Honey Creek Resort
I can think of lots of reasons to spend time at Honey Creek Resort State Park in southern Iowa’s Appanoose County. For me, it’s a relaxing getaway with hiking, snowshoeing, and good food.
For others, it might be boating, swimming, and fishing in the 11,000-acre Rathbun Lake – the resort is located on the lake’s north shore. Or perhaps golfing at the 18-hole golf course.
For families with small kids, the draw might be the Buccaneer Bay indoor water park and ranger-led kids’ activities for every season – like scavenger hunts, crafts, and birdwatching.
Open in 2008, Honey Creek Resort really has something for just about everyone, at least for everyone who enjoys the outdoors. I spent the weekend there in frozen February, and I was amazed at how many other people were there. The resort’s website promotes “Family Winter Wonderland” and “Winter Romance” packages to bring people to the resort at reduced rates during the off-season.
(Which brings me to a bit of advice for anyone wishing to travel to Honey Creek Resort for a romantic getaway: Just be aware that there will be lots and lots of families with small kids running around. Don’t assume you’ll be able to have a romantic dinner in the restaurant, even though the restaurant is all dark wood with romantic lighting. There WILL be kids. The rooms and hallways in the main lodge are also noisy with running, happy children. My advice, if you want privacy, is to book one of the cottages. I’m assuming they’re quiet.)
Anyway, I went to Honey Creek last weekend hoping to snowshoe a bit, but unlike my backyard in Ames, the state park had very little snow aside from a few piles. It was still really beautiful; the lake was frozen and the landscape was stark and dramatic. In contrast, the resort was warm and inviting.
The main lodge – with 105 guest rooms and suites — is beautifully decorated in the arts and crafts style, with lots of wood and stone and mission-style furniture. The architects and decorators clearly took a lot of pride in the details of this place.
Central to the look and feel of the lodge is a vaulted ceiling and a massive, mosaic fireplace. The back of the lobby features floor-to-ceiling windows, with a wide view of the lake.
At one end of the lodge is the Rathbun Lakeshore Grille restaurant and lounge. At the other end is the water park. In between are three levels of guest rooms. Also on the property are 28 standalone cottages of varying sizes (like the one below) – all of which I assume would be quiet.
I arrived on Friday afternoon before the 4 o’clock check-in time, but my room was ready so I was allowed to check in early. I opted for the least expensive “resort view” king room ($107 plus tax), which is more accurately “parking lot view.” I think next time I’d spring for the extra 20 bucks and get a “lake view” room. The room itself (above) was very nice, with a big, soft bed and comfortable furnishings.
I spent the afternoon walking along the lakeshore and taking pictures. Before long I was hungry so I made my way to the Rathbun Lakeshore Grille. I ate in the bar at a high-top table by the window. (During the warmer months, a pleasant grouping of outdoor tables is available.) The fully stocked bar had a small but excellent selection of microbrews; I ordered a Millstream Schild Brau Amber (brewed in Amana) and settled in to look at the menu.
Here were a few of my dinner choices: Steak DeBergo, honey-fried walleye, smoked duck breast, cherry plank salmon, New York strip, pasta with fried green tomatoes and parmesan, and penne with graziano sausage and peppers. I opted for the brie pesto portabella – a marinated mushroom stuffed with basil pesto and topped with thick, melted slices of brie. It came with sides of rice and green beans with cranberries, plus rolls and a salad with house-made blue cheese dressing. It was a remarkable meal start to finish, with friendly, efficient service. The only downside of my dining experience was the family seated next to me with three noisy children and an overbearing grandma – but this, as I mentioned before, is just one of the realities of Honey Creek Resort. It’s a family place.
After dinner I wandered down to the indoor water park to see if I might want to sit in the hot tub, but I didn’t find it too appealing, especially since I was there by myself. I don’t know how to describe this water park because I don’t have a lot to compare it to. I visited the Wisconsin Dells once with my extended family, and the water park at our resort was about 10 times bigger than this one…but it was outdoors. I think if I had little kids who liked to swim, this would be a great winter retreat for them. The pirate-themed water playground has a water slide, lazy river, pool, and hot tub. All guests receive water park passes for each day of their stay.
Instead of the hot tub, I spent the remainder of the evening tucked into my room with a good book and a glass of Bailey’s Irish Cream.
After a good night’s sleep (despite the room noise, which was considerable) I found myself back at Rathbun Lakeshore Grille, this time in the main dining area. My server this morning was just as friendly as the one last night, and she kept my cup filled with hot coffee. A breakfast buffet was available, but I ordered off the menu. I was tempted by the pancakes, French toast, a Belgian waffle, and “bananas foster” French toast (rum and cinnamon infused French toast with caramelized bananas), but in the end I got the create-your-own omelet with mushrooms and Monterey jack cheese, with homestyle potatoes and wheat toast. It was delicious, and way more than I could eat.
It seemed a shame to leave the resort – it felt as though I’d just arrived – but check-out time is 11 a.m. If you go with family or friends, I’d recommend at least a two-night stay. There’s plenty to do right on the property, especially during warmer weather. Check out Honey Creek Resort’s website for specials and upcoming events.