By Brent Owen
Anytime someone of a certain generation thinks about a rural resort, it’s hard not to think of “Dirty Dancing.” And part of that is because the indelible image the Kellerman’s Resort left on audiences everywhere. That rural resort became the backdrop for one of the greatest coming-of-age stories in cinema history. It was the whimsical Catskills getaway where Baby Houseman and her family spent the summer of 1963. In Kentucky, that whimsical resort is Green Turtle Bay. It’s located in Western Kentucky, near Land Between the Lakes, sitting just outside the small tourist town of Grand Rivers (permanent population: 350 people).
“We’re situated between Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake,” Bill Gary IV says of the town. “And there’s a canal connecting the two lakes on the far side of town. So we’re flanked on three sides by water. We call ourselves ‘The Village Between the Lakes.’”
Green Turtle Bay is a family-owned-and-operated establishment. Bill and his sister Vida, current operators, took over the resort from their father, Bill Gary III. The senior Bill bought the resort in 1984 when it was a struggling establishment known as the Park Inn. “It was in dire straits,” Bill IV relates. Vida came into the family business in 1986 while the younger Bill didn’t come on board for another decade. He’s now been there for over 20 years.
The resort offers condos for rent, ranging in size from a single bedroom to four bedrooms. They cater to anyone from a solo traveler looking for peace and quiet to family excursions or a group of couples getting away for the weekend. According to a quick Google search, visitor reviews have given Green Turtle Bay a consistent five-star rating. And while the resort provides five-star treatment, their reasonable prices may falsely suggest otherwise. Regardless of what you’re looking for, Green Turtle Bay has everything you need at a very affordable price.
The staff is dedicated to giving travelers a reasonably priced getaway – so much so that they eschew mid-season price hikes on peak weekends. For example, this August, Earth will witness one of the most impressive solar eclipses of our collective lifetime, and nearby Hopkinsville has been pinpointed by experts as the best place to view the phenomenon on Earth. Tourists will be flooding into the region – both science professionals and amateur stargazers alike. Rooms will be in high demand and will undoubtedly sell out. However, in lieu of a premium price hike to profit off of demand, Gary IV says Green Turtle Bay is going to charge their normal weekend rates and “I guess we’ll see what happens,” he says.
Now, what’s going on at the resort when it isn’t the focal point of a massive celestial event? The biggest attraction, according to Gary IV, is the water. “People just love having access to the water,” he emphasizes. “They truly love it,” which is why they offer single and two level pontoon rentals, as well as tri-toons, so you and your party can spend as much time on the water as you’d like.
They have all the necessary amenities to entertain for family fun, a friendly getaway or a romantic rendezvous, including restaurants and an indoor swimming pool, and for those needing to kick back even more, they offer a full spa. The spa includes massages (single and couples), manicures, pedicures and facials.
When deciding on a weekend getaway, the most important factor is not entertainment or even lodging; the first question always comes down to food. What are the restaurants like? Well, with Green Turtle Bay, there are currently two on premise. They have Docker’s Grill, open morning through mid-afternoon, catering to breakfast and lunch crowds as they’re going out for or coming in from a day on the water. If you would like something more high-end for dinner, Green Turtle Bay offers a private Yacht Club, which all guests have full access to if they choose. Opening in June will be a third restaurant called The Thirsty Turtle. The plan is to offer visitors a more casual dining and drink experience than The Yacht Club.
Green Turtle Bay has everything you need for a great weekend away (except maybe for those “Dirty Dancing” dance classes). But if you need more, you can drive a short mile into the center of town where there are even more options for entertainment, one of which is the world-renowned Patti’s 1880’s Settlement. An award-winning restaurant where you can order fillet mignon, prime rib or Patti’s famous 2-inch pork chop. People come from all over the country to eat there. They serve over 350,000 people a year, which is even more impressive when you consider that only 350 of those actually live in Grand Rivers.
On the other side of town, you’ll find Light House Landing, a sailboat marina. There are small local shops you can wander through like Grand Rivers Antiques or So Cool, and they even have a small community theater. “I hear all of the time from guests about how nice everyone here is,” Gary IV says. “The fact is, we’re such a tourist town, everyone here is friendly. The first thing out of anyone’s mouth is, ‘How can I help you?’ That’s just Grand Rivers – not just Green Turtle Bay – it’s all over town. It’s such a friendly, nice place to be.”
Gary IV admits that as of now, their guests lean more toward families and retirees. However, the town recently voted themselves wet, which makes it legal to sell alcohol, thus expanding their options for building a nightlife to draw in a younger demographic. “Now that we’re wet,” he says, “I think we’ll definitely start seeing younger people take notice of what we have going on here. It’s pretty great. It really is.”
While at Green Turtle Bay, you might not see Jennifer Grey practicing her dance moves in the water or catch Patrick Swayze twirling in a tight black tank top, but you will definitely have the time of your life. VT