A visit to Thurston House is like a visit to grandma’s – if your grandma lives in a Victorian farmhouse on a lake, on eight acres covered with oak and bamboo trees, and a garden of roses and camellias.
A country home in the city, the bed-and-breakfast is minutes from Interstate 4, next to Winter Park, with its high-end shops and sidewalk cafes. The town of Maitland is about 5 minutes from downtown Orlando and less than a half-hour from Disney World.
The B&B’s most appealing feature is the screened-in wraparound porch facing Lake Eulalia, where guests can sit back on a cushioned sofa and gaze at the water as their worries fade away, at least for the moment.
On the second floor are Thurston House’s three guest rooms. The O’Heir Room, with its bay windows, is the one to choose if you want a view of the lake. The Hirsch Room is the largest, with a claw-foot bathtub and shower. The Cubbedge Room, where I slept, is the smallest of the three, but didn’t feel at all cramped. In addition to the queen bed, the room is furnished with a love seat and a handy desk for laptop work. A small TV hangs on the wall.
When I arrived, an artificial rose and two chocolate bars lay on the bed with a message from the innkeepers: “Enjoy your stay, Carole and Joe.” As in the rest of the home, the décor in the Cubbedge Room is simple and homey: a white wrought iron headboard, white bedspread, plain wood dresser and desk and old-style white chenille bathmats by the bed and in the bathroom.
I found the bathroom charming, with alternating white and green tiles, white curtains and a tranquil view of the flower garden from the windows. Soft robes were hanging in the closet. As a bonus, the three guestrooms share a delightful screened porch on the second floor hung with a hammock made for two.
As usual on my B&B travels, I opted for the least expensive room, but I didn’t save much. My room was $210 a night, the Hirsch and the O’Heir are $225, and the prices remain the same year-round.
Of course, breakfast is included. When I was there, the innkeeper, Carole Ballard, served fruit, scrambled eggs, pancakes, bacon and cake – more than ample, but not the standout meal some bed-and-breakfast patrons may expect, especially when they are paying more than $200 a night.
Carole and her husband, Joe Ballard, have leased Thurston House from the city of Maitland for more than 20 years. The Ballards named the inn after Cyrus Brooks Thurston, a businessman from Minnesota who built it in 1885. The Hirsch, Cubbedge and O’Heir families owned the house before the city bought it in 1988.
Carole runs the inn full time, with assistance from Joe. Formerly a marketing specialist, she appears to have found her true calling in innkeeping. She treats her guests like friends, going out of her way to make them comfortable and happy in her home. That’s the kind of hospitality that turns onetime visitors into loyal, longtime fans.
If you’re looking for a bed-and-breakfast in the Orlando area, the Maitland inn might be just the ticket. The only B&B closer to Disney World and Orlando’s other theme parks is the downtown Courtyard at Lake Lucerne. I have been staying at Lake Lucerne for many years, but it’s always fun to try someplace new, and I’m glad I found Thurston House.
(If you’re interested in becoming an innkeeper, investigate the Orlando and Winter Park markets. I was surprised by the dearth of B&Bs in an area that attracts so many tourists.)
If you visit Thurston House, tell Carole and Joe I sent you!
(Note: As always, I accepted no compensation in exchange for writing this review, and did not reveal my intentions to the innkeepers.)