Last week I made a short visit to the Pinecraft Amish community at Sarasota, Florida.  I wanted to share that visit with you via a series of photos.  If you haven’t heard of it, Pinecraft is an unusual Amish community for a few reasons.

  • It is located in a city (Sarasota, population 52,811–technically just outside city limits).
  • It is more of a vacation destination for Amish and Mennonite people, though there are a small number of full-time Amish residents.
  • It has palm trees, and no cows.

There are other things which make it unique, which we’ll get into below.  I was lucky to have a friend in Pinecraft who patiently played tour guide for a few hours.  I wouldn’t have seen nearly as much or met so many interesting folks without her help.

We start with a goodbye.  This Pioneer Trails bus left at 3:45 pm Wednesday, heading north.

Buses bearing visitors from colder places arrive and leave at the parking lot by the Mennonite Tourist Church.  Coming to the lot to see who arrives, or to bid travelers farewell, is a popular activity in Pinecraft.  There were just a few doing that last Wednesday though.

pinecraft-bus-leaving

We met Sherry Gore and Katie Troyer among other folks at the goodbye spot.  That was fun.  Katie was snapping pictures as she has been known to do.

Compared to the winter months, there weren’t many people around in Pinecraft. That’s the way things are in the summer and are still mostly that way in October. Sherry informed me that this season was expected to be the biggest ever for visitors.  Ironically, I hear summers can get a little gloomy with no one around.

Large numbers of buses will be coming and going in December, which is when it starts to get very busy.  Last week there was just one bus arrival on Tuesday, and this one departure on Wednesday.

My tour guide says that it is picking up just a week later: “There is already a difference this week in Pinecraft in the number of people on the streets and at the shuffleboard court. Two full buses came, and left again with only a handful of people. So the population probably increased by 100 people since you left.”

Near the bus arrival/departure lot you will find the only Amish-run post office in America.

us-post-office-pinecraft-sarasota

This is actually a privately-owned post office, which may be surprising but is something you can do.  Apparently you own the property and lease it to the US government.

As soon as the woman who runs the place began to speak, I knew where she was from.  Not because I am so good with accents, but because the Daviess County, Indiana Amish twang is distinct and unforgettable (I spent a month in Daviess County about ten years back).  She and her family moved to Pinecraft about four years ago.  They are one of the few permanent residents with children at home.

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Inside the post office, one wall is full of inspirational and wise sayings.

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Probably some good stuff to read if you are standing in line.

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Wisdom.

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Outside the post office were parked these tricycles.  You may have heard that there are no buggies in Pinecraft.  Amish here get around in various ways, and these large adult-sized trikes are one of the most popular forms of transport. Look closely and you’ll see these two have been modified.  That’s a battery under the seat.  This trike is juiced.

electric-trikes

Der Dutchman is one of the two large Amish-style restaurants in Pinecraft.  This is where we ate lunch with some new friends.  The Amishman whom we ate with kept us entertained with stories.  Hardly the silent, stoic stereotype of an Amish person, this fellow was.  I could tell he likes living in Pinecraft part of the year.  The rest of his year is spent in Indiana, where a lot of Pinecraft visitors come from.

der-dutchman-restaurant-sarasota

This is a typical residential street in Pinecraft.  Small bungalows, palm and other trees here and there.

pinecraft-residential-street

Where Yoders come to Fry.  A number of the streets have “Amish” names: Fry, Graber, Yoder, Kauffman, Schrock, Miller, Hacienda.  Well, all except that last one (making sure you are paying attention).  Here’s a Pinecraft street map from the Pinecraft Pauper.

yoder-fry-streets-sarasota

Proof this is in fact Florida.

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This is Pinecraft Park, where a lot of congregating happens.  By the way, if you’re wondering how Amish found themselves in Florida, there’s a little on that here.

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Since few visitors were in town, the park was mostly empty.  There was this nice mural on the shelter wall painted by an Amish woman from Pennsylvania.

pinecraft-mural

These are the famous shuffleboard courts.

pinecraft-shuffleboard

After some intense games of shuffleboard you may find yourself craving something sweet.  Big Olaf is a local brand of ice cream.  This is one place which sells it, located on the main road running through Pinecraft (Bahia Vista Street).  Later in the day we visited the Amishman who makes Big Olaf.  You’ll see those photos a little further down.

big-olaf-ice-cream-store

Bahia Vista is a busy, four-lane road.  There are no windmills or barns or fields in Pinecraft.

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There are different ways to pronounce “Bahia Vista”.  Some are correct, others are incorrect, I learned.

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This is a small bookshop located on the other side of  Bahia Vista, opposite the Big Olaf seller.  The lady who runs it, Vera Overholt, was kind enough to open and show us around.  I picked up a Pinecraft calendar here, featuring some of Katie’s photos.

amish-mennonite-books-sarasota

The bookshop is open by appointment though I believe may have more regular hours during the busy season.

bookstore-pinecraft

Yoder’s is the other big restaurant in town.  This is the one that was featured on the “Man vs. Food” television program.  I did not hear who won.

yoders-amish-village-pinecraft-fl

There is a large decorative mural outside, along with cutout Amishy-looking figures and a buggy that rarely if ever moves (I think it has a bad horse).  My friend/guide mentioned where this buggy came from, a local person if I’m remembering right.

buggy-display-yoders

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These guys were hard at work.  And by the way I hope you like the simulated corn field effect on this photo (I worked pretty hard to achieve that).

painters-mural

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Inside Yoder’s is where you get one of these. Yes, it did taste as good as it looks. Ditto the slices of coconut and key lime.

peanut-butter-chocolate-pie

We also stopped at the home of some friends of my friend, which is where I got to test-drive a trike (manual-powered version).   At least one business in town rents these out to visitors.  These trikes are harder to ride than they look.  I was told not to try to balance so much as if I was on a bike, and just drive.  That was good advice. I managed not to hit any mailboxes or palm trees.

erik-triking

Big Olaf ice cream is made at a location a mile or two away from Pinecraft.  We stopped by and met the fellow who runs Big Olaf.  He is medium-sized.  And his name is not Olaf.  I have never met an Amishman named Olaf.  It’s a good disguise.

big-olaf-warehouse

Ice cream comes out of this machine through some mysterious process.

ice-cream-making

big-olaf-ice-cream-maker

Pumpkin ice cream tastes a lot better than you might expect. Big Olaf’s pumpkin ice cream does, at least. This was really good. Tasted like chilled, creamy pumpkin pie. Very flavorful.

pumpkin-ice-cream

There are a handful of business locations sporting Amish imagery in Pinecraft.  In the vicinity of Der Dutchman you’ll find an Amish furniture outlet.  Across the street is Beneva Marketplace.

beneva-marketplace

Unlike nearly everywhere else in North America, Amish at Pinecraft hold church in a special church building.  Here it is.

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church-pinecraft-amish

These trikes were locked up outside.  Their owners were not around.

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Covered parking.

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Siesta Key, about a 15-minute drive away, is home to a large, beautiful beach popular with visitors to Pinecraft. Abundant signs alert you to the fact it was recently named “America’s Best Beach” (2011).

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Very white sand, very wide beach.

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Unfortunately it was late in the day, so time here was brief, but I at least stuck my feet in the water.

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I hope you enjoyed this little visit to Pinecraft.

Amish Furniture Sarasota

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