Creek Ranch

Creek Ranch

  A Hidden Treasure

STORY AND PHOTOS BY MARIA IANNUCCI

If you find yourself driving a little too fast down a two-way back road near Lake Hatchineha in the Haines City area, you might miss a small weather-beaten wooden sign. Be it for a family vacation, couple’s getaway or corporate retreat, it proclaims gorgeous Florida living and relaxation summed up in two simple words that you’ve likely never heard: Creek Ranch.

Set on about 1,400 acres of generations-owned family property, Creek Ranch began as the vacation home of the Cocke/ Black family in the 1960s. In recent years, the family has opened the proverbial gates; updating the main “Bunk House,” and creating a memorable atmosphere and experience for its guests. The unique combination of the Ranch, the lake, green pastures and relaxed living, help to define Creek Ranch.

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“We’re happy to share our own home and Ranch that (our) family has enjoyed (for the last 50 years) with you,” said Jim Black, an owner and grandson of the Ranch’s founders. “Creek Ranch is an all-inclusive vacation. Everything at the Ranch is included: riding lessons, trail riding, air boating, all of your meals, beverages, even your own private chef.”

Indeed, once you drive up the sandy road through ancient oaks and past the lakefront dotted with colorful chairs, nature’s silence embraces guests when they roll down the windows. Arriving at the 9,000 square feet Bunk House, the openness of the building is clear from the expanse of windows and glass doors surrounding it. Stepping into your home-away-from-home, the Great Room is comfortable and inviting with rows of books for a rainy afternoon, oversized chairs for curling up in, and tables set up for wood-crafted board games to be played. A few steps out the back sliding-glass doors take you to the outdoor patio to enjoy a cool breeze.

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The Bunk House is home to seven bedrooms with adjoining living areas, meticulously furnished with items collected by the owners’ grandmother. Each room is themed and named, outfitted to the finest detail in unique pieces of art and décor. Jane’s room, just up the stairs, opens into a sprawling expanse of white tile and paneling, with accents of baby blue throughout the room. Step out into the sunshine and take in the lake views while catching some rays on your private sundeck. The private bathroom boasts two glass sinks, a large dressing table, and an oversized steam shower, perfect after a day outside.

While each bedroom is detailed to perfection, guests will find no televisions in their rooms to distract them. Rather, TVs, games and books are centered in one of a few living areas for when the desire to check on the outside world overcomes them. And when the desire for adventure and open air overcomes the senses, satisfaction is just outside the door.

Guests at Creek Ranch need only express what their idea of fun is; staff members are experts and are excellent at making it happen. The property is an authentic working ranch complete with a herd of over 400 Brangus cows, as well as purebred Brahmans and a few Charolais bulls. Guided nature trail rides are available through beautiful woods, punctuated by sunlight and spacious wide open pastures. Hikers regularly encounter and observe plants, trees and, when fortunate, rare wildlife. The 12,000 acre Nature Conservancy’s Disney Wilderness Preserve borders Creek Ranch across the lake. Isolated and uncrowded, it’s perfect for private, guided visits.

DSC_3989Other trails traverse extensive underbrush designed to recreate the original Cracker Cowboy’s job. Riding lessons are available for all skill levels by a resident cowboy/horse trainer who has numerous years of experience. Lassoing and roping instruction is offered using inanimate objects. The gentle quarter horses, known as America’s horses, are ideal for trail rides.

If walking or horseback riding isn’t your thing, check out the extensive property by a different means. Tour the Ranch from the Swamp Buggy for a view from 12 feet up. Or borrow an ATV and cruise around at your own pace, stopping to pick oranges from the grove. Bring the sweet fruit back to Chef at the Bunk House, and they can be fresh-squeezed for you to enjoy. There’s also the opportunity to ride an airboat or take a cruise on the pontoon boat.

Meals are included for guests of the Ranch, and Southern styled family dining features tasty menus filled with local ingredients. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served aplenty, with beverages and snacks available at your beckon. The chef can cater to your dining preferences while guests are seated at the large dining table in the kitchen, or have a fantastic meal served in the front dining room with a view of the water and the pool area.

DSC_3986For those who are a bit more sporting, the property is a fisherman’s dream. Deer Lake is exceptionally deep, attracting catfish, speckled perch and the elusive large-mouth bass. If shooting skeet is more your thing, Creek Ranch can accommodate for a fun afternoon. The possibilities are almost endless.

Creek Ranch is as much about conservation as it is about relaxation. With everything from sand hill cranes, deer and bald eagles to wild hogs and alligators, the Ranch is alive with activity for which the guests can be a part. It’s close enough to drive to while still feeling miles away. So when you feel the need to get away and rediscover relaxation, go ahead and turn down that little road by the wood sign. You’ll be glad you did.

To find out more about the possibilities, please visit www.creekranch.net.

 

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