I wasn’t sure what I would find when I headed north from Tampa along the Gulf of Mexico coast to a resort with a reputation for being one of the most renowned Old Florida getaways in the state. I knew for sure it wasn’t going to be Disney World and this was entirely okay with me since I was ready for the relaxed, laid-back atmosphere the Steinhatchee Landing Resort promised to deliver.

The only concrete information I had about the place was that former U.S. President, Jimmy Carter, once took his children and grandchildren there for a restful, fun-filled few days away from public attention. Every year the Carter clan apparently seeks out a Southern retreat offering a degree of privacy and peaceful surroundings.

At Steinhatchee, they found exactly what they were looking for and so did I.

Situated on 35 scenic acres dotted with magnolia and massive live oak trees dripping Spanish moss, the resort property hugs the Steinhatchee River, a lovely, lazy waterway that converges with the Gulf of Mexico.

Accommodations consist of 39 Victorian-style, wood-frame houses that look like charming throw-backs from an earlier century when sitting on a front porch and watching the world go by was a deep and abiding pleasure. The various houses that each feature state-of-the-art conveniences and, yes – screened front porches, range in size from one to four-bedroom units, some with wood-burning fireplaces.

During a two-day stay, I found the resort that’s ideal for family vacations and romantic retreats to be an idyllic treasure trove for nature lovers, anglers, canoeing buffs, hikers and people just plain ready for a relaxing escape. Steinhatchee Landing Resort could not be further removed from the frenetic tempo of Florida’s large vacation cities than if it was on another planet.

Since all of the resort’s houses feature full kitchens, I arrived modestly stocked with supplies. I packed breakfast food but other than that, the plan was to dine out in Steinhatchee, a nearby fishing village known for some of the best bay scalloping in the country.

This understated, riverside hamlet has a small number of casual dining spots and, not surprisingly, they are known for great seafood although a person can just as easily order up a steak or a mess of ribs.

I often brag that I’m a pro at scoping out good places to eat and in Steinhatchee village, a community of 900 residents, the best chow down places include Fiddler’s Restaurant (purported to have the most popular bar within a 100 miles), plus Roy’s, a local favourite alongside the river. In both cases, the service is down-home friendly and the food is fresh and fish camp wonderful.

I’m settled into my one-bedroom house and where I will dine has been planned. Now what? Although I do love the absolute serenity of the resort, I possess an A-type personality and this means I MUST find something to do and as it turns out there was plenty to choose from.

First, the owner of the property, Dean Fowler, takes me on a pontoon ride up the tree-shaded river that is the colour of steeped tea. “This is a marvellous place for bird watching,” he says. I am obliged to agree since during our brief ride we spotted a wide variety of Florida’s birdlife including an American bald eagle soaring high overhead. After the river ride I was faced with a number of options: horseback riding, tennis, archery, biking, badminton or swimming in the resort’s 55-ft. pool.

On site, there is also a barnyard petting zoo for children, a fishing pier and horse-drawn carriage rides can be arranged.

I could have booked a deep sea fishing charter since Steinhatchee Landing is only three miles up river from the Gulf of Mexico and there are local charter companies that will pick you up at the resort. However, when faced with a decision of what to do, the screened porch won out and I got to spend a couple of delicious hours with a book I had wanted to get into for some time.

Overall, this unique resort not only provides a wonderful experience in an Old Florida environment, it is so entirely soul soothing it makes you want to throw away your watch and simply indulge yourself in a whole lot of “me time.” Anytime is a good time to visit this resort but late summer and into September is scallop season in the grassy shallows where the Steinhatchee River meets the Gulf of Mexico.

Fowler tells me that folks from far and wide descend on the village and the river where they can freely enter the water and harvest their personal catches. Guests at the Steinhatchee Landing Resort have the benefit of full kitchens where they can cook and consume the succulent mollusks they manage to gather. It’s hard to argue with fresh and free.


Information: For more details about the pet-friendly, Steinhatchee Landing Resort visit online at www.steinhatcheelanding.com or
call 1-800-584-1709 or 352-498-3513.
Rates: As low as $70 per night depending on season.

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