Historical Mansion on Banks of St. Johns River
In 1922, the heir to the Palmolive soap fortune built a lavish winter mansion on the banks of the St. Johns River in Orange Park, Florida. The Italianate home—named Mira Rio at the time—was set amid vast expanses of lawn dotted with 300-year-old oaks and carefully manicured gardens. In 1966, the estate was renamed The Club Continental and turned into a private club and hotel outfitted with tennis courts, three outdoor pools, and 22 guest rooms.
Each of the king or two-room River suites is decorated differently, but all rooms have a private balcony overlooking the river. In the spacious River suite 304, there's a living room with a fireplace and a mini kitchen set off to one side. The marble-counter bathroom is huge, with a large jacuzzi soaking tub and a painted mural of river scenes on the wall. Elsewhere in the suite, oriental rugs cover the floor, and a painting of old Florida hangs over the mantel. The historic manse does not have elevators, but handicap-accessible rooms are available upon request.
At the onsite waterfront restaurant, known simply as The Club Restaurant, chefs whip up dishes such as grilled salmon with a Grand Marnier sauce and Kobe brisket braised in soy sauce, garlic, and ginger. You can stroll the grounds after dinner, ambling past trees romantically draped with spanish moss.
Greater Jacksonville, Florida: Lush Gardens and 17th-Century Fortresses
The little town of Orange Park is set along the St. Johns River in northeastern Florida. Early residents hoped to grow citrus fruit on the land—hence the name Orange Park. The Great Freeze of 1894–95 put an end to that dream, and eventually the town became a suburb of Jacksonville. But though you may not be able to look out on orange groves from your room at The Club Continental, you can still visit The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, located about 15 miles from hotel. The facility's 100-year-old gardens showcase ancient oak trees, rare plants, and antique sculptures. There are also serene reflecting pools and an elaborate, azalea-filled Italian Garden.
Orange Park is a 40-minute drive from historic St. Augustine, where several 17th-century Spanish forts, including the Castillo de San Marcos, stand guard over America's oldest port. Close by, Anastasia State Park, which encompasses 4 miles of white-sand beaches, is a daytrip-worthy stop on St. Augustine's Atlantic coast.
Read the Fine Print for important info on travel dates and other restrictions.
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