50 Years In Business!

Truly how times flies!  2018 will be our 50th Anniversary in business!
This year I was contacted by one of my Dad’s cousins who wanted to come back to West Wind for her 50th anniversary in May of 2018. She and her husband had spent their honeymoon in Unit 2 and wanted to return to celebrate their 50th.
They sent along photos which are included so everybody can see West Wind in its very earliest days! A lot has changed but a lot remains the same.

**The two men walking up the stairs are Bob and Bobby!

Blowing Our Own Conch Shell (Tooting Our Own Horn)!

 

Apart from the page here on our site where guests can leave comments, we also have profiles set up on most of the major review sites. For people who are unfamiliar with us and who may simply be doing some research, these sites and the reviews can be very valuable. While I do take the time to read and update our own guest comment page, I rarely go and check the review sites. But today, while doing some website maintenance, I clicked the links on the bottom of the pages to make sure they were working, and…

I am BLOWN AWAY at the reviews I read just on Yelp! All were 5 Star ratings and I am truly touched and very excited that people are so passionate about West Wind. We humbly do what we do, the way we always have, because of our passion for our guests. We love this place, it is home to us, and as many of you already know, you are all family. To those that don’t know, or who have never stayed with us, it is always difficult to explain the “feeling” of being here…what it is that makes it special, or sets us apart.

Well, I decided that I would post these reviews here today on the blog because they so beautifully describe that “feeling”. We are grateful for everyone who took the time to leave us a review here on our site, Yelp, and elsewhere. Knowing that West Wind brings such happiness is seriously the greatest reward of all!


Reviews From Yelp

Mia M.
My granddaughter had a week-end supervised sleep over in #1 apartment with great view of the beach and jetties and public beach where all 6 girls had a grand time especially when they walked down to participate in the drum circle.  Thank you Smetts family for making her 13th birthday celebration incredible.  MCM

Robin M.
We love this place. The apartments are clean, comfortable and accommodating. The location is convenient for shopping, fishing and relaxing. The views are fantastic! The beach is gorgeous and the shelling is abundant.  The owner, Debbie, is as nice as can be and it’s pet friendly. When we arrived last month, my husband said, “It’s like we never left”. I took it as a meaning of comfort and belonging. We’ve been customers just 2 years but know we will return.

Kathleen S.
I almost hesitate to write this review because it’s already hard to get time at this fabulous rental, but we had such a wonderful vacation that I can’t help myself. You know how pictures of rentals are so often deceiving? Well, not here. When we opened the door and looked straight through the apartment to the beach I knew we had made the right choice. The apartment is basic, but comfortable and spotless.  The kitchen is well stocked and we didn’t have any “I wish they had a….” moments and we cooked in every meal. Debbie checked in on us to make sure we had everything we needed and was available, but not intrusive in any way. We started each day with an early morning walk on the beautiful beach in front of our apartment and the afternoons exploring the other beaches. There is even a dryer that you can use to dry your suits and towels at the end of the days adventures. A truely memorable week of relaxation and fun-  we’ve already planned or next visit.

Richard N.
We found this place about a year ago. Have stayed there twice, and plan on returning. A bit of paradise.

Barbara J.
Johnson – McAllister clan have been coming to the West Wind Apartments to spend a week in June for 16 years.  We start looking forward to our visit about March and our plans grow more elaborate with each passing month!!
The Johnson family’s love of Casey Key started back in the early 70’s and continues to this day.  Since our retirement in 1985, we have spent many wonderful times at The West Wind.  It never disappoints and we are always grateful to Debbie, Bob and Bonnie for being so helpful and gracious.  We are now at 3 generations that think of The West Wind as our home away from home. or as the 2 youngest say “Our Beach House”  See you in  June 2013.

Michelle R.
What a jewel this was right smack dab in the middle of paradise, Casey Key!  Lovely, quiet, dog friendly, clean efficiency apartments that were very well equipped that sit right on the beach side of the Gulf of Mexico,  We could hear the water from our porch with a view that definitely made this place unique.  Complex is small, so you are in your own world, yet we walked to the public jetty to watch fishing and to the public beach for the drum circle, but had our own private beach.  Apartments are roomy, actually apartments, not one big room and they have thought of everything including the cork screw.  They provided great beach chairs and have lovely tables with huts to eat outside. But we enjoyed the tree swing that looks over the beach the most.  We spent most of our time at the swing!
If you bring your food on your initial trip to Casey Key, you will have no reason to leave the complex.   We even had a massage done on site!
We just returned, yet we are already planning for next year!

Barbara K.
We have come to West Wind Apartments for four years and have enjoyed every minute of our stay.  The unit has always been clean and well stocked with bedding and towels and other necessities.  Very comfortable bed, seating, lighting and modern TV with a screened porch giving  a view of the ocean.  Sunsets that you can’t resist taking a photo year after year.  Early morning walks on the beach are my favorite.  Great location for shopping and restaurants but not so close as to disturb our relaxation.  As the 5 stars indicate – WooHOO ! As good as it gets !

Bob C.
Our view of the beach and boats and the sunset from our second-floor room was spectacular. The room was clean and well equipped, and owners were very pleasant and flexible. We totally loved this quiet and beautiful setting. Very Special !!

Brooke R.
I’ve been vacationing at the West Wind Apartments on Casey Key every summer since 1973. I’m kind of conflicted about writing reviews and spreading the word about this area of the Florida Gulf Coast. Very few people know about it. Siesta Key (just to the north) gets all of the publicity and a part of me would like to keep it that way. Casey Key is quiet, undisturbed, the beaches are pristine, the fishing is great. There are probably 50 golf courses within a 30 minute drive.  But if you do want a relaxing vacation the West Wind is a place you want to be. It’s always clean and is constantly being updated. The beach is just outside your back porch. The proprietors are some of the nicest people you’ll meet. The West Wind is the only rental property south of the bridge which means you’re separated from the Nokomis public beach and the other beach rentals on Casey Key. Every single person I’ve ever referred to the West Wind keeps going back.  It all adds up to a sweet vacation spot! Shhhhhhh! Just don’t tell anybody where you heard about it!  😉

Laura D.
For approximately 25 years my family has been coming to West Wind, it has become a family tradition that I look forward to each year. The apartments are immaculate, quiet and are very comfortable. There are only six, and it is located away from the other motel/condos on Casey Key, so you feel like you are in your own special place. Each has huge sliding glass door that opens on to a big screened porch. We enjoy opening the door, hearing the ocean and feeling the breeze flow. The private beach is right out your door, my favorite is that their are plenty of beach chairs just waiting for you. My son likes collecting the huge variety of shells and sharks teeth on the beach. There is plenty to do in the area if you like to be active, or, if you are like us, it is easy to sit back, relax and enjoy doing nothing but hearing the surf and watching amazing sunset

Sue V.
West Wind Apartments equals Paradise, great location, clean beautiful apartments, great staff with a caring touch. that makes you feel like you are home.Sunsets, walks on the beach, swim in the clearest most beautiful water, great fishing. The list of wonderful things that could be told are endless.  The best vacation ever.


That’s all for now. I’m off to do a happy-dance on the beach! If you are so inclined, you can leave your own review and tell others about your experience by clicking the Yelp or Kudzu links at the bottom of the website, or by leaving a comment Here. Please know that we appreciate it more than you could ever know. We also really appreciate the fact that your reviews help others to feel more comfortable about visiting for the first time. We can’t accommodate the whole world, but we sure do enjoy meeting new folks and doing our best to give them a happy and memorable getaway!

Where Exactly Is This “Old Florida” Anyway?

Casey Key in 1970

James at West Wind in 1970. I’ve changed, but the West Wind…not so much, thank God.

Old Florida”…the very words take us to a better time from days gone by. A simpler time when family bonds were stronger and the legacy of family vacation memories were recounted and built upon each year. We feel very fortunate here at West Wind Apartments that for many of you, this place has been a family destination and a part of your family’s happiest memories for many decades. We proudly resemble what is thought of by many as the epitome of Old Florida.

But where else, if anywhere, can one still find the Florida of yesteryear, and does it even still exist? I could actually tell you how to get there…but my directions might not lead you to a place you’d want to be. You see, “Old Florida” is as much a mindset as it is any specific geographic location. What one may consider “Old Florida” might differ in very significant ways from another’s interpretation of the expression. For most, “Old Florida” must be understood in the proper context in relation to the individual.

What Old Florida Is Not

In today’s Florida, one doesn’t need to search very hard to find an abundance of $400.00+ a night luxurious high-rise resorts scattered all over the state…most overlooking a fine stretch of beach. Most are within walking distance or a short drive from every type of 5 star restaurants and recreational activity one could ever imagine. There’s never a shortage of things to do and places to see. These types of vacation destination often leave you feeling like you need a vacation from your vacation once you return home.

How Does Old Florida Still Exist?

The preservation of the places still unassuming and charming enough to fall into the “Old Florida” category is not a simple task. Often, many years of hard won victories in battles with the likes of city hall and wealthy investors have taken place over many, many years. For example, here on Casey Key the zoning laws prohibit high-rise condominiums and resorts. What remains are a mere handful of low-rise hotels that were initially allowed before the zoning changes. Also worth noting is that in the late 1970’s, a majority of the island was declared a conservation district.

“The legislature of the State of Florida hereby finds that the hereinafter more particularly described area lying within Sarasota County and constituting the northerly part of Casey Key is an area of particular natural beauty, abundant in marine, animal and bird life. The preservation of the natural beauty, marine, animal and bird life of said area is in the best interests of the property owners of said area, the citizens of Sarasota County and of the State of Florida. It is the purpose of this act to preserve the natural beauty, marine, animal and bird life of said area.” – A beautiful portion of House Bill #5158

Nowhere has simply been forgotten in time and has accidentally lasted this long in the state one might have found it back in the first half of the 1900’s or earlier. There are many places like Ybor City, founded by cigar makers in the late 1800’s that have also fought hard to preserve their heritage. What remains of the culture and the architecture are a testament to the will of the original founders and they definitely tell a story.

In Summary

I think that for me, Old Florida is anywhere that has remained true to the heritage and history of how a city or community came to be in the first place. These magical places lend a certain flavor and atmosphere to its visitors. I think that this allows us to take it all in and then leave with the very real sense that we have left a part of ourselves there and yet somehow taken a part along with us. Vacationing in Old Florida is something that’s never really over. These places draw us back in year after year and become a part of our family’s own story. Places like this are not so over the top that we can’t even enjoy each other and the experience of simply “being there”. To me, these are the best vacations ever.

The Incredible Casey Key / Nokomis Beach Drum Circle

As a guest here at West Wind Vacation Apartments you’ll fit into one of two groups: Those who have heard the enchanting beats coming from somewhere just down the beach – or you’re one of those who have chosen to venture up to partake in one of Casey Key’s most unique and visited events. We’re talking about The Casey Key Drum Circle.

Casey Key Drum Circle Crowd

It’s an ongoing cultural event, really. The crowd itself is made up tourists and local residents from a 20 mile or so radius from our little piece of paradise. On any given Saturday and Wednesday evening, the crowd can vary from a few dozen up to a thousand people. The amateur rhythmists carry with them a fantastic array of percussion instruments from all over the globe. You’ll encounter simple Bongos, Tambourines, Djembes, and sometimes an entire studio drum kit.

 

If my memory serves me well, the Casey Key / Nokomis Beach Drum Circle has been going on at the public beach just north of here for about 15 years. I’d really like to give you some accurate history on the event but this proves difficult for a number of reasons. One of the really unique and amazing facts about the drum circle is that there are no organizers or sponsors, no one person or group can claim responsibility for organizing and promoting the Drum Circle. It’s as if some celestial calling brought together a host of rhythmically gifted free spirits on this very spot. Week after week and year after year they return.

Casey Key Drum Circle Nokomis FL

North of us on Siesta Key, there has been a drum circle for much longer than the one that has been going on here on Casey Key. Many of the drummers and followers are the same from the drum circle on Siesta Key. One rumor is that when political forces tried to shut down the Siesta Key drum circle for whatever reason…it simply migrated here. I for one couldn’t be happier about it.

Casey Key Drum Circle Player

From about an hour before sunset the players and the onlookers begin to gather. A brave soul beats out the first cadence and the rhythm is joined by all who have something to express. No leaders, no followers…just a primal and prehistoric beat that we all seem to somehow carry inside and understand. As sunset approaches, the now larger crowd and orchestra of players move toward a faster crescendo. There are beautifully adorned belly dancers and Hula-Hoops. There are dancers aplenty, from the truly young to the more aged who are quite obviously eternally young at heart. The scene is truly something to behold.

 

Just as you can begin to fully take in all of the sights and sounds, the scents and the sensations – the sun reaches the horizon. Encouraged by the fevered pounding of the instruments and hearts…she sinks out of sight and the sky begins to take on a softer hue, yet still ablaze. The players will play until there is little light left. Celebrating the end of another day, well lived and well played. Everyone makes their way back to where they came from. All are satisfied that they had a small part in giving back something to the cosmos and to their fellow kindred spirits this night.

Rarely does one get to encounter such a spiritual and edifying event.  If you’ve experienced the Casey Key Drum Circle once…then you know, you’re already hooked. If you’ve never made it a point to check it out, you’re not doing yourself any favors in putting it off. Make your way here with a quickness…you have no idea what you are missing!

Who Is This “Casey” That Our Island Is Named After?

Early Map Of FloridaIndian uprisings, buried treasure, and a stalwart U.S Army Captain are not the first things that come to mind when one considers our pristine white beaches and unequaled sunsets. Casey Key, at only 8 miles long and a mere 300 yards wide in many places, is an island that is steeped in a rich history that few people are aware of. It is this history that we can thank for our naming.

According to many old Florida maps, the island was originally shown as Chaise’s Key. In my research I have not found any mention or official record as to why the name Chaise’s was adopted. There are some that still contend that the name Casey Key was a mistake caused by a notation on an early map. There have actually been unsuccessful efforts to change the name back to Chaise’s Key in order to correct this assumed error. The earliest maps prior to Florida’s statehood show the island as “Clam Island”. It is my assumption that this name could likely be attributed to the Seminole Indians that lived here during that time.

On a map produced in 1856, Lt. J. C. Ives changed Chaise’s Key to Casey Key in honor of the respectable efforts by Capt. John C. Casey in charting this region. I have no doubt that this was done in homage to the work ethic and character of the man as well.

A fellow officer once commented: “He was known to have great influence with the Indians…he never deceived them; never told them a lie; and never made a promise he did not fulfill….By this simple means he gained the confidence of the whole nation.” “Captain John C. Casey – Seminole Emigration Agent

In all of my research I have found out much about the man, John C. Casey, and of his colorful career as an officer in the U.S. Army. Capt. Casey had a huge impact on those who knew him. Among his peers and the Seminole Indians he became known as a man of character and he was held in the highest regard by all who knew him. It is for this reason that our island bears his name…and rightly so.

Should you desire to know more, clicking through the links within this post will lead you toward a much deeper understanding of Capt. Casey and his impeccable character as he worked in Florida with the Seminole Indians. I have included some of my favorite quotes from the more unique and “romantic” of these below.

Clam Island Map

 “From 1848 to 1851 the western coast of Florida was charted by the U. S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, with Capt. Casey assisting. In his honor the inlet at the southernmost end of Little Sarasota Bay, just south of Chaise’s Key, was named Casey’s Pass. In April 1856, a map of Florida by Lt. J. C. Ives, in which he gave much credit to Casey, was published. Chaise’s Key was then charted as Casey’s Key.” – Spessard Stone, “Captain John C. Casey – Seminole Emigration Agent

The grammar and peculiar vernacular caught my attention here:

 “One link in the chain of off-shore islands extending from Anclote Key southward along Florida’s Gulf coast is Casey Key in Sarasota County. This little Key has more than its share of natural beauty and charm yet remains one of the least known islands. Although little is heard of Casey Key, except locally, for which the residents who value privacy are grateful, even more obscure is the origin of the name. One historian has written, “When and how Casey’s Pass was named no one knows. According to waterfront legend an Irishman named Casey settled there for a number of years early in the 19th century and left during the War of 1812. But that is only legend.” It seems fitting and proper that a closer acquaintance be had with Captain John Charles Casey and that he receive credit for the role he played in the early history of Florida. Recent attempts to glamorize this island paradise by changing its name to the insipid title of Treasure Island have, happily, failed and the euphonious and distinctive name it has had for more than a century remains.

The first mapping of the interior of southern Florida and its Gulf coast was done by the U. S. Army. This project was imperative for operations against the Seminoles and maintaining lines of communication with outlying depots and forts. This task was difficult and hazardous and involved much hardship. The terrain covered great expanses of swamp, sawgrass, and dense jungle and offered few places of elevation or reference points. Taking observations, bearings, and measurements and making detailed notes and sketches under these conditions was an exacting job. It was admirably done by a number of officers during the years 1839‑1855. Lieutenant John Christmas Ives, Topographical Engineers, compiled all this data and, by order of the Secretary of War, produced a most interesting and valuable map of Florida south of Tampa Bay and latitude 28° North which p128 was published in April, 1856. This map is amazingly accurate in detail and is a superb work of cartography and engraving. Under “Notes” in the lower left corner, and in greater detail in his memoirs, Lieutenant Ives gives the sources of his data and credits the officers who derived it. Included prominently in this roster and given much credit for the entire map, particularly for the Gulf coast area, is Captain John C. Casey.”  – Fred W. Wallace: “The Story Of Captain John C. Casey” in the Florida Historical Quarterly Vol. 41 No. 2 (Oct. 1962)

It should also be noted that during the Florida land boom of the 1920’s, a real estate developer tried to change the name of the island to Treasure Island in the hopes that the name, along with the accompanying rumors of buried treasure on the northern end of the island would help to sell lots. I do find a strange satisfaction in the irony that the north end of Casey Key has actually become much more valuable than any fictional treasure. North Casey Key today boasts some of the most sought after and valuable real estate in all of Florida.

So there you have it, my best effort at a decent explanation of how our island came to be called what it is today. I hope that you feel somewhat enlightened. I thoroughly enjoyed the research process and I certainly feel quite a bit more knowledgeable than before I began. Feel free to leave us a comment if you have anything to add or any interesting stories and folklore about Casey Key that you’d like to share!

Tropical Splendor – Casey Key Florida

“Visit and enjoy the warm Gulf of Mexico”

I came across something the other day and just wanted to share it with you here. This is an old West Wind Apartments brochure that we had printed up back in…well, I don’t really know when exactly. Judging from the aerial shot of the island and the apartments and some of the clothing in the brochure images, I’d guess the 70’s.

(Click images for larger view)

West Winds Apartments Nokomis Florida Brochure

West Wind Apartments Nostalgia

Much has changed over the years, even here on our beloved Casey Key. Much has also stayed the same as well…especially here at West Wind Apartments. Sure, we have upgraded the units over the years with new décor and appliances. We’d like to believe though, that the “Old Florida” experience is as charming and memory filled each year as it has always been!

West Wind Apartments Aerial View 2012

I thought to post this here today because I felt that many of you would appreciate the nostalgic look back. Many of you have been returning here for decades, some since our very first year in 1968! We certainly consider you all to be the dearest of friends and family.

Do these images bring back any memories for you? I must admit that the picture of the colorful Hobie Catamaran sailboat took me back to a much more carefree time in my younger years! Please feel free to post a comment in the comment section below. We’d love to hear your thoughts!