For a trip back to a gracious era, stay at the Banyan House. Built in 1926, this Mediterranean Revival mansion is a few blocks from downtown Venice, and offers an assortment of rooms, suites and apartments—all arranged around a tropical garden, heated pool and spa—and, natch, an enormous banyan tree. Curl up with a book in the solarium or set forth on a bicycle expedition with guidance from innkeepers Chuck and Susan McCormick. At day’s end, enjoy cocktails in the courtyard. In this quaint resort, the good old days are here and now. Rates start at $550/week in January and April; $750/week, February and March for efficiencies; $600/week and $2,000/month for suites with kitchenettes; and $2,300/month for full one-bedroom apartments in January and April; $2,800 in February and March. 519 S. Harbor Drive, Venice, (941) 484-1385
The Beachcomber on Casey Key draws beach buffs from around the planet with its funky Florida charm circa 1950 (a second building was built in the 1970s), friendly owners and stunning beachside perch. The property includes 12 apartments, cottages and villas (most beachside, two bayside). Generations of families stay here—and get married and celebrate anniversaries here. “Book as early as you can,” says co-owner Tekla Dragan. “Once you’ve stayed here, you’ll want to return.” Rates start at $135/day, $790/week and $2,730/month, January-April. 129 Casey Key Road, Nokomis, (941) 488-0715
The Manasota Beach Club is a rustic enclave of one-, two- and three-bedroom cottages nestled on 20 acres of paradisiacal nature preserve between the Gulf of Mexico and Lemon Bay. Recreational diversions include a pool, tennis courts and access to a private golf course. The pièce de résistance: a quarter-mile of pristine beach. The resort also functions as a private club with fine dining, so ask about meal plans. Rates begin at $350/night, single occupancy (includes breakfast and dinner), Nov. 15-Jan. 31 and April 16-30; $375/night, single occupancy (includes three daily meals), Feb. 1-April 15. 7660 Manasota Key Road, Englewood, (941) 474-2614
Venice Beach Villas, centrally located between Venice Beach and downtown Venice, sits nestled in lush, tropical greenery, with each villa designed as a home away from home. Cook up your own feast or check out the diverse dining options just a stroll away. For chilling out, there’s a heated pool, or jump in the car and head for the beach five minutes away. It’s a great place to do absolutely nothing. Rates start at $150/night. 501 W. Venice Ave., Venice, (941) 488-1580
At Pelican Shore Cottages, an out-of-the-way enclave of 10 cypress cottages and two apartments on Manasota Key, the rustic cottages were built just after World War II, and are nestled on four acres of lush, subtropical vegetation. All boast panoramic views of the Gulf of Mexico; Cabin No. Eight is directly on the beach. Shells, shark’s teeth, pelicans and sunsets are a frisbee’s throw from your door. Hang out and relax, or explore the 11 miles of white sands waiting outside. Rates start at $100/night. 4076 N. Beach Road, Englewood, (941) 474-2429
Inn at the Beach is an old-school “motor court” from the 1940s. This 49-room property offers rooms, efficiencies and one- and two-bedroom suites, just across from Venice Beach and a mile from the downtown area. In classic ’40s style, it’s wrapped around a cute courtyard with a pool and seating area. If the sight of the Gulf is vital, ask for a beach-view mini suite. No need to fuss over breakfast; they serve continental breakfast daily. Rates start at $115/night. 725 W. Venice Ave., Venice, (z941) 484-8471
A Beach Retreat on Casey Key lives up to its name. This laid-back getaway, on three acres from Gulf to bay, offers 26 units, from efficiencies to three-bedroom suites. Seventeen are beachside; nine overlook the bay. (For a Gulf view, ask for Nos. 12, 14, 15, 23 or 24.) There’s also a heated pool and dockside availability for boaters. Within walking distance are the restaurants and shops of Casey Key, with nary a high-rise in sight. “Casey Key is a hidden gem,” says Natalie Foster, the property manager. “If you’re looking for the simple charm of Old Florida, it’s right here.” Rates start at $199/night, Feb. 1-April 30. 105 Casey Key Road, Nokomis, (941) 485-8771
When you want to stay smack dab on the beach, try the Pearl Beach Inn. This beachside property on Manasota Key’s tranquil north tip features 12 one-bedroom suites and one full apartment, each with a waterfront view. For front-row seats on the Gulf, ask for The Mermaid or the Sea Turtle. Manager Lindy Miller also suggests The Heron; its upstairs private balcony offers an intimate spot to view Florida’s natural beauty. “People come back year after year,” says Miller. “I call them my ‘Pearlies.’” Rates start at $219/night, Feb. 1-March 30. 7990 Manasota Key Road, Englewood, (941) 473-2361.
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