Cragun’s On Gull Lake – Cruising Along
By E. Nolan
I don’t need another reason to visit Cragun’s. I have plenty. But the resort isn’t focused on just me and my family. They are focused on YOU and your family… you and your friends. Cragun’s keeps adding new reasons to visit every season… to the point to where every year’s visit feels like an entirely new experience. That’s great, of course, (if only more resorts could say the same), but at Cragun’s, it almost seems unnecessary – pushing the limits on “too much of a good thing.”
I tease, of course, because you can’t have too much greatness! But, if you’ve been to Cragun’s more than once you know what I’m saying – there’s no “same old, same old”… no resting on the laurels. The four-seasons resort JAM PACKS the events and activities into their calendar – every single month. They don’t lament the arrival of winter because they stay busy, they stay booked, they keep everyone happy. But they LOVE the arrival of Spring at Cragun’s, because while the rest of us hibernate, they plan, and when the ground thaws they roll out what they’ve been working on. New menus. New activities. New lodging. And this year… a new cruise.
Gull Lake Cruises’ signature ship, The North Star, now picks guests up at Cragun’s Resort and eases across and around one of Brainerd’s biggest and most beautiful lakes. You can spend the day or an evening out on the yacht with its wall-to-wall windows, two bars and expert service – on a public or private excursion. That’s cool.
Those cruises add a little more elegance to the resort’s popular watersports menu – a menu that includes more boating, fishing, waterskiing, swimming, water and beach toys, all around their marina. And that watersports menu is supplemented on land by biking, beach sports, their 22,000 square foot recreation center, the fantastic swimming pools, tennis courts, fitness center, playgrounds, volleyball and other popular activities – like carriage rides, bonfires and games galore. With a list like that you can imagine how time flies at Cragun’s Resort… you’re always having so much fun.
The best part of that lengthy list… it didn’t even mention the marquee activity – the golf. Cragun’s Resort features not just one megastar course, but two – two Robert Trent Jones, Jr. masterpieces… Dutch Legacy and Bobby’s Legacy. An exciting addition in 2019 is a fleet of new EZ GO golf carts equipped with GPS with the latest technology.
Dutch Legacy: The Dutch was one of only 24 courses in the entire United States given the prestigious “5-Star” rating by Golf Digest back in 2009, and it has lost none of its form since then. Seldom given the respect it deserves in terms of ranking or challenge, this course ramps up the beauty with the difficulty on the back nine as you weave through many a wetland and take on many thought-provoking carries. The collection of Par 3’s on Dutch pose well for pictures and some of the shoreline shots along Stephens Lake make it impossible not to pause and take it all in.
Bobby’s Legacy: Speaking of not getting the respect it deserves – I absolutely love Bobby’s, and its back nine might even be my favorite nine-hole stretch in all of Brainerd (which is saying a lot given my anything-but-secret passion for some of the other area courses). There’s so much diversity in those last nine holes, and the 17th hole is one of my “Top 3 Most Beautiful Holes” in ALL of Minnesota. In fact, Bobby’s Legacy at Cragun’s has five holes on my “Brainerd Dream 18.” (So DON’T overlook this incredible course!)
Cragun’s offers another 9-hole option that plays like 27 holes, in that it is a unique reversible design that’s tough to wrap your mind around AND a superb FootGolf course with 22-inch cups. Scenic and fun with plenty of elevation changes, however you play the course you are bound to be thrilled.
Lodging: Cragun’s Resort offers the guest no less than 20 different lodging options – a crazy fact considering how great the spaces and views are in so many of them. No matter how numerous or diverse your group you can pick from a collection of Bayview Villas, Lakeview, Hillside, Hilltop and Beach Cabins, Poolside and Fireplace Rooms, Family and Honeymoon Suites, Private Homes, Reunion Cabins and the fantastic Homes at the Legacy. 1, 2, 3 and all the way up to 7+ bedroom options are available – pick your style, pick your view, pick your amenities and accessories, then make yourself at home. That’s summer living done right and comfortably at Cragun’s.
Dining: Then again, you can’t really do vacation right without great dining options. Hot dogs and S’mores, while tasty, only get you so far. Cragun’s takes you so much further. Cragun’s offers five “signature” eateries. The Bear Trap Lounge in the Main Lodge has big screen TVs for the sports fan and karaoke on weekends for the singers, entertainment presented over a broad bevvy of drinks. It can get pretty lively. It can get pretty fun. (It can AND does.) The Lakeside Dining Room gives you gorgeous panoramic views of Steamboat Bay with a Northwoods atmosphere. The Cabana Café at the indoor pool has breakfast, lunch and light dinners with a great deck to chill on at sunset and occasionally a raucous BINGO game. The Legacy Bar & Grille is one of my favorite places for both breakfast AND lunch, at the Legacy Clubhouse, at the foot of the 9th hole, with another great patio and some more great entertainment options. And then there’s Irma’s Kitchen.
The Award-Winning Irma’s Kitchen replaced the popular Hungry Gull Restaurant in a building dating back to 1926 with a seasonal farm-to-table establishment that knocks the socks off your taste buds and delivers everything made-to-order. Irma’s is open Monday through Saturday for dinner at the south end of the resort, offering many of Irma Cragun’s own private recipes. As a result, this menu is as unique as they come in the area, and the most discerning of foodies have found their way here, stayed awhile and left raving reviews.
The Beach: I’m going back to the beach in closing, because the beach at Cragun’s deserves more than just a passing mention. The great sand-scape wrapping along the shoreline beneath the resort offers plenty of place to play, plenty of space to lay out, and plenty of options to entertain… day and night. The bonfires keep it bright on shore, while the stars light up above, with little unnatural light distracting from the blankets of heavenly brilliance. From that beach many a swimmer will swim and many a fisherman will launch this year, many of them under the guided expertise of professional anglers like Bruce Fremstad, Bobby G and 2016 Hall-of-Fame inductee – Mr. Royal Karels. You get where I’m going with this… the action at Cragun’s Resort (on and off the multi-star golf courses) is truly All-Star… and the action literally never stops!
Planning your Cragun’s Vacation? Check out their “Best $600 You Can Spend” package: 3 nights lodging and 4 rounds of golf with breakfast and dinner daily starting at $600.