By Kara Franker
There’s nothing quite like experiencing a true taste of Florida hospitality and authenticity.
For a more personalized vacation, why not try something new? Instead of one of the big hotels, book a room at an individually owned inn, historic bed and breakfast or a cozy cottage on the beach.
Here are just smaller lodgings to consider, and the small towns where you'll find them:
Coombs Inn & Suites in Apalachicola
Perfect for a romantic getaway for two, Coombs Inn & Suites is a historic Victorian mansion located in Apalachicola on Florida’s so-called Forgotten Coast. Dating back to the early 1900s, the luxurious home features a carved oak staircase, ornate brass light fixtures and an impressive collection of antique furnishings. Go during the annual Florida Seafood Festival in November and taste some of the best seafood on the planet—a delicacy for which Apalachicola is famous.
Palm Pavilion Inn in Clearwater Beach
Located in the heart of all the action on Clearwater Beach, Palm Pavilion Inn is a great destination for families. One-bedroom apartment style rooms even have full kitchens. You’ll also want to dine at the on-site restaurant, Palm Pavilion Beachside Grill & Bar, where you can catch spectacular gulf sunsets, sip on tropical cocktails and listen to nightly live music on the deck. Go during the Clearwater Jazz Holiday in October for great performances by top music artists.
The Birchwood in Downtown St. Petersburg
great hotspot for travelers who want to stay within walking distance to local restaurants and bars, The Birchwood is on Beach Drive, the main drag in downtown St. Petersburg. Facing the waters of Tampa Bay, the Spanish Mission building is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places and maintains a bed and breakfast-style ambiance. Dine at the inn’s Birch & Vine restaurant, one of the area’s top hotspots, then head up to the rooftop bar for a front row seat for sunset over the bay. Visit during the St. Pete Wine & Food Festival in November to taste delectable dishes from local chefs, including Birch & Vine’s own Chef Jason Cline.
Inn on the Beach in Pass-A-Grille Beach
Nestled on the southernmost end on the barrier island of St. Pete Beach, Inn on the Beach is true to its name and provides the perfect place to explore Florida’s Gulf Coast. “Huge hotels are fine, but there’s no substitute for the personalized feel you get at a cozy inn,” said Tampa Bay based journalist, Dalia Colón. “With just 12 guest rooms and three cottages, the inn makes it easy chat with fellow guests over a cup of local Kahwa coffee or to bond as you watch the sunset together. A white board welcomes each guest by name, and innkeeper Sheila is helpful and accessible.” Book your stay during the annual Pass-A-Grille VW Beach Bash, an antique car show in October featuring… you guessed it, throwback Volkswagens. How cool is that?.
Waterside Inn in Sanibel Island
There’s nothing more fun for families than hunting for a variety of seashells on the beach. And Sanibel Island is the Mecca for seashell enthusiasts. Make the Waterside Inn on the Beach your home base and search for shells until your heart is content. Choose one of the gulf front beach cottages with retro terrazzo floors and island-inspired interior design. Go during the annual Shell Show and Festival each March and join other shelling enthusiasts, including members of the Sanibel Captiva Shell Club.
St. Francis Inn in St. Augustine
ating back to 1791, the St. Francis Inn is all about Old World charm on Florida’s Historic Coast. Located in the heart of St. Augustine, the nation’s oldest city, the inn is just a few short blocks away from the Bridge of Lions and The Cathedral Basilica. Suites offer a combination of cozy elements like private balconies and romantic fireplaces with luxurious amenities. Visit during Nights of Lights, an enchanting holiday festival happening November through January in which the city of St. Augustine glows with millions of Christmas lights. It’s truly a sight to behold.
Tuckaway Shores Resort near Melbourne Beach
ffering a coveted spot directly on the sand, Tuckaway Shores Resort is a dream destination for vacationing families. You can’t get any closer to the beach or the Atlantic Ocean this this. Spend your days frolicking in the warm Florida sunshine and splashing in the surf. If you go during the annual Indialantic Melbourne Art Festival in March, you’ll have the perfect opportunity to shop for a piece of local artwork that depicts what you love so much about the Sunshine State’s gorgeous coastline.
Crane’s Beach House in Delray Beach
Tucked inside a lush tropical garden, Crane’s Beach House Boutique Hotel & Luxury Villas is a hidden gem in Delray Beach. Sip on a cool drink at the tiki bar, go for a dip in the waterfall pool or head to the beach. Suites are decked out in bamboo and bright décor, many with artistic murals and local artwork. For foodie filled weekend, visit during the annual Delray Beach Bacon & Bourbon Fest in March and you won’t regret it, or leave hungry.
Key West Bed and Breakfast in the Florida Keys
Constructed by Bahamian shipbuilders in the late 19th Century, Key West Bed and Breakfast is a three-story Victorian mansion located on a quiet area in the heart of Old Town. Stroll to Duval Street where you’ll find loads of local restaurants and bars, or spend a relaxing afternoon in one of the Adirondack chairs or hammocks on the front porch of the inn. The pink and white home exudes a serene since of artistic flair—it’s the perfect place to channel your inner Hemingway. Speaking of the famous writer, go to Key West during the annual Hemingway Days festival each July to witness hundreds of white-bearded look-a-likes roaming the island.