Cover image: Early postcard of the Monterey Motel c. 1950s. Courtesy the Jim Seelen Motel Images Collection.

Long before the big mouse came to Florida and opened up his theme park in 1971, one of the top three tourist attractions in the Sunshine State was Silver Springs.  (Cypress Gardens and the Bok Tower were numbers one and two, respectively.) In fact, it was in 1878 that tourists to Florida started taking scenic tours down the Silver River in glass-bottomed boats – well over 100 years before people started going on a certain kingdom’s “jungle cruise”.

Florida’s Oldest Tourist Attraction

Samuel O. Howse first bought the 242 acres that surround the springs sometime after the Civil War and not long after that, Northerners started taking steamboats up the Silver River to see the springs as part of the “grand tour” of Florida. A decade later, Hullam Jones and Phillip Morell built some of the first glass-bottomed boats to give tourist a one-of-a-kind view of the springs.

Early 20th century postcard of the glass-bottomed boats of Silver Springs.
Public Domain.

By the turn of the century, new owners refitted the tour boats with cushioned seats and canopies to improve their comfort and over the next few decades, the park would become famous not only among Florida tourists, but also Hollywood as well which would use Silver Springs as a backdrop for the famous Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan films of the 1930s and 1940s and the popular television series Sea Hunt starring Lloyd Bridges which ran from 1958 to 1961.

After going through many owners in the decades since, the roadside attraction was sold to the State of Florida and in 2013, the springs became a state park known as Silver Springs Nature Theme Park

Postcard of Monterey Motel c. 1970s. Public Domain.

The Silver Springs Motel

Of course, back in its pre-mouse heydays of roadtrippers and family vacationers, mom, dad, and the kids were tired after a long day of picnicking, river cruising, and wildlife watching. What they were looking for at the end of the day was a place to rest their weary heads. Starting in 1952, that place would be “Florida’s Finest” – the Monterey Motel. Located on Silver Springs Boulevard, the Monterey Motel was the self-proclaimed “showplace” motel that was located not far from Silver Springs and near fine dining establishments as well. Amenities included air conditioned and heated rooms, tiles baths, showers or tubs, and Airfoam mattresses.

The Silver Springs Motel today.
Image courtesy the Silver Springs Motel.

Now known as the Silver Springs Motel, the property has been owned and operated by the Hale family for the past 48 years with mother Mollie at the helm.

So, just as they first did in 1952, families, students, roadtrippers and “snowbirds” visiting nearby Silver Springs can still rest their heads at one of the few remaining quintessential 1950s motels remaining in Florida today. Though the name may have changed, this newly renovated motel still maintains its original structure including its distinctive and beautiful curving stairways and wrought iron columns and railings.

Clean, comfortable rooms await to take you back to a simpler time.
Image courtesy the Silver Springs Motel

While retaining its original mid-century modern feel, the motel includes many amenities for the modern traveler such as free wifi and free cable TV. Other amenities include newly refinished rooms with original Italian terrazzo floors, a refreshing swimming pool, and a friendly and helpful staff who can guide you to the many restaurants, stores, and attractions within walking distance of the motel.

The next time you’re in central Florida and looking for a classic motel vibe that reminds you of the old school summer road trips you used to take to Florida with your family back in the day, the Silver Springs Motel is your kind of place. To reserve your stay, visit their website or call them at +1-352-236-4243.

April is National Pecan Month, so while you’re traveling to or from Silver Springs this April, make a Stuckey’s stop part of your road trip itinerary. Grab some of the pecany goodness that you’ll only find in our Pecan Pralines, Pecan Divinity, or America’s favorite road trip snack – the Stuckey’s Pecan Log Roll.

Of course, along with our fine pecan candies, we also have all the classic road trip snacks, drinks and kitschy souvenirs you come to love us for. (After all, what’s a trip to Florida without getting a rubber alligator to take back home with you?)

No Stuckey’s on the way to your next tourist destination? No problem! Browse our website and get some Stuckey’s road trip treats before you even leave your driveway.

(And with next Wednesday, April 27th, being Administrative Professionals Day, what says “Thanks for all you do” more than box full of Stuckey’s treats? Get some for all of those who help make your job – and your life – a little easier today only from stuckeys.com.)   

Stuckey’s – We’re Making Road Trips Fun Again!