Destination Defender Is the Poshest Place to Get Dirty

Destination Defender is an immersive experience in to Land Rover culture, and we promise you it is something worth seeking: it's food, adventure and connection.

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This particular Range Rover Defender spoke to me. Photo: Teia Collier

Hungry to escape the ordinary? Let me introduce you to Destination Defender.

Destination Defender is a decadent weekend festival done Land Rover-style. Where else on the planet can you join like-minded Defender owners and enthusiasts for a weekend of off-road exploring, decadent chef-made meals, stellar musical performances and curated adventures designed to make the most of the vehicle while you cheer on several organizations that will renew your hope in the state of humanity? :


Hence, the iconic adventure hosted by Land Rover in honor of the Defender Service Awards and the robust community that Defender serves. Come with me to Destination Defender in Somerville, Texas.

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This is what happens at Destination Defender. Photo: Teia Collier Credit: Teia Collier

Coachella meets English Country Weekend

Held at Iron Horse Ranch in Somerville, Texas, the remote and picturesque location provided the perfect backdrop for immersing in the rugged luxury of Defender lifestyle. Just under two hours from Austin, nestled in the heart of Texas Hill Country, I knew it would be beautiful and the schedule had shown nearly endless options for adventuring. Of course, I had cyber-peeped the destination and couldn’t wait to arrive.

After snagging the keys to my weekend ride, the Defender 130 with the County package, I loaded up my snacks and prepared to go. It had been a long week. The endless to-do list was still running laps in my brain, and I was ready to settle in. I turned on my drive playlist, full of easy tunes that played against the melody of the rain that had started to fall.

The further outside of Austin I drove, the more calm and ease, I started to feel. I took in the gently rolling hills dotted with grazing livestock and quiet roads that led to discreetly marked roads. Then soon, before I could finish my water bottle, I saw signs that were distinctively Defender telling me that I had almost arrived and was on the right track.

After being greeted and checked in by the black-clad Land Rover staff, I headed up the hill to the “parking lot” packed with Defenders of every known make and model from a few classic models to the stealth modified trims that even in the muddy terrain gleamed like bits of onyx rinsed clean with creek water. I headed up to the cleared space that amounted to a “parking lot” and took in my surroundings.

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I saw lots of great vehicles at the Destination Defender event. Photo: Teia Collier

Welcome to the World of Land Rover

It was literally a Defender lifestyle wonderland. Wander the path to the right, you see a path that leads to the Off-Road Course. Look to the center, nestled under a grove of fragrant trees near a bubbling creek and a camp kitchen, where neat rows of chocolate-colored glamping tents lined up like toy soldiers that would serve as our accommodations for the weekend. Up the hill rose a gorgeous bricked meeting space, a stage where live music was already playing, food trucks were staged, and activities like zip lining, archery, and mini golf ringed the perimeter.

Glancing around, I could barely contain my grin as a sweet assistant helped me lug my overpacked bag into my tent. Pleasantly surprised, it was outfitted with a plush bed, black rug, battery-powered lighting, a coat rack, a snack basket, two chairs, fluffy towels, and a plush blanket. Raindrops danced off the roof of the tent as I dropped the rest of my gear, grabbed my raincoat, and then darted off to see what other adventures awaited me.

Up the hill, the sound of laughter and quiet conversation mingled with a guitar checking for tune. A gift and gear shop stood proud and a flaming defender logo rose out of the water. One of the contenders for Top Chef was giving paella-making lessons to early arrivals, and the latest models of the Defender were strategically parked for your viewing pleasure. Seduced by the scent of sizzling wonderful, I wandered to the food trucks, grabbed a lobster roll, crisp chips and made a mental note to stop by every single one before I left Somerville.

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We made our own adventures at Destination Defender. Photo: Teia Collier

What Should I Expect at Destination Defender?

Adventure at your own pace

Sated and happy, I got a lay of the land and learned that Destination Defender is an adventure at your-own-pace experience, done in luxe style. Think chef made meals to the soundtrack of award winning artists. Expect the comforts of home in a rugged environment that creates opportunities to explore, engage and make memories.

Want something more active and engaged, pick the path that includes cycling, shooting, paddling or running. Want something more relaxed, choose fishing, mini-golf, cooking lessons or choose a visit to the spa or get a massage. Personally, I chose a blend of the two, indulging in a massage after hiking and off-roading.

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It was great to have off-road education from an expert at Destination Defender. Photo: Teia Collier

Driving Experiences

There is nothing like hands-on, seat time with a skilled instructor to learn the capabilities of the vehicle. It was a pleasure to get to try a variety of vehicles on the same course and get a feel for how it handles on different terrains and in different modes. It is also comforting to have a real life coach in the seat next to you to talk you through the best practices.

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There were intimate workshops at Destination Defender. Photo: Teia Collier

Workshops to Share Knowledge

I loved that there were workshops that gave enthusiasts opportunities to see, learn and hear engage with people that are doing cool things with the Defender. Drivers from the Rebelle Rally shared their experience on the unforgiving course. Designers and engineers came to share the history, the legacy, the thought process and heritage of the Defender brand through years past.

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We were treated to intimate concerts at Destination Defender. Photo: Teia Collier

Fantastic Music

Nothing enhances a festive atmosphere like live music. Guests were treated to private performances by Aloe Blacc and Fitz and the Tantrums. The event wrapped with a spark of surprise in the form of a fireworks show.

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The winners of the Defender Service awards were celebrated at dinner. Photo: Teia Collier

Renewing Hope With the Defender Service Awards

In a perfect symmetry with the Defender Lifestyle, Land Rover used this celebratory weekend as a tool and gift to honor the heroes doing good work and making a difference in their communities. Presented by Chase and Warner Bros. Discovery, the 2023 Defender Service Awards gifted the winning organization a customized Defender 130 and $25,000 to extend their group’s efforts in six categories.

This year’s winners included Manitoba Underdogs Rescue Inc., Honour House Society, Kairos Adventures Inc., Squamish Search and Rescue Society, Youth Sports Alliance, and the Charleston Animal Society. The award winners combined received $395,000 in prize money, which will help them reach unmet goals.

Charlotte Blank, US Chief Marketing Officer at JLR North America, noted that “they truly embody the spirit of heroism and giving back, which is a legacy of the Defender brand. All of the organizations who participated in the Defender Service Awards were true inspirations and we thank them for their selfless acts of improving their communities.” It was a heady experience to witness the passion and energy that the groups put to use every day right in their home communities.

So, What Do We Think About Destination Defender?

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Rear view of the Land Rover Defender. Photo: Teia Collier

All in all, Destination Defender is a celebration of life and the Defender brand in action. I loved it. Friends were made, skills were gained, and when the time to go home arrived, I heard more people say, “See you next year.” I sure hope so.

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Teia Collier is a mother of three, educator, social journalist, advocate for women’s and children’s issues and lover of... More about Teia Collier