FLORIDA

The Five Inns of St. Augustine, Fla.'s Inns of Elegance

Collectively they are known as the Inns of Elegance in St. Augustine, Fla., however, the five properties are as individual as their innkeepers.

“Staying at a bed and breakfast is a unique opportunity,” says Joe Finnegan, innkeeper, St. Francis Inn. “Travelers tend stay at them because of the great hospitality, interaction with other guests, and the food. At bed and breakfasts, you can find wonderful recipes that are either favorites or family recipes.”

“While bed and breakfasts are different in their own way, they all provide good quality experiences. You won't be or get bored.”

When it comes to the Inns of Elegance, he adds they offer a variety of accommodations that meet space and budget needs.

Historic

St. Francis Inn is the oldest inn in America's oldest city, ran by the Finnegans, the longest operating innkeepers in the city.

While it's close enough to the old city (enjoy complimentary bikes to explore), it's secluded enough (complete with a private courtyard) to feel like a true getaway.

Weaving touches of the city throughout the property, some of the chairs in the dining area are from Flagler's hotel, as well as the coffee bar. Other pieces are from significant places around the city.

Accommodation-wise, the 17-room property includes suites, a private cottage and the 1880 Wilson House. He adds that about seven to eight of the rooms would be considered family-friendly, and about six rooms welcome pets. It is also one of two inns with a swimming pool.

In addition, the Finnegans also have lodging on the beach as well, with variety of amenities, like beach towels and beach chairs.

“Guests of the inn can use it, if they want to go to the beach. Just like guests of the beach cottage can use the property when they want come into the city.”

He points out the property has a fairly extensive food and beverage service. For starters, you can enjoy daily breakfast, and brunch on the weekends and holidays. Begin (or end) the evening with a social hour, featuring appetizers and drinks. A special feature at St. Francis Inn is the evening dessert hour. Providing homemade desserts, such as banana cream pie, Finnegan says typically it's one or two desserts.

“It's a small, fun competition between our chef and the helper to try and make the best dessert.”

“View”-tiful

Referring to themselves as the “inn on the bay,” Joy and Andrew Warren, innkeepers, Wescott House, says the property is an easy sell not only because of the view, but also because of their hospitality.

Situated just so, overlooking Manatanzas Bay and the historic Bridge of Lions, you're naturally drawn to the hammocks tethered from the trees that swing gently from the breeze outside the 1880s Victorian building. (Just wait until you see the view from the second-story deck.)

It's all about relaxation.

And for some, it can all be about food. Specifically breakfast, which Joy Warren says they take seriously.

“We serve a full breakfast with dishes like eggs Benedict and casserole dishes.”

Former hotel people, the Warrens says that owning and running a bed and breakfast “has been fun. St. Augustine is a great town to own your on place.”

The 16 guest rooms at Westcott House, decorated with American and European antiques, feature either fireplaces or double Jacuzzi baths. Amenities at the property are plentiful for even the well-traveled.

While the day starts off right with a hearty breakfast, the evening kicks off with a social hour. In true special-to-itself spirit, Wescott House features storytellers/historians twice a week during the social hour. On Mondays and Wednesdays, guests can enjoy learning about the city's history as well as ghost stories.

Fun

She loves renovating old houses, and he loves vacationing at the beach. So they decided bring the two loves together, and operate a bed and breakfast.

“They” being Mike and Sandy Wieber, and the “bed and breakfast” being Bayfront Marin House. The couple purchased the inn last September, and Sandy says they are so lucky.

“I love St. Augustine.”

Offering 15 rooms, with views of the Intracoastal Waterway, Mike points out it's a very different property.

“It was originally three single family homes. Every room is different, and that's one of the things that attracted us to the property.”

The property was used as apartments for many years, and then converted to a bed and breakfast.

“Every room has its own separate exterior entrance. It's nice and provides a little added privacy.”

The rooms along the first floor are considered to be the property's family and pet-friendly units. Many of the rooms have fireplaces, double-sized Jacuzzis and more.

The Wieber's do their breakfast differently from other bed and breakfasts. The breakfast is served in shifts from 8 – 10 a.m.

“When checking-in, we give the guests a card and they fill out what time they want breakfast and where they like to have it served.”

Yet what truly separates Bayfront Marin House from the others is the ice cream social the property holds on Wednesdays. And this isn't your typical ice cream, either.

“Sandy knew I loved ice cream,” comments Mike. “So, one year she bought me an ice cream maker. I began to experiment with different flavors. When we moved to St. Augustine, I thought it would be a good idea to serve it in the summer. Some of my flavors include raspberry chocolate cheesecake, Kahlua mocha cherry chocolate chip and chocolate Oreo cheesecake.”

“My friends kid me by asking why can't I make vanilla ice cream.”

Intimate

Understated elegance perhaps can best describe Inn on Charlotte. Tucked away off the brick-paved Charlotte Street, it provides a quaint respite from the Old City. An adult-only inn, built in 1918, it once served as a family residence. Even though the house became a bed and breakfast in 1993, it hasn't lost that private home feeling.

And that is exactly what Rodney Holeman, innkeeper, strives for.

The property's eight rooms are furnished and decorated after legendary residents of St. Augustine. Guests can stay in the Audubon's Quarters, Henry Flagler's Verandah, among others.

Amenities include everything travelers could want on a comfortable and an enjoyable getaway, like WiFi, whirlpool tubs and more.

Inn on Charlotte hosts an evening social hour, complete with wine; and always has available tea, lemonade or filter water, perfect to sip in between exploring St. Augustine or before turning in for the evening.

For those who consider breakfast to be the best meal of the day, the property doesn't disappoint.

“We serve a two-course breakfast, alternating between sweet and savory dishes,” says Holeman.

Indulge in such dishes as blueberry sour cream bread or poached pear with almond cream sauce.

Explore, or just sit and relax in the parlor or on the porch – it's up to you at Inn on Charlotte.

Indulge

It's one of the most photographed inns in the area, and when you see it, you'll understand why. Providing panoramic views of Manatzas Bay, Casablanca Inn was built by one of Henry Flagler's engineers, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

According to Michael Miles, innkeeper, the property has always been some form of lodging. It was formerly known as the Mantazas Hotel. In 1992, it became what it is now – a bed and breakfast.

Offering 23 rooms and suites, the property is the largest of its type in St. Augustine. In the Main House, there are 12 rooms to choose from, followed by the Coach House, directly behind the Main House, with eight rooms and the Secret Garden with three suites. The accommodations in the Secret Garden are optimal for families, couples or girlfriend getaways. The amenities here include dining areas and kitchenettes.

What is the Secret Garden, you ask. Filled with lush tropical plants, located across the street from the Coach House, Miles says it's the only known one in the historic district. Complete with sitting areas, the garden is a prime spot for complete relaxation.

Amenities vary, depending on the room and building, but can include private porches or decks, fireplace, Jacuzzi, rainfall shower and more. If you desire it, there's probably a room with it at Casablanca Inn.

And a note about the rooms, expect the sweetest of all dreams when you lay down on the Select Comfort Sleep Number Pillow Top bed.  Don't be surprised if you oversleep, yet feel well rested when you finally wake up.

Guests can enjoy a daily sit-down gourmet breakfast, either in the dining area or on the front verandahs, featuring a changing menu of sweet or savory dishes. Tea and coffee are complimentary during the stay, and your getaway sweetly starts off with freshly baked chocolate chip cookies at check-in.

Another special feature to Casablanca Inn is the Tini Martini Bar. Soak in the cozy atmosphere as you sip a glass a wine, martini, beer or scotch.

Of course, being a historic property there are a few ghost stories to share.

“We have two rooms in the Main House that seem to have some activity,” comments Miles.

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