Adventures on the Nature Coast: A Day at the Chinsegut Hill Retreat

Chinsegut (noun): The Inuit word for “the spirit of things lost and regained.”

Adventures on the Nature Coast: A Day at the Chinsegut Hill Retreat

For all of my Orlando readers who want to make a quick road trip getaway, look no further than Brooksville, Florida. Located in Hernando County in the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater area, Brooksville is hardly more than a hop, skip, and a jump away — about two hours west. I was introduced to the area by the lovely Diane of NatureCoaster, a fellow blogger who had contributed to my Hidden Gems of Central Florida post back in January, and couldn’t wait to visit Florida’s Nature Coast.

Adventures on the Nature Coast: A Day at the Chinsegut Hill Retreat

Our first stop was the Chinsegut Hill Manor, a historic home last owned by social activists Raymond Robins and Margaret Dreier Robins until the mid-1900s. In fact, who better to lead our tour than Margaret herself? 🙂 Visitors can receive tours from costumed guides and reenactors, adding even more magic to the Chinsegut grounds. With two wraparound porches, beautiful original furnishings, and a gorgeous landscape, history enthusiasts will love touring the manor house. Tours are just $5 and are offered on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. or by appointment.

Adventures on the Nature Coast: A Day at the Chinsegut Hill Retreat

After our tour, our group congregated on the porch to sample some of the best wines the Nature Coast has to offer from the Sparacia Witherell Family Winery. Each bottle tells a different story about the family who owns this winery, and in addition to your traditional reds and whites, they also offer blueberry and currant wines. My favorites were the Honeymoon Wine, a muscadine honey wine (not to be confused with mead) infused with grapefruit and apricots, and the Sicilian Punch, a peach/orange sangria and overall crowd pleaser. Take a trip to their tasting room to try all of these delicious flavors! As an added bonus, the winery often houses food trucks and local bands for a fun day or night out.

Adventures on the Nature Coast: A Day at the Chinsegut Hill RetreatIn the evening, we trekked over to the Chinsegut Conservation Center just down the road for a guided night hike with Gina, the center’s director. During our tour, we learned about the various native wildlife, and had the opportunity to learn about the area’s bat population. Bat houses are located on site, and are home to roughly 250 bats per home. At dusk, we watched the bats fly out of their houses and into the night sky. I had never seen so many bats in my life! The conservation center hosts tour groups almost monthly, as well as various classes and events throughout the year.

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If you’re looking for somewhere to stay during your time in Brooksville, check out the charming cottages at Chinsegut Hill Retreat, on the same grounds as the historic manor house. Each cottage has four bedrooms with two twin beds each, along with their own private bathrooms, a kitchen, and communal living room area. Our group stayed in the cottages and enjoyed s’mores and popcorn by the campfire just outside on the grounds. Take time on the porch in the morning to enjoy the breeze, relax, and restore.Adventures on the Nature Coast: A Day at the Chinsegut Hill RetreatI truly can’t wait for my next trip to Chinsegut and to explore more of the Nature Coast!

What’s on your Florida travel bucket list? Share your adventures in the comments section below!

Guest Post: Island Grove Wine Company at Formosa Gardens

In last week’s Hidden Gems blog post, local fashionista Courtney of @_myownmelody_ shared a snippet of her experience with the Island Grove Wine Company at Formosa Gardens in Kissimmee. Read below for more from Courtney about the winery and why it should be on your bucket list for 2019.

Your Guide to Island Grove Wine Company at Formosa Gardens | WellnessAndWanderlust.net

By Courtney Dias, @_myownmelody_

You don’t need to travel around the world to be adventurous. Sometimes the best traveling you can do is right in your hometown. A short drive from home, I found a place I would love to share with you. Island Grove Wine Company has such a classic countryside feel with Parisian accent. Once inside, everything seemed so effortlessly placed to intrigue their guests, whether drinking around the bar located in the center or just wandering around finding the cutest trinkets, merchandise, and endless amounts of wine. You also could feel the warmth of the staff, which made them feel more like friends than strangers.

Your Guide to Island Grove Wine Company at Formosa Gardens | WellnessAndWanderlust.net

I was greeted by Chris, who served me a delicious sweet chilled white sangria. It was so smooth that to this day, I’m itching to have it once again for one of my day date adventures. I was taken around the venue by Haley, who is so charismatic I could definitely see why she is a wedding planner for the winery.

Your Guide to Island Grove Wine Company at Formosa Gardens | WellnessAndWanderlust.net

We started outside where you could watch the sun touch the earth during any special occasion. We made our way to the bright and spacious bridal suite accompanied with vintage pieces, followed by the rustic groom suite which Haley and I both agreed is a great space to work in as well. The reception hall can be fitted for any occasion of any size, which I love because the space is so versatile! What better way to end the tour, than by having a delicious pastry to complement my amazing French vanilla latte?

Your Guide to Island Grove Wine Company at Formosa Gardens | WellnessAndWanderlust.net

If you’re ever in Florida and want to explore something new or simply want to enjoy great hospitality, stop by Island Grove Winery Formosa Garden winery for a date night. You can do anything from dinner (side note: the food is so good), wine tasting with the girls, or a paint and sip event. Trust me when I say, this truly is a hidden gem that makes being away from home a bit more sweeter.


For more hidden gems in the Central Florida area, be sure to check out our recap!

Asheville Adventures: A Day at the Biltmore

During my North Carolina vacation last month, my friends and I decided to take a day trip to the beautiful city of Asheville. After a two-hour drive from our hotel, our first stop was the Lexington Avenue Brewery for lunch.

Things To Do in Asheville, NC

Brice’s brother had suggested the brewery prior to the trip as one of the best sandwiches he’d ever had, and the place did not disappoint. I ordered the chicken caesar salad — a safe though seemingly boring choice — and was surprised by how delicious it was! Never will you hear me rave about a caesar salad more than I did that afternoon (and for the rest of the trip). We were excited to learn that a percentage of the proceeds from our meals actually benefited the local humane society. It was nice to enjoy a delicious meal while giving back to a great cause!

After lunch, we meandered around downtown to check out a few of the shops. At one point, we spotted this gem, which I may forever regret not purchasing.

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Our afternoon continued at the Biltmore Estate, a highly anticipated point in the trip. This mansion was built by the Vanderbilt family and reawakened my dream to someday marry into old money. If the Moses Cone Manor was Charlotte Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, then the Biltmore Estate was definitely Thrushcross Grange.

Things to Do in Asheville, NC | Biltmore Estate

For a single admission price, we had the opportunity to tour the 33-bedroom/43-bathroom mansion. The Biltmore features a bachelors’ wing, an indoor pool, a gymnasium, countless kitchens, a breakfast room, and a Halloween room with bizarrely terrifying artwork. We also strolled through the gardens and the greenhouse. Most of the plant life in the gardens was still dead from the winter, but the greenhouse was in full bloom.

After touring the grounds, we drove over to the Antler Hill Village and stopped in the winery for a wine tasting (also included in our admission). While my palate isn’t exactly sophisticated enough for reds, I enjoyed the Century Sweet White wine that the winery had to offer. Harry, Brice, and I had a lot of fun rating the different wines and filling out our comment cards.

Things To Do in Asheville, NC | Antler Hill Winery

We ended our day with dinner at the Noodle Shop in downtown Asheville. I enjoyed a curry chicken while we listened to live music outdoors with a scenic view of the city. If you’re stopping in Asheville and have any Chinese food cravings, the Noodle Shop is a must-try!

Things To Do in Asheville, NC | Noodle Shop

The verdict: Asheville is a cool, artsy city with great food and beautiful architecture. It is the perfect place to stop during any North Carolina trip!