Friends of Chinsegut Hill, received final approval last week from the state fire marshal to open seven newly remodeled cottages for rental.
Picture instead being one with nature, sitting in a wooden rocking chair overlooking towering trees and vistas so expansive it would make Ernest Hemingway feel at home.
Now travel about 2 miles north of Brooksville, along U.S. 41, veer to your left on Snow Memorial Highway and you will reach Chinsegut Hill.
Here, it's as if time stood still. And, for a price, you can spend a day or longer drinking it all in at one of the historic plantation's seven newly remodeled cottages.
The nonprofit Friends of Chinsegut Hill, which has been working on the restoration project using money from a $1.5 million state grant, received final approval last week from the state fire marshal to open the retreat cottages for rental.
Each cottage has 1,370 square feet of indoor space, with four bedrooms that can sleep eight and four bathrooms. Each has a full kitchen, living area and front and back porches.
Renting the entire cottage costs $300. For a couple who merely want an overnight retreat, the cost is $80 a night, which includes use of the other inside amenities. The other three bedrooms would be locked.
"Many of Chinsegut Hill's previous guests have been anxiously awaiting the re-opening of the cottages," said Christie Anderberg, executive director of Friends of Chinsegut Hill. "(We) are super excited to be able to say, 'Welcome back.'?"
The cottages were built in 1999-2000 but fell into disrepair and had to be upgraded and remodeled. But to keep the "Old Florida" and low-tech atmosphere of the surroundings, none of the cottages has a television or telephone.
Because of the quiet and intimate environment, it is ideal for business or religious retreats, family reunions, weddings, golf or nature tour groups, according to Virginia Singer, county public information manager. Separate facilities for meetings are available, and once the manor house renovation is complete, visitors also will have access to it.
Anderberg said the cottages are a great place for birdwatchers who want to spend a day or two looking for scrub jays, owls, warblers, bluebirds and other species.
"While so much focus has been on the restoration of the manor house, the long-range plans have always included overnight rentals in the cottages," she said. "We already have four weddings booked for this year and are looking forward to having many more visitors as our management of the Hill continues to evolve.
County Tourism Coordinator Tammy Heon said she is marketing the cottages and surrounding manor house on various travel websites and has received inquiries.
She called Chinsegut Hill a gem in the Hernando County tourism landscape.
"I think this is going to become a showcase for tourism," Heon said.
The intent is to keep the eco-friendly theme that appeals to people looking for an escape, she said.
The kitchens have wallpaper decorated with colorful parrots, macaws and parakeets. Each cottage is named, including peaceful monikers such as Nature's Path, Big Pine and Revelation Trail. They are spaced far enough apart on the 114-acre property to maintain privacy for guests.
Azalea bushes, palms and bamboo are prevalent on the site. And always looming in the distance is the plantation home.
There is also a dining hall with full kitchen on the property available for rent at $250.
For more information about cottage rentals, call (352) 799-5400 or visit http://friendsofchinseguthill.org.