Stephen King has a house on Casey Key, as does Rosie O’Donnell. They don’t actually share a fence with the adorable vintage 50’s mom-and-pop motels, but the cool, and odd, dichotomy of this island is intriguing.
We drove onto Casey Key on the north end, across Blackburn Point Bridge, a swing bridge that is almost the last one left in the U.S. from the 1920’s. It’s a one-laner, so you wait politely for your turn.
After that arduous journey we had to stop for sustenance at one of our favorite restaurants in the area, The Casey Key Fish House. (Joking about arduous but we can always use sustenance!)
We didn’t pick this restaurant as part of our Triple-B visit because it is not near a bungalow, nor a walk to the beach (at our fitness level) but The Casey Key Fish House does have that funky, island-y look about it and it is on the water. It’s painted turquoise, the floors creak, and the wine comes in a plastic cup. There is also a tiki bar.
After lunch we coasted along toward the ocean and gradually the road became very narrow and bordered by huge trees hanging over the road. We were now on the north end – and I say this with my nose tipped up and a fake posh accent, “The NAAWTH End,” you have to draw it out – the mysterious, exclusive part of the island where bazillionaires have their second and third homes.
We kept our eyes peeled for Rosie in a beach sarong herding the kiddies onto the beach, or Stephen sitting on a balcony tapping away at his Remington Portable, but no such luck. BTW, in his 2008 novel Duma Key he used Casey Key as a model for the town. (I’m scared to read it. Have you?)
For awhile we ooohed and aaahhhed over the monstrous homes, some with gate houses bigger than the hospital I was born in. Our heads swiveled left and right as in a tennis game, seeing iron fences with razor sharp finials, warnings about Blind Driveways Next Four Miles, imposing electric gates, insurmountable walls, and Trespassers Will be Shot signs. Okay not that last, but overall we felt like any minute uniformed guards would leap out of the groomed foliage, point their guns and order us to turn back. Why are we allowed to drive past all this??
Finally, finally, after I had a nice snooze (for me looking at mansions is kind of cool for about five minutes) the trees parted and the hushed, patrician air turned bright and sunny and normal! The south end of Casey Key is a mom-and-pop lover’s paradise! This is old Florida at its best.
On both sides of the road are bungalow-style 1950 era motels, each one just as old-timey and full of nostalgic character as the next.
One is actually called SUNTAN TERRACE! Can you imagine? We’re not even allowed to say we want to get a “sun tan” anymore! Forget about being able to buy SUNTAN LOTION. And rightly so, with all we now know about sun damage….. but I secretly miss the days when I’d hook school with my high school boyfriend and go to Ocean City, Maryland, near where I grew up, to “lay out” and get a SUNTAN. (I only did that once, Mom, I swear. I know you’re looking down here reading this!)
There are so many cozy old-school motels in this little square half-mile, it was hard to choose where to stay. Next time we might try out the SUNTAN Terrace but for now here are our Triple-B picks:
(Everything here is actually designated as being in Nokomis. But it’s all on Casey Key. Sorry if this is confusing. I’m confused myself. If you look on the map Nokomis is the town inland.)
- VIBE: Small town atmosphere, very much family oriented, still peaceful (despite kids running around having a ball.) The sand is a bit shelly. There is a raised boardwalk with several walkways to the beach, picnic shelters, and a snack bar and a playground.
- PARK: Free parking and lots of it.
- CROWD FACTOR: This is a popular beach but very wide so there is plenty of room to spread out and not be bothered by loud conversations or stray balls.
- GO/RINSE: Clean, new facilities.
- GUARDS: Yes.
- IMBIBE: Yes you may bring your alcohol.
- BEST FRIEND: No you may not bring your dog. There is a dog-friendly park, Nokomis Community Park, located at 234 Nippino Trail E., Nokomis.
- WE LOVE: The availability of reclining, floating wheelchairs (at the lifeguard stations) for people with disabilities.
112 Circuit Road
- VIBE: Hidden gem, tropical and a little funky (re: PERFECT!) Lovely relaxing views of the water and boats going by. Happy visitors of all ages.
- ARRIVE: Pop’s is within walking distance of The Beach and The Bungalow, just across the bridge. There is a decent sized parking lot and also Pop’s private dock if you want to arrive by boat.
- SIT: There is a tucked-away garden area with fire pits for chilly days, a covered outdoor bar, lots of seating inside, and plenty of seating right on the water.
- SIP: Happy Hour 3 – 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday.
- NOSH: There are many options including the usual suspects (nachos, wings, classic fry baskets, fresh seafood, coconut shrimp that was delicious) as well as creative unique salads, flatbreads, burgers and wraps.
- LISTEN: Live music often on Fridays, and always on Saturdays and Sundays.
- WE LOVE: Watching the boats go by, and even better, watching them dock!
221 Casey Key Road
- VIBE: Crisp and newly renovated, an updated look complimented with the still-retro feel. Very quiet with a private sunning area under some trees by the beach.
- WALK: On The Beach is directly on the beach (surprise!) and A half mile, 9 minute walk from Pop’s.
- DECOR: Clean, contemporary furnishings, light soothing colors.
- SLEEP: VERY comfortable mattress with enticingly crisp sheets (I say enticing because I could marry crisp cool sheets, and because CH had to drag me out of them the next morning to go to the beach!)
- EXTRAS: Coffee maker, mini fridge, flat screen televisions., use of adirondack chairs and loungers. No ice machine for the property at this moment but one is on order. Make note there aren’t utensils available as in some beach motels. There is no on-site management (but that is in the works) so check-in is at their sister property, Bentley’s Boutique Hotel, 1660 S. Tamiami Trail in Osprey, just 2.5 miles away. On The Beach guests may also use the pool and other amenities at Bentley’s.
- RATES: We were able to take advantage of their lower summer rates, starting at $129. Ask about their Florida Resident Discounts, my Florida friends.
- WE LOVE: The fresh new feel in a mom-and-pop type motel. And I have to admit what first caught my eye were the sherbet colors of the exterior. So adorable!
Some more delightful mom-and-popness:
There is another great beach, North Jetty Park (it just isn’t within easy walking distance of the bar and bungalow) at the very southern tip of the island. Facilities, lifeguards, and great fishing from the jetty. You can see the Venice Jetty right across the way (I’m thinking that’s why this one is called “North” Jetty even though it’s at the south end….)
Some photos of the North Jetty Park area:
I must say that this town was so very much “us”; everywhere we looked we saw people happy as clams to be staying in small motels with down-home whimsicality, a welcoming beach to loaf around upon, and the beachy bar just over the bridge.
I read happily for hours with the sound of the small waves as a soundtrack, and CH got in some much-needed fishing time at the North Jetty. Don’t ask if he caught anything: I’m learning it’s as much about just being there as it is bringing home something to show for it. With my blog, I’m able to both!
Casey Key is on Florida’s gulf coast, south of Sarasota and just six miles north of Venice.