How do I describe my recent experience at the Black Dolphin Inn? Amazing, from start to finish.
My enjoyment began before I even spied the inn, when I turned onto Riverside Drive, a road along the Indian River lined with fine old homes, with a sidewalk ideal for walking and biking, and boats moored at each dock.
Finding the Black Dolphin was easy; it stands out from its neighbors. The Spanish-style 1947 inn, with its burnt-orange barrel-tiled roof, balconies galore and Mexican tile throughout, bears little resemblance to a traditional B&B. With 14 guest rooms and suites in all, the three-story property is more like a boutique hotel, but a full breakfast is included in the rate and, more importantly, so is the welcoming, attentive service that draws guests to B&Bs.
Upon arrival, Taylor Smith, the son of one of the owners, greeted me with the news that I had been bumped up to a room with two balconies; I had booked the cheapest room ($129; no balconies). I had the same good luck at the Beach Drive Inn in St. Petersburg in July; such perks are one advantage of traveling during the off-season.
My room was one of the most spacious and attractive I have ever stayed in, cool and comfortable, a mix of the modern – leather headboard, bright white walls, glass lamps, a glass desk and a glass-topped table – and the mid-century – a wooden dresser, wooden chairs and red oak wood floor. The contrast worked well. And, of course, the inn isn’t lacking in the modern amenities, with a flat-screen TV, a remote-controlled thermostat and Wi-Fi.
On one end of my room was a balcony built for two with a river view (providing binoculars is an extra-thoughtful touch); on the other end was a much larger, shared balcony that looks out on a grassy courtyard. The room also had a wet bar with a mini-refrigerator.
The bathroom was just as pleasing as the bedroom. A large Moen Rainfall showerhead and shower walls covered in lovely blue tiles made me want to linger in the shower.
(One tip for the innkeepers: Switch to an unscented detergent. Some guests may prefer scented sheets and towels, but others are bothered by such odors, and some even have an allergic reaction.)
A tour of the inn, conducted by co-owner Brett Smith, revealed many incredible rooms and suites, nearly every one boasting a balcony. On the second floor are two luxurious suites with balconies facing Riverside Drive and the river. The honeymoon suite, on the third floor, also features dazzling views of the Indian River, plus an air-jetted soaking tub and a separate glass-enclosed shower.
The Black Dolphin Inn offers diverse accommodations – and a number of deals – to serve the needs of a variety of travelers. For instance, on the ground floor, adjacent to the walled-in courtyard, is a large suite with two queen beds and a sofa bed, a setup designed for families, and for guests who bring their pets.
The inn is owned by Brett Smith and his identical twin brother, Scott. Both have worked for many decades in hospitality management. They bought the inn in 2009 and spent two years renovating the property from top to bottom before opening for business in 2013.
I’d say their efforts have paid off in spades: The Black Dolphin is a most outstanding accommodation – upscale and yet approachable. And the prices are surprisingly reasonable (especially in the low season) for an inn of this quality.
I was reluctant to leave, but, as they say, all good things must end. After a hearty breakfast of yellow kiwi and papaya, followed by sausage gravy on biscuits, I departed to check out New Smyrna’s main attraction: 13 miles of wide, white sand beach.
Those who don’t care for the beach still find plenty to do: Enjoy festivals of all kinds, visit an artists’ community, climb the Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse, go kayaking or take a sunset cruise.
Before leaving town, I stopped in for a tour of another inn on scenic Riverside Drive, the Night Swan Intracoastal Bed & Breakfast. Co-owner Matt Baker was gracious enough to show me around at a moment’s notice.
The inn, on a lot larger than an acre, consists of two multi-story homes facing the river, plus a small cottage in back. There are 16 guest rooms in all. Matt took me through the Main House and the Cygnet House. The two-bedroom cottage was occupied; it has an enclosed yard for pets and is handicapped accessible.
Both houses were built in the early 1900s, but appear in immaculate condition, with wood floors and furniture and big windows with views of the Indian River.
At the Night Swan and the Black Dolphin, the river is the focus, setting the mood for a tranquil getaway from the hectic pace of normal life. Whether you spend a weekend or a week relaxing in New Smyrna, you’ll leave recharged.
Here’s hoping you make your escape soon!
(Note: As always, I accepted no payment or other compensation in exchange for writing this review and did not reveal my intentions to the innkeepers.)