By Sara Baird.
I previously wrote about how much I enjoyed traveling with Boondockers Welcome when taking long trips in our camper. You can read about my Boondockers Welcome Experience here. Boondockers Welcome was acquired by Harvest Hosts in 2021, so when we set off on a trip last summer we decided to try it out. I loved it so much that I wanted to share my experience with Harvest Hosts will all of you.
What is Harvest Hosts?
Harvest Hosts provides access to one-night stays at a variety of business host sites. Host sites include wineries, breweries, farms, museums, churches, and more. The stay is free but you are expected to spend at least $30 at the location or make a similar donation. I was reluctant to sign up for Harvest Hosts because I was under the impression it was just for wineries and we were traveling with our son and dog but as I learned more about it after they acquired Boondockers Welcome I decided to try it out.
When you sign up you can choose different levels of membership. We already had a free Boondocker’s Welcome membership because we are hosts so we just needed to add on the basic Harvest Hosts membership. There is another level of membership that includes golf courses but we decided not to try that at this time.
To locate a site you simply log into the app and open up a map of sites. You can filter the sites to meet your needs. Hosts list the size of vehicles they can accommodate, how many vehicles they can host, as well as other things like if pets are okay. It was simple to input our total length (the length of our camper and tow vehicle together), that we were traveling with a dog and the date I wanted to stay. Then I could view the hosts that were available on the map. From there it was as simple as requesting a stay by answering a few questions. Most hosts approved our stay within an hour of requesting it.
Our first stay was at a coffee shop and ranch in Greymill, Montana. When booking a site, it is important that you pay attention to the open hours of the business and ensure that it is okay to arrive after business hours if you do not arrive within them. We miscalculated our travel time and found that we would be arriving much later than expected. I called the site and thankfully they assured me that it was okay.
They gave us directions for our arrival and showed us where to park when we arrived. From our parking spot, we could see and clearly hear the interstate and were in the middle of the ranch surrounded by horses and even a cow. We slept well and, in the morning, stopped by for some coffee and pastries from the coffee shop then went on our way. It was a quick little stop. Our objective for the stop was to be close enough to Bozeman Montana to be able to spend the day with a friend and still travel to our next destination the following day.
The following night we stayed at a sheep dairy in Helena, Montana. This was a super cool experience. We attended a tour of the dairy and heard the story of the couple who owned it. Then we enjoyed a cheese tasting. We paid for the tour and of course, purchased some sheep cheese to enjoy on our travels. My favorite part of that experience was listening to the working dogs overnight. I found their soft check-in barks soothing and reassuring as they communicated to keep the sheep safe. I would have thought they would keep me up all night but the opposite was true.
Our ultimate goal on this trip was to stay as long as possible on the Oregon Coast so we headed west through Idaho and booked a stay at an orchard outside of Spokane Washington. Here we were directed to park in one of the orchards. There were other campers there that night but we were all separated from each other. We purchased some mead and duck eggs from their farm shop and enjoyed a nice walk in the countryside. The sunrise viewed right from my bed through our camper window was a spectacular part of this trip.
The following night we stayed north of Kennewick, Washington at a winery and orchard. We met the owner when we arrived for a wine tasting and learned about his interesting story. We also learned so many things about what it takes to run an orchard. I shared with him that one of my bucket list items was to eat a cherry off a cherry tree.
The climate at home in Minnesota is too cold to grow sweet cherries and I had never even seen a sweet cheery on the tree. He said I was in luck because they had just picked the orchard and I was welcome to sampling some of the cherries left of the tree. He directed us to park in the orchard, besides some people working on the irrigation equipment we were the only ones there. I thoroughly enjoyed walking through the orchard and enjoying some leftover cherries. He warned us that there would be people there to work at 4 am in the field next to us, they were starting to harvest apples but we didn’t hear a thing.
The following night we made our way to the Columbia Gorge where we stayed in the parking lot of the Discovery Center. We enjoyed visiting the museum for a couple of hours. I was a little bit worried about spending the night there. The parking lot was right off the interstate and it was extremely busy and loud. We were unsure if it was okay to leave our camper and go explore the area.
We did learn that in the future we should just ask the host if this is okay. Many hosts encourage you to go explore the area. The night actually turned out pretty great, we found a great walking path that ran along the Columbia River and enjoyed viewing wildlife. The traffic noise was constant but we managed to sleep just fine.
From there we traveled to a farm north of Portland where we enjoyed a quiet evening. We enjoyed watching the farm animals and hung our hammocks in a grove of trees for an enjoyable evening. We purchased some fermented goods and more eggs from the self-serve farm store. After that, we had a short drive to the coast where we had reservations to enjoy a few weeks camping in state parks along the Oregon Coast. We took a much faster route back home to Minnesota so only fit in a few stays on the way home. A fantastic Aerospace Museum south of Portland, Oregon, and a Winery in Idaho. Both were great experiences.
Getting the Most From Harvest Hosts
Harvest Hosts adds adventure to one-night stops on a long road trip. It can also be a fun way to just explore an area. We found that we had to try a few stays to find out what we liked most, what we could tolerate for an easy stay somewhere, and places we would want to avoid in the future. The places that were not our favorites were actually the favorites of others we met along the way. It is important that you are willing to try new things and see the experience as an adventure. When you chose a place to stay keep an open mind and explore what you can find to enjoy about it.
Harvest Hosts is not always the cheaper option. You can easily spend $100 or more on merchandise or admission at a host site so you should make sure you know what is available before selecting a host to stay at. It is important that you spend the minimum and make sure you follow the rules set by the host. I was blown away by the effort that many of the hosts put into hosting us, and the community that developed among other campers enjoying Harvest Host sites. Hosts do not get paid for hosting us, they only get your business, so also be sure to show your gratitude and let your host know how much you enjoyed your visit.
You can learn more about Harvest Hosts at https://harvesthosts.com/. If you have tried it, I would love to hear who your favorite host was.