If you can't decide if your next vacation should be planned around nature, adventure or pampering, consider Stonewater Cove on Table Rock Lake in southwest Missouri.
Nestled in the Mark Twain National Forest on the lake's quiet, largely unspoiled James River Arm, the 25-room, 473-acre luxury resort — with fine dining, a spa and optional excursions — offers all of the above.
Said chief developer Jim Bond, “Some people just come to eat and hang out by the pool,” which features waterfalls, a grotto, hot tub and fluffy towels on circled lounge chairs much like an upscale beach hotel.
“Others are out here all day,” said Bond, while leading an ATV excursion.
Optional guided activities include a popular zip line experience, ATV rides or tours through the forest, and boat outings to water ski, wakeboard — or merely breathe in the picturesque shoreline for which this writer happily opted.
Guests also are encouraged to strike out on their own on foot or in canoes or kayaks, which I also relished. The water is largely smooth and calm, and you don't have to paddle far to reach shoreline cliffs from which you can jump or dive. I was more than content to take in the overhead view of Stonewater's majestic wavy red cedar and stone lodge and spy the occasional heron or bald eagle fishing for lunch.
Stonewater also offers dock fishing; Table Rock is world-renowned for bass fishing. Some fisherman hook catfish.
All of Stonewater's unguided activities, along with breakfast, lunch, dinner and nonalcoholic beverages, are included in the rates — which start at $535 a night for two people. Optional activities range from $115 for the zip line experience and $125 for an ATV drive to $145 per person for the first two guests for a water sports excursion and $165 for a one-hour massage. Taxes and a 15 percent service charge are added on, because the resort is a no-tipping environment.
James Bond, general manager, owner and Jim Bond's son, said his family based the all-inclusive model, and the resort's many amenities, on the best of their family vacations — from cruises to dude ranches.
His mother, Ruth Bond, painstakingly designed the generous rooms and one-, two- and three-bedroom suites with hardwood floors, polished driftwood furniture, cedar trimmed coffered ceilings and art, light fixtures and accessories that reflect the natural beauty and lusciously landscaped grounds outside their heavy oak doors.
The rooms feature master baths complete with rainfall showers, Jacuzzi tubs, refrigerators, safes and free Wi-Fi for laptops.
Don't expect to receive or place many cell calls though. This is a true getaway. My friend who went with me only received wireless reception at the far edge of the pool patio.
That suited four families, 13 people in total, who gathered there for a family reunion over that same weekend just fine. They were happy to just enjoy each other — whether it was taking breakfast together on the outside upstairs patio or playing checkers and strumming guitars in the fireplaced, leather-couched bar downstairs.
Four other guests brought their own boat and, for a fee, parked it in the resort's private boat dock.
For me, the best, though simple, pleasures of the weekend undoubtedly were the marvelous views from the lodge, which faces directly west — whether it was while sipping wine while rocking in a handmade swing and listening to the passing rain shower or lunching and dining (try the fish tacos, and salmon and risotto made with morel mushrooms picked on the property) while watching the fog lift off the lake or the orangy, pinkish-purple sunset.
Aside from no bathing suits, the dining room dress code is casual.
“Our intent,” Jim Bond told me, “is to feel like you're staying at your own home, only people are taking care of you.”
Located in Shell Knob, Mo., Stonewater Cove (stonewatercove.com) is about a five-hour drive from Oklahoma City. Take the Tulsa Turnpike and Will Rogers Turnpike, which becomes Interstate-44 East crossing into Missouri. From Exit 46, it's roughly 50 miles to the resort. You'll head southeast on two-lane, rolling MO Highway 39 through the towns of Aurora and Shell Knob, and travel the last 12 miles on the rural, winding Stallion Bluff Road. Plan to arrive before nightfall, so you can see where you're going.