Why stay in a bed and breakfast? For a true Florida experience
~There are two Florida’s — a place of bland sameness where hotels and restaurants look like everywhere else, and then there’s the authentic Florida, a place with a quirky culture and a rich history found only here.
If you want to discover the latter, you need to seek out small, independently owned B&Bs or inns.
Here are 10 of our favorite bed and breakfasts and historic inns around the state:
Black Dolphin, New Smyrna Beach
A quaint Old Florida beach town is the setting for this elegant Spanish-style bed and breakfast overlooking the Halifax River on Florida’s east-central Atlantic Coast. The 14-room inn gets its name from the plentiful dolphin who patrol the waters off its dock. Accommodations include guest rooms and suites with private outdoor terraces, elegant Euro-style bedding and spa baths. Furnishings vary in each room with original artwork and antiques tastefully integrated with futuristic appliances and décor. Eight rooms have wet bars. The owners, brothers Brett and Scott Smith, are third-generation hoteliers who fell in love with this former riverfront residence three years ago and set to work on a vision for its renovation. Guests share the modern and expansive great room downstairs that includes a bar, open kitchen, sitting area and breakfast room. A complimentary Continental breakfast is served daily with a full Southern-style breakfast on weekends. You are within walking distance of restaurants and shops in New Smyrna Beach’s historic downtown and a short distance from the seaside community’s sprawling beaches, surf shops and Flagler Avenue’s beachside galleries and eateries. Overnight dockage is available for guests with boats, and fishing opportunities are abundant in the backwaters and bays of nearby Canaveral National Seashore. Or just sit on the dock and watch the dolphin swim by.
** Check availability and book your room at the Black Dolphin Inn – New Smyrna Beach **
Blackdolphininn.com; 386-410-4868; seasonal rates, $149 to $309, including breakfast. 916 S Riverside Drive New Smyrna Beach, FL 32168
Here’s the full Florida Rambler story on the Black Dolphin.
Herlong Mansion, Micanopy
If you haven’t heard of Micanopy, that’s no surprise; There are only 600 residents. But the historic jewel is just 10 minutes off I-75 in north-central Florida and makes a good stop on a Florida road trip north. It’s the oldest inland town in Florida, full of Old Florida scenes. The ideal way to experience Micanopy is to stay at the 1845 Herlong Mansion, an elegant bed and breakfast operated by folks who’ve run historic B&Bs for years. The bed and breakfast is set back from a road with elaborate Corinthian columns that look like the Hollywood vision of a southern mansion. There are expansive porches on both the first and second levels and the B&B is furnished with antiques. Rooms have high ceilings and features like claw-foot bathtubs, fireplaces and antique brass beds. Guests are offered a complementary glass of wine around 5 p.m. and a full breakfast in a sunny dining room.
The Herlong Mansion, 402 N.E. Cholokka Blvd., Micanopy, Florida 32667, (352) 466-3322 or 1-800-437-5664. Rates from $119-$179.
Read more about Micanopy and the Herlong Mansion.
Horse & Chaise Inn, Venice
This charming Mediterranean Revival–style inn is in the heart of Venice’s historic district, developed as a planned community as an investment by a railroad union during the 1920s. At the time, railroads were rapidly spreading across Florida for transport of winter crops to the populous north and to bring northerners south for respite from Yankee winters. The stucco exterior and tasteful landscaping blend well in this quiet residential neighborhood of stately homes and wide boulevards. Each of the inn’s nine guest rooms and suites are unique, comfortable and plush. All rooms have a private bath, and there’s a reading room that serves as a gathering place for guests to play games. Gourmet breakfasts are a signature offering from congenial innkeepers Jon and Lois Steketee, and there’s a 24-hour snack cupboard.. You are a pleasant walk away from Venice’s bustling square, vibrant community theater and white-sand beaches on the Gulf of Mexico. This town is best enjoyed on a bicycle, which are available at the inn. Venice is also home to the studio of renowned Florida Everglades photographer Clyde butcher, and the sandy shore is a beachcomber’s delight. Be sure to dine one night on fresh seafood at the nearby Crow’s Nest, overlooking the inlet to the Gulf of Mexico, and enjoy evening libations in its intimate downstairs pub. The Horse & Chaise is closed from July until October 15.
Horseandchaiseinn.com; 877-803-3515; open from October through June with seasonal rates from $119, including breakfast. 317 Ponce de Leon Avenue, Venice, FL 34285;
Read more about Venice in this article.
St. Francis Inn, St. Augustine
With 26 B&Bs in town, historic St. Augustine is the perfect place for the bed-and-breakfast experience. The small town is filled with historic buildings, but none has been a place for lodging as long as the St. Francis Inn. Built in 1791, the home was first used as an inn in the 1840s. It has been owned by more than 20 families over the centuries, but the same friendly couple has owned and operated it as a B&B for 30 years, a remarkable run for a bed and breakfast. Located in the historic district, what sets the St. Francis apart is the amenities and service — a breakfast buffet with hot food, a daily social hour with free wine or beer and hors d’oeurves, homemade dessert every night from 8 to 9:30 p.m.
The St. Francis Inn is located on a quiet residential brick street in the historic district, walking distance to restaurants and attractions. It has bikes for guests, a pool and is beautifully landscaped with interesting tropical plants, many labeled for gardening fans.
We were part of a travel writers’ group recently hosted by the St. Francis Inn, so our stay was complementary, but, as always, these opinions are our own.
Read this article about the historic Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine.
Key West Bed and Breakfast, Key West
Key West is famous for its many historic B&Bs, but many are priced for the luxury traveler. Key West Bed and Breakfast, in a convenient Old Town location near the historic seaport, however, offers a real Key West B&B experience at affordable rates. The turn-of-the-century house is decorated with original art, vibrant color and serves a spectacular breakfast. The most budget-friendly rooms are the four on the second floor that share two bathrooms. Off-season, these rooms go for $89 to $110. Rooms with private bathrooms rent for $135 to $175 off-season – still a good deal for a quality Key West B&B. Breakfast during a recent visit was do-it-yourself fresh-squeezed orange juice using an old-fashioned iron press, an array of fresh fruit, good bagels and homemade buttermilk blueberry coffee cake. A lovely garden that wraps around the Jacuzzi is filled with blooming orchids and seating.
Key West Bed and Breakfast, 415 William St., Key West, 800-438-6155; seasonal rates from $89, including breakfast.
Here’s the full story on budget lodging and restaurants in Key West.
Tween Waters Inn, Captiva Island
Not quite the end of the world, but it might as well be. It is certainly the end of the road after you jump the bridge from popular Sanibel Island on southwest Florida’s Gulf Coast. Captiva Island is surrounded by water, and its sugar-sand beaches provide the most incredible shelling experience you’ll find in all of Florida. Thirteen historic cottages on the beachfront anchor this 13-acre resort, which has expanded to include more traditional resort motel accommodations. From its dock, rent a kayak or take a ferry into Pine Island Sound and explore the islands beyond the island. Paddle to isolated North Captiva and Cayo Costa, or take the ferry to dine on Cabbage Key’s historic restaurant, a charming Old Florida outpost in the heart of Pine Island Sound and accessible only by boat. Resort amenities include a marina with dockage, boat rentals, spa, fitness center and tennis courts. Activities include boating, fishing, shelling, sailing,kayak, canoe, swimming pool and bicycles. Visit the Old Captiva House and Crow’s Nest for dining on the premises. Did we mention the pool bar?
** Check availability and book your room at the Tween Waters Inn – Captiva **
tween-waters.com 800-223-5865, rooms from $185, includes breakfast buffet and Wi-Fi. P.O. Box 249, Captiva Island, Florida 33924
Read more about touring Sanibel and Captiva islands on a bicycle.
Sundy House, Delray Beach
What could be the oldest house in Delray Beach (there are two or three contenders), the 1903 Sundy House is now a bed and breakfast and restaurant in a walkable coastal town with a great beach plus lots of restaurants and culture. One thing that makes the Sundy House special are the tropical gardens, called the Taru Gardens, that wrap around the one-acre complex. (Even non-guests come to see the gardens on free tours.) The gardens include one of the most novel swimming pools in Florida: It’s a natural non-chlorinated swimming pool that swimmers share with fish. There’s a popular restaurant with tables throughout the gardens, including one that is romantically isolated and called the “proposal” table. Each of the 11 rooms, which include four cottages, is decorated differently in an off-beat eclectic style.
** Check availability and book your room at the Sundy House – Delray Beach **
Sundy House, 877-439-9601 Rooms start at $189 off-season including Continental breakfast. 106 S Swinton Ave Delray Beach, FL 33444
Here’s a complete story on Delray Beach as a great weekend getaway.
Rod and Gun Club, Everglades City
At the end of the road, surrounded by nothing but Everglades and the Ten Thousand Islands, sits Everglades City, a tiny town with a big history. For folks who like the outdoors, birding and historic sites, this evocative site will provide a fishing lodge experience reminiscent of Old Florida. Don’t expect luxury or resort-style accommodations. What you should expect is an Old Florida club, all dark wood and peck cypress inside, overlooking the wide Collier River. It was built by the 1920s developer Barron Collier, who bought up so much land in southwest Florida that a new county was created in 1923 and named after him. Rooms are in cabins on the grounds of the historic lodge.
Everglades Rod and Gun Club, 239-695-2101 Rates from $95. Everglades City.
Here’s a story about exploring Everglades City by kayak, where you get the view in this photograph.
Island Hotel on Cedar Key
You won’t be stopping at the Island Hotel on Cedar Key on your way to someplace else. The main route, I-75, is 60 miles away. And that’s exactly why Cedar Key is so worth the drive. The off-the-beaten-path island has great beaches, kayaking and many art galleries. The Island Hotel has a Key West ambiance – but the Key West of 50 years ago. The structure opened in 1859 as a general store but it’s now a gracious bed and breakfast with 10 rooms on the second floor, a wonderful restaurant on the main floor and a popular bar off the lobby. There are no phones and no TVs (but there is wifi.) A broad balcony wraps around the second floor. It was from here, the story goes, that Jimmy Buffet sang and strummed his guitar during many visits in the 1980s. (The hotel has hosted a random collection of other celebs that would make a good trivia question: What do Jimmy Buffet, Richard Boone, Myrna Loy and Tennessee Ernie Ford have in common?) Rooms are not luxurious although they are decorated with antiques in a vintage style. Two have bathrooms across the hall, which makes them inexpensive and good for budget travelers. Some guests have reported a free perk: visits by ghosts.
Island Hotel on Cedar Key 800-432-4640 Rooms range from $80 and include a hot breakfast. 373 2nd Street · Cedar Key, Florida 32625
Read this complete article about visiting Cedar Key.
Kenilworth Lodge, Sebring
Located in Sebring, a small town in the middle of Florida, the Kenilworth Lodge is a former grand hotel available at budget prices. It’s an interesting stop on a Florida roadtrip located in Florida’s lake country, an area with many small lakes and natural beauty often overlooked by visitors. The hotel was built in 1916 by George Sebring, who founded the town with dreams of a utopian community of happy people. Sebring was friends with the president of the Seaboard Atlantic Railway, and every train stopped in the town. When the days of railroads ended, the Kenilworth Lodge hung on and continues to compete with chain motels that line the roadways. The Mediterranean Revival hotel has a grand staircase and a 4,000 square foot lobby, a broad porch with rocking chairs and a large, deep Old Florida swimming pool. (Not heated.) Rooms are clean and comfortable but some are dated. You can request renovated rooms or poolside cottages. The place is full (and rates high) during race week (the 12 hours of Sebring is the opening event of the American LeMans series and is held at Sebring International Raceway in March.)
** Check availability and book your room at the KENILWORTH LODGE – Sebring **
Kenilworth Lodge 800-423-5939 Rates from $79. 1610 Lakeview Blvd., Sebring, FL 33875.
Here’s a more complete story on the Kenilworth.
An earlier version of this story was published by The Guardian UK, a newspaper and website based in Great Britain.