I love finding a good hotel and have discovered several since moving to Florida. Here are seven unique Florida hotel stays, some perfect for a private retreat, some with an abundance of luxury, others suitable for adventure, and even one with a live rodeo. I find great new properties all the time, but these Florida hotels have really stood out by providing great experiences.
Disclaimer: I enjoyed stays at the Westgate River Ranch, St. Francis Inn, Island View Cottages, and La Siesta Resort. All opinions are mine.
1. Westgate River Ranch
Did you know you can stay at an authentic dude ranch in the heart of Florida? My top pick for unique Florida hotels is Westgate River Ranch Resort & Rodeo in River Ranch, a town in central Florida. You won’t need to leave the property once you set foot on this vast 1,700-acre family-friendly wilderness.
Choose from luxury tipis, Conestoga wagons, glamping tents for luxury stays, lodge rooms, suites or one and two bedroom cottages for an overnight stay. And if that weren’t enough, there are also tents, platforms and camper pitches for motorhomes. Westgate River Ranch sits on the Kissimmee River and has a huge list of amenities. My favorites were the kids’ farm, the airboat ride, the pool, the marsh buggy ride, the Saturday night street and the dance party (maybe still on hold due to COVID) and driving. a golf cart around the beautiful grounds.
The Westgate River Ranch has a general store for all your camping needs and cravings (with deli, ice cream, and Starbucks coffee), a fun lounge (for drinks), and an on-site restaurant, Smokehouse Grill. Loved the ribs, baked beans and coleslaw from Smokehouse. Saturdays are rodeo nights, with barrel races, bull races and tricks as well as a patriotic all-star performance.
Pro tip: Although COVID stopped it, the hay walk and choir singing at the Westgate River Ranch was some of the funniest activities I’ve done in a long time. A tasty buffet-chuckwagon-style dinner followed.
2. Auberge Saint-François
Tucked away in the brick-lined streets of historic St. Augustine is the Auberge Saint-François, a circa 1791 pet-friendly Bed & Breakfast, dripping with Old World charm and with a host of special touches. St. Francis Inn is the perfect location for your visit to St. Augustine – you probably won’t even need to get in your car. The rooms are a mix of antiques and modern furniture.
The walled courtyard garden is full of colors, tropical flowers and incredible plants. There are seating areas tucked away throughout the courtyard, perfect for enjoying the social hour of wine and cheese, the fire pit, and homemade desserts every night. To say we ate well on this visit is an understatement.
The heated swimming pool (seasonal) is beautiful and a great way to relax on your vacation. You’ll also love the gourmet breakfast buffet (the quiche was fabulous) they are famous for or the tasty breakfast boxes they are currently offering due to COVID.
Pro tip: Take advantage of the free bikes and discover the beautiful city of Saint-Augustin. You also get free entry to the St Augustine Lighthouse and Museum with your stay, and parking at the hostel is included.
3. Amelia Schoolhouse Inn
I chose the Amelia Schoolhouse Inn on an impromptu night at Amelia Island. Just reading the description of this premier boutique hotel in historic downtown Fernandina Beach was enough to entice me. The Inn was built in 1886 as the original school for Amelia Island. Today it is a charming place to stay and has 17 unique rooms that radiate a spark of nostalgia.
My husband and I chose a Premium Queen Room with plenty of space and colorful carpet, hardwood floors, school supplies and associated decor, plus a shower / tub combination. All rooms have desks, ceiling fans, and the cutest retro mini-fridges.
In the lobby, a modern bar called The Principal’s Office serves craft cocktails, wine, and beer and is a great place to network and socialize. There’s also a lovely outdoor pool and putting green, plus a few bikes for hire. A on-the-go breakfast is included with your stay at the Amelia School Inn, as is 24-hour coffee.
We enjoyed the easy walk to downtown Fernandina Beach; the location of the Amelia Schoolhouse Inn could not have been better. They even have free parking. We browsed the local stores, had a delicious dinner, and enjoyed fabulous coffee and dessert before heading to a bookstore.
4. Animal Kingdom Lodge
Walt Disney World has many unique resorts, but one of them strikes me as the most unique – Animal Kingdom Lodge. Where else can you look out your bedroom window and observe giraffes, zebras, kudu, and gazelles, which often eat right next to where you are standing? The photo ops are amazing and the experience memorable. The There are also several swimming pools, and one (Uzima) shows your favorite Disney movies at night.
Award-winning cuisine can be found at Animal Kingdom Lodge restaurants. Indian cuisine is my favorite cuisine, so I am especially in heaven eating in Sana’a for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
I stayed at Animal Kingdom Lodge with my parents and daughter for a Traveling Mom event. I’m not sure which of us liked the lodge the most – my parents for the animals, my daughter for the safari themed room, or me for the delicious restaurants and the super cool lobby adorned with unique African art .
Pro tip: If you are visiting the parks, take free transportation from the hotel or park for free at the theme park (since you have already paid at the hotel).
5. Cottages with island views
the Cottages with island views, nestled on the Indian River in Sebastian on the Treasure Coast, are a true Florida gem. Choose from 12 professionally decorated rooms that include hand-painted murals, private porches, or nautical bunk beds. Whichever chalet you choose, the clever decor, artistic themes, and comfortable furnishings will win you over. This place is the perfect retreat to get away from it all and relax.
Special thoughtful touches at Island View Cottages include a welcome snack (local fish dip and orange juice), freshly roasted coffee, and fresh fruit. A social room is at the back of the property to meet, Games, yoga, reading and watching big screen TV. The marina, with its slipways and fish cleaning station, is a great place to fish or just enjoy the view. Take a nap in the inviting hammocks, grill / barbecue your dinner, prepare s’mores by the fireplace or sit outside your room in the outdoor furniture provided.
Fun fact: Seven of the cabins accept dogs, and the property has a dog park and recently added a dog station, with a (fake) fire hydrant. Beds, bowls and treats are placed in rooms prior to arrival.
6. La Siesta Resort And Marina
On a trip to the Florida Keys, I found myself at La Siesta Resort and Marina in Islamorada, the sport fishing capital of the world. This resort is on the historic Overseas Highway, and trust me, you won’t be disappointed. La Siesta has such a friendly and free staff Wi-Fi and parking, and you can stay in a hotel room (spacious and tastefully decorated), in a lodge, or in a house.
I loved the subtle decor of my room and the earth tones. The grounds are immaculate and sprawling; you can relax in the beautiful infinity pool or relax in one of the free chairs along the private beach. Go on a kayaking adventure or go paddleboarding, snorkeling, or biking – it’s all included in the service charge. Then, enjoy tropical drinks and a light lunch at Wild & Lime, a poolside snack bar.
La Siesta Resort is one of four hotels (Amara Cay, Postcard Inn Beach Resort & Marina and Pelican Cove Resort & Marina) from the same family of hotels. A free shuttle runs between them and to nearby restaurants in the same mileage. I recommend visiting each to check out the facilities and dine in their restaurants.
Pro tip: La Siesta Resort offers discounts for Heroes, AAAs, Florida Residents, and Seniors. You can also save money by purchasing your accommodation at least 14 days in advance.
7. Hard Rock Hotel Daytona Beach
the Hard Rock Hotel Daytona Beach, with 200 rooms, is a rocking good time from start to finish. The stylish hotel is located on the oceanfront and has one of the finest pools on Florida’s east coast. If you can afford it, splurge in a cabin and take in the scenery in style. And speaking of upscale style, pamper yourself at the award-winning Rock Spa & Salon.
The Daytona Beach Hard Rock Hotel has an excellent restaurant, Sessions, with fantastic food – you’ll want to enjoy the happy hour offers, too. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Hard Rock experience without live music – and lots of music!
When you first step into your hotel room, you will be greeted by whatever genre of music you choose. The rooms are amazing and so comfortable! You’ll “sleep like a rock” in the exclusive beds, and the one-of-a-kind musical equipment is a real treat. My favorite part are the floor to ceiling windows, perfect for watching the waves on the Atlantic Ocean. Pro tip: If you are traveling with a pet, ask about Hard Rock’s VIP Pet Program.