Florida’s coastlines are cluttered with massive resort-style hotels, many of them chains, and draw little inspiration from their unique landscape, whether it’s South Beach‘s vintage urban charm or the rugged, unspoiled setting of the state’s panhandle. On your next Florida jaunt, opt for a stylish, small hotel instead, for a genuine slice of intimacy at a posh, quiet retreat. Here are five not-to-miss boutique hotels, from Key West to Amelia Island, and many points in between.
With just 45 spacious rooms—some touting an outdoor hot tub or a two-floor, loft-style layout—The Angler’s is a sweet spot on Washington Avenue, set just a few blocks off of buzzing Ocean Drive. The smallest accommodations are a spacious 450 square feet, and all are a quick walk to the pool, where you can relax under a cabana and enjoy table service. Massages can be booked in your room, and free Wi-Fi is available property-wide.
Insider Tip: At 660, the hotel’s restaurant offering Latin-fusion small plates and a spectacular by-the-glass wine list, dine indoors amid decor imagined by the late Gianni Versace’s interior designer. Its Saturday brunch—also offered Sunday—is the only one in South Beach.
This nine-room hotel on the state’s Gulf of Mexico side sports a mod design, from the purple and gold ornate entrance to the geometric-patterned rugs and black-and-white bathrooms in each room. Also in each unit: free Wi-Fi and an iPod docking station, full kitchens, plus pillow-top mattresses and high-end bed linens. Tucked into a former apartment building dating back to the 1920s, you’ll swear you’re staying at a friend’s place—and not a hotel.
Insider Tip: To maximize your full kitchen, walk three blocks to Sarasota‘s farmer’s market on Saturday mornings. Next up: a gourmet, farm-fresh lunch in the comfort of your room.
Orchid Key Inn
Staying at the 24-room Orchid Key Inn—a mid-century white building with a retro purple-lit sign out front—puts you in the heart of the action in funky, laid-back Old Town Key West, alongside Hemingway’s former home and the historic lighthouse, both just a block away. Back at the inn is an intimate and luxurious vibe, with brick paths and tropical landscaping throughout, and custom-built furnishings and Terrazzo marble flooring in each room. Expect a quiet poolside atmosphere. Rates include complimentary breakfast and Wi-Fi.
Insider Tip: Skip the local bars and opt for happy hour at the inn, which is held every night at sunset and of no cost to guests.
Break away from the Florida Keys‘ signature kitsch, but still remain close to the tiki bars and beaches, when you book a room at the 16-suite upscale Casa Morada. Suites are divided between the lushly landscaped Sea View House and Garden House, with its Florida Bay views, and include extras like free Wi-Fi, yoga classes, use of kayaks, paddleboards, and snorkeling equipment, and daily breakfast.
Insider Tip: Don’t bother renting a car as the hotel offers shuttle service from Miami International Airport and once you arrive, many of the restaurants and bars can be reached via bicycle (complimentary rentals are available at the hotel).
Elizabeth Pointe Lodge
At this 1890s Nantucket-style house turned bed-and-breakfast, the 20 rooms of the Main House come set affront the Atlantic Ocean. Or, opt in for a stay at the adjacent Ocean House, done up in West Indies-inspired décor; or Miller Cottage, a two-bedroom, two-bath cottage. Just like home, you’ll get a full breakfast, morning paper, Wi-Fi, and evening wine with hors d’oeuvres.
Insider Tip: Bring a good book because as soon as you see the Main House’s wide, wraparound verandah, you’ll want to curl up there all afternoon (lemonade is provided, naturally).
Kristine Hansen is a freelance writer based in Milwaukee where she reports on food, wine, and travel topics around the globe for Fodors.com, along with new-hotel openings. She also writes for Wine Enthusiast, TIME, Whole Living and American Way. In 2006 she co-authored The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Coffee and Tea (Alpha Books/Penguin). You can follow her on Twitter @kristineahansen or through her web site.
Photo Credits: The Anglerâ€™s: Courtesy of The Anglers Resort; Hotel Ranola: Courtesy of Hotel Ranola; Orchid Key Inn: Courtesy of Orchid Key Inn; Casa Morada: Courtesy of Casa Morada; Elizabeth Pointe Lodge: Courtesy of Elizabeth Pointe Lodge