Sunday Favorites: Old Florida Staycation

Merab Favorite
There are not too many places left locally that are affordable, available, and also offer a quaint old Florida feel that many of us desire. I've been driving past some small beach cottages on Longboat Key for years, always meaning to inquire about them. I finally booked a stay at the locale and was pleasantly surprised by its offerings.
 
Nestled in between Longboat Key McMansions is a tiny span of six cottages built in the 1940s. These Gulf side guest houses were perfect for a short staycation. Rolling Waves Beach Cottages have an old Florida feel and seemed like a home away for the entire family- even the dog was welcome!
 
I have driven by these festively colored little cottages for years, always wanting to book a stay there. I finally pulled the trigger, reserving three nights and four days in the only two-bedroom house available. Each cottage features all the amenities one needs for a comfortable and budget-friendly mini staycation including parking, a fully equipped kitchen, a separate bedroom, and private outside sitting and BBQ area. In addition, there are cool communal areas for grilling and even a fire pit, which we were unable to use due to the weather.
 
The second bedroom was really a closed-in porch that accommodated a queen bed and a twin, a perfect setup for my 5 and 7-year-old boys as well as their grandmother. The weather was a little on the wet side so at times it got crowded, but the approximately three-acre property was perfect for us. As a mom of two sons old enough to walk around on their own but still a little too young to be alone for any extended period of time, I appreciated the fact that other residents looked out for my kids when they were walking to and from the cottage and the beach area.
 
During our short stay, we saw a lot of different wildlife. From wild rabbits to osprey to a manatee. I can only imagine the amazing animals that some of the first guests saw, back when the cottages were originally built in 1948. At that time, Longboat Key was a largely undeveloped barrier island. The northern end of the key had some residences but there were no bridges that connected the key to the mainland until 1927. This was short-lived as the bridge at the northern end of the key that connected Longboat to Coquina Beach was washed out in 1932 and was not replaced until 1957, according to historian Jeff LaHurd in his article "Westover Cottages Provided Beach Escape."
 
John Ringling attempted to develop the southern end of the key with the construction of the Ritz-Carlton hotel and an 18-hole golf course in the late 1920s. Unfortunately, the Great Depression took hold and the Ritz-Carlton was never finished and remained abandoned for many years and the golf course was also closed.
 
In 1935, a couple named Lora and Gordon Whitney, whom Whitney Beach is named for, set up a beach resort on the present-day Manatee County side. The Whitney's built small beach cottages which they advertised as the "perfect place to bring your family and pets."
 
But during WWII (1939-45) a stay at Longboat Key might not have been as peaceful as the Whitneys had promised. Parts of the key were used for bombing practice and an emergency landing strip was set up for the Sarasota Army Airfield. After the war, small hotels and beach cottages appeared up and down the key, very similar to Rolling Waves.
 
After all these years, Rolling Waves Beach Cottages is still delivered on the Whitneys" promise -- it was a perfect place to bring our family and chihuahua, Ricky. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for something a little more low-key. Enjoy it while you can though, according to a statement I received the locale is destined to become a private residence. We are glad we got to enjoy it before it was razed to accommodate yet another Longboat Key McMansion.
 
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