Last week for the 4th of July we stayed at the legendary Sea Turtle Inn on Atlantic Beach, in Jacksonville, Florida. The price was average for the area: about 160 a night, and the hotel was recommended by many friends, so we gave it a shot.
Our room was a beach-view double-bed. All of the direct ocean view rooms were closed due to renovations, which I’ll touch on in a moment. I was very impressed with the view though. I think I would have rather had a beach-view than the ocean view. With our southern view, we could see down Jacksonville beach for quite a ways, along with a lot of ocean. We could also see the city and the nightlife.
The room smelled like it may have been a smoking room at some point, but it wasn’t noticeable after a few minutes. The room contained everything you’d expect, an iron, ironing board, a refrigerator, TV, and an air conditioner that we had on the max setting all week.
The bathroom was nice, but the toilet didn’t have a very strong flush. When I’m on vacation I usually want to eat at the buffet with the confidence that comes with knowing that the toilet back at the room can handle the holy hell I put into it. This wasn’t the case with this toilet. It took several flushes for some of the larger loads last week.
As advertised, the hotel provided free wireless internet. The network wasn’t secure at all.. just a LinkSys router with no WEP, but it was easy to connect to, and I had a good signal the whole time.
There are two elevators, and that seemed to not be enough for the eight floors. There were always more people waiting for the elevators than could actually fit in them.
The staff was extremely friendly and helpful. This was probably the highlight of the experience. The hotel manager was seen all over the place, and was very outgoing and friendly. The bartenders at the outside bars were perfect bartenders. They knew how to make just about anything, and would always recognize you the next day.
The hotel is the ONLY hotel on the beach in the area. To find other hotels on the beach, you’ll need to head south several miles to Jacksonville Beach. The outside of the Sea Turtle Inn looked kind of crappy right now ONLY because they were renovating the ocean-front side. There was scaffolding against the building, which didn’t look all that great while sitting by the pool. The outside bar was a bit tiny, but it was never full. We could always find a place to sit, and get a drink while in view of the ocean.
The Restaurant: Plantains
We visited Plantains only once, to look at the menu. It looked delicious, and had ocean-front outdoor seats, but the prices were a little too high for me. The dinners were all between 20 and 30 dollars. Typical upscale dining prices, I suppose, but we vacationing on the cheap.
There is PLENTY to do within walking distance of the Sea Turtle Inn. There were many bars within a half mile. The best probably being the Ragtime Tavern. The prices were a little high, but everything was great. The bartenders were very attentive, and the food was delicious. Our group of four racked up a $300 tab in no time!
If you’re not finding anything that fits your taste in Atlantic Beach, just head south a few miles (30 minute walk, or a 5 dollar taxi ride) to Jacksonville Beach. There are several EXCELLENT Irish pubs there that serve my all-time favorite cider: Magners. This is the first time I’ve seen this cider outside of Ireland (where it is called Bulmers). Worth the trip! We also visited a huge sports bar called Sneakers that was pretty cool. Many beers on tap, and the biggest projection screen I’ve ever seen.
All in all, the Sea Turtle was a great place to stay. If you are looking for something with a bit more history and class than the “Quality Inn”, try the Sea Turtle.
UPDATE (July 13, 2006):
I got my bank statement a few days ago and noticed that the Sea Turtle charged my check card. This wouldn’t normally be a problem, but upon checking out, my roommate presented his card to pay with, so I’m a little confused.
Additionally, they overcharged by about 400 dollars! We made contact with the Sea Turtle on July 11 and nothing has been resolved yet (I haven’t seen a refund). I will update again with what happens. Hopefully I won’t have to dispute the entire charge.
This really puts a black eye on the otherwise enjoyable vacation.
UPDATE 2 (a few days later)
All the billing issues were resvolved a few days later, thanks to the helpful manager.