Category Archives: Road Trip

Florida’s Historic Hotels (Where You Can Stay the Night)

a white hotel — the Belleview Biltmore one of many of Florida's historic hotels
Take a virtual — or real! — road trip to Florida’s historic hotels..
(State Archives of Florida)

My friend and fellow historian Joey Vars and I recently gave a talk about historic hotels in Florida where people can book a room and spend the night. The talk proved popular, garnering an encore performance at OLLI at Eckerd College. That second session also filled up fairly quickly, and I promised those who attended I’d list the hotels and their booking information in a post they could reference.

Below you’ll find a list of Florida’s historic hotels still welcoming overnight visitors. The year next to each hotel denotes the year the hotel opened for business.

A black and white photo of a two-story hotel Florida historic hotels
The Florida House Inn in Fernandina is the oldest hotel in Florida still in operation.
(State Archives of Florida)

1857: Florida House Inn (Fernandina) 

How to book: or 904-491-3322

1859: Cedar Inn (Cedar Key) or 352-543-5455

1888: Casa Monica (St. Augustine) or 904-827-1888

a 1955 of Florida's historic hotel The Breakers in Palm Beach
One of Florida’s historic hotels, the Breakers, on Palm Beach. This postcard dates to 1955.
(State Archives of Florida)

1896: Breakers (Palm Beach) or 844-285-3297

1904: Oak Park Inn (Arcadia) or or 863-494-9500 or 863-491-8852

1907: Gibson Inn (Apalachicola) or 850-270-2190

1911: The Plaza (Daytona)

Due to damage sustained during Hurricane Ian, the resort has closed through 2023 for renovations and repairs but expects to re-open in 2024.

1922: Park Plaza (Winter Park) or 407-647-1072

1924: Terrace Hotel (Lakeland) or 863-688-0800

1925: Casa Marina (Jax Beach) or 904-270-0025

1925: The Deland Hotel (DeLand) or 386-624-6710

January 1926: Seminole Inn (Indiantown) or 772-597-3777

1926: Biltmore (Coral Gables) or 305-445–1926

1926: Tarpon Lodge (Pine Island) or 239-283-3999

1927: Putnam Lodge (Cross City) or 352-440-0414

a grand lodge with a green lawn Florida historic hotels
The Wakulla Lodge is a Florida historic hotel — the only one inside a state park.
(State Archives of Florida)

1937: Wakulla Springs Lodge (Wakulla Springs State Park) or 850-421-2000

1938: Clewiston Inn (Clewiston) or 863-983-8151

Florida Historic Hotels: Tampa Bay Hotels

Because we both live in the Tampa Bay area, we looked at historic hotels in that part of Florida. Tampa Bay and the Gulf beaches have a treasure trove of historic Florida hotels still open to guests.

a white hotel — the Belleview Biltmore one of many of Florida's historic hotels
While the Belleview Biltmore no longer looks quite as grand, you can still book a room here.
(State Archives of Florida)

Jan. 15, 1897: Belleview Inn (Clearwater) or 727-441-1774

1904: Peninsula (Gulfport)

Temporarily closed for renovations, but expect to open in the coming months. or 727-346-9800

1915: Crystal Bay (St. Petersburg) or 727-914-7676

1918: Castle Hotel (St. Pete Beach/Pass-A-Grille) or 727-289-8767

1922: Ponce de León (St. Petersburg) or 727-550-9300

Jan. 8, 1928: Fenway (Dunedin) or 844-569-9879

1926: Vinoy (St. Petersburg) or 727-824-8015 or 888-236-2427

Jan. 1, 1926: Floridan (Tampa) or 813-225-1700

Jan. 26, 1928: Don Cesar (St. Pete Beach/Pass-A-Grille) or 727-360-1881

1926 Pennsylvania (Marriott Courtyard) (St. Petersburg) or 727-450-6200

This is by no means an exhaustive list of Florida’s historic hotels, so if you know of an historic hotel still operating in Florida, let me know!

Take a Florida B-Movie Road Trip

Aside from sunny beaches, warm winters, and crystal-clear springs, we’re home to some truly horrible, made-in-Florida, B movies. We’re talking movies so bad, they’re amazing.  This week on our podcast, Rick Kilby and I take a B-movie road trip around Florida, using some of the best of the worst films made in Florida as a guide. Follow along!

St. Cloud: 2,000 Maniacs

Right next door to tourist-swollen Kissimmee, you’ll find St. Cloud, where filmmakers made this delightfully bad film — from which 10,000 Maniacs got its name — in 15 days. Stop by St. Cloud, an area with some fascinating history, and don’t forget to eat at The Catfish Place. Watch the trailer.

Green Cove Springs: ZAAT

Take one mad scientist, a catfish, and a human, and what do you get? ZAAT. Filmedin Green Cove Springs, a small town on the St. Johns River well worth a visit. It’s a beautiful Florida town that evokes whispers of yesteryear. It’s changing rapidly, though, so go see it now. At Christmas, they have an annual Parade of Trees, a mailbox with a direct line to Santa, and Christmas on Walnut Street. Watch the trailer.

Marianna Florida: Sharkansas Women’s Prison’s Massacre

Don’t be fooled by the name — This film is all Florida. Check out the scenes filmed at the caves at Florida Caverns State Park. A Jim Wynorski classic. Watch the trailer. P.S.: Jim, if you’re reading this, whatever happened with CobraGator? The trailer looks amazing!

Everglades City: Devil Fish (Monster Shark)

A visit to Everglades City isn’t complete without an airboat ride and a look inside the lobby at the Everglades Rod & Gun Club. Check out Joannie’s Blue Crab down the street, and don’t forget to check out the Lucky Cole photography in the bathrooms. Watch the trailer.

Orlando: Miami Connection

Grew up in Florida in the 1980s? This is so your movie. Seriously. Hungry? Go grab a bite to eat at one of Orlando’s amazing restaurants. Rick suggests Hot Dog Heaven, which opened around the time the film hit theaters. Watch the trailer
A newspaper ad for the 1972 Florida B Movie, Frogs
This Florida B movie features Sam Elliott in his breakout role. Seriously, the now-mustachioed star appears without one in this 1972 film, shot in the western end of Florida’s panhandle.
(Photo credit for newspaper ad for Frogs: American International Pictures, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Santa Rosa Beach & DeFuniak Springs: Frogs 

This 1972 eco-horror film asks the question, “Suppose Nature gave a war and everybody came?” and then answers it in the most bizarre, wonderful way possible. Watch the trailer, then you can stream Frogs. Plus, you need this Frogs t-shirt, you really, really do.
(Photo credit for newspaper ad for Frogs: American International Pictures, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Stock Island: The Key West You Never Knew

a white fence painted with the words "I ❤️ Stock Island"
It’s not fancy, but that’s what I love about Stock Island.
Cathy Salustri

To call Stock Island “the Key West you never knew” may sound dramatic, but it’s the way I’ve always pictured Key West before, as my husband likes to say, Dunkin’ Donuts came to town.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot to love about Key West (its history, art, and architecture come to mind) — but there’s also a lot I cannot abide (the Duval Crawl, the cruise ships, and the drunken smell that tends to linger well after the bars close, to start).

However, right before you get to Key West, there’s an overlooked key that has all the trappings of a truly special place: Stock Island. With not too many places to stay but a lot of gritty reality — not to mention some fantastic artists who live and work there, Stock Island’s easily one of my favorite places in the Florida Keys.


I’ve read several accounts of the origin of the island’s name, but the only Florida Keys historian I trust — Brad Bertelli — tells me the island gets its name from the one-time practice of keeping livestock penned on the island. Brad has a wildly popular Facebook group devoted to Florida Keys history. He posts about history throughout the Keys, and has a few posts showing historic images from Stock Island.

In more recent history, Stock Island has some interesting lore. In popular culture, it gets a bad rep as a place to dump a body. The late Tom Corcoran placed at least one body there (in his books, not in real life), and he’s not the only one. Compared to Key West, Stock Island isn’t pretty — at least, not in the conventional sense.

But, as Key West fell victim to its own popularity and the slices of genuine Keys life grew smaller and smaller, something happened on Stock Island: it took up where Key West left off. I have no idea whether this is a well-planned marketing campaign, something organic, or a little bit of both.

And you know what? I don’t care. While I realize this isn’t 100% true,  Stock Island reminds me of the Key West that once was. Maybe it’s more accurate to call it the Key West that could have been.

What to Expect When You Visit Stock Island

If you visit expecting a smaller, less-crowded version of Key West, you will be disappointed. While the island has no shortage of things for tourists to experience, it’s largely populated by working class people. In the lower Keys — especially close to Key West — working class lifestyles look nothing like working class lifestyles in the rest of the country.

  1. Most of the homes here are mobile homes with little or no yard.

    Real estate costs money and money isn’t something the people serving your food, making your bed, and selling you t-shirts have in abundance. (Consider that the next time you tip, too — will it really hurt you to leave 25%?) If you really want to pull back the veil on what living in the Florida Keys looks like for the average person, take a look at the neighborhoods on Stock Island (but remember, this isn’t Disney World — these are people’s homes. Show respect and don’t walk onto anyone’s property or take a bunch of photos.)

  2. You might think some of the neighborhoods look like a third-world country. They aren’t.

    Odds are, many people reading this can’t afford to rent one of these trailers on what they make (2023 rates hover around $3,000/month for a one or two bedroom).  Even when you do own, when you know it could get washed away every August, you don’t have a lot of incentive to go full Property Brothers.

  3. The tourist areas don’t look like tourist areas.

    Case in point: one of the best restaurants on the island, Hogfish Bar and Grill, is right by a bunch of those trailers that may make some people clasp their pearls, swoon, and double-check the locks on their Lincoln Navigators. El Siboney — one of my favorite places to eat here — has a sign that looks as though it could be one of the first neon signs, anywhere, ever. And, while The Perry and adjacent marina don’t look like most of the rest of the island, the drive to get there is decidedly un-touristy. This is what makes Stock Island worth the visit. This is pure Florida Keys, warts and all — and remember, every home you pass is someone’s iteration of paradise.

But hey, you want to see the real Florida Keys, right?

This is it, baby. Stock Island is as real as it gets. Soak it in. It could be gone before you know it.

Things To Do in Stock Island

  • The I Love Stock Island Festival (in mid-July this year)
  • Walk behind Hogfish to meet the locals (and see some great art)
  • Take your morning run through the neighborhood, where you can see how locals without a gazillion dollars really afford to live in the Florida Keys
a plate of roast pork — when you visit Stock Island, stop by El Siboney and get some!
This roast pork, or puerco asado, which I order pretty much every time I visit Stock Island’s El Siboney, is some of the best I’ve had outside a private kitchen.
Cathy Salustri

Places to Eat

  • El Siboney. This place has fantastic puerco asado, among other things. They have a full liquor bar, plenty of seating, and a cadre of locals who eat here.
  • Hogfish Grill. If they have kingfish and grits on the menu, get it. Trust me.
  • Matt’s Kitchen. The only bad thing about this is that it’s a fantastic restaurant in a hotel, so, yes, it’s a little more tourist-oriented. But the marina at The Perry has liveaboards aplenty, so you’ll still get local flavor here.
the interior of a restaurant called El Siboney, a must-do when you visit Stock Island
El Siboney is definitely not your average tourist eatery.
Cathy Salustri

Places to Stay

  • The Perry’s one of the nicest, newest hotels on the island, and I love staying here.

    Stock Island Perry Hotel by Cathy Salustri — visit stock island and stay here
    Even the sign for The Perry Hotel (on Stock Island in the city of Key West, not on the Key of West) pays homage to Stock Island’s history with its bow shape and propellor light.
    Cathy Salustri
  • Boyd’s Key West Campground is popular (including with fellow road tripper, Jon Kile) for its proximity to Key West. If you don’t mind a lot of people in a relatively small space, this may be a great option. It comes at a price, though: Camping shouldn’t cost this much. Ever.

Like this article? Love the Florida Keys? Check out my Top 10 Things To Do in the Florida Keys (that most people don’t)!