Text and images by: Katharine Fletcher
There’s a little bit of heaven waiting for you on Florida’s Nature Coast… Mockingbirds will call melodious songs from palm trees. Natural springs pour turquoise waters through rivers bordered by emerald grasses and gnarled, bellbottomed cyprus.
And, as if such natural beauty is not enough to make you want to rush right down, Canadian dollars are accepted at par for stays of a week or more until May 21.
Where is this oasis of tranquil delights?
At Steinhatchee Landing Resort (pronounced STEEN-hat-chee). Located only 1-1/2 hours south of Tallahassee, the state capital, the rustic fishing village of Steinhatchee is on the Gulf of Mexico. Freshwater and saltwater anglers know it well and in season (late summer) the scalloping is renowned. It’s a region largely untouched by commercial development: there are no McDonald’s, malls, nor Mickey Mouse or Goofy.
What you will discover, instead, is Old Florida, the sort of place where time lingers. Where you can bike down into the village of 1,000 to explore the coast at leisure. Where you can catch your breath amid the live oaks dripping with Spanish moss and cook your own meals, just the way you like, on the barbecue or in the kitchen of your housekeeping cottage.
Your host is Dean Fowler, a southern Georgian gentleman who has cannily designed a 14-acre “off the beaten track” resort whose cottages are tastefully hidden among live oak, sweetgum and palm trees. Walkways lead from gazebos to riverfront, from the vegetable garden to the little creek that wends its way to the river. To affect the feel of a a little village. Dean – everyone calls him by his first name,
staff as well as guests – selected three architectural designs from which you can choose. Victorian, Georgian or the appealing Floridian style called “Cracker.”
We stayed in a Cracker “Spice Cabin,” which feature two-storey screened porches, queen-size bed, full bathroom with ensuite laundry facilities, and an upstairs kitchen, dining room/living room with sofa bed, and VCR/TV. We enjoyed the generous space, as would a family of four or two couples. It’s simply superb value at $120 a night for the cottage – not per person!
It was especially delightful to greet the sunrise and enjoy the ensuing birdsong from the upstairs porch. Acorns from the live oaks fell with a crack and a rattle on the tin roof. Far from disconcerting, the sound blended into nature’s awakening: besides, we could watch the squirrels chasing them as they tumbled to the ground.
The whirlpool spa, exercise room and swimming pool await, only a short walk from your cottage door. Says Dean: “Our free activities include archery, badminton, jogging trail, volleyball, fishing, spa, tennis, bicycles, shuffleboard, horseshoes, canoeing, walking paths and basketball.” Quite enough to keep most happy, even for a week-long stay. For an additional fee you can rent a horse and ride the Landing’s trails.
Although the well-stocked Mason’s Market grocery is nearby, Steinhatchee Landing’s restaurant offers delectable cuisine. Don’t consider leaving without trying crab cakes, pecan-coated grouper and other culinary sensations such as the fluffy coconut cake!
For those of you who want to explore, you’ll find that Dean and his staff are tremendously proud of their region. The
Landing’s office offers brochures describing attractions such as the 25 natural springs (where you can see mastodon bones or tube down a river of turquoise water). Want a bit of culture after all this natural splendour? Ask about the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings historic home (this feminist was author of The Yearling); the antique shops of High Springs; or the Tallahassee Museum of History and Natural Science.