Nestled in dense woodlands along SR 44 seven miles east of Inverness, the Riverside Lodge Resort is a veritable oasis right at the heart of Citrus County in Florida. As you enter, an odd-looking life-size statue of a man fishing while sitting on a boat atop an RV, greets you. As you drive along, small cottages and log cabins reminiscent of ski chalets in the Alps are spread across the 10-acre campground. Lush, gnarled oak and cypress trees dot the landscape.
At the entrance of the resort is a small, low-roofed log house labeled ‘Office’. It may look small on the outside but once inside you’ll find it spacious. The Office is also part of the Clubhouse, an extended relaxation area with an old, relatively small electric piano, a pool table, table tennis, exercise equipment and a mini library.
The custom-built luxury cabins at Riverside are made entirely out of logs with metal roof shingles. Our rented 2-bedroom log cabin had a 12-foot wooden patio excellent for barbecuing or simply relaxing while watching turtles floating by at the nearby creek. The interior is even more inviting, made out of solid oak and cedar woods. Once you open the door, a very cozy living room with a sectional sleeper sofa beckons. On the wooden rack in the corner sits a small flat TV set with a DVD player and CD with stereo.
A wooden breakfast bar separates the living room from the fully equipped kitchen. The drawers are stocked with clean cutleries and crockeries. There is also a microwave oven, a kettle, a fridge as well as a convection oven. Opposite the kitchen is the small but roomy enough toilet and shower. There is no bathtub considering the limited space.
At the end of the kitchen is the main bedroom, spacious enough for a couple even with a baby. A king sized bed is at the center of the room. There is also a thin built-in vertical wall closet. Outside the main bedroom is a narrow, winding and carpeted wooden staircase, almost hidden like a secret hideaway – the attic. You would have never guessed there was one from the outside.
In the low-roofed attic is a beanbag and another small TV set. Two single sleeping bags lay on top of a thin double mattress. An excellent idea for one or two people ‘camping in’. Designed as a loft, the attic bedroom overlooks the living room. With air-conditioning, ceiling fan and free WiFi, our cabin really is a snug home away from home in Citrus County.
Although the place is along the highway you could hardly hear the cars passing by. You only wake up to the chirping of birds in the morning or sleep to the chirping of crickets and the croaking of frogs, sounds of nature that make your stay a perfect bliss. Kayaking, canoeing, fishing, bird and alligator watching are just some of the outdoor activities at Riverside.
The only downside is the pair of unwashed pillow cases I found on top of the sleeping bags in the attic. I suspect the housekeeper had to rush cleaning up as she saw us coming before she could clean our cabin. We arrived two hours earlier than expected just to look around and left again to explore the surrounding area. Apart from the pillow case snafu which can easily be overlooked, we found the lodge quite comfortable and had an enjoyable stay. The owners, Karen and Hardy van Niersen, originally from Germany, were also very friendly.
We paid $140 (cash, cheaper) for the 2-bedroom luxury log cabin with loft for a 2-night minimum stay but rates may vary. Please check with Riverside at (352) 726-2002 or toll free: 1-888-404-8332 or visit their website at www.riversidelodgeresort.com for more details.