Author’s Note: My next installment related to a previous post called “How Do I Get Naked in America?” Long-time readers know that my wife and I have developed quite an affinity for naturist travel to international destinations, with a particular fondness for those in France and Croatia. But in this most unusual summer of 2020, the immediate prospects for getting on an airplane to go anyplace are somewhere between dicey and impossible. And thus, the Meandering Naturist has adopted a new mission of becoming more familiar with naturist places within driving distance of the greater New York Metropolitan area. This post is another chapter in a quest that seeks to encourage family naturism here and abroad, based on the presumption that knowledge is power – and the more you know about where you’re going, the more likely you are to have an enjoyable experience once you get there.
Ostensibly… “The Best Nudist Resort in the United States!”
In fact, I could have sworn I had seen language on their webpage, or in an advert someplace, where Cypress Cove self-identified as America’s (Read: USA) best naturist destination. To be honest, if that’s really a thing, I don’t think I’d disagree. It’s a nice place.
As best I can remember, our first visit to Cypress Cove would have been in the late 90s, then again around 2001, shortly after the new pool complex opened. (You can read about the history of Cypress Cove here.) Despite my inability to remember exact dates, we made our first naturist trip to France with children in 1999, and I specifically recall taking our kids to Cypress Cove after that trip, hoping to recreate the European family naturist experience State-side; that experiment rendered mixed results. While we appreciated the spacious villa apartments, beautiful lake, and expansive grounds, I have a rather vivid memory of one of our pre-teen children inadvertently bouncing a ball out of the pool and disturbing a “seasoned” resident of the resort. That dude was not pleased.
This past week, I was at the resort solo. I had a huge work project to finish up, and a serious case of cabin fever, so I took to the road with a beach towel, swim goggles, and my MacBook for the fourteen-hour trek to – arguably – Florida’s Naked Nirvana. Since the Meandering Naturist has evolved into something of a “food critic for nudist venues” as of late, maybe I should get some of the awkward stuff out there first, with the intention of wrapping back around to why this quite likely is the premier naturist destination in America.
To lead out, my wife has always been reticent to even consider moving to Florida, as it has always seemed like one ginormous retirement community to her. (Despite the fact that we, ourselves, are hurdling mercilessly toward retirement age.) A mid-week visit to Cypress Cove will not be helpful to one seeking to assuage such paranoia, as it so happens, one of the most notable qualities of Cypress Cove is the expansive neighborhood of mobile homes (the term they use on their own website) which are seemingly owned by those long ago eligible for AARP. That said, it’s amazing what you can do to a mobile home to make it not look like a mobile home, and this place most definitely is a cut above some other places we’ve visited where the landscaping adornments could easily be categorized someplace between weird and disquieting. (If you’ve ever read the David Sedaris essay about visiting a nudist resort where one of the residents had a toilet bowl as a decorative fixture in his front yard, rest assured – you won’t find that kind of kitsch here.) I still don’t think I’ll talk my wife into moving to Florida, but if we were going to set up a permanent camp as a nudist homestead in the US, this would probably be the place.
On that topic, I ended up chatting with a regular on my day of departure – appropriately socially distanced, of course – about Florida property values and what it costs to buy a place at Cypress Cove. Suffice it to say, that leads to another post I’m working on called, “Paying the Naked Tax.” (Why does it cost so dang much to get naked in America?) When a mobile home in Florida lists for around $250k, (not including membership and grounds fees!) you need to give serious scrutiny to your proclivity for living naked. But maybe I jumped the gun on that one, maybe you just want to know, “Can my partner and I have a nice weekend at this place and feel comfortable in our own skin?” Absolutely!
So, here’s the good stuff…
In terms of amenities for naturist places in the United States, I think Cypress Cove is really hard to beat. The pool complex… REALLY NICE! The pool bar and restaurant: well stocked and spacious. The lake is beautiful. (Is your boat gator proof? I did see a gator, though the locals say they’re friendly, and once they get too big, they get evicted.) And the ability to get out and walk or run before the heat of the day is a super important perk on our list. It’s just over two miles to walk the perimeter of the place, and you can add another mile or so by doubling back and forth on the side streets “in the neighborhood” and in the RV park.
On my way home, I stayed in a Marriott Courtyard Inn that was probably about 25 years old, with several touch-up renovations over the years. That would be a good comparator for the villa units available to short term resort guests. In fact, I stayed in a unit identical to the one we rented as a family about 20 years ago. Gone is the shag carpet and floral print furniture, but still, the place is showing its age here and there – like any hotel property from that era. But compared to rental options at other American nudist places, this is about as good as it gets outside of some of the luxury condo options in places out west like Palm Springs and Arizona.
Keeping in mind that I was a guest at Cypress Cove shortly after they opened the gates to non-members as COVID-19 lockdown restrictions were just starting to lift, it was a bit tricky to get a clear vibe on the energy of the place with social distancing measures in effect. In fact, in the last twenty-four hours before my departure, the governor of Florida started walking back opening procedures as the state of Florida was turning bright red. The poolside bar/café remained open as long you took your food and drink outside, but the fancy lakeside restaurant remained closed for the duration of my stay. All that considered, Saturday morning – my departure day – saw an influx of what appeared to be a brigade of Cypress Cove regulars, bringing the median age down by at least twenty years to a vibrant 50-something crowd. A couple young families, and even a few 20/30-somethings showed up by early afternoon, but lacking organized events like their annual 5K run or volleyball tournament, the demographic was still tilted toward… well… people my age.
It seems to me this remains the biggest challenge for naturist destinations in America; naturist campgrounds that are so appealing to young tent campers in Europe are replaced with expansive “camping areas full of expensive RVs” in the US. Refreshingly, to abate that, the day use fees for people 35 and under are reasonably (if not peculiarly) priced at $5.38 per person per day, which is much more in line with what a young adult might expect to pay to go to a naked place in Europe.
And extra kudos to Cypress Cove for hiring a web designer and capturing images for their website that conveys an image that doesn’t feel like the “journey’s end nudist park,” despite the fact that it’s likely the fees from the retirement community that keeps the place financially afloat. A complicated balance for the most skilled of marketing teams when trying to build a very specific clientele in a country where nobody is even quite sure just what naturism is.
When all the cards are down, if I was looking for a family naturist destination this side of the Atlantic, with the desire to house my family in a reasonably nice apartment where we could even eat in most of the week, I simply can’t think of a better place to do that than Cypress Cove Nudist Resort. I guess it really is the premiere destination in the country. It’s cool when things live up to their hype.