On my trip to St. Simons Island, I was invited to stay at the Casa Marina Hotel & Restaurant in the small town of Jacksonville Beach, Florida. Not being very familiar with Florida I had no idea what to expect. I knew that the Casa Marina Hotel & Restaurant was a renovated 1920s hotel, but what I didn’t know was how charming it was, or that it was steps away from the beach!
The Casa Marina Hotel & Restaurant offers its guests:
- Tastefully decorated rooms with individually appointed antique furniture
- Complimentary continental breakfast
- Patio with views of the dunes and beach
- A rooftop terrace with fantastic views, dining, and drinks
- Within walking distance of restaurants, museums, and shops
- Guests receive a 10% discount with Beach Life Rentals
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There are plenty of ways to get the local scoop. Check out the best hotel reviews and hotel deals at TripAdvisor.
A Thrilling Welcome
As my friend and I drove into Jacksonville Beach, the U.S. Navy Blue Angels were practicing twirls and swirls in the sky in preparation for the Sea & Sky Air Spectacular. What a way to be greeted! So, needless to say, we were pretty jazzed when we arrived at the Casa Marina Hotel & Restaurant. The hotel is on the north end of the downtown area, and its alluring Spanish-Mediterranean architecture makes it stand out. Since we arrived before check-in time, we decided to head to the beach to watch some of the show, and then explore on our bikes.
Travel Tip: Want to learn more about Jacksonville, including how to eat breakfast like a local? Check out Seven Things to Know About Jacksonville, FL
Travel Tip: The Sea and Sky Spectacular is an annual event that happens every fall. At the time of this post, the dates for 2017 were unconfirmed. To check back, visit Jax Happenings.
Casa Marina Hotel & Restaurant – Historic Elegance on the Beach
A Historic Hotel
From the moment I stepped into the hotel, wish it could have shared its secrets. The old black and white pictures on the walls, tell part of the story, but being a curious sort of person, I always want to know more. What I do know, is that the hotel opened in 1925 and during its heyday, it had its share of celebrities stay the night like Jean Harlow, Al Capone, and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. The hotel original had 60 rooms, and after extensive renovations, it now has 23 bedrooms and parlor suites, six of which have full ocean views. The hotel has a complimentary continental breakfast (pastries, yogurts, and two hot items), a rooftop terrace and bar, and an outside patio.
The back edge of the hotel is next to a sandy area with grasses, and beyond that is the beach. We were there shortly after a hurricane, so I’m not sure if that had changed the shape of the sand or dunes. On our bike ride, we did notice that sand had blown over the sidewalk in several places.
Travel Tip: Guests of the hotel receive a 10% discount with Beach Life Rentals. They rent beach cruisers, surfboards, SUPs, kayaks, beach gear like umbrellas and chairs. During the busy season, they have a kiosk set up near the backside of the hotel close to the beach, and in the offseason, they offer free delivery.
Casa Marina Hotel & Restaurant
A Tropics-Inspired Suite
We stayed in a second-floor two-room parlor suite with a partial view of the beach. The bedroom had a queen bed with leopard patterned bedding, a wardrobe, and a dresser. In between the two rooms was the bathroom with a wet bar. The sitting area had a pull-out couch, a small fridge, and a sitting chair. Both rooms had wood floors and their own television. The decor throughout the suite with pictures of palm trees and fauna seemed very fitting for the Florida tropics. Both of us slept soundly – me in the Queen bed and my friend on the pullout couch – and we most importantly we didn’t feel cramped.
Dining on the Rooftop – Soak Up the Beach Life!
One of our favorite things about the Casa Marina Hotel & Restaurant is the rooftop terrace and its happy hour. There is seating inside and outside, and we chose outside because the view is AMAZING. You can see for miles up and down the beach, and after the sun sets the stars seem to hang above you like cabana lights. Because of the great view, the outside seating area can fill up fast, but if it is a beautiful day, it’s worth the wait. I suggest getting there near opening time to grab a spot as it seemed like as soon as the work day ended the tables filled up.
Being a lover of tequila, I ordered the strawberry drink You and Tequila ($3), and my friend had a glass of wine. We also ordered the pulled pork sliders ($2), blue cheese chips ($2), a spicy shrimp saute with fruit salsa ($4), and a smoked gouda and charred tomato fondue ($4). The shrimp and the sliders ended up being my favorite. There are also daily rooftop specials, like $6 martinis on Wednesdays (starting at 7 pm) and live music on Sundays from 3 to 6 pm.
Travel Tip: We heard the Sunday Brunch buffet is exceptional with seafood, a carved roast, salads, homemade bread, desserts and more. If you happen to be there on a Sunday, you might want to check it out.
There are plenty of ways to get the local scoop. Check out Expedia.com for reviews and travel deals.
Casa Marina Hotel & Restaurant – Pros and Cons
- Steps away from the beach
- Each room at the historic inn is uniquely decorated
- A choice of rooms and suites, some with views or partial views
- Complimentary breakfast
- Within walking distance of downtown, shopping, dining, and museums
- Free WiFi
- A rooftop terrace with dining and drinks
- Discount for beach rentals
Cons: (I had a hard time finding something not to like)
- Not pet-friendly
Would I stay at the Casa Marina Hotel & Restaurant again? Yes! First of all, it has a fantastic location – steps away from the beach and views to boot. Second, it is on the register of Historic Hotels of America, which means it is unique and charming. As a traveler, I also liked that it was a few blocks away from the main hub of activity and that getting around by bike or walking is super easy. At night, we even rode our bikes down the beach. The rooftop terrace not only has a good view, but good drinks and food, and the happy hour is super budget friendly. Also, the ambiance of the hotel sets the stage for a romantic getaway.
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Jacksonville Beach Travel Tips
Hotel Address: 691 1st. St. N. Jacksonville Beach, FL
Closest Airport: Jacksonville International Airport (40 minutes)
Carless Options: For around $60 one-way you can catch the SuperShuttle from the airport to of Jacksonville Beach and then explore the downtown area or beach by foot or bike. But, if you want to explore the neighboring beach towns, it’s probably easier and more economical to have a car.
Dining Travel Tip: While we were there we dined at three locations: the hotel, Zeta Brewing and Metro Diner. I can recommend all three.
Activity Tips: The beach is beautiful, and I was told that even in the busy season, it is not as crowded as some of the other Florida beaches. There are also plenty of outdoor beach activities like SUP, kayaking, as well as biking (which is what we did.) If you like history or want to learn more about the area, be sure to stop in the FREE Beaches Museum & History Park.
To learn more check out Seven Things You Need to Know About Jacksonville Beach, FL or visit City of Jacksonville Beach.
Note: As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with accommodations and meals for the purpose of review. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest.