The Florida Dream

The Florida Dream from 1923 to today

Florida is the dream vacation for visitors from all over the world … and since the turn of the century, it’s been the winter break of choice for many Americans. Today international travelers can make it to Florida from almost anywhere on the planet in less than 24 hours – but that wasn’t always the case.

What compelled these earlier generations to make such a journey? Many things: Florida weather, vacation rentals that offered grace, style and comfort, the unspoilt natural beauty of the Florida Keys, the new craze for ‘sunbathing’, freshly squeezed orange juice for breakfast … well, all the same things that draw today’s visitor, come to think of it.

But the way they traveled was very different. Before the 1890s, only the rich could afford vacations and they traveled with an entourage of servants, staying in grand hotels that were often constructed by the very railroad companies that transported them to their destination. It wasn’t until 1896 that the rail line actually got as far as Miami and 1912 for Key West. Even then, once you got to Tampa, you had to transfer to a steamer to travel to other west coast such as Sarasota and Fort Myers.

Beginning in 1908 the Model T (tin lizzie, leaping Lena) generally regarded as the first affordable automobile, the car that opened travel to the common middle-class American was rolling off the line and soon the first two national highways (1911-1915).  The Dixie Highway S and the Lincoln Highway W brought tin canners – people taking their first ever vacation, in a car packed high with bedding, books, clothes and canned food to sustain them during their days and nights of travel. At the same time, the short-lived St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line became the world’s first scheduled passenger airline service.

Now that vacationers were arriving, they needed places to stay. Florida’s natural abundance of slash and long leaf pine meant that it became the obvious building material, today the Heart Pine floors of Erehwon Retreat always astonish our guests.

Explorers on Tamiami Trail 1923Finally, by 1928, it became possible to drive from Tampa, via the Tamiami Trail, to Miami but in the weeks ahead, we’re going to tell you why this road shaped the future of Florida.

By the 1950s Snowbirds were common. These weren’t migrating flocks of exotic birds but affluent people who could afford to rent a property for the whole winter – they often picked their vacation rental from a brochure that had been mailed to them – the precursor of browsing online today! After that things moved rapidly.

1995 saw the next huge leap – Vacation Rental by Owner or VRBO. Individual vacation property owners began to move into the space that had previously been occupied by the real estate firms. Personal bookings of winter vacation rentals became possible, and popular. In 2008 Airbnb disrupted the market again and the ability to book short term stays (average 5.4 days) through their site became possible. But by 2016 many vacation rental owners were recognizing that some things had been lost along the way – the personal communication between renter and property owner, the ability to communicate little details that turn a vacation into an unforgettable experience for example. Booking direct from a vacation rental owner’s website has brought back some of those personal touches and also cuts some costs!

Erehwon Retreat aims to offer the best of both worlds. In decor and ambience, we hark back to that earlier, simpler time when the economy boomed and women bobbed their hair, when a scandal was the sight of a lady’s ankle and a box office success was Lon Chaney in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. But today’s vacation rental pros require very different things to their forebears, so instead of offering tennis lessons or tea dances, our Florida getaway provides luxury, elegance and style. Vacation rental by owner means our visitors walk into a property that is as loved, and lovely, as a home and our vacation rental website means that we keep our visitors in touch with all the great activities that Tampa Bay and Seminole Heights has to offer, whilst ensuring that they don’t miss out on a single aspect of Florida’s amazing tourist economy from theme parks to food festivals.

Whether they come from Denver or Denmark, Austin or Australia, our visitors delight in the personal touches that make Erehwon Retreat into much more than a home from home – it’s the ideal base for a dream holiday, and the perfect place to come back to at the end of the day.