This is the place to escape the modern world and explore the great outdoors — a 500-acre retreat with uniquely crafted lodging and fabulous gourmet meals.
Surrounded by the calm, crisp waters of Table Rock Lake and the lush Mark Twain Forest lies a resort that maintains its rustic appeal while being very luxurious. At Stonewater Cove Resort, guests can play in the 500-acre recreational zone then settle into one of 18 intricately hand-crafted rooms that have been carefully designed with their very own theme. Its relaxing and comfortable ambiance, as unique as the welcoming town of Shell Knob, Missouri, is ideal for a family vacation.
Rooms Have a Unique & Personal Feel
To achieve a rustic yet rich feel, a variety of dark carved wood and driftwood fixtures are used to enhance the natural elegance of each guestroom. Upon entering, it’s difficult not to marvel and slide your fingers along the unique wooden desk, table and chairs, as they are all carefully designed by a local artist who is renowned for his stunning pieces.
Stonewater Cove offers three types of guestrooms in two accommodation buildings. Each is equipped with all the convenient amenities of any other resort, but it’s the little extras the gracious staff provide that make it special. In addition to the custom-made furniture, each room has custom-made coffered ceilings, alternative down comforters, thick coverlets, luxury sheets, a setup for gourmet coffees and teas, and a large sitting area. Best yet is the master suite bathroom that includes your very own hot tub, as well as an extravagant rainfall shower room. Families will be delighted to find an array of savory cookies waiting for them, so good that they are difficult not to consume in one sitting. But these aren’t your usual holiday treats; these baked goods are homemade by the staff from an old family recipe.
Enjoying the Forests & Lakes of Shell Knob
The resort occupies only a small portion of the 500-acre land parcel and offers loads of outdoor adventures. Many are ideal for families craving quality time mixed with action-packed recreation. I found the ATV tours through winding trails and tough terrain a perfect way to observe the natural beauty of this unique piece of land. If you’re a first time ATV-er (as I was), the experienced instructors are very detailed about which safety precautions one needs to take to cruise along without fear.
If the thought of navigating an ATV through the rugged outdoors is overwhelming, or your kids are too young to have their own drivers’ licenses, guests can always hitch a ride with the resort’s guide. I found this almost more fun than driving myself, because the guides are experienced at driving through the winding hills and over large rocks at a fast speed. I was thrilled to feel like I was on a rollercoaster ride, but in a much more scenic setting.
Another activity that is simply addicting (if you can bring yourself to step off a wooden plank) is the exhilarating zip-line. Once you’ve climbed up to the platform and the experts have strapped you in securely (and you will probably ask more than once if this is really safe you can peer over the 70-foot drop to your destination. The zip-line crew will smile reassuringly and tell you you’re ready to go.
As many people say, the hardest part is simply letting go, and once you feel your body pulling towards the sky and your feet barely touching the wooden plank, the adrenaline begins and you’re on your way. You’re soaring through the tree tops and watchng the beautiful horizon of Shell Knob whizz by, while literally flying through the air. That sensational emotion that you embrace is addicting. Once I safely reached the other side of the zip-line course, panting and smiling simultaneously, I requested another ride. That’s the only warning that I can provide tor first time zip liners: it is severely addicting.
Once visitors have had their pseudo-flying fill, there’s plenty to do on land that’s just as exciting. When weather permits the resort offers a boat ride tour where vacationers can embrace the natural beauty of Table Rock Lake. If you prefer more exciting water sports, indulge in water skiing, wake boarding, tubing or basically any other another sport you can think of — the resort’s staff will make sure it happens.
Relaxing at Stonewater Cove with the Kids
After you tire from your homemade episode of “Extreme Sports” you can rest in the Stonewater lodge with a warm or cold beverage (depending on what time of year you visit) but more important the lodge, which is considered the resort hub, is a place for engaging conversations and quality family time. If you and your significant other are exhausted from the day’s activities, you both can sit back, relax on one of their oversized plush couches and watch your over-energized kids entertain themselves with board games. Or, if they’re of a different generation, they can head to the media room, which is a kid-friendly refuge filled with computers, TV’s and even a Wii entertainment system. (However, once your children discover this it may be difficult to entice them to join your next day’s outdoor activities.)
There are also many less extreme activities that families can do together. Non-guided activities and sports gear available free of charge include fishing, canoes and kayaks. Guided actitivies include fishing trips with a local guide, skeet shooting, guided kayak tours and helicopter tours. If you enjoy boating, Stone Cove has three different size boats available for an additional cost, with an experienced driver always navigating the way.
The dining at the lodge is as superb an experience as the resort itself, with hearty breakfasts such as eggs benedict and biscuits and gravy. The chef, whose dishes can be considered a work of art due to his fine presentation, creates intricate yet savory meals that will tantalize every taste bud. A sample entrÃ©e (my personal favorite) was the filet mignon and chicken roulade served on a portabello mushroom drizzled with espresso sauce, served with fresh seasonal vegetables. If your family cares for a more casual dining experience, or your kids are fearful of the word “roulade” on their menu, they also offer a casual dinner BBQ night, providing meals such as smoked snow crab clusters, scrumptious baby back ribs and good old-fashionrf baked beans, potato salad and French bread.
Desserts are a whole other story, ranging from a Brownie Pile Up, which is literally a “pile up” of moist chunks of brownie pieces with ice cream, to the chef’s decadent crÃ¨me brule dessert. (Not to boast, but I am a connoisseur of crÃ¨me brule, and this was the best I’ve ever had.) Before or after eating, indulge a little more and take advantage of the rejuvenating spa that offers 60-minute in-room massages using a variety of techniques to enhance the wellness of each guest.
End a perfect day with a warm, blazing bon fire from three of the onsite fire pits where you and your family can enjoy fire roasted s’mores, along with quality time for conversation.
Family Vacation Packages for 2010
During my grand opening press visit in December 2009, Stonewater Cove announced its 2010 packages. As this luxury resort is expensive, I recommend that families try to plan what they’re interested in doing, then book one of these more economical packages. In any season, children under 5 stay free and large double rooms with a king bed and queen sofabed can sleep four. If your family is in dire need of some quality R&R, the “Rest and Relaxation” package is perfect. The three-night stay includes 1 bottle of champagne, 1 in room massage per guest, at least two hours of leisure boat rides, 1 Stonewater BBQ meal, 1 four course dinner and daily breakfast or lunch. This offer starts at $1576 for three nights in a one-bedroom suite.
For an “Into the Wild” experience, the Forest Adventure package includes 3 exciting ATV tours, 1 archery and skeet shooting session, 2 zip line experiences, and 1 wilderness learning experience, just in case you’re ever lost in an unknown wooded area. During this educational lesson you’ll be provided a picnic lunch. This package also includes the Stonewater Cove BBQ, the four course formal dining experience and daily breakfast or lunch. The Forest Adventure Package is based on a five-night/six-day stay and starts at $3784.
For the ultimate aquatic adventurer, the “Water, Water, Water” package features 5 leisure boat rides, 5 water sport activities, 1 guided kayak tour, 1 professional guided fishing trip and the the Stonewater BBQ and four course dinner along with daily breakfast or lunch. This five-night/six-day package starts at $3980.
There will be other seasonal offers and specials, so plan ahead with your travel agent or the resort staff directly. The Stonewater Cove Resort (800/792-3956) is located at 1257 Sunset Timbers Trail, Shell Knob, MO 65747. The three nearest airports are in Branson or Springfield, Missouri, or the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport in Fayetteville.
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