After the coldest winter we have ever experienced, the beach was calling my name. My trip to visit the Casa Marina Hotel in Jacksonville, Florida could not have been better timed! Located in a cozy corner of Jacksonville Beach, this “Grand Old Lady” boasts a historic past. Once the frequent stopping place of gangsters and celebrities, the hotel was commandeered by the Navy for use in the war effort during World War II. Today it’s a gathering place for friends, a wedding destination, a romantic getaway for couples, and a relaxing vacation spot for families.
My first glimpse of the Casa Marina was of a stately building built in the classic Spanish style. I wasn’t sure where to park at first, but a quick chat with the receptionist let me know there was plenty of parking available. Tip: The parking lot beside the hotel is small, but additional parking is available with a hotel pass in the lot across the street. There’s also a large public parking lot next door.
From the moment I arrived, I was struck by the details of the hotel. The tiled front porch held comfortable benches that beckoned me to sit and people watch. The interior walls were filled with historical portraits of Jacksonville beach. Even the hotel bar boasted a claim to fame where Al Capone once shot a bullet through the wall. The meeting room has a can’t miss ceiling made from wood salvaged from old shipwrecks and lovely tile frescos on the wall. No wonder it was designated as one of the Historic Hotels of America by the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 2005.
A boutique hotel, with only 23 bedrooms and parlor suites, each room is decorated differently to represent their historic past. My parlor suite had a breathtaking view of the Atlantic ocean from the bedroom and a view of the courtyard from my parlor. Done in a casual beach vibe, my room featured rattan furniture. The huge armoire held a hidden television and a cute table and chairs provided a workspace with views that had me ignoring my writing. A hallway with an offset bathroom separated my room from the parlor. Tip: If you can’t find the hairdryer in the bathroom cabinet, check the upper shelf of the closet. It took me a few minutes to find it!
The parlor contained everything I needed for a comfortable evening in my room. The pull out sofa would be good for kids. The room also includes a small television and a small refrigerator, perfect for keeping snacks, leftovers or treats. While I heard tales of spooky sounds and strange happenings in the hotel, no one or nothing disturbed my slumber. If you’d like to hear the spooky side, ask the lovely Maitre D, Sterling Joyce, to share his stories with you. It would be a particularly exciting October adventure. And, if you don’t want to hear spooky stories, stop to chat with Sterling anyway. He’s a local legend and will keep you entertained with stories of the history of the hotel and local lore.
For appetizers and drinks, we headed to the Penthouse Bar, located on the 3rd floor. The bar doesn’t offer the typical fare. Instead, it serves a choice of upscale appetizers ranging from Seared Ahi Tuna to Baked Brie in Croute. The specialty drink is Martinis, and I sipped on a luscious concoction called the Expresso. Made with Van Gogh Double Espresso Vodka, Licor 43, Kahlua, and Godiva Chocolate Liqueur with a Splash of Cream, it was like a drinkable dessert. For those who prefer a fruiter route, the 1924 is an exotic mixture of lime, mango, and a hint of basil. While it sounds unusual, this fruity concoction would be a perfect treat to sip on the rooftop bar while watching the ocean. The Penthouse Bar is the local restaurant in the area that directly overlooks the beach. That, along with the delicious food and drinks, make it a favorite with locals, tourists, and hotel guests. Tip: Stop by during happy hour for the $6 Martinis and the $4 special of the day.
When we were ready to start the day, I headed down to the lobby bar area for the complimentary continental breakfast. There’s a selection of goodies ranging from fresh fruit, pastry, and bagels to heartier fare of eggs, sausage, and waffles. The perfect place to enjoy the breakfast is on the patio behind the lobby bar or in the courtyard. The soothing sounds of the ocean are relaxing and the views of the ocean provide tranquility to relax a frazzled mind.
I left the Casa Marina hotel feeling refreshed and renewed. With the friendly service, the scenic views, and the charming atmosphere, I wished my stay had been longer. Perhaps it is already time for a return visit!
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