I had the best intentions of taking a take a tour of Turtle Landing Retreat for months now, but it seems that snow, more snow and hectic schedules somehow thwarted every attempt. But even before I visited, I’d already decided that I just HAD to host an event there and had most of it mapped out in my head. I’d been dreaming up a Women’s Wellness Weekend – complete with morning yoga, massages, a healthy cooking demonstration and organic wine tasting – before I’d even laid eyes on the place, but it all came into clear focus as soon as I started my tour. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Turtle Landing Retreat is the inspiration and passionate creation of Jamie Virkler of Baldwinsville. It’s a contemporary refuge surrounded by nature on the banks of the Oswego River, just 25 minutes from Syracuse. Recognizing that she herself is a better wife and mother after taking brief retreats with her girlfriends, Jamie opened Turtle Landing in October of 2010 to rave reviews from first-time and repeat guests. I had the pleasure of joining an in-progress Creative Memories scrapbook retreat for a one-night stay to experience all that Turtle Landing has to offer, spend some time with friends, make some new ones and enjoy the fabulous meals that the retreat has become known for. I’m not a scrapbooker, but it doesn’t matter at Turtle Landing Retreat. If you’re a crafter of any sort, you’ll be in heaven here. And even if crafting pursuits aren’t your cup of tea, there are many other reasons to book a weekend, week or any length stay at Turtle Landing: Family reunions, girlfriend getaways, bachelorette party, birthday celebration, rehearsal dinner and holiday gatherings are all welcome here. If you can conjure it up, Jamie and her crew might just be able to accommodate it.
Turtle Landing is a cross between a bed-and-breakfast and a vacation home rental. Your hosts, Jamie and her father Larry Tuttle, offer attentive but unobtrusive service. Unlike a traditional bed-and-breakfast where the owners are onsite at all times, they’ll stop by during your stay to prepare and serve dinner (and take care of the cleanup too!), but they’ll leave you to enjoy the home for the rest of your stay. Breakfast and lunch will be left behind for you to enjoy at your leisure on your own timetable. You’ll be so comfortable; you’ll feel like you’re in your own home with a personal chef preparing meals for you.
During my stay, the other guests endlessly praised their surroundings and unanimously agreed that Turtle Landing is the only place to scrapbook. Creative Memories Consultant Anna Maria Lankes, who was one of the hosts of the weekend scrapbooking retreat, says: “It’s conveniently located in a relaxed, cozy atmosphere. It’s like you’re in your own house, but not. You don’t have the cooking, cleaning or laundry to do.” In fact, everything can be done for you. You simply have to show up. Your reservation can include exclusive use of the house plus meals, or you’re free to bring your own supplies and cook up a storm in the well-supplied gourmet kitchen.
There are five unique and creatively themed bedrooms at Turtle Landing. Thirteen twin beds are spread out among four bedrooms and one queen-sized bed is situated in a main floor bedroom with ensuite bath. I spent the night in the fun Wild, Wild West room that sleeps 5. It’s a huge room with a dormitory-style yet fun, festive and colorful feel to it. It’s right next to the Life’s a Beach room that sleeps two and just down the hall from the Groovy Girls room that also sleeps two. But the coolest bedroom in the whole house is the main floor Pussy Cat Doll’s room that sleeps four with a huge master bathroom, Jacuzzi tub and separate shower. In total, the house has 3 ½ baths – an essential that you’ll appreciate when the house is at capacity with fifteen guests.
What strikes me most about Turtle Landing is that Jamie has thought of virtually everything. There are baskets of rolled towels thoughtfully placed in each bedroom, throw blankets waiting fireside to cozy up on the leather sofa, and a well-stocked supply of snacks, drinks and basic food items in the kitchen and in the lower level multi-use room. Flashlights are strategically placed in the bedrooms drawers, nightlights cast a soft glow in the hallways, and an Internet equipped computer and office space– all the amenities of a high quality hotel but with all the comforts of a luxury home.
Turtle Landing Retreat is a dream come true for scrapbookers and crafters who’ve formerly retreated at institutional style hotels and conference centers that lack charm and ambience. Since the owner is a Creative Memories Consultant herself, the space was designed with scrapbooking in mind: Six-foot long tables, great lighting, comfortable ergonomic chairs and room for 20. The space is a well-outfitted venue for a productive executive retreat or business meeting too. A small refrigerator, microwave (popcorn too), Wi-Fi access and a separate entrance complete the space.
I’m sitting in the dining nook watching the Tuttle/Virkler clan working their magic together in the kitchen. The crew operates like a well-oiled machine to get dinner on the table for the guests each night of their stay, if that’s your chosen preference. It’s a family affair: Jamie’s in charge of the concept, the creativity, some of the baking and the bookings, just to name a few of her duties. Larry handles the bulk of the meal prep – he’s a barbecue champ! For nine-year old Megan Virkler, getting the chance to work closely with her mom and grandfather is the best part of serving guests at Turtle Landing. She takes drink orders, sets and clears the table and stocks the fridge with the professionalism of someone many years her senior. She happily dons an apron, nametag and logo shirt on weekends and pitches right in alongside her family. She loves her grandfathers cooking (and for the record, so did we!) and thinks his tri-tip beef is his best recipe. Her favorite bedroom is the beach-themed room because it reminds her of summer.
A typical Friday night dinner at Turtle Landing is homemade pizza and grilled wings. Saturday breakfast is fresh-baked muffins, quick breads and fruit salad. Lunch seems to miraculously appear and it might include a hearty soup from scratch, fresh bread and brownies or gourmet sandwiches and salads. Sunday brunch might include a variety of quiche and fruit salad, plus all the leftovers from the weekend. But the crowning gastronomic glory was dinner on Saturday night. We feasted on a smoky pork loin stuffed with apple and cranberry bread stuffing, rosemary smashed potatoes and a lemon and tarragon vegetable medley, all lovingly prepared for us by Larry. Not that we had room for dessert, but who can resist berry cheesecake to round out a meal? Guests are welcome to bring their own wine or other adult beverages to enjoy with dinner and during their stay. I coincidentally brought a bottle of Cranberry Frost from Cayuga Ridge Estate Winery that was a sensational match for Larry’s pork loin.
But back to my Women’s Wellness Weekend concept. The riverside outdoor gazebo just begs to host a massage therapist and a very content client. If nature doesn’t provide a cooling breeze, the gazebo’s ceiling fan will. If an outdoor massage doesn’t appeal to you, Turtle Landing has an answer to that too. The enormous first-floor master bathroom is large enough to accommodate a massage table and it’s so convenient to hop off the table and step right into the shower, if that’s your desire.
I had to promise Jamie that I’d come back once the snow melts to enjoy the four outside spaces to relax. There is a screened in gazebo on the river with cozy chairs and couches (the same gazebo that is just begging for a massage therapist to occupy the space). The wrap-around front porch has rocking chairs and a view of the river and boats passing by. The back deck and patio are is ideal for lounging, meetings or meals.
As you can see, I’ve already got my own event at Turtle Landing in the works. What are you going to plan at Turtle Landing? It was definitely worth the wait!
If you go:
Turtle Landing Retreat
130 Millard Bassett Road
Fulton, NY 13069