May 2015: With the early arrival of summer in Southwest Florida, I decided it was time to hit the beach, so I booked a room at the popular Harrington House Beachfront Bed & Breakfast, on Anna Maria Island. For beach lovers, the location — on Florida’s Gulf Coast — can’t be beat.
I had visited the Harrington House about 10 years ago, and loved it, so I was betting on a sure thing, bed-and-breakfast-wise.
As I drove to the inn down a winding, two-lane road, I was reminded why Anna Maria Island has always been one of my favorite destinations. Despite the popularity of its incredible beach, varied accommodations, shops and waterfront restaurants, the seven-mile-long island still feels somewhat like a small town. One big reason is the lack of high-rises found in other beach resorts; zoning regulations on Anna Maria have held down building heights.
So, the Harrington House has location, location, location going for it before you even arrive.
Guests are greeted in the parking lot by an arbor that draws them to the front door through a canopy of foliage and tiny white lights. What a magical entrance!
I step inside the inn to find the living room homey, with comfy, stuffed sofas and a fireplace. A staff member comes out to welcome me, provides a sheet of information about the inn and local restaurants, and then leaves me to find my room on my own.
I had booked the Garden Room, the Harrington House’s least expensive option at $189, plus tax. I would describe my immediate reaction as underwhelmed. It is a good-sized room on the ground floor, but the low ceiling makes it seem smaller, and the patio was a disappointment.
According to the website, “The Garden Room has a garden view with private patio.” In reality, the tiny patio had three high walls with no view. The flat back wall was made up of some trees and plants; the other two walls were solid panels of manufactured fence.
In addition, the bathroom is quite small, with a shower I could barely turn around in – and I am petite. A large gold-framed mirror hangs next to the toilet, probably in an effort to make the room seem larger.
My advice? Book a room on the second or third floor of the main house, where you can de-stress on your balcony and be mesmerized by the gently lapping waves. Last time, I stayed in a room with French doors that opened onto a balcony, and it was amazing – well worth the extra cost.
The Main House was built in 1925 of coquina block. Four of its seven rooms offer Gulf views from a balcony or patio. In addition to the main inn, there are three other houses, plus a three-bedroom-three-bath villa on the beach and five nearby bungalows.
The Dodt House, next to the Main House, dates from the 1930s. All three suites have Gulf views. The Carriage House, a remodeled 1940s home also on the same property, has three second-floor suites with a view. The Huth House, built in the 1960s and named for the island’s first doctor, is about a quarter-mile away. All four suites have views.
The overnight rate at the four houses includes a full breakfast in a lovely dining room at the Main House with a view of the Gulf. Guests may choose instead to eat outside, at tables around the pool.
The morning I was there, we were offered two choices: Belgian waffles with apples, topped with coconut whipped cream, and fresh fruit on the side; or scrambled eggs and oatmeal toast. I chose the waffles, which proved too sweet for my taste, but when I asked instead for toast and strawberry jelly, it was readily provided.
After breakfast, I took an idyllic walk on the beach, nearly deserted at 8 on a Monday morning. The sky was perfectly blue, without a cloud in sight, and the sun wasn’t high enough yet to heat up the day.
Besides strolling the beach and swimming in the Gulf, steps from the inn, guests at the Harrington House may take a dip in the pool, adjacent to the beach. And kayaks and bicycles are provided, free of charge.
Many delightful, beachfront restaurants – including the famed Beach Bistro – are a short stroll or drive away, or hop on the island’s free trolley. Less than 30 minutes away is the “big city,” Sarasota – known for the Ringling Museum, St. Armands Circle and numerous theater groups.
But why leave? You have found an island paradise.
(Note: I accepted no compensation in exchange for writing this review, and did not reveal my intentions to the innkeepers.)