southern Cross come in a variety of sizes. They have smallish ones for children and big strong Percherons for heavier people, Tennessee walking horses, paints, quarter horses - something for everyone! The wrangler will try to match you up with a suitable horse, and you can ask to have the same each time if you like.
The people who worked at the ranch, seemed to really enjoy their work. We found them friendly and easygoing. Don't expect a bunch of good old cowboys here, though, much of the stable staff were young German women.
It is possible to combine all-inclusive plan with B&B only, if you would like to have a non-riding day (parts of you WILL hurt unless you are an experienced rider!). We intend to come back again for a longer stay and will do a mixed plan then.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Southern Cross Ranch is a new breed of dude-ranch experience that combines a working ranch with the comfort of a cozy bed-and-breakfast inn. ... more less
- Also Known As:
- Southern Cross Ranch Hotel Madison