This article originally appeared on WanderWithWonder.com.
What images come to mind when you think of Florida? Alligators? Hip-swinging dancers? Disney characters? What if I told you that a 50-minute drive from the city of Jacksonville is a dreamy place with miles of pristine beach and a 1920s boutique hotel with a rooftop terrace and an endless starry sky. As a guest of Casa Marina Hotel & Restaurant, I discovered that Jacksonville Beach is one of Florida’s romantic hidden gems.
It’s mid afternoon, and a friend and I are enjoying drinks and tapas on the rooftop of the Casa Marina Hotel & Restaurant. From our perch, we can see for miles up and down Jacksonville Beach.
Earlier in the day, sky gazers dotted its white sand as the U.S. Navy Blue Angels practiced their weaves and curves over the Atlantic Ocean. Now, as late afternoon slips into the balmy evening, the beach is almost empty and slowly turning from white to pinkish, to blue.
A Hotel on the World’s Finest Beach
Casa Marina Hotel makes quite a first impression with its Spanish-Mediterranean architecture that speaks of a by-gone era of glamor and gangsters. Both were part of Jacksonville Beach’s roaring 1920s past, and the celebrity guests rumored to have stayed at the 60-room hotel include Jean Harlow, Al Capone, and John D. Rockefeller. During WWII, the hotel was used for military housing, and after a few decades, it closed its doors.
In 1991, the hotel reopened, and today, it offers 23 bedrooms and parlor suites (six have direct ocean views) with individually appointed antique furniture and decor inspired by various eras.
We stayed in a second-floor two-room parlor suite with a partial beach view, wood floors, soothing green walls, floral and palm pictures and wood furnishings. The bedroom featured a queen bed with leopard patterned bedding, and the sitting room a cozy queen hideaway bed.