Thursday, September 3, 2009

Steinhatchee Landing: A Great Florida Getaway

Attention travelers: Not all of Florida is theme parks and parking lots - yet. You can see more of the state as it used to be north of Orlando. A blissfully leisurely escape from pavement and cartoons can be found at Steinhatchee and Steinhatchee Landing. 
The name comes from esteenhatchee which means River of Men and it's one of those places that when you're there, you're there. Not a lot else is nearby and, like a lot of older Gulf communities it isn't connected by roads along the coast. You have to drive through miles of pine uplands to the main road to go from one community to another.

You probably won't want to go anywhere else with food, fishing, swimming and updated old-style charm all on the level.  It's the kind of place you can turn the dogs and the kids loose to explore, rock on the porch (or work out in the spiffy gym) then gather all for a cookout.

The Landing is on the Steinhatchee River, three miles upstream from the Gulf of Mexico. Owner Dean Fowler envisioned a place that reminded him of a 1920s Florida Cracker settlement with the amenities of the 21st century and has turned the dream into a reality.

And, he says, "I did everything I could to save every tree possible,"

Cottages range from one-bedroom honeymoon or just-us retreats to rambling houses that accommodate 10-12. In all, 51 of the 66 houses are in the rental pool and are equipped with TVs, kitchens, fireplaces, living and dining areas and porches.

Tip: Many of the two-story units have master suites on the first floor but you'll have to plan ahead because they are the most popular. No surprise to us Levelers, right?

There are boats for the fisherman who don't bring their own and a 16-passenger pontoon boat for groups who just want to putter around. Canoes and kayaks too, plus cleaning facilities for your catch.

The pool is junior Olympic-sized and the fitness center includes a three-person sauna with DVD player (!) and an eight-person swim spa. Kids have lots of play areas plus there's a petting zoo, shuffleboard, archery, ping pong, tennis and a croquet court.

If you travel in groups, there are meeting and banquet facilities. Brides love the Dancing Waters Chapel and their photographers love the many romantic               backgrounds.

Memories and traditions take root here. Many families vacation at Steinhatchee every year. First-timers are likely to make friends they'll want to gather with again next year.

A mile or so away in Steinhatchee itself are several restaurants that specialize in fresh local seafood.

The Landing's Welcome Center serves an expanded  continental breakfast in the morning and by the end of your stay, chances are you'll be wandering over in your bathrobe like many of your other neighbors.

It's that kind of place.

Tip: From Sept. 11 through Jan. 30, 2010 (including the Christmas holidays but not Thanksgiving), travelers who stay four or more nights in a one- to four-bedroom cottage save 50 percent. To book this special, call 800-584-1709 or visit Tell them you want the "Fall 50" when you book.


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