Daytona Beach tourism has been in an ebb tide in recent years. The current is changing beachside. A massive Hard Rock facility will be breaking ground soon. In Daytona Beach Shores, Hyatt and Marriott spent millions revitalizing two properties (one of which had been vacant and crumbling for years). With all these changes, it is my fervent wish that there will always be room for my little haven, The Sand Castle Motel.
The history of this castle doesn’t go back to medieval times; it has only existed for fifty years. The architecture is nondescript and reflects its’ vintage. It was built in several stages over the years and a lovely sun deck merges the two story and three story sections. The décor of the new Residence Inn (a mile away) is probably identical to their property in Eden Prairie Minnesota. You won’t find an elaborate shower head or imported loofahs at this castle. What you’ll find is a paper SANI SEAL stretched over the commode’s seat like a cummerbund of cleanliness.
What makes this place so special are the people, the staff and guests. A retired Chicago cop and his bride have owned the property for the last 16 years. They aren’t graduates of the Cornell School of Hotel Administration, but Vic and Lonnie could teach there. They are well acquainted with the word hospitality. Hilton’s Doubletree offers a warm cookie at check in. I know they don’t feature “HOT DOG SUNDAY.” Frankfurters and fellowship are served up on the sun deck. The rulers of the castle have served a complimentary Thanksgiving meal for 16 years and it is spectacular!
About 50 % of the guests are return visitors. Most forged friendships with people they met there years earlier and book dates at the same time as their friends. It is a true community linking people across North America and beyond. Many book extended stays and decorate their rooms with Christmas lights and Easter bunnies. There are even Sand Castle reunions up in Canada, which is quite remarkable. Much of the border building takes place on the sun deck. People share food brought from their respective efficiency rooms. Laughter, wine, and a beer or two are savored as the sun retires for the day.
The customer base is an older, graying demographic. On recent visits, I saw young families enjoying this little gem on the quiet side of Daytona Beach. My children have stayed at many high end hotels over the years but the magic of this castle is not lost on them. On the evening of my departure, I try to take a nocturnal swim in the clean, heated pool. As you tilt your head up, you have your own personal planetarium with shimmering stars on a black, velvet canvas. Waves crash feet away and briny breezes choreograph the castle’s colorful flags in an animated dance. When I leave the following day, it always feels like the first day of school. Getting up early to see the sun rise softens the blow. It’s the kind of place where Irina (of the housekeeping staff) gives you a goodbye hug and genuinely hopes to see you soon. Long live the Castle!