Snowbird—Six Sights to See in Pinecraft, Florida
“So, little snowbird, take me with you when you go;
To that land of gentle breezes where the peaceful waters flow.” Snowbird, Anne Murray
We were blessed to be invited to a Sarasota, Florida wedding for our niece and her fiancé in December. The Monday ceremony was very special and reason enough to fly to Florida, but blessing piled on blessing when my husband readily agreed to a half-hour drive to Pinecraft the following Wednesday. In case you haven’t heard, Pinecraft is prime Florida Amish country!
Pinecraft is a small community of mostly rental bungalows. It has been called (by the Amish themselves) the Amish Las Vegas—what happens in Pinecraft, stays in Pinecraft. Fear not, though! What the Amish consider daring is far from the seamy doings in Vegas.
In Pinecraft, daring means riding your three-wheeled bike to the Wednesday afternoon shuffleboard match at Pinecraft Park on Gilbert Avenue. Not all is innocence, though. I took a restroom break at the park shelter and reeked of cigarette smoke afterwards. Somebody had hidden in the women’s restroom for a forbidden smoke break, and it wasn’t me. Just sayin’.
Pinecraft Park features live oaks festooned in Spanish moss, a picnic shelter, a playground, and a shuffleboard court. I was drawn to Phillippi Creek, a pretty stream that borders the park. Waterfowl aplenty fished there. We watched the shuffleboard match for a couple of minutes and I snapped the photo from the car, taking a page from Katie Troyer’s book and snapping away without asking first. Katie’s blog features her awesome photos of Pinecraft doings. That’s how I knew about Big Olaf’s Creamery!
Big Olaf’s (3350 Bahia Vista St.) is at the corner of Bahia Vista St. and Yoder Avenue. Cattycorner across Yoder is the Pinecraft Post Office (1240 Yoder Avenue), privately run and complete with a pay phone on the outside wall. Big Olaf served up some pretty good ice cream. My husband opted for Butter Pecan and I chose Kahlua Krunch. Then we sat on the plentiful wooden benches out front and people watched, and trust me—if you sit here for five minutes, you will see plenty of Amish. Bahia Vista is an extremely busy four-lane road with many Amish on foot or on bikes. Fortunately, we didn’t see any accidents. In between bites of ice cream, I snapped photos with snowbound readers in mind. Lest you envy us, the temperature was about 55 degrees, so we were grateful for the sunshine, a rarity that chilly week.
Pinecraft is known for the Amish snowbirds, of course, the Plain bus riders from Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania who escape the frozen North to soak up sunshine during their farming downtime. They disembark at the Mennonite Tourist Church (3340 Bahia Vista St.), right behind the Post Office. But Pinecraft is also known for Pie. In fact, they should spell it PIE-ncraft. Unfortunately, our schedule didn’t allow for dinner at Yoder’s Restaurant (3434 Bahia Vista St.), but a friend tells me they serve the best pie. We also walked through Der Dutchman (3713 Bahia Vista St.), sister restaurant to the one nearby in Plain City, and watched a lady chuckle over Sherry Gore’s cleverly titled and charming Me, Myself, and Pie cookbook. Sherry is another famous Pinecraft resident.
There are many Yoder’s shops on Bahia Vista near Big Olaf’s, including Yoder’s Fresh Market with the diorama of traditional Amish Country, Yoder’s Amish Gift Shop, and Yoder’s Amish Village. If you venture through the neighborhood behind Big Olaf’s, watch for pedestrians and bikers. What surprised us the most about Pinecraft is how small it is. Everything is small, from the bungalows that may measure 600 square feet, to the area itself. It’s only 3/4 mile west-to-east and about 1/2 mile north-to-south. In hindsight, we would have done better to park the car at the park and walk rather than drive through.
Though it was too cold for the beach the day we were there, Pinecraft visitors may take the Scat bus and make a day of it at Siesta Key Beach. Coincidentally, my husband and I stayed at Siesta Key in April 1985, so I can tell you it’s a gorgeous beach with sugar-white sand. I would have loved to see Amish kids enjoying a day at the beach, but we saw very few children, maybe three. Possibly more kids turned up closer to Christmas when they were visiting their grandparents for the holidays.
We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Pinecraft and highly recommend a visit. We weren’t the only ones people-watching that day, so if you go, be prepared to say cheese!
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