Tucked into a tropical garden near downtown Lake Worth, this charming B&B offers places to go, pampering and privacy.
By BILL MAXWELL
© St. Petersburg Times, published July 1, 2001
LAKE WORTH -- Although I consider myself an inveterate road warrior, a camper even, I love being pampered from time to time, especially when I travel to South Florida.
When time permits, I always stay at the Mango Inn Bed & Breakfast in Lake Worth, a small town on the Atlantic Ocean between West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale.
The Mango proves the cliche, "a home away from home." Yet just a short time before its rejuvenation, the main building was a crack house.
The place is now charming. I was even enticed to hurry out of bed on a recent visit for breakfast, which I rarely eat. As I opened the French doors to the patio overlooking the heated swimming pool and stepped into the shade beneath an awning, I saw four other guests eating on the patio.
With novelist Beverly Coyle of New York and poet-actor Phyllis McEwen of Tampa, I was here performing Parallel Lives, a historical dialogue sponsored by the Florida Humanities Council.
The Mango Inn, like many B&Bs, entices guests to drop their guard, to get to know their fellow wayfarers, to even party together. So I sat down with a woman who was enjoying cinnamon stuffed French toast with blueberry compote and orange syrup.
She was Jeanne Moseley, a freelance writer and radio host in her hometown of Waxahachie, Texas, a few miles from Dallas. She was traveling with her daughter, Lindsey, a graduate student on semester break from the University of Texas-Dallas.
As Jeanne and I talked, Erin Allen, the woman who owns the inn with her husband, Bo, took my order. I wanted exactly what Jeanne was eating, plus bacon.
"Routinely, when traveling, Lindsey and I select B&Bs over hotels because it's always more of an adventure," Jeanne said. "Like meeting your group."
Jeanne added: "Typically, B&B proprietors get more involved with their guests, but Bo and Erin seem to allow guests more time to themselves, which I consider a real asset." So do I, the loner.
Tucked inside the greenery of queen palms, banana plants and, of course, mango trees, the inn has three buildings.
The main house, built in 1915, has eight rooms, each with a full bath and a telephone. Most have televisions and refrigerators. The other two buildings are the poolside Cottage, a romantic nook for couples, and the Little House, which sleeps up to five and has two full baths.
Everyone with whom I spoke complimented the inn's cleanliness, decor and unusual rooms.
I have slept in five of the rooms and found all to have comfortable beds, fluffy down pillows, monogrammed Ralph Lauren bed linens, central air conditioning, ceiling fans and flowers from the inn's gardens.
Each room has a private entrance; the inn's privacy is prized by guests with whom I spoke.
Erin's breakfasts typically include fresh-baked breads such as mango-cashew muffins, orange scones with blackberry butter or Sally Lunn bread with homemade preserves. Fresh tropical fruits are plentiful.
Other specialties include orange marmalade-stuffed French toast with orange nutmeg syrup, smoked ham, artichoke and goat-cheese strata, raspberry cinnamon pancakes and crab frittata.
You can dine on the veranda overlooking the Mediterranean pool, in the courtyard or in the dinning room by the coral stone fireplace. I always meet someone interesting on the veranda, and breakfast is enhanced by the waterfall near the cottage and the soothing music of Bach, Mozart and others.
The owners provide some extra touches, for example, wine or champagne in your room, special floral arrangements for an occasion, and gourmet picnic baskets for the beach or park. You can borrow a bicycle. Want a massage, a manicure or a pedicure? Erin and Bo will help.
One of the inn's added draws is its proximity to most of Lake Worth's beach, fine restaurants and bars, art galleries, shops and theaters. Golf is just a couple of blocks away. One afternoon I stepped aboard one of the city's San Francisco-style trolleys for a ride to the fishing pier, then to the historic downtown and lunch at a sidewalk cafe.
In the Mango Inn's spacious living room, guests can study a photo album that recounts the structures' history. A crack house just a few years ago, the inn is said to be Lake Worth's first B&B. Opened for business Christmas week of 1996, the inn symbolizes the rebirth of the city itself: Lake Worth's downtown and beach area were on life support less than a decade ago.
When Erin and Bo moved to town nearly 15 years ago, many businesses had deserted the area east of Federal Highway, where the inn is located. Prostitution and drug-trafficking gave the beach a seedy reputation. When the couple purchased the former crack house, it came with three pages of serious city code violations.
Erin and Bo transformed the place into an oases where strangers share meals, libation and good talk. In the process, they helped revitalize downtown. Bo became part of the code enforcement committee and other agencies. He ran for the City Council, won and is now serving his third term.
Erin founded the Street Painting Festival (held in February) that has become one of the town's biggest events. She is also a director of the Lake Worth Merchants Association.
So, what do the owners think makes the Mango Inn special?
"Travelers can come here for a weekend, . . . leave their rat race and truly relax and feel like they have been on a vacation -- even though it may only be a few days. The pace is very different here ... it's like going back in time to the days when we did walk to our downtowns ... to get a gallon of milk."
GETTING THERE: If driving, take Interstate 95 to 10th Avenue N, east to N Lakeside Drive, turn right on N Lakeside Drive, nine blocks to 128 N Lakeside Drive.
The inn is about 10 minutes' drive from Palm Beach International Airport.
Lake Worth itself is well-located. Just four miles up U.S. A1A, the "ocean road," is Palm Beach. On my most recent trip, I caught the Tri-Rail train to Fort Lauderdale. For less than $15, Tri-Rail will take you to trendy South Beach and Bayside Marketplace in Miami.
STAYING THERE: Guests can book by the night or buy packages. A favorite is the Summer Holiday Weekend Getaway: a three-night accommodation in a poolside room; a bottle of Moet and Chandon White Star Champagne; wine and appetizers upon arrival; gourmet picnic basket; breakfast served poolside.
The inn has a variety of accommodations and prices. A sampling of rooms and rates:
The Cottage -- poolside cottage with kitchenette and cable TV, VCR and telephone. Private patio overlooking pool. Queen four-poster bed, sitting area, full bath. High season (December to May), $175 a night; off-season, $125.
Magnolia Room -- French door opens onto patio overlooking the pool. Queen four-poster bed and full bath. TV, telephone and refrigerator. Private entrance. $135 and $105 a night.
Bougainvillea Room -- Queen bed with private bath, TV, telephone, refrigerator. Overlooks pool, second floor. $115 and $90 a night.
Little House -- Sleeps up to five. $250 and $150 a night.
Contact the inn at 128 N Lakeside Drive, Lake Worth, FL 33460. Call or fax (561) 533-6900; call toll-free 1-888-626-4619. The Web site is www.mangoinn.com .