By Sharon Kennedy Wynne
Times Staff Writer
Now that we finally can put down the sweater and think about tanning, it's time to check out what's new on the beach and surprisingly, one of the coolest new things on the sand is an old Travelodge called the Postcard Inn in St. Pete Beach.
It was unveiled last fall after a remodeling that gave the lobby a South Beach-style surfer chic vibe. Helped by its megaplayer parent company, Starwood Capital Group, it has been getting national press for joining the new wave of stylish, affordable beach hotels. The Postcard Inn has been featured in Southern Living, the New York Times travel section and the Today Show for its appeal to budget travelers, described as "Howard Johnson meets Jet Blue."
With affordable rates (around $99 in the summer, $189 at the height of tourist season), and a highly praised Wildwood BBQ and Burger restaurant attached, it attracts families, young singles and laid-back travelers.
In the back is a beach bar that used to be the Swigwam. It caused a bit of a splash when the company took that beloved name off the bar and never gave it a new one other than "the PCI Beach Bar." (Some disgruntled locals started a new Swigwam at 336 Corey Ave.)
The hotel has an inviting outdoor area with a pool table, pingpong table, pool, volleyball courts and a great beach. But make no mistake, this is not four-star lodging. The thin walls will tell you spring breakers are partying into the night, and the lack of room service means trudging to the lobby for a continental breakfast.
But as the real estate agents like to say, the three things it does have are location, location, location.
That's what prompted Carol Poulson, 41, a St. Petersburg mother of two, to bring her family there for an Easter weekend getaway.
"It's not too far away, we have a nice, clean room, comfortable bed, and it's got something for everybody. We can even bring our dog," Poulson said. "It's still an old place, though, but that's part of St. Pete Beach's history."
Postcard Inn spokeswoman Donna Rodriguez thinks the inn is getting all the press and attention because of timing. "This property and location are really right for these economic times, for what's needed right now," she said.
The company plans lots of staycation deals, she said, so make sure you ask for the Florida resident discount if you go. There are plans for a big July 4 party and family camp days with a sand castle builder, and Rodriguez is looking into a day rate where a group of moms could rent a room for just the day, giving them a day at the beach but a room for taking showers, changing diapers and stashing belongings before checking out in the afternoon.
For those who aren't staying there, parking is plentiful to visit the restaurant or nameless beach bar, though you might encounter a valet on busy weekends.
Sharon Kennedy Wynne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8595. Read her posts on the Whoa, Momma! blog at blogs. tampabay.com/moms.