Indiana’s Unique Accommodations

Story by ELIZABETH GRANGER 

Floating cabins, silo suites, tree tents, tipis and more. . . Ah, a Hoosier getaway to
a surprising spot. These places to lay your head offer more than a night’s sleep; they come with extraordinary experiences destined to make memories as well as repeat visits.

Patoka Lake was smooth and silent that spring evening with only an occasional plop breaking the surface of the water by a fish coming up for a look-see.

And then the yell. Very definitely from a youngster, and very definitely a sign he had a
fish on his line. With the distinct possibility of the child letting go of his fishing rod, Dad stepped in with experienced hands to help his little guy land his first trophy fish.

It may have been only five inches in length—and was returned to the waters—but the photo of that child’s grin as he held up his catch would forever have a place of honor in their home.

“Kids have the time of their life here,” says Patoka Lake Marina co-owner Harvey Edwards. “And they make memories.”

It plays out like this pretty often on the dock at Patoka Lake’s floating cabins. Officially these full-size tri-level cabins are houseboats, but they spend their time tightly tethered to
the dock. Rustic cabins they are not—with full kitchens, dining and sitting areas, baths, two
or three bedrooms. They’re snuggled up against a series of docks, which make for just- about-instant fishing. Guests can tie their boats up to the docks and go immediately from bed to breakfast to boat. Or there’s fishing from the docks.

What the floating cabins don’t have is the rocking motion that might be expected of them because they’re on the water. And why on water? Because Patoka Lake is a flood-control reservoir and must remain undeveloped, with no housing on its shore. Even the marina store floats.

But near Birdseye, a bit away from the lake, the floating cabin owners have other lodging sites, including upscale silo suites where the rooms are round, along with winery suites attached to the Patoka Lake Winery. In addition to fishing, there are wildlife and wine boat cruises May through October.

Less than 15 miles away is West Baden Springs Hotel with its domed atrium, and rooms with balconies overlooking the atrium. As part of the French Lick Resort, it offers a casino, spas, golf, historical tours, themed cooking classes, teas (including Mommy & Me Tea in March and April), art/wine classes, and more.

Orange County provides even more experiences that include skiing at Paoli Peaks, swimming in an indoor waterpark, grizzly bear and elephant encounters at Wilstem Ranch.

The county’s Sleeping Bear Retreat offers overnights in tipis March through November. 

Owners Marsha and Henry Watson say it’s a camping experience in a different type of setting— that’s not high budget. There are four tipis, each 18 feet in diameter, on platforms, with cots inside. In addition to expected outdoor activities like fishing and biking, there are also giant outdoor chess and checkers boards as well as paintball and disc golf. Or just relaxing around a fire, star-gazing. Marsha Watson calls it “a nice family place to stay.”

Not too far away, in Santa Claus, is Lake Rudolph Campground & RV Resort with not only cabins but also RVs to rent. A super-easy camping experience. The campground has its own perks that include a small waterpark—and there’s a shuttle to its neighbor, Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari. Five miles west of Santa Claus is Abraham Lincoln’s boyhood home.

Nearby in Monroe County, the Grant Street Inn— Bloomington’s signature boutique establishment—occupies an entire block of Grant Street, between 7th and 8th, showcasing its unmistakable, iconic yellow exterior. The original section of the Inn began with the “Ziegler house,” it was built in 1883by William Rogers, Dean of the Indiana University School of Law, and is entrenched in Bloomington’s history. Today the Inn offers 40 different rooms ranging in style from victorian- chic to a modern, old-world elegance—no two are alike.

Paul Wagoner, Grant Street Inn’s 14-year manager, says, “We are a true representation of Bloomington deeply rooted in the community. Many come for the nostalgic experience, while others claim it’s a ‘home away from home’ that triggers a childhood memory or two.”

Brown County’s Collection of Distinctive Vacation Homes

Located in the heart of Brown County, and within walking distance to local shops, restaurants, and attractions in Nashville, Brown County Vacation Homes is a collection of three unique lodging options for both individual and group travelers.

Perfect for families and girlfriend getaways, Barn Treasures is an 1800s Victorian Farmhouse with five bedrooms and three baths. The large wrap- around porch is a popular gathering spot for morning coffee or afternoon wine. Like all Brown County Vacation Homes properties, Barn Treasures is within walking or biking distance to over 200 shops, art galleries and art studios; wineries; music venues; and other attractions.

For a true Nashville “inn” experience, book a room at Allison House, built in 1876 by the Allison family, who were prominent figures in Brown County history. This delightful, bright yellow inn has been hosting travelers for more than 30 years, and features seven guest rooms, each with private bath; a gathering room with cozy woodburning fireplace; and a large side deck perfect for relaxing.

The newest addition to Brown County Vacation Homes is The Loft at Camelot, a unique venue located right above the Brown County Visitor Center. Once a salon and spa, this space has been cleverly converted into a gorgeous “modern rustic” 5,000-square-foot penthouse suite with six bedrooms, five baths, two balconies, and a large deck overlooking downtown. The open concept gathering room, with large center island and two separate seating areas, is the perfect spot for sharing stories and planning your day’s itinerary.

While each property has its own personality, they all offer unique opportunities for group gatherings including family reunions or corporate retreats. Additionally, the owners have put together several packages including wine or bourbon dinners, hands-on arts and crafts workshops, a visit to Donkeytown (just outside of town where you can get up close and personal with adorable miniature donkeys), and more!

FOR MORE INFORMATION AND TO MAKE A BOOKING, GO TO www.browncountyvacationhomes.com, or call 812-988-0814; email is innkeeper@browncountyvacationhomes.com.

History plays a part at Riley’s Railhouse, a 1914 New York Central freight station that’s now a B&B in Chesterton. Richard Riley and his wife, Annmarie, have a deep interest in all things railroad; it led to collecting related memorabilia, which led to the purchase of the rail station. “And then, in public, I made the mistake of saying that when we retire, we’re thinking we might open a bed-and-breakfast,” Riley says. That resulted in headlines announcing a new B&B was coming to town. 

They’re now in their eighth season. There are four rooms— two in the freight building and two in boxcars, with another room set to open in a caboose yet this winter. Riley says about 60 percent of guests are rail fans. “We allow children here, which is unusual for a bed-and-breakfast,” he says. “And we have the tremendous draw of the Indiana Dunes.”

Each week an average of 86 trains go by on tracks only 40 feet away. The train whistle is what puts people to sleep, or keeps them awake. Earplugs are provided.

The B&B is close to Dune Park Station where the South Shore Railroad stops on its way to downtown Chicago. “The South Shore is the oldest electric interurban train in America,” Riley says. “It attracts people on that basis alone. We have people who stay here and take the South Shore train to Chicago to avoid the congestion and the parking.” The railroad is front and center in Indianapolis, too. At Crowne Plaza at Union Station, the site of the world’s first ever Union Station. Guests can stay in original Pullman sleepers on their original tracks.

And then there’s a castle in Clay County. The Clayshire Castle in Bowling Green may be only five years old, but B&B owners Doug and Mary Jo Smock—aka Lord Douglas and Lady Josephine— invite guests to a long-ago time. He loves history, specifically medieval history. And she loves making costumes. Besides, she says, “Castles are fun!”

So there’s a wide assortment of medieval costumes available to guests if they choose to dress the part. And as with many castles, there is lawn chess, a hedge maze and a stone circle. Note, Clayshire Castle will be closed for renovations over winter months, re-opening in May.

Less than 10 miles away is the Exotic Feline Rescue Center in Center Point. Lions, tigers, leopards and more—in all, 160 big cats representing nine different species. Founded in 1991, the EFRC is one of the largest rescue centers in the country for abused, unwanted and neglected exotic felines.

The public tour allows visitors to see about 50 cats, but overnight guests—adults only—are welcome to see them all. Two all-day passes and joining the keepers in areas not open to the public are included. “From your overnight guest room you have a tiger right outside your window,” says director Joe Taft, “and a black leopard, a cougar, an ocelot and two bobcats.”

One guest wrote: “The one item on my bucket list was to do an African Safari—I don’t need to do it anymore. This is waaay better!”

Animals play a part at Heritage Farm in Flora, too, near Kokomo. Here it’s alpacas. Because the public was curious about the animals, owners Tim and Beth Sheets began hosting one-day seminars to introduce the alpacas to the public. That has led to overnights; lodging possibilities are an 1850s cabin, a three- bedroom guesthouse, and an elevated tree tent—think giant enclosed hammock. “People can have a different experience sleeping in the trees,” Tim Sheets says.

“We want to provide an experience, not just lodging,” he adds. With not only the alpacas but also other farm animals. Guests are invited to help with farm chores—feeding the animals, gathering eggs, …. The program began just three years ago and already there are returning families.

Wild Winds Buffalo Preserve in Steuben County is all about the bison. Tours take visitors out to the herd in an open-air vehicle or by horseback. About 250 bison roam the preserve, where guests may stay in the lodge or in a tipi. Lodge guests often enjoy their morning coffee on the back patio, literally just a few feet from the bison; it’s truly a memorable experience.

The Rawhide Ranch in Brown County offers an 11-room hotel above a former horse barn— zipline manager Paula Bell says “now it’s a people barn.” Guests often go horseback riding at the adjacent Brown County State Park, and then go hiking, fishing, and ziplining at the Ranch.

Cabins & Candlelight in Colfax, in Montgomery County, has two luxury getaway log cabins for couples. “It’s a place to unplug and unwind, to relax and rejuvenate and reconnect with your partner,” says owner Chuck Smith. The cabins have luxury furnishings, and breakfast items are ready in the refrigerator. The Smiths also provide food for the evening meal if requested. Couples say they appreciate “the much-needed time alone, away from the kids, jobs, responsibilities and everyday stresses of life.” 

Yurts are at Mary Rose Herb Farm & Retreat in Bristow and at the Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center in Bloomington.

In Lowell it’s a large monolithic dome with three guest rooms at the Thyme for Bed B&B. Owner Crystal Britzman says it’s quiet and has a calming effect. The B&B has attracted guests from all over the globe since it was built in 1999. Its concrete and steel shell is fireproof and can sustain winds of up to 300 mph. It’s nestled in the beautiful, rolling countryside of northern Indiana where guests can enjoy bird watching, fishing, and hiking trails.

Nature lovers can also find unique accommodations along the Tippecanoe River at the Tortuga Inn in Winimac. Considered “artsy” and “funky,” the inn offers two suites, main house rooms, and rustic cabins along the river. The inn is decorated with antiques and original artwork created by artist, Linda “Lee” Ligocki, the proprietor. 

And then there’s Rockville, where ne’er-do-wells (or perhaps ne’er-do-well wannabes) stay in jail because they want to, not because they have to. The Old Jail Inn—which was really the county jail for more than a century—has nine rooms. A cell block has five rooms with barred doors that share a bare-bones prison bathroom (think groups, perhaps a bachelorette party or family). Each room has been named: for Thelma and Louise, Al Capone, John Dillinger, Jesse James and—oh, sure—Elvis Presley. The other four rooms are suites; two have their own bathrooms while the other two share one. Jail clothing—aka prison stripes—is uber-popular for selfies.

With more than 100 lakes in Kosckiusko County, it’s not surprising to find an endless number of vacation rental options. But what is surprising—a rental cottage only accessible by boat…and with a tree growing right through the middle of it! Treehouse Island is a unique island home with three bedrooms and two full baths, and every room has incredible lake views. While you do need a boat to access the island, the owners have a pontoon boat available for rent. Guests can enjoy amenities like private beach with fire pit, use of a paddleboat and kayaks, and more. For more information call 317-752-7556.

Actually, all the lodgings here make for good selfies, so remember that phone charger.

Gaze at endless views of Lake Michigan, the pristine beaches of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, and the Chicago Skyline from a Greek inspired, nautically-themed villa perched high on a dune top. Villa Santorini is only 40 minutes from Chicago and one of seven year-round, beachfront properties offered by Miller Beach Vacation Rentals. This 7,500-square-foot, nine-bedroom, six-bath Smart Home accommodates up to 42 guests and features a massive kitchen, 4,000-square-foot terraces and decks, four fireplaces, four wet bars, a spa-quality “Water Room” sanctuary, whole-house audio, and 17 HD TVs. It has been recognized by Andrew Harper, LLC, premier luxury travel rating company, for being Indiana’s first and only Luxury Elite Vacation Rental. Visit www.MillerBeachVacationRentals.com or call 219-292-3990 for more details.