place to come in for a landing
By Mary Thurwachter,
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Cozily perched in a swing
suspended from a giant oak tree, guests at Jumbolair Inn & Country Club can
watch horses graze in the meadow.
Or, they might observe jet
planes landing at the world's largest, FAA-licensed, lighted and paved private
Jumbolair is not your
grandma's bed-and-breakfast. It has jet-set appeal.
Of course guests don't have
to arrive in an airplane -- only about half of the guests do, says manager
Andi Somers. But how many B&Bs do you know of that have a landing strip
capable of accommodating a 747?
The two-story, Old-South
style mansion, built in 1976, is 6 miles from downtown Ocala on 530 acres. The
name "Jumbolair" came from Nautilus fitness equipment inventor Arthur
Jones, who, with his wife, Terri, bought the place in 1980. The Joneses amassed
a collection of exotic animals including a gorilla, crocodiles, white rhinos and
nearly 100 elephants.
Both pilots, the Joneses
also built an airport so they could land their planes and fly in fitness experts
who would be interested in Nautilis equipment.
Arthur Jones lived in
Africa for many years and chose the name "Jumbolair" by combining jumbo,
an African word for elephant, and lair, a den for animals.
The Joneses entertained
many celebrities over the years. John and Bo Derek were regular visitors. Others
included actors Judd Nelson, Rob Lowe, Incredible Hulk Lou Ferrigno and
the Beach Boys.
After the Joneses divorced
in 1989, the animals were sent to theme parks and zoos. Terri, who remarried,
and her husband, Jeremy Thayer, bought the estate and began to develop it as a
fly-in community. The Thayers are building a new home is about four lots away from
the 6,400-square-foot house and hangar being built by actor John Travolta, also
Travolta and his family,
the first to build a home in the community, spent several months in the
Jumbolair mansion last summer. That was before the Thayers turned it into a
B&B earlier this year.
Guests can stay in one of
five spacious rooms, each named for an animal that once lived on the property
(among which was Mickey, the 400-pound gorilla who had his own apartment,
complete with TV, next to the air strip).
During our visit, my
husband and I stayed on the second floor, in the Bolero Suite, named after Terri
Jones-Thayer's prize stallion. The horse was a Christmas gift from Jones and had
previously belonged to Bo Derek. The 750-square-foot suite, with a huge bathroom
with bright red, claw-footed soaking tub and private shower, has its own private
balcony with a beautiful view of the meadow and horse barns -- and Mr. Saturday
Night Fever's house.
The Jumbolair Inn is full
of gorgeous antiques and art, collected over 30 years by Jeremy Thayer, a
jeweler and developer. Especially impressive is Thayer's collection of
decorative lamps, which can be found in every room.
When we visited in July,
we were the sole guests. From the time we arrived at the gate to the time we
drove away, we felt like royalty. Somers, a gourmet cook and a gracious host,
served us freshly baked chocolate-chip cookies (the chocolate was imported) and
a wonderfully light orange angel food cake with cream and strawberries.
We were able to choose
what we wanted for breakfast the night before, and the results -- stuffed French
toast with poached pears, berries and lightly whipped cream -- were sumptuous.
After breakfast, Somers
gave us a tour of the property, showed us the fitness center (full of Nautilus equipment) and the stables, and introduced us to the horses. (Guests who want to
ride the horses are paired with a guide who will lead them on one of the
property's many nature trails.)
Besides the mansion, the
inn has a pool house with billiard table and a ballroom, where brunch is served
the first Sunday of each month. People fly in from all over the country to eat
there ($25 per person). After spending the night in a luxurious suite named
after Bo Derek's old horse -- and enjoying the beautiful surroundings, gourmet
food and magnificent vistas -- we deemed Jumbolair "a perfect den."
Bed, Breakfast &
Beyond are reviewed anonymously by Palm Beach Post staff, and all expenses are paid for
by The Post.
The INNside Scoop
& Country Club
1201 N.E. 77th St.
Ocala, Fla., 34479
Web site: www.jumbolair.com/inn.htm
From I-75, exit 71. Go east on CR-326 until you pass Highway 441. Go to flashing
yellow light (West Anthony Road) and take a left. Go to 77th Street and take a
right. Go 1/8 mile until you see the entrance gate on the left.
rooms, all with private bath, walk-in closets, telephone, stereo/CD players,
premium cable television, VCR, desks, Internet access, sitting areas, luxury
bedding, hair dryers, robes and bathroom accessories. Gourmet breakfast, use of
fitness center, swimming pool, billiards and game house. Horseback riding. Air
strip. Limited outdoor kennel run accommodations for guest pets.
depending on room and time of week.
Year place was built: 1976
Terri Jones-Thayer and Jeremy Thayer
History bit: A
portion of the property was owned by socialite Muriel Vanderbilt Adams, who
spent winters in Ocala and raised exotic birds. Her gray Argentine horse, Miche,
and beloved dog, Coco, are buried in a small cemetery on the property.
Vanderbilt Adams' home was torn down to make way for the 8,500-square-foot
Southern-style mansion that was built in 1976. The pool house, reputedly
haunted, was her carriage house.
What I got for
slices with strawberries, orange juice with a splash of raspberry juice, stuffed
French toast with poached pears, dried fruits, walnuts and cream.
Silver Springs theme park, the Appleton Museum, Rainbow Springs and Ocala
favorite shop in town is Caroline Burgeson's Paddock Room Galleries, 226 E.
Silver Springs Road. An Ocala landmark for more than 30 years, the shop
specializes in equine art, books, gifts and clothes. Yankee owner George
Steinbrenner, who owns a horse-breeding farm in the area, is a regular.
For lunch or dinner:
Harry' s Seafood Bar and Grille, 24 SE. First Ave., Ocala. Recommended
appetizer: blackened chicken wings.