Mission Inn Resort Offers Escape, Not Attitude

Located a manageable drive from Orlando, the Mission Inn Resort Offers everything from boating to golf without the stiff formality of many upscale destinations.

John Scott Lewinskiby John Scott Lewinski

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Depending on their targeted audience, resorts can take different paths. For many destinations around the country, it’s natural to slant consistently stiff, upscale and effete.

While Florida’s Mission Inn Resort and Club has the recreation and dining facilities to offer up such an elite atmosphere, the venue about 30 minutes outside of Orlando opts for friendly southern charm to keep its guests happy.

Hidden away in rural central Florida’s Howey-in-the-Holes in what must’ve been barren swamp a century or so ago, Mission Inn offers 1,100 activity filled acres, offering visitors everything from spa treatments to golf, shooting to fishing. As regional destination for events and gatherings, recreational travelers swing by for a chance to sample its four restaurants and two classic, championship 18 hole golf courses.

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The Mission Hills star dining attraction is El Conquistador – a dining room serving up steaks, chops and the weekend’s top shelf seafood buffet. The other premiere food stops are gathered around the Mission Hills golf courses. The Hacienda is a waterside breakfast-centric spot, while Nicker’s Clubhouse serves up familiar pub fair perfect for 19th hole lunches or snacks before players make the turn. 

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While travelers can jump in on a massage in the full service spa, cycling, exploring local history or taking down clay pigeons, there’s no question the two golf courses are the properties main attraction. The courses couldn’t be more distinct, though they share the same real estate.

El Campeon is almost 100 years old, designed by legendary course sculptor George O’Neil. It’s a challenging combination of length, water and elevation changes. Featuring a PGA Sawgrass-ish island hole, a signature par five at 17 and a pair of water-crossed holes demanding a strong drive directly up a significant hillside. While it’s not impossible for an average player to enjoy, El Campeon is squarely aimed at the more experienced player who headed to the course on a bit of pilgrimage.

Added to the resort property in 1992 and designed by Gary Koch, Las Colinas offers a bit easier path across 18 holes. The fairways are wider and bowl-contoured to keep balls in play, and the design involves fewer water and sand hazards. As a result, Las Colinas is a little less striking than her older sister over at El Campeon. But, it’s friendlier design and enhanced playability make it a bit more appealing destination for the high handicap player.

However, regardless of what course a traveler chooses to play — what spa treatment he or she requests or what dining experience they enjoy – Mission Inn’s overall vibe of quiet, unassuming southern charm allow the visitor to unwind regardless of where their central Florida path takes them.