Granville: The Cure for Cabin Fever
What keeps the owner of a boutique tourist destination awake at night these days? Not what you might think for UCEMC member John Deane, the owner of Granville’s new Wildwood Resort and Marina with his wife, Natasha. John no longer worries about the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on tourism to the Cumberland River’s hidden jewel. Attention to the staff’s strict safety guidelines, recent rave reviews, and repeat business from boaters across the country have eased that fear. The word that Wildwood holds the cure for cabin fever has gone, well, viral, and that’s why counting parking spaces instead of sheep is keeping John awake. Wildwood is gaining momentum in the travel world for its welcoming up-scale but friendly atmosphere. It’s a creative marriage of sophistication and beachy, wear-your-flip-flops charm about fifteen miles off 1-40 in Jackson County.
“COVID causes cabin fever; cabin fever drives our business,” John explains. “Here, you’re either safely in your four-star accommodations – luxuriating in 400-thread-count linens – or you’re on the lake kayaking, paddle-boarding, or strolling the boardwalk, and outside is where everybody wants to be. We’ve been a great answer to the cabin fever caused by stay-at-home orders and travel bans, but when this pandemic lifts, I think we’ll be faced with a parking problem. That’s my up-at-night issue, honestly!” Luckily, many tourists from Knoxville, Atlanta, Nashville, and beyond have discovered Wildwood the same way John and Natasha did – not by car – but by boat. “We have 132 Brazilian hardwood boat slips, and we’re 90 percent occupied now. Our houseboat slips provide 30/50 amp service as well as internet and cable TV access. We expect boat traffic to grow even more now that Chef is here. He’s a game-changer for us, and it’s made the dining experience alone worth the trip.”
, who came to Wildwood from Georgia in June. Guests are already addicted to Chef’s sophisticated, southern spin on French and Mexican food, vegan dishes, and anything a hungry guest can think of in-between. If farm-to-table is your thing, Evan comes by that naturally. He’s even planning a garden on the Wildwood property. “I grew up with great cooks around me, and every year we had a garden,” Evan says. “We canned for the winter, and we loaded our plates with veggies, eggs, and meats. Fresh-from-the-garden food is essential to me, and I plan on incorporating the garden fare into each dish.” “Chef” is Evan Babb
Evan’s hunter-gatherer instincts will be well-honed by the time Wildwood opens March 5 – the prime season for hunting his favorite game – mushrooms. Certified to forage and sell 32 different wild mushrooms, he’s already searching the woods around the resort for edible specimens. “I’ve been eager for March when we open – that’s Morrell season,” Evan says. “I’d like to organize a little educational tour package and take people out to do some mushroom foraging in the area.”
The romance of food is why Evan is in love with his career. “I think each culture has its own type of comfort food and being able to express love to someone through food, whether it’s Southern, Italian, Mexican, or French, that’s pure joy for me.” A beautiful morning at Wildwood can begin with a brunch of Stuffed French Toast, Chicken and Waffles, Warm Cinnamon Rolls, or a Bacon and Egg Cheeseburger. Evan dishes up his famous Fried Deviled Eggs or Creole peel-and-eat shrimp to those docking their boats out front, and the courtship begins. It doesn’t end until everyone at the table has enjoyed precisely the tasty morsels they crave. Evan provides vegan options. With his fresh garden harvests, “Chef” can prepare anything you like for your particular diet, even if it isn’t on the menu. That’s love. You had me at cinnamon rolls.
Unique cocktails complement Evan’s fare on the menu at the Lakeside Libations bar. Sounds ironic, but relax with an Absolute Stress; a blend of vodka, coconut rum, peach schnapps, pineapple, cranberry, and orange juices. Well-heeled clientele who demand a quality wine list won’t be disappointed. End the day with a Wildwood Sunset – if you dare.
Visitors may flock to Wildwood for the food, but they’re staying for the atmosphere that gives them a home-away-from-home feeling. Only better. Chilling is tough these days when the office is at the house. The accommodations have upped the luxury ante with room service and your choice of six lodging options – all with views of the woods and water. The shore-hugging Saltboxes are spacious and set in the woods with ship-lap walls, floor-to-ceiling windows, and those sumptuous linens. The 14-room inn provides 4-star hotel-style lodging, in-suite bath, and king or twin beds. An open, spacious 4-room lodge faces the marina and sports a solar cell array. The large porch is suitable for a gals’ safely-distanced weekend away. The floating harbor cottage on the end of the dock has a commanding view of the Cumberland River and surrounding wilderness. “Glamping” is what you’ll find in The Woods, where five iconic, vintage Airstreams have been given the luxury treatment. Six “Village Cabins” will have you making s’mores around a giant fire pit. With the high-quality linens and appointments that the owners demand on this property, the rustic Legacy Cabins aren’t so rustic and prove to be popular with families. All provide free WiFi, and pet-friendly rooms are available.
While the river is the main draw at Wildwood, you won’t have to stick a toe in the water to enjoy time on the Cumberland. The state’s longest boardwalk offers duck watching and a breathtaking, unobstructed view as it takes you from the campground, over the water, to the sunset pavilion. More than one hundred lights ensure that your boardwalk sunset selfies are spectacular. “Upper Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation gets a big shout-out from us. The co-op has been a huge partner with us on this construction project,” John says. “We’ve buried most of our electric lines, taken down poles to beautify the area, and UCEMC helped us get solar on the lodge. We had the boardwalk lights on for the first time last night, and it was exciting!”
March 5 is the date to give cabin fever the heave-ho and make Wildwood fever something you’ll want to come down with every weekend. Check out Visitwildwood.com for more information.