One of Sarasota’s lesser-known equestrian communities lies 9 miles east of Interstate 75 and to the north of Fruitville Road. The Ranches at Bern Creek, named after a rivulet that runs through the neighborhood, offers 5- to 10-acre lots in rustic seclusion. The 92 homes are well spread apart and separated by large oak hammocks and lush shrubbery.
“It’s very private, very beautiful, with lots of wildlife,” says Steve Zeris, a Realtor with Keller Willliams on The Water. “You have no traffic noise whatsoever. Out there you hear crickets.”
To get to the community from Fruitville Road, first take Cowpen Lane north and then Celestine Pass, a long, straight country lane, east to the entrance. Together, they run about two miles through pastureland past gnarled oak trees festooned with Spanish moss. A simple white sign, “Bern Creek Ranches,” placed in front of a small, wooded median that briefly divides the road, marks the beginning of the neighborhood.
Weathered wooden paddock fences contain the estate-sized properties in front and along the sides. The barns, horse stables and ponds scattered throughout add to the country atmosphere. A number of properties have dirt arenas for training in the equestrian sports of dressage and show jumping.
The Ranches at Bern Creek was developed in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Most of the homes date to that time, but others have been built since, resulting in a variety of architectural styles. You can see two-story, New England-style homes, Florida ranch-style residences, large bungalows, and even a Tuscany-inspired villa.
The latter, at 1450 Bern Creek Loop, is Zeris’ listing and is the only home currently for sale in the neighborhood. Designed and built by the owner in 2000, it looks like a Mediterranean palazzo with balconies and red roof tiles. A paver driveway the size of a small piazza leads to a beautiful fountain and dual stairs curving up to the front door. The three-car garage is next door in a separate building.
The main house has five bedrooms and four-and-a-half bathrooms. There are wrought-iron railings on the staircase and tile floors throughout.
The property is one of the largest in The Ranches at Bern Creek, with 10 fenced-in acres and 2.5 acres of wetlands. “You can ride horses, four-wheelers and motorcycles in privacy to your heart’s content,” says Zeris.
With a list price of $1,126,150, it is also the most expensive home in the neighborhood. Recent home-land sales have ranged from $330,000 to $930,000, with most in the $400,000s and $500,000s.
Bob Kreilick has lived in the Ranches at Bern Creek for four years. He moved there to downsize from his 5,200-square-foot home in Laurel Oak, but still wanted the country ambience.
His 3,000-square-foot home sits on a wooded 5 acres and overlooks a scenic fish pond. “I enjoy the patio and the hot tub, and when friends come out, we all have barbecue,” he says. “I like the solitude and the stars at night,” he continues. “There are coyote and all kinds of wildlife. I had seven deer in my yard one morning.”
An avid golfer, Kreilick still belongs to the Laurel Oak Country Club and plays there at least three times a week. “It’s only a 15-minute drive from here,” he explains. “Living here, I have the best of both worlds.”
While Kreilick is a retiree, The Ranches at Bern Creek is also home to a number of working professionals and families with children — the basketball hoops in the driveways are the giveaway. In fact, more than 39 percent of residents are younger than retirement age. Children and teenagers represent the second-largest age group — about 24 percent are younger than 20.
The district schools are Tatum Ridge Elementary, McIntosh Middle and Booker High. For those still working, the location requires a bit of a commute. Interstate 75 and the shops, banks, pharmacies and restaurants along Fruitville Road, including a Publix and Target, are only 15 minutes away. Downtown Sarasota is less than a 30-minute drive.
Mandatory HOA fees are $700 a year.
Considering the small number of homes in the community, property sales have been steady in the past year, with seven ranging in price from $409,500 to $562,000.