By Lauren Tjaden
Florida’s historic, iconic resorts and hotels are perfect for celebrating your own special getaway. You can discover lavish mansions where Gatsby-age tycoons toasted blockbuster deals under sparkling chandeliers; kick back in decadent hideouts where high-society celebrities frolicked by the waves; and escape to rustic lodges tucked deep in remote waterways.
Renovated and transformed with modern amenities, these resorts promise a vast array of experiences to suit every visitor.
Options include a stay in the Fontainebleau, a Miami Beach legend nestled in Millionaire's Row that promises to spoil you with award-winning dining, an opulent spa and sumptuous rooms; the Don CeSar on St. Pete Beach, a 10-story masterpiece nicknamed ‘the Pink Palace’ that treats guests like royalty; and the Gibson Inn, the charming crown jewel of Apalachicola, where a ghost is rumored to meander at night and sometimes even play the piano.
Read on to discover legendary Florida resorts and hotels and find the one-- or ones—that are just right for you.
Snuggled on Captiva Island between the shell-strewn beaches of the Gulf of Mexico and Pine Island Sound, ‘Tween Waters blends historic appeal with plush comforts. A southwest Florida fixture since the 1920’s, the resort offers charming beachside cottages and comfortable rooms and studios as well as amenities that include five eateries, a marina, spa, fitness center and pools.
Famous feature: The resort’s Crow’s Nest Bar & Grille is renowned for its longtime, beyond-silly tradition of hermit crab racing. Laugh at the show; pick the crab you think will be the speediest, then kazoo and cheer for your little friend to make it to the finish line first.
Little-known fact: Boaters can tie up at ‘Tween Waters Marina for a low slip rate and snag free access to all the resort’s amenities.
The Boca Raton / Boca Raton
Founded in 1926, the Boca Raton Resort is a wonderland that encompasses 356 waterfront acres and a secluded golden-sand beach. It indulges visitors with championship golf, hydro-grid tennis courts, and a spa that offers its own private pool and gardens. Pick from a stay at the 5-star boutique Beach Club; the Bungalows, which offer one-or-two bedrooms with full kitchen, the Yacht Club, an all-suite, harborside escape; or the Cloister & Tower, with its celebrated history and imposing architecture.
Famous feature: While the 300-foot-tall Boca Raton Club Tower is significantly higher than any other building in southern Palm Beach County, it’s more legendary for its "Boca pink" color.
Little-known fact: The U.S. Army used the club as barracks during World War II, which officials commonly referred to as "the most elegant barracks in history."
Notable for hosting old Hollywood's finest, this award-winning, Art-Deco-inspired hotel is tranquil and sophisticated. It embraces the essence of the European Riviera with flawless cordiality, juicy coastline fare, and made-to-please concierge services. Located on the glorious sands of Miami Beach, the resort invites you to discover the city with the hotel’s signature seaplane adventure, yacht charter or private walking tour.
Famous feature: The 1,100 sq. ft. Cadillac Suite is spectacular by any measure, with a state-of-the-art theater system, lux amenities and killer views.
Little-known fact: The movie Pal Joey was filmed at the hotel in 1957, starring Rita Hayworth, Frank Sinatra and Kim Novak.
You’ll find this extravagant, beachfront hotel at the hub of Miami Beach’s vibrant Faena District. Designed by architect Roy F. France, it originally opened as the Saxony in 1948, a plush favorite of jetsetters and Hollywood stars like Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe and Dean Martin. Transformed into Casa Faena in 2015, it was the first luxury resort to receive the esteemed Forbes five-star rating in its initial year of operation. It offers striking residences, a haute resort hotel, creative entertainment and destination shopping in addition to a marina and cultural venues.
Famous feature: The skeleton of an almost ten-foot-tall woolly mammoth, gilded in resplendent 24-karat gold, dominates the hotel’s garden. Learn more about it and other art displays here: www.faena.com/faena-art
Little-known fact: The hotel’s over-the-top service includes a dedicated experience manager for your stay, and every floor of the hotel has its own signature Faena Butler.
Celebrate 1920’s history and the glitz of old Hollywood’s royalty at Casa Marina, once a secret escape for celebrities. Today the modernized resort boasts two pools, a spa and convenient access to Duval Street and its attractions. Bike rentals, watersports and boat charters add to the fun.
Famous feature: Casa Marina is home to Key West’s largest private beach.
Little-known fact: The resort’s RUMba Lobby Bar offers an select collection of rum crafted into mouth-watering cocktails as well as local cigars.
Built in 1926, the Colony Hotel is charming, historic, and bright with tropical colors. Nestled amid the lively dining and nightlife of downtown Delray Beach, voted “America’s Most Fun Small Town” by Rand McNally, it’s been owned and operated by the same family since 1935. Outside, its twin domes are dreamy reminder of the Flagler era of Florida Mediterranean architecture; its interior pays tribute to the past with the original hand-woven wicker furniture, wood skylights and lobby terrazzo floor. The hotel is eco-friendly and pet-friendly.
Famous feature: Amenities include a sumptuous, private oceanfront playground at the Colony Cabaña Club, only two miles from the hotel.
Little-known fact: The interior of the hotel includes the 1926 staff-operated elevator and the original telephone switchboard, and true to tradition, the guest elevator is still staff-operated today.
Open since 1954, to say Fontainebleau is a legend is an understatement; for almost 25 years it was so famous that it didn’t have a sign to identify it. Superstars and entertainers like Elvis Presley and Judy Garland created so much buzz about the 22-acre, oceanfront hotel it once needed to post armed guards to keep non-guests out. Today, it seamlessly blends Old-World glamour with cutting-edge luxury, dramatic design, contemporary art, music, fashion and technology. Expect signature restaurants with award-winning chefs; two stylish nightlife venues; a two-story spa, an impressive poolscape, miles of unspoiled beach and ultramodern conference and event facilities.
Famous feature: The resort’s massive 17,000-square-foot lobby is home to the epic “Stairway to Nowhere,” created by Morris Lapidus, the hotel’s famed architect. The opulent staircase only leads to a small coat room.
Little-known fact: Fontainebleau has an underground stack of aquariums dubbed ‘Water World’ that hold live fish and seafood for the hotel’s nine on-site restaurants. The reasoning is the "less stress a fish feels, the fresher it’s going to taste."
Constructed in the 1920’s, the hotel is nicknamed “gracious lady,” an elegant, quiet retreat that’s welcomed celebrities like Babe Ruth and Clark Gable. You’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time when you relax on its expansive veranda facing tree-lined Main Street, a popular place for fierce card games-- yet you’ll be within easy driving distance the action of Orlando’s famed theme parks.
Famous feature: The hotel was named in honor of a 150-year-old jacaranda tree that was removed to make way for its creation.
Little-known fact: During World War II, the Jacaranda contributed to the war effort by housing hundreds of servicemen training to be military pilots.
La Concha is conveniently located on Key West’s illustrious Duval Street, renowned for its diverse dining, smart boutiques and notorious watering holes, only a short stroll to attractions like the Mel Fisher Museum, Hemingway House and Mallory Square. This landmark hotel was a favored haunt of Hemingway, Tennessee Williams and Harry S. Truman, and while it still has a tropical, friendly vibe, it boasts updated amenities like a full-service restaurant and bar, a wine tasting and retail lounge, an outdoor pool, a well-equipped Fitness Center and even a rooftop Spa.
Famous features: Constructed during the “Roaring Twenties” in 1926, La Concha was Key West’s first luxury hotel and was considered the pinnacle of elegance and modern convenience, featuring marble floors, private baths, sumptuous décor, an elevator, and expansive ocean views.
Little-known fact: The historic edifice has a ghostly reputation for accommodating the beleaguered souls of guests long-gone. Visitors often report unexplained happenings like drafts of cold air, vanishing chardonnay and the sound of muffled sobbing.
Constructed in 1936, this Art Deco boutique hotel is sited at the heart of Miami Beach, just across the street from the golden-sand beach. Each room is different, making them suitable for a variety of needs. The multilingual staff is dedicated to making your getaway stress-free, offering assistance with transportation, dinner reservations and recommendations for everything Miami.
Famous feature: The Ocean Spray’s lobby has been renovated to whisk you back through the ages to the mid-17th century, with the aim of making you feel like you’re in the Palace of Versailles.
Little-known fact: If you’re looking for a deal, you can often find promotions on the hotel’s Facebook page, here: www.facebook.com/hoteloceanspraymiami/
For a serene escape, you can’t do better than this tranquil island, accessible only by boat or ferry. A five-minute car ferry ride will get you to the resort, which encompasses two-miles of shell-strewn beaches on the north end of Palm Island—but then ditch the keys, because cars aren’t allowed. Choose from beachfront cottages, Old Florida–style villas or furnished homes, all with views and concierge service.
Famous feature: For a delicious bite of old-Florida, take a Water Taxi to the resort’s Rum Bay Restaurant, where you can sample burgers and seafood or sip on Rum Bay’s classic Smash, a dangerous concoction of light and dark rum, cream of coconut and tropical juices.
Little-known fact: A true natural wonder, the resort is a haven for birds and wildlife. From May to October, as sea turtles nest and hatchlings emerge, guests can join a sea turtle walk for an unforgettable experience.
Situated deep in the mysterious 10,000 Islands region of the Everglades, the Club promises a hearty dose of old-Florida delivered with the ambience – and the original furniture—from the turn of the century. The décor is an unlikely combination of stuffed deer, mounted fish, refined crystal chandeliers, tiffany lamps and polished hardwood floors, which somehow blend into a gorgeous, perfect mix. Outdoor escapades include fishing, eco tours, airboat rides, and guided canoe and kayak excursions. But it’s not all about roughing it; amenities include a 169-seat restaurant with views of the Barron River, a public boat ramp, rental cottages, swimming pool, two bar lounges, overnight dockage for boats and a helicopter landing area for well-heeled guests that prefer to fly in.
Famous feature: The Club was a popular escape for numerous presidents, including Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Hoover and Nixon, as well as dignitaries, celebrities and actors.
Little-known fact: The Rod and Gun Lodge is constructed atop the foundation of the house built by the area’s first permanent white settler, who founded Everglades City in 1864, still a tiny village with only 400 residents.
Grace, style, nostalgia and the twilight grandeur of the Old South are the hallmarks of this restored, historic Inn. Nestled amid Florida's cattle and citrus country, it’s relaxed yet elegant, with an open fireplace, winding staircases, and two eateries, including the acclaimed Windsor Room, offering refined dining that will whisk you back to another epoch, defined by sweeping windows, massive 20-inch-thick walls, and a gracious staff.
Famous feature: The sumptuous Sunday buffet will satisfy the heartiest appetites with fare that ranges from waffles to fried green tomatoes and lunch items.
Little-known fact: In 1925, Mr. Solomon Davies Warfield built the Inn, regarded as the heart of Indiantown. Warfield’s niece, Wallis Warfield, was the social hostess at the opening Gala Event. She later infamously she met Edward VIII, then Prince of Wales, who became king of England in January 1936 but abdicated the throne to marry Warfield in France in June of 1937. The crown asserted that she wouldn’t share her husband’s royal rank, and she was subsequently exiled from England.
Kick back and enjoy the Old-Florida vibe of this 1926 lodge with Pine Island Sound as a scenic backdrop. Designed for the avid sportsman, in modern times the lodge is popular for couples yearning for a romantic getaway as well as folks who just want to unplug and reconnect with nature and loved ones. The Boathouse and Cottage offer privacy; the 1926 Historic Lodge is a gem from bygone days complete with gleaming hardwood floors; and the Island House is easy-on-the-eyes and comfortable.
Famous feature: Open every day for lunch and dinner, the highly-acclaimed Tarpon Lodge Four-Star Restaurant is a not-to-be-missed indulgence, promising a quiet elegance, sunsets over the water and delights like Brown Sugar Citrus Cured Salmon and the catch of the day.
Little-known fact: In 1521, Ponce de Leon led a colonizing expedition which came ashore on the southwest coast of Florida. The colonists were attacked by Calusa Indians, and Ponce de Leon was wounded by a poisoned arrow to the shoulder. After the attack he and the colonists sailed to Havana, Cuba, where shortly thereafter he died of the wound. Archeological evidence indicates that this occurred on the northwestern side of Pine Island, where Pineland is located.
Built in 1926, this ritzy hotel was the place to host sensational fashion shows, parties, golf tournaments and water shows in what was at that time the largest pool in the world. It’s kept the ritz but revamped everything to offer guests posh accommodations with romantic touches and endless amenities. Dining options include tapas by the pool at Cascade; a scrumptious Sunday brunch; afternoon tea in the lobby; and a wide variety of other restaurants and fare. Championship golf, a spa, and tennis are some of the resort’s other temptations.
Famous feature: Among the most enormous hotel swimming pools in the Continental United States, The Biltmore’s pool measures a mind-blowing 23,000 square feet and holds 600,000 gallons of water. If you’re not a member or a guest, the only way access it is to reserve one of the cabanas, which are swanky affairs equipped with love seats, dining tables and flat screen TVs.
Little-known fact: During World War II the federal government utilized the Biltmore as a military hospital, and after the war, it became a hospital for veterans. When it closed in 1968, the Biltmore was abandoned, and neighborhood kids would sneak in to the shuttered building-- so many that the City of Coral Gables hired a security guard. Kim Dunn-Zocco, who grew up in Coral Gables, was one of those kids. Tiptoeing past the guard, whom they nicknamed "The Greenie" after his green golf-cart, was part of the fun, she says.
The exclusive Brazilian Court Hotel, a historic landmark hotel with Roaring 1920’s allure, is an intriguing blend of Spanish-Colonial architecture, luxuriant tropical courtyards and sultry ocean winds. This boutique, 80-room enclave invites quests to enjoy their posh accommodations with wet bars, premium minibars, and jetted soaking tubs; revel in the cuisine of internationally acclaimed chef Daniel Boulud at Café Boulud; get pampered at the Brazilian Court Salon; or just disappear into serenity by the private, palm-framed pool, all while getting anything-to-make-you-happy service.
Famous feature: Built in 1926, almost all of Sicilian architect Rosario Candela’s original structure of the Brazilian Court has survived, perfected by a rich decor of mahogany paneling, butter-yellow buildings, and elaborate antique furnishings.
Little-known fact: The Court is a popular secret getaway for celebrities because of its multiple entrances and discreet exits.
Founded by Henry M. Flagler, one of America’s great industrialists, and renowned as an architectural masterpiece, The Breakers first opened in 1896, then reopened two times more after major fires in 1903 and 1925. Unapologetically glamorous, it’s hosted U.S. presidents, European nobility and a ‘who’s who’ of glitterati. Still setting the standard in luxury, today The Breakers offers breathtaking accommodations, a vast array of dining options, and activities that include golf, shopping, a spa, and tennis.
Famous feature: When the oceanfront resort reopened in 1926, Flagler modeled his creation after the resplendent Villa Medici in Rome. This grand undertaking required 75 artisans, brought in from Italy, to complete the intricate paintings stretched across the ceilings of the 200-foot-long main lobby and first-floor rooms, which remain on dramatic display.
Little-known fact: The Breakers is one of just over 1,000 family-owned businesses in the U.S. that’s over 100 years old and still under original ownership.
Wrap yourself in elaborate luxury at the Chesterfield, a retreat rich in old-world charm. Built in 1926 in the Mediterranean style, the hotel is ideally positioned in the heart of Palm Beach, just a short stroll to the city’s celebrated beaches, renowned museums and stylish Worth Avenue. Its eclectic eateries include the Leopard Lounge & Restaurant as well as the private, palm-shaded Courtyard, where you can sample an al fresco lunch.
Famous feature: The high-octane Leopard Lounge, one of the area’s trendy hotspots, boasts sultry, black lacquer walls, leather-lined banquettes and a conspicuous leopard-print carpet, as well as a stunning ceiling, hand-painted by revered local mural artist Lino Mario.
Little-known fact: Rod Stewart reportedly found amore with the barmaid from The Chesterfield's Leopard Lounge.
Tasteful, elegant and sumptuous, The Gasparilla Inn is just far enough of-the-beaten-track to provide a secret getaway for celebrities wanting to slide under the radar. It opened in 1911, designed as a hotspot for wealthy northerners, many of whom liked to fish in the area’s abundant waters. One of the biggest remaining resort hotels in Florida, it’s hosted moguls like J.P. Morgan, Henry DuPont and Henry Plant. Today it offers a wealth of accommodations that include The Main Inn and Beach Cottages, loaded with amenities. A spa, championship golf, tennis, croquet, a marina, events and spectacular dining add to the allure.
Famous feature: The Pelican Room was added to the Inn in 1932 as a place where longstanding Pelican Club members could spin fishing stories and yarns, smoke cigars and shoot billiards-- and perhaps, at the end of Prohibition, sip a cocktail. The Inn didn’t have a public cocktail lounge until after World War II.
Little-known fact: Until the early 1930s, fresh water was brought by train cars to The Inn.
Built in 1939, this highly-rated, adults-only hotel enjoys an ideal location in South Beach’s epic Art Deco neighborhood, directly on the beach and only minutes from Lincoln Road and Ocean Drive. A popular playground for socialites and celebrities in the 1950’s and revivalists of the 1970’s, the fully-renovated hotel embraces its glamorous past with many original furnishings, like barrel chairs, gleaming chrome light fixtures and terrazzo flooring. Expect elegance and ocean views whether you stay in its 14-story historic tower or one of its 36 sumptuously appointed cabanas and suites.
Famous features: The National is home to Miami Beach’s longest infinity-edge pool, a wonderous creation that stretches 205-feet under swaying palms.
Little-known fact: You can relax and breathe deep with the hotel’s yoga program.
Built in 1935, this boutique art deco hotel enjoyed a multi-million-dollar refresh in 2018. Sited just a short stroll from Miami Beach’s action, it provides an oceanfront sanctuary that delivers barefoot luxury with a tropical courtyard, vibrant gardens, and two idyllic pools with tranquil, unobstructed views of the Atlantic Ocean. Pet-friendly and people-friendly, it offers 31 chic suites, 24-hour concierge service and a library.
Famous feature: 200 linear feet of private beach.
Little-known fact: In 2012, developers merged The Savoy with the Arlington Hotel, another 1930’s era building, expanding The Savoy immensely while retaining its epic Art Deco personality.
Step back in time at the Lakeside Inn, a historic wonder nestled in the small enclave of Mount Dora, heralded as a sanctuary for artists and antique lovers. With brightly hued yellow buildings set among towering, moss-draped oak trees and exquisitely landscaped grounds that curve down to meet Lake Dora, the Inn has welcomed numerous dignitaries and celebrities, including President Calvin Coolidge. Today, the Inn lures visitors with award-winning dining, a lakeside swimming pool, abundant meeting space and modern amenities.
Famous feature: Built in 1883, the Lakeside Inn, along with the Florida House Inn in Amelia Island, claims to be the oldest continuously operating hotel in Florida.
Little-known fact: Lakeside Inn’s Human Resources and Special Events Manager Stacey Coverstone is a novelist with 30 published books. One of her books, Lake Tavadora (The Trilogy), was inspired by and is set at Lakeside Inn and Lake Dora.
Spectacularly displayed behind expansive dunes set against the Gulf of Mexico, the entirely renovated Don CeSar is the undisputed royalty of Florida's West Central coast. Since 1928, it’s been a testament to style and pleasure that’s attracted sun-worshipers, luxury vacationers and some of America's most famous characters. Anticipate generous accommodations laden with modern amenities, a sugar-sand beach, dramatic sunsets, a world-class spa and an eclectic food experience.
Famous feature: A striking blush color, dramatic and palatial, this iconic Florida landmark has long been known as ‘the Pink Palace.’
Little-known fact: Real estate magnate Thomas Rowe built the Don CeSar as a tribute to his lost sweetheart, a Spanish opera star named Lucinda whom he met in England when he attended the opera “Maritana.” The couple fell in love, referring to each other as Maritana and Don CeSar during their secret encounters by a hidden fountain. When Lucinda’s parents learned of the relationship they forbid it, hurrying their daughter back to Spain. Thomas returned to the United States with a broken heart, and spent years trying to reconnect with Lucinda. But his endless love letters came back unopened, and in the end the only message he ever received was of Lucinda’s death accompanied by a note addressed to “My beloved Don Cesar.”
You’ll find this 1926, nineteen-story hotel nestled at the center of downtown Tampa, displaying its original grandeur with the benefits of modern comforts. The hotel prides itself on flawless service, opulent accommodations and gracious amenities.
Famous features: About 240-feet tall, the hotel holds bragging rights as Florida’s first skyscraper and remained the State’s tallest building until 1966. It’s the only historic skyscraper remaining in Tampa of the six that were constructed downtown between 1910 and 1930.
Little-known fact: The Floridan’s Sapphire Room used to be called the ‘sure-fire room’ because GIs would always have a good time there. At 98 years old, Gus Arencibia, the Floridan’s former bartender, recalled that during the war, “You couldn’t get a room.”
Waldo E. Sexton, a colorful, imaginative and eccentric entrepreneur, built the Driftwood Inn and Waldo’s Restaurant in 1935, both set on the latte-hued sands of the Atlantic. These extraordinary structures are constructed of cypress logs and pecky-cypress paneling and stuffed with a hodgepodge of items that include ships' wheels, cannons and early Italian chests. This mishmash is affectionately called the "Menagerie of Monstrosities." Don’t expect an award-winning spa at the historic resort, but if you’re looking for a fascinating place to kick back by the waves and sip on a cold one with some beach buddies, this is it.
Famous feature: The most notable part of the menagerie is its immense assortment of bells. They include purchases from road trips to Mexico, some that once festooned noble locomotives like Old 97 of Virginia or the local line to Key West, and even one that belonged to Harriet Beecher Stowe.
Little-known fact: Townspeople who remember the 1930's relate tales of Sexton pacing the beach while bellowing instructions to the construction crews building the resort, who worked by voice command only, without plans. Nothing ended up square or level, but it’s interesting.
You’ll find plush accommodations and world-class hospitality in this eye-catching, meticulously restored hotel. Situated in downtown Lakeland next door to serene Lake Mirror and its walking and jogging trails, the historic hotel has been a Sunshine State favorite since 1924. Modern amenities include onsite fine dining at The Terrace Grille, a bar and lounge, Wi-Fi and a pet-friendly policy.
Famous feature: Henry Ford, Frank Sinatra, and Frank Lloyd Wright are some of the elites who vacationed at the hotel during the 1940’s and 1950’s.
Little-known fact: The Terrace was the Lakeland’s first grand hotel, the first high-rise building, and thanks to the recent invention of air-conditioning --one of the first year-round hotels in Florida.
Convenient to St. Petersburg attractions like Tropicana Field and the Florida Aquarium, this award-winning, waterfront hotel features sophisticated accommodations that reflect the allure of its high-society heritage while adding modern perks. Enjoy fitness classes, tennis courts, pools, golf and a luxury spa in addition to delicious on-site dining options.
Famous feature: The resort was born thanks to a 1923 party, a wager and a game of golf at the St. Petersburg Beach Drive home of Aymer Vinoy Laughner, an affluent Pennsylvania businessman. Esteemed golfer Walter Hagen pounded several golf balls off the face of his host's high-quality pocket watch, with bets on whether the watch would endure Hagen's formidable drive. It did, and the golf balls settled across Beach Drive on a residential waterfront property. Party guests suggested that Laughner buy the property and build a grand resort under his name… and the rest is history.
Little-known fact: On its opening day in 1926, the hotel's nightly rate of $20 per room was one of the priciest in the state.
With the feel of a fabulous private home, Casa Marina Hotel, born in 1925, melds history with natural beauty and sophisticated culture. The beachfront hotel offers 23 bedrooms and parlor suites, individually decorated to exemplify the distinctive and changing eras of its rich past.
Famous features: For two decades and counting, the Casa Marina Sunday Brunch has served up classic dishes, local fresh seafood and house-made desserts to a steady stream of dining awards.
Little-known fact: For exceptional views of the Northern Florida coastline and a study in relaxation, pay a visit to the third-floor rooftop bar and restaurant.
Step back in time with a visit to the Florida House Inn for a getaway steeped in congenial warmth. The 1857 Inn, which has welcomed guests that include Ulysses S. Grant, Jose Marti, Henry Ford, and Laurel and Hardy, is set in the historic district of quaint, walkable Fernandina Beach. It offers unique, graceful rooms, breakfast and a bar.
Famous feature: Along with the Lakeside Inn in Mount Dora, the Florida House Inn claims to be Florida’s oldest continuously operated hotel.
Little-known fact: David Yulee initially built the Inn as a boarding house as part of a plan to construct a railroad from Fernandina Beach to Cedar Key. When the Civil War began it interrupted plans for the almost-complete railroad and Yulee’s dreams were never realized.
Dubbed “The coolest spot to stay on the Panhandle” by Southern Living Magazine, the Gibson Inn is rich in Southern hospitality and one-off charm. Built in 1907, the hotel boasts utterly unique guest rooms, with no two the same; a spirited Billiards Room; wrap-around porches and Bentley chauffeur service. The Inn’s Parlor Bar is the unrivaled local hotspot, serving up craft cocktails, OCBC beers, and a delish Pub menu from the in-house restaurant, the Franklin Cafe.
Famous feature: The Inn is well-known for its spirits—as in ghosts. Eerie events often feature Captain Wood, who died of pneumonia in the Inn. He commands attention in the dark of the night with his piano playing and footsteps. Another apparition is Mary Ellen “Sunshine Gibson,” who garners notice by making phone calls to the guest rooms.
Little-known fact: During the peak of World War II, the U.S. Army took over the Inn and was used as officer housing for military serving at Camp Gordon Johnston.
Encompassed by 6,000 acres of secluded forest, the Lodge at Wakulla Springs overlooks one of the country’s largest and most stunning springs. Built in 1937 by industrialist Edward Ball and sited amidst Wakulla Springs State Park, the Lodge is a rugged, beautiful creation made of cypress, iron and marble where you can spend the night, relish a meal at the Edward Ball Dining Room, or experience the Jungle Cruise Tour of the river.
Famous feature: The world’s longest known marble bar is in the Soda Fountain/Gift Shop, measuring a whopping 70 feet 3 inches.
Little-known fact: Old Joe, a massive, ancient alligator that measured over 11 feet and weighed 650 pounds, was an intimidating but peaceful creature that lived at the springs until someone snuck in and shot and killed him in 1966. Edward Ball, the lodge’s creator, offered a $5000 reward to find the culprit, but it was never claimed.
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