For a city as large as Jacksonville, the variety of lodging options is disappointing. There are a lot of hotels in the city, but a shocking number of them are of the international chain variety. In the Riverside area, however, there are a number of tasteful B&Bs that can trace their history back to the first decade of the 20th century, providing a little bit of history and personality.
Located in the beautiful Riverside district, the St. Johns House (1718 Osceola St., 904/384-3724, www.stjohnshouse.com, Nov.–Feb. and Apr.–May, doubles from $99 d) shares in the area’s architectural uniqueness. Built in 1914 and converted into a B&B in 1992, the two-story house is as historical as it is comfortable. Classy without being stuffy, the three guest rooms here are smartly decorated with a notable lack of doilies. There’s Wi-Fi throughout the house, and all guest rooms have private baths, telephones, and televisions.
The House on Cherry Street (1844 Cherry St., 904/384-1999, www.houseoncherry.com, Oct.–Mar., from $105 d) is also in the Riverside area. In keeping with its cherry-blossom theme, there’s an abundance of pink in the dining room, but the two guest rooms are mercifully painted in somewhat more muted tones. Both rooms are filled with antiques and offer great views of the St. Johns River.
Unlike the other B&Bs in Riverside, the Plantation Manor Inn (1630 Copeland St., 904/384-4630, www.plantationmanorinn.com, from $150 d) is open all year. The nine guest rooms in this 100-year-old three-story mansion all have private bathrooms and are tastefully and comfortably appointed. Shaded by an enormous oak tree, the back patio is great for breakfast or evening cocktails; a tiny swimming pool and hot tub are also available.
Jacksonville’s Embassy Suites (9300 Baymeadows Rd., 904/731-3555, www.embassysuitesjax.com, suites from $164) is ideally situated for families vacationing in the area. The chain is known for its free breakfasts and the one-bedroom–sleeper sofa setup in its guest rooms, but while this particular hotel isn’t immediately convenient to anything, its proximity to I-95 on the south side of town means that all the sights in the region—the beaches, downtown, even Amelia Island and St. Augustine—are a lot easier to access and fairly equidistant.
The Fig Tree Inn (185 4th Ave. S., 904/246-8855, Jacksonville Beach, www.figtreeinn.com, from $145 d) is a spacious beach cottage retrofitted into a bed-and-breakfast. Just half a block from the beach, the inn offers six large bedrooms, all with private baths, and two fantastic porches (one upstairs, the other a classic Southern-style front porch). The dining room is a cozy glassed-in Florida room with views of the backyard, where there is a fig tree. There is also a full kitchen available for guest use.
Originally opened in 1925, the Casa Marina Hotel & Restaurant (691 1st St. N., Jacksonville Beach, 904/270-0025, www.casamarinahotel.com, from $169 d) has experienced several different lives in its extensive history: It served as military housing during World War II, and was variously an apartment building, a retail store, a restaurant, and a tearoom. Reopened in 1991 to serve its original purpose, the Casa Marina does a marvelous job of reclaiming its former grandeur.
Classy without being stuffy (this is Jacksonville Beach, after all), the Casa Marina has 23 guest rooms and suites, each of which is decorated in period style. The contemporary cuisine in the restaurant is complemented by an outdoor dining area that opens onto the Atlantic Ocean.
© Jason Ferguson from Moon Florida, 1st Edition