Posted by: Kath Usitalo | July 6, 2010

Families Are In At Outback Lodge

The Outback Lodge in Stanwood was designed with family fun in mind

Get your giddyup on, pardner, and head to Outback Lodge for an overnight stay on a family-friendly horse ranch where generations can enjoy the simple pleasures of a trail ride, a campfire, and just spending time together.

“We built out Bed & Breakfast as a place for families to come,” says Sue Parker, who with her husband Kent owns and operates the retreat near the mid-Mitten town of Stanwood, south of Big Rapids. “We wanted a place where kids could come and have fun.”

Sue Parker on a tour of her dream property, Outback Lodge

When the Parkers retired from jobs in Grand Rapids they moved north to the area where Sue was born and raised (I wrote about the Wernette Beef Farm in the June 30 post) and built the seven-guestroom lodge and riding stables on 20 acres.

Their land is adjacent to 2,200 acres of state land crisscrossed with trails over 700 acres that Outback Lodge riders—overnight guests and day-trippers— follow on one-to-four hour guided horseback rides. (All trail riders must be age 9 or older; younger kids can ride a horse in the arena.)

Sue says that many of those who come for a trail ride end up returning for an overnight stay.

The B&B guest rooms are decorated with attractive rustic furnishings, cowboy and horse themed quilts, comforters, lamps and artwork. My room had a private bath, rocking chair and very comfy bed. There’s a large gathering space for conversation and breakfast, plus a family/game room with a TV for movies, and a wide second story porch overlooking the horse barns and riding arenas. All this and free WiFi, too!

Guests are welcome to amble down to the stable and ask the wranglers if they can help out with chores; kids enjoy getting up close to the farm animals in the small “petting zoo.”

A hearty breakfast on Sue's mother's antique table cloth

“Most adults who come (to Outback Lodge) rode horses when they were kids,” Sue told me over the promised “hearty country breakfast” of a fluffy ham and cheese omelet, freshly picked strawberries and something she calls “dough dobs.” The sweet toast is based on a childhood treat Sue and her seven siblings looked forward to each Saturday when her mom baked bread and fried bits of leftover dough with cinnamon and sugar.

Sue added that over 60 percent of family visits to Outback Lodge are planned by grandmothers who want their kids and grandchildren to enjoy the things that they did in their youth. “And the Grandmas will ride horses,” Sue says. “Grandpas will come but don’t usually ride with them.”

Call me a grandpa. I didn’t go on a trail ride; I was content to watch Sue’s granddaughter Sadie and her friend Amber (both girls turn 10 years old in September) as they practiced for a horse show that weekend. I later learned that Sadie and her pony Lady plced in every category she entered, and won first place in ground roping.

Sadie and her pony Lady practice for a horse show

Sue said that Sadie loves the ranch and is already an expert tour guide for the horse-drawn wagon rides around the property. It looks like the future of the family business may be secure.



  1. Looks like a lovely fun place….and horray to Sadie and Lady! It’s always a treat to see young folk enjoying healthy and wholesome pasttimes….gives one hope for the future, hey?

  2. Sadie and her friend loooove the horses. Sadie and her mom were trying to figure out which rabbits to show at the county fair. 4-H fun!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: