Kicking Back with a Touch of Elegance

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  • Kicking Back with a Touch of Elegance
  • Kicking Back with a Touch of Elegance
  • Kicking Back with a Touch of Elegance
  • Kicking Back with a Touch of Elegance
  • Kicking Back with a Touch of Elegance
  • Kicking Back with a Touch of Elegance
  • Kicking Back with a Touch of Elegance
  • Kicking Back with a Touch of Elegance
  • Kicking Back with a Touch of Elegance
  • Kicking Back with a Touch of Elegance
  • Kicking Back with a Touch of Elegance
  • Kicking Back with a Touch of Elegance
  • Kicking Back with a Touch of Elegance

Creek Ranch offers a rustic-chic retreat where Florida cowboys still rise early with the sun.

 

The simple red arrows along the soft-sand road point the way to Creek Ranch, an upscale resort where guests can kick back and relax after a full day of activities that range from fishing or canoeing to skeet shooting and trail riding.

Located near Haines City, Creek Ranch offers an awe-inspiring escape where experiences are tailored to guests’ tastes, moods and interests. Whether riding in a swamp buggy or canoeing on Lake Hatchineha, guests find that every activity has an authentic Florida flair — and with good reason. Creek Ranch is a 1,400-acre working cattle ranch where guests can also learn to lasso and rope if they so choose.

JimBlack

Jim Black runs the guest ranch lodging of his family’s property, which is part nature preserve and part ranch rental, and the scene of many childhood vacations. He uses the term “geo-tourism” to describe the business, which he feels integrates pampering with agritourism.

“Geo-tourism means eating the local food, experiencing what the locals experience, which in our case might be riding a horse or going on an airboat,” says Black. “This is experiencing the ranching life in Central Florida. It’s Old Florida the way it used to be.”

The land that is now Creek Ranch was at one time inhabited by Creek Indians, hence the name. Black’s grandparents bought it in 1960, using it has a home away from home located near a cattle feed manufacturing company they owned nearby. They furnished it with mementos from their travels and invited the extended family down several times a year.

A few years ago the family decided to open the home to paying guests willing to splurge on an immersive ranching experience. “The cows weren’t paying the bills,” explains Black with a smile. To develop the family ranch into an inn, Black visited geo-tourism facilities out of state. He was most inspired by Greyfield Inn on Cumberland Island, Georgia, and the Clayoquot Wilderness Resort near Vancouver, Canada. Following an extensive renovation, Creek Ranch opened its hospitality business in 2009 as an all-inclusive resort.

Like the getaways Creek Ranch emulates, this hideaway is not inexpensive. Prices begin at $650 for two people per night, with a three-night minimum. Up to 16 guests stay in the “Bunkhouse,” a spacious pool home set at the edge of the lake. Sunlight streams in through picture windows and skylights in oversized communal rooms that are filled from floor to ceiling with knick-knacks, family heirlooms, historical objects, acoustic guitars, and stacks of publications from Southern Accents magazine to Carlton Ward’s book Florida Cowboys: Keepers of the Last Frontier.

Local chefs whip up three Southern cuisine-inspired meals a day, much of it with produce from local farm stands. Want a glass of wine? A bottle of water? A snack? Just ask. The oversized residential-style kitchen is open to all. In fact, guests can watch the chef chop and whip, or even, in advance, request instruction. Again, the rules bend to visitors’ yens.

When it’s time to leave the comfy confines of the Bunkhouse, guests simply state what they want. They might choose a trail ride from beginner to expert, a dip in the pool, a large-mouth bass and speckled perch fishing expedition, a canoe trip on Lake Hatchineha or a bird-watching adventure. With a little advance notice, the staff can even arrange for a naturalist to be on hand for bird watching hikes or nature walks or a fishing guide for catch-and-release expeditions.

CreekRanch_Featured2

With so many choices, however, Black discourages guests from having a strict schedule. “There’s no list of activities in the guest rooms. We try to be as personal as possible. At the first meal, Concierge Aaron Butler or I will tell them what we offer. Then during each meal, we’ll ask them what they want to do next.” The most important thing, Black says, is to slow down and relax. Many guests often discover the best part of the day is sitting by an outdoor bonfire where Creek Ranch cowboys tell tales about Old Florida as the sun sets.
“You miss a critical part of the Creek Ranch experience if it’s all action and adventures,” he says. “In Southern parlance, we call it ‘kicking back’.”

 

For more information, visit www.creekranch.net. For reservations, call at 800-225-4255 or email creekranch@sanctuare.com.

 

PHOTO CREDIT

Michael Feldman and courtesy of Creek Ranch

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