In Florida, a quest for the classic family motel.
Treasure Island, just across a causeway from St. Petersburg, is home to some two dozen vintage motels. Many are in good condition, although their life expectancies are uncertain. Prices are surprisingly modest—you can still find places right on the beach for less than $100 a night during peak season.
The Sands (727-367-1969; www.surfandsands.com) has 34 efficiencies and one-bedroom units. Built in 1947, it’s the earliest of the island’s beach motels and has been impeccably maintained. It also offers the modern amenity of wireless Internet.
A few doors down is the Arvilla Resort Motel (727-360-0598; www.arvilla.com), with a fine neon sign, a tropical garden, a pool, a shuffleboard court, and ready access to the beach.
The Malyn Condo Motel (727-367-1974; www.malynresort.com), on the canal side of Treasure Island, has 24 units, some in an original wing dating from 1961. The property went condo in 1979; most units are for rent by the night or week and are quite spacious. The motel has its own dock, heated swimming pool, and horseshoe pit.
The Vagabond Motel (www.thevagabondresort.com) is slated to reopen sometime before the end of the year, although the restaurant and spa may be later in coming.
The Miami Standard (305-673-1717; www.standardhotel.com), on Belle Isle in Miami Beach, is in the former Lido Spa, built in the 1960s. The whole complex was acquired and renovated by the hotelier André Balazs, and it reopened in late 2005. Its sensibility is now more Scandinavian modern than mid-century, but the old bones are still evident.
Vistamar Villa (866-746-5597; www.vistamarvilla.com) is just a short walk from the beach and has a heated pool, larger-than-average rooms on two floors, and a relaxed vibe befitting its 1959 vintage.
For a present-day interpretation of the vintage-motel experience, try the Seaside Motor Court (800-277-8696; www.cottagerentalagency.com), in the famous New Urbanist town of Seaside, in Florida’s Panhandle. Its half-dozen rooms are tucked along an alley behind the resort’s main office (adorned with a faux vacancy sign) and are cozy and modern inside. One thing that isn’t old-fashioned: the price, with rooms starting at about $269 a night.