The waters of Lake Monroe, Indiana’s largest lake, span 10,750 acres surrounded by the rolling woodland hills of Southern Indiana. Adding to this charm is Fourwinds Resort and Marina, which offers boaters a myriad of options for recreation and relaxation. With 860 slips, accommodations for boats of almost any size, a 30,000-square-foot marine service facility, two ship stores, 60,000-pound TraveLift and on-site certified marine technicians, Fourwinds is America’s fifth largest inland marina.
“We offer boaters just about every option both on and off the water,” said Tobin Williams, general manager of Fourwinds. “We rent pontoons, speed boats and jet skis, as well as other beach toys. We have a sandy beach and an indoor/outdoor swimming pool. And we’ve just totally renovated the resort from the ground floor up.”
The resort features two restaurants: the waterside Windjammer Lounge for brews, pizza and casual dining and Tradewinds Dining Room with spectacular views of the lake and menu offerings including pizza but also steaks, pastas and seafood. Tradewinds has a breakfast bar with a pancake station daily, and an omelet station on weekends.
For kids, there’s a miniature golf course; for adults, Fourwinds is a short distance from Eagle Pointe, a PGA championship course, and Cascades Golf Course, named for the beautiful flows of water that are part of the landscape.
But the premiere attraction here is Lake Monroe.
“I grew up on Lake Monroe,” said Steve Chafin. “My father had the first boat rental on Lake Monroe back in 1968, and I helped him operate that as a kid. Living on Monroe, I have been over every square inch of the lake since it was constructed.”
Chafin’s love of Lake Monroe prompted him to earn a degree in environmental science from Indiana University and specialize in aquatic chemistry and biology. He described his day job as operating www.SoilandWater.com, which provides customers with technically and environmentally sound solutions to land and water stewardship challenges.
He also operates Most High Adventure Outfitters (MHAO), offering kayaking and powerboat eco-trips on Lake Monroe. The trips take visitors through the Deam Wilderness Area of Hoosier National Forest, along the east end of Monroe, and into the two backwaters and wildlife refuges on the lake. And for those who want to continue on land, Chafin offers mountain bike trails along the refuges as well. “For sportsmen,” said Chafin, “MHAO has fishing guide service and hunting guide service for wild turkey, deer and waterfowl.”
Nearby is Bloomington, a vibrant city with trendy restaurants, art galleries, boutiques and the beautiful campus of Indiana University. “There’s a cosmopolitan level here which allows for a lot of diversity,” said Ray McConn, owner of Mother Bear’s Pizza. “But Bloomington also has a small town atmosphere where you know people and can park in front of your favorite place and just walk in.”
The downtown is dominated by a historic square, with an old fashioned courthouse, an ornate 1902 Beaux Arts-style building. Surrounding the square is an eclectic mix of stores and restaurants including Farm, where James Beard-award-winning chef Daniel Orr creates his culinary masterpieces. Just half a block away is James Beard-nominee Daniel Tallent’s Restaurant Tallent.
Oliver Winery, the first winery in the state, opened in Bloomington back in 1959 and has tasting rooms in the city and surrounding areas.
Other things to do include a visit to the 90-acre Tibetan Cultural Center outside of Bloomington, started by I.U. professor Thubten J. Norbu, brother of the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet. The first and only Tibetan Cultural Center in the nation is home to the Chamtse Ling (Tibetan for Field of Love and Compassion), an interdenominational temple. Also on the grounds are two chortens — Tibetan Buddhist monuments or memorials — including the 35-foot-tall Janchub Chorten, the first ever in this country.
South of Lake Monroe, boaters can get a different water experience, this one underground. Bluespring Caverns outside of Bedford runs one-hour boat tours on the longest underground river in the country. Because this is limestone country, you’re never far from a cave. There are also boat tours of the cave at Spring Mill State Park, but the highlight here is Pioneer Village, a renovated 1800s-era town that once thrived as both a stage coach stop and milling center. The mill, restored about a half-century ago, now operates as it did. There’s also a hiking path that follows the old stage coach road.
For more rural charm, Nashville, Ind., is just about 30 minutes east of Bloomington. Known as the Arts Colony of the Midwest, it has galleries, shops and restaurants, many housed in 19th-century buildings. Nearby Brown County State Park and Rawhide Ranch feature guided trail rides, and Rawhide Ranch and Valley Branch Road feature zip lines as well.
Take a winding country road to Story, Ind., settled nine years before the Civil War. The town’s old general store, built at the beginning of the 1900s, has been transformed into the Story Inn, a delightful restaurant and bed and breakfast. The town’s other buildings, including an old grain mill, have been transformed into guest cottages.
For a fun and nostalgic boat-fueled excursion in Southern Indiana, it’s hard to beat Lake Monroe and its surrounding attractions, and Fourwinds Resort and Marina.
Fourwinds Resort and Marina
9301 Fairfax Road
Bloomington, IN 47401
(812) 824-BOAT (2628)
Online reservations are available 24/7, or call (800) 824-BOAT (2628)
Hours: Slips and service open year-round, with handicapped accessibility. Summer, April 1- Oct. 31, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 7 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday. Winter, Nov. 1-March 31, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday (closed weekends). Closed Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.
Fuel: 89-octane gasoline.
Slips: 860, accommodating boats of almost any size
Water Depth: 25’ to 40’ at marina
Amenities: 30,000 square-foot, full-service marine service facility; fresh water available on all docks; large fuel dock; pump-out service; convenient launching ramp; on-site certified marine technicians and service department; extensive parts inventory; full paint and repair services; a 60,000-pound TraveLift; two ship stores, including one boat-up location; bath facilities; washer and dryer; security gates and personnel; fine dining restaurant, lounge and live entertainment; dockside bar and casual food.
Getting there: From Indianapolis, take Interstate 65 South to Indiana 37 and then Exit 4 South to Bloomington. Take the Monroe Res/Harrodsburg ramp and turn right onto Strain Ridge Road, then left on Strain Ridge Road, which becomes E. Monroe Dam Road. Turn left onto South Strain Road and stay straight on E. Pointe Road. Turn right on S. Fairfax Road.