Residing in Tampa, Florida, Robert Payne is a frequent visitor to the East Coast of Florida where he reports on various hotels and accommodations in the area.
Against my better judgement, I am going to reveal a secret and tell you about a place that I like to stay when traveling to Melbourne Beach and Sebastian Inlet. But first, let me say that I’ve stayed in many different hotels, motels, condominiums, and campgrounds between Cocoa and Melbourne Beach. Living in relatively close proximity here in Tampa, Florida gives me the opportunity to frequent the area for its surfing opportunities, beautiful beaches, and breathtaking blue water. If there happens to be a shuttle launch – even better! Needless to say I’ve experimented with accommodations up and down the coastline, and Seashell Suites is definitely a good spot to stay.
You definitely want to bring all the supplies you’ll need before your arrival. As you leave the town of Melbourne Beach and head south on A1A, the predominant square structures that compose giant hotels, condos, and shopping centers fall away behind you and are replaced with hardly anything but rolling dunes covered with green sea grapes, glimpses of the blue sea on your left, and the Indian River on your right. This narrow strip of land leads to the point of Ponce de Leon’s landing long ago – where the nation’s first National Wildlife Refuge, Pelican Island, was created – and the entrance to Sea Shell Suites just 2 miles from Sebastian Inlet.
Upon arrival, it is immediately clear this eco-friendly resort went through a recent and extensive remodel, for everything shines like new. Surveying the grounds you’ll notice the careful detail to landscaping and decor. Copper trimming, plantation shutters, recessed solar lighting, boxes of blooming hibiscus, and whimsical sculptures are just some of the treatments. Walk down the stone pathway past the pool and sauna, and you’ll see a wonderful piazza for grilling and relaxing at night. Ahead the path rises gradually up over the dune and out to a verandah with wide open vistas of the ocean and its unspoiled beach. Lounge on the chairs and soak up the view, or grab a beach chair and a fishing rod. There is good surfing directly in front of the property, or you can walk south on the beach towards Sebastian Inlet to an area I found to be even better.
If you are like me, what you worry most about in a place like this is noise. I can tell you that even when Seashell Suites is completely booked, and you are staying in a suite right smack dab in the middle of the other 8 suites, you’ll have a really tough time hearing anyone else. If I could put anything extra on my wish list, I would prefer the rooms be slightly bigger with another bathroom. Of course, I also have a good appreciation for the regulations and prices that exist in this area, so I can understand the constraints the owner was faced with when building. The fact is there are only a few suites on the property, and they are well-appointed with free WiFi and two flat screens to keep you amused. But aside from cooking and sleeping, I doubt you’ll spend much time inside your room. You’ll even want to take your meals outside.
In contrast to the hustle and bustle of the beaches further north, you will have the white sand in front of Seashell Suites practically to yourself. Walk in either direction, and you’ll enjoy miles of unencumbered coastline. One morning I arose to watch the sunrise, and a Great Horned Owl flew directly above me and landed on a perch close by. Turtles come upon the beach to nest, and dolphin feed offshore. It is not only beautiful, but you’ll find a state of relaxation that often eludes us in our every day lives.
If you can muster up the energy to leave then it is certainly worth checking out Sebastian Inlet State Park and Pelican Island, which features trails and a bird viewing station. There are bikes available, and sea kayaking and fishing charters that can be arranged, as well as surf lessons.
If you are coming for the shuttle launch, I would highly recommend coming the day before. You can see the shuttle from SeaShell Suites, but it is much better to drive up to Cocoa Beach or Titusville. Keep in mind it is roughly an hour both ways, and traffic surrounding the launch can be slow. Nevertheless, it is definitely worth it. People only begin to understand the awesome power and incredible engineering involved when they witness it firsthand. Just think about the fact that the astronauts are traveling 17,500 mph only 8 minutes after liftoff.
I have a few other secrets to share with you regarding the Space Coast and the surrounding areas of Cocoa and Melbourne Beach, but I’ll save those for next time. Meanwhile, let’s hope the engineers for BP and the Coast Guard get the oil spill under control and cleaned up. Florida is counting on you.
The opinions expressed in this review are solely those of Robert Payne.