Although travel is still a no-go, there are plenty of staycation spots that can make you feel like you have gone somewhere. In this case, it’s back in time.
Like Brigadoon and Bali Hai, the earthly paradise of Old Florida seems more like legend than reality. That magic land of palm trees and unspoiled beaches seems long-gone, especially if you’re in a day-tripping mood. Generic chain hotels abound, with cookie-cutter personalities, each identical to the last. But take heart. Rumors of the death of Old Florida accommodations have been greatly exaggerated. Here’s a peek at four authentic vacation options. Each is 100% pure Florida. And there’s nothing generic about it.
Anna Maria Island
You can’t get closer to the beach and the glorious Gulf than from your sweet perch at Bungalow Beach Resort in Bradenton Beach. Owner Gayle Luper has lovingly restored this historic property that comprises 15 cottages built in the 1930s. Each cute-as-a-button bungalow (they come in combinations of studios and one-, two- and three-bedroom units) features a kitchen or kitchenette, original hardwood floors, exposed beam ceilings, white wicker furniture, plush linens, upscale amenities and, in most, private porches. Feeling romantic? Ask for the “Mermaid,” where you and your heartthrob can toast the setting sun from your deck overlooking the magical shore and surf — and then stay up late watching the midnight stars twinkle through the skylight. The huge walk-in shower is spacious enough for two (wink, wink, nudge, nudge). Guests have access to a private beach area with plenty of lounge chairs and umbrellas. 2000 Gulf Drive N., Anna Maria Island; 800-779-3601; BungalowBeach.com.
Hidden between high-rises and swanky resorts, Arbors by the Sea is a charming enclave of five vibrantly painted cottages, each with a private garden patio with a bougainvillea-sheltered arbor. There are only two cottages currently available for rental, the Ivy and the Iris (both are one-bedroom units). Snug and comfy inside, each offers basic amenities, including a well-equipped kitchen, a sleeping sofa in the living room for the tykes and all the beach paraphernalia you’ll need. The property is immaculately maintained with plenty of common spaces. You’re a few steps to one of the greatest beaches in the world and a brisk walk to the enchanting Joan M. Durante Park with its winding nature trails, secluded views of the bay and lush tropical fauna. When it’s time to feast, the award-winning Euphemia Haye restaurant is just across the street. 5441 Gulf of Mexico Drive, Longboat Key; 866-403-1427; ArborsByTheSea.com.
Rolling Waves Cottages has been a favorite getaway since opening day in 1948. Here, the funky Florida checklist is complete. Stroll down a sandy lane to the glorious Gulf of Mexico? Check. Vast decks and outside grills to cook up your flopping fresh fish? Check. Room at the inn for canine companions? Check. With eight rustic cabins smack on the beach, it’s a perfect antidote for the 21st-century grind. All cabins have a kitchen, living room and separate bedroom, and some have two bedrooms. Cabins #7 and #8 have huge decks directly facing the Gulf and are, hand’s down, best on site. Caveat: The property is delightfully rustic and quaint but skimps on some necessities. The Wi-Fi was temperamental during a recent stay, the kitchen missed basic utensils, and the linens have seen better days. For a few dollars more, the place could shine — and not lose its rustic charm. Even so? Yep, for that view of sand and shore, it’s worth it. 6351 Gulf of Mexico Drive, Longboat Key; 941-383-1323; RollingWaves.com.
Turtle Beach Resort is the picture-perfect spot to stage your own rom-com. It’s more upscale than beach bum casual, but it’s still delightfully laid-back with lush gardens, a heated pool and dreamy views of Little Sarasota Bay. Each Caribbean-style cottage is its own movie set with themed furnishings (Victorian, country, southwestern) that offers a backdrop for love scenes behind bursts of bougainvillea. The cottages are adorably adorned with four-poster beds and private courtyards with outdoor hot tubs to inspire that honeymoon feeling. Guests are welcome to use kayaks and fishing poles, and the powdery sands of Turtle Beach are just down the road. Husband-and-wife owners Gail and David Rubinfeld are happy to help connect you with parasailing connections, couples’ massages, sailboat cruises, weddings, anniversary fetes and more. (Psst: If you’re looking for kid-free, pet-free seclusion, the Rubinfelds also own the Inn at Turtle Beach just across the street.) Ophelia’s, just next door, is the perfect place to snuggle up to some seriously sexy food. 9049 Midnight Pass Road, Sarasota; 941-349-4554; TurtleBeachResort.com.
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