My wife and I began traveling the Sunshine State and blogging about it several years ago. We decided to stop waiting for “when.” That is, when we had time, when we had money or when anything else might stop us from going.
That’s when we started floridafuntravel.com. In the early days, we found a number of chain hotels on which we could rely. Generally, they had good locations, clean rooms and came at a good price. Some of them even offered points and other incentives to get us to stay with them and amortize the cost.
More recently, however, we have become interested in so-called ‘boutique’ hotels. By definition, those are smaller properties that have individualized service and usually are in an upscale area.
Our first experience with this was at the Edison Beach House on Fort Myers Beach. My wife discovered it online and booked it sight unseen. We drove there with great trepidation but when we arrived, we were blown away. The Edison Beach House is a five-story property where each of the units is a suite and each of them has a balcony that overlooks the Gulf of Mexico. Our first stay was in a second-floor unit. The room was configured where you could sit on the balcony, sit inside and look over the balcony or even sit in the bedroom on the bed, and look through the living room out over the balcony. There was a kitchen and a large bathroom. The bathroom was large enough to hold an apartment-style washer and dryer stack. The kitchen also had everything we needed. In addition to a full-sized refrigerator, there was a coffee maker, a toaster and even a blender.
The Edison Beach House had some of the best shampoos and soaps we have encountered since we started traveling and we were greeted with mints on our pillows. Outside there was a great pool, a brace of chaise lounges, a slider swing and a rack full of bicycles fit for either street or beach riding. However, riding is not necessary, the hotel is just a few hundred yards from the famous Fort Myers Pier and Times Square. It’s just a short walk down the beach. And all this came at a great price point.
More recently, we had an overnighter at the Inn at the Beach Venice. This little art deco property is a real gem in the “Shark Tooth Capital of the World.” It was another hotel that we booked sight unseen and were more than pleasantly surprised upon arrival. For an older property, the room was spacious and had all the necessary creature comforts. In addition to the TV, microwave, fridge and coffee maker they also had some nice presents. We found a couple of bottles of spring water and an envelope of microwave popcorn awaiting us. They also furnished a couple of watercolor notecards depicting the hotel. They were just ready for us to jot a quick letter to some of our friends up north who were enjoying their first snowfalls.
Although this room did not overlook Venice Beach, it was less than a block to walk. The entrance was just up the sidewalk and over the street. Our room faced over an expanded boulevard that plays home to Heritage Park. This park is dedicated to veterans and the memory of the Venice Air Base. It’s an outside entrance hotel, which is wide enough for a couple of chairs and a small table outside each of the rooms. The passageway is wide enough that even if there are people sitting outside you can walk past without having to squeeze.
These two properties were on the Gulf. However, we would be remiss not to mention The Huntoon Landing & Resort. We picked this hotel on a recent trip to Deland. Many times, in an effort to hit our price point, we will stay offsite. This was one of those times and it proved to be a great choice.
This hotel is just down from Huntoon State Park. Unlike previous places we have stayed, we were amazed at the absolute quiet of this location. The only sounds were birds chirping and the crunch of gravel beneath the tires as we drove up to the office. The Huntoon Landing & Resort has 18 rooms and suites spread over five buildings. Ours was a simple room with a queen-sized bed. Like most, there was a TV and a small fridge, However, they also offer suites with fully equipped kitchens.
We did not have a river view but there was a shared deck with a panoramic view of the St. Johns River. This elevated patio was equipped with a number of umbrella-covered tables. So, we sneaked out early in the morning with coffee and sweet bread. Sitting in silence, we watched the sun come up. Occasionally birds would languidly glide across the river in search of breakfast. The only sounds were the call of an egret or a fishing boat easing up the river.
If you want to tour the St Johns, the resort has boats for rent. For sightseers and bird watchers there are pontoon boats. You also can rent a fishing boat if you have angling on your mind. They have a 30-passenger tour boat known as “The Bill Flowers” that takes groups for two hour “heritage tours.” There also was a small restaurant and a souvenir shop on the property. The Huntoon Landing & Resort also serves as a stop for boats to gas up and fishermen to purchase lures and other gear. And Deland – where we enjoyed all its funky shops, interesting restaurants and farmers’ market, was a quick12 minute trip.
When we’re traveling, it is nice to know that there are chain lodgings on which we can rely but, for the money, finding a little boutique hotel adds exponentially to the enjoyment of a weekend getaway.
You can read more about the exploits of ‘The Funmeisters’ on their website!
Photos from Barry & Sandra Foster (shown in the top photo).