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reproduced from the PalmBeachPost.com

BETWEEN THE MCMANSIONS, A VINTAGE MOTEL

1950s Florida vacations are more than a memory

By JAN NORRIS
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Sunday, June 03, 2007

CASEY KEY — What is it about these vintage '50s motels we love?
It's the non-cookie-cutter atmosphere, the single-story buildings, apartment-like rooms that may not have all the zillion-dollar amenities you aren't using anyway, and plain, old-fashioned Florida charm.

I can imagine the families who "found" Florida, and in particular, Casey Key, when it was nothing but this motel and a handful of others along this stretch west of Venice.

They came in their station wagons, a couple of fresh-faced kids, and a mom and dad who worked all year to save for this vacation. Or maybe they were honeymooners, getting away to a beautiful, secluded beach.

There was probably a wooden bridge connecting it to the mainland; today, two drawbridges take you the short span across an inland creek.

On the north end of the island today is an explosion of McMansions, packed cheek-by-jowl along the beach and waterway. Very few "Old Florida" houses remain.

But this 1950s-era motel does. There are only nine units — one- and two-bedroom apartments — but they're spacious, and well- stocked. We met several couples who've been coming for years from Vermont and upstate New York; they schedule a week's stay here and live it up doing mostly nothing but socializing, sunset-watching, surf casting and playing with their dog (pets allowed; check with manager for fees).

That's what we tried to do: as little as possible. Sitting on the little deck in the lounge chairs with our morning coffee and watching the shore — not the morning news — was a luxury.

Shelling in late afternoon was also relaxing. This pristine, secluded beach is a treasure trove for shell-seekers. It's untouched by raking machines, lifeguard jeeps and other intrusive vehicles, so the shells mound up.

You can dig down 2 feet and it's more shells.

Also unique to this area is the number of fossilized bones and shark's teeth that wash up.

In the Gulf Surf's small courtyard, there's an umbrella-shaded table where our little motel group gathered at sunset for drinks.

A couple of intrepid fishermen were braving a rough sea to do some casting, but they didn't fare too well. But there's a grill on each patio, perfect for searing whatever you do land (or buy).

Full kitchens (including things like blenders) handle the landlubber fare.

We wanted a lot more time here, to do more lazing around.

With very reasonable off-season rates, it's not an if, but when we'll return.

If you go:

Gulf Surf Resort Motel
3905 Casey Key Road Nokomis, FL 34275
(941) 966-2669

www.gulfsurf.com

Nine one- and two-bedroom units available.
Rates: $80 to $325 through Dec. 15; $99 to $325 from Dec. 16-April 30.
Small pets allowed.

Getting there: Take SR 710 (the Beeline) west to SR 70 in Okeechobee; go west to Arcadia. Take SR 72 west to U.S. 41 (Tamiami Trail). Go south to Nokomis and west on Blackburn Point Road to Casey Key Road. Go south on Casey Key Road; the motel is on the beach side about a half-mile.

Jan Norris /The Post
Shell seekers are in their glory at
Casey Key. You can even find
fossilized bones.

Jan Norris /The Post
Gulf Surf Beach Resort,
Casey Key.

Jan Norris /The Post
Gulf Surf Resort Motel has nine
units. The '50s-era motel is
stocked with things like
blenders and grills, and
welcomes small pets.

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