Finally, a beach vacation lodging option other than high-rise condo or make-your-own-bed rental house. Blended Family Traveling Mom found a historic hotel as suited to elegance as it is to sandy feet and bathing suits in northeast Florida.

Sunset colors night sky over Casa Marina Hotel. Photo by Christine Tibbetts, Blended Family Traveling Mom.

Sunset colors night sky over Casa Marina Hotel. Photo by Christine Tibbetts, Blended Family Traveling Mom.

The Hotel Casa Marina rises three modest stories on Jacksonville Beach, one of seven communities spanning 40 miles of shoreline. Each town offers up a slightly different vibe.

If city amenities blend with your notion of a beach vacation, Jacksonville is ten minutes away and loaded with theaters, museums, restaurants and smart nightlife.

Should walking long stretches of beach without the dead end of stone jetties or riding bikes with the family on smooth, paved-style boardwalks suit you better, then the Hotel Casa Marina is situated just right.

The Hotel

Casa Marina is 90 years old, built in an era of elegant living when northerners discovered the joy of Florida winters and the ease of train travel to get there.

Historic hotel, modern drone photographer. Photo by Christine Tibbetts, Blended Family Traveling Mom

Historic hotel, modern drone photographer. Photo by Christine Tibbetts, Blended Family Traveling Mom

Flaming fires destroyed the other resorts but this one endured thanks to its concrete walls and a revolutionary-for-the-time sprinkler system in the ceilings. Now this grand dame is a member of Historic Hotels of America.

Find $90 a night rooms this birthday year, and if you do, rejoice in the multi-million dollar renovations that have occurred through the decades.

Each of the 23 rooms or suites differs from the other so chatting with the reservations desk helps choose a style.

Only two of the 23 connect so a big family needs to decide early. Suites have one bedroom with a Queen bed and sofas, but they don’t open as sleepers.

The View

Top deck views from the Casa Marina extend to sea. Photo by G. W. Tibbetts

Top deck views from the Casa Marina extend to sea. Photo by G. W. Tibbetts

The Atlantic Ocean and white sandy beach dominate the back yard as far as you can see left or right. The hotel lobby is cozy so just a few steps take you to a spacious patio and boardwalk through the dunes to the beach.

Beach Life Rentals shows up daily so it’s a breeze to reserve chairs and umbrellas, standup paddleboards, kayaks and beach cruiser bikes.

Pay $1.00 to walk along the long pier whether you want to fish or not because the kids will like peering over the sides and the perspective from the end lets them pretend to be out at sea.

The Neighborhood

This is the place to discover the art of lifeguarding, and the Life Saving Corps Station that you can tour is officially Number One.

Woolen bathing suits of the 1920s era are on display and the kids will surely say “Gross” if they’re paying attention when the tour guide lifeguard tells them people rented bathing suits in those days.

Lifesavers in the 1920s wore woolen swim suits. Photo by G. W. Tibbetts

Lifesavers in the 1920s wore woolen swim suits. Photo by G. W. Tibbetts

Climb the narrow winding staircase to the five-story top called a peg for an even bigger view of the beaches.

Climb again at The Beaches Museum, this time aboard a 1911 steam locomotive typical of the engine that brought those Yanks south in the Gilded Age.

It’s well protected in a glass house, polished to perfection and everybody’s allowed to ring the bell.

Houses and businesses from the late 19th and early 20th century that would have served hotel guests and local residents surround Engine #7 – fully furnished and readily available on docent-led tours.

They’re all in what the Museum calls a History Park so even with kids anxious to return to the beach, this involves the outdoors and some items of daily life they just might find quirky.

Hotel Amenities

Breakfast is included at the Casa Marina, served in the cozy lobby and always including hot items, fresh fruits and easy access to the patio.

Coffee maker is in the room, small frig too, and the water bottles are a handsome blue–$3.00 each, the color people like on their bottle trees to keep the ‘haints away.

Historic hotels are often challenged with electricity upgrades for traveling families needing to charge every device but my room had a bar with multiple plugs discretely placed on the floor near the night table and accessible plugs in the living room.

Wi-fi is free and easy to sign on.

The Penthouse Lounge overlooks the Atlantic Ocean. Photo by Christine Tibbetts, Blended Family Traveling Mom.

The Penthouse Lounge overlooks the Atlantic Ocean. Photo by Christine Tibbetts, Blended Family Traveling Mom.

Penthouse Lounge is where retro martinis are served with panoramic views of the sea. This third floor space is appreciated best with adults.

Sunday brunch is a sumptuous affair and go prepared to photograph the red snapper. Here’s your tip:

Head and tail are in place, this five to seven pound fish is filled with a large ball of silver foil and so stands firmly on the serving tray. To fish-eater me the seasonings were exquisite and scoring long way and cross way made serving gentile.

What Doesn’t Work for Families

No pool – but with the ocean so very handy maybe beach vacation can really be all about the beach. Plus, I saw no raised eyebrows or tasteful grimaces walking through the lobby with sandy feet.

Not enough connected rooms or spaces for several children.

 

Do you ever consider North Florida for a vacation? Or prefer Historic Hotels of America as your go-to lodging? Do share.