Let’s get this out of the way: Solomon’s Castle is in the middle of nowhere, Florida. You’ll need to make a special effort to reach a very special place.
Presented as Howard Solomon’s ‘dream turned reality’, this castle is the story of a inventive, brilliant man. He passed away in August 2016, leaving this creative and colorful destination for his family to run. They’re already doing so, and despite the loss his legacy will live on.
After paying for your tickets, you may find yourself waiting a short time for the tour to start. They don’t run at set times, just when there’s enough people to form a group. Ours only had a handful, so you may not need to wait long. You can’t leave me outside a castle and tell me not to wander, though!
Nothing quite as romantic as a heart over a cannon, seen just outside the main gate.
The tour started perhaps 10 minutes after we arrived, and we were off — Mr. Solomon, it seems, was a man that liked to recycle everything. In that spirit, you’ll notice the ticket you’ll be handing in has (likely) been used more than a few times.
Howard moved here in 1972, and promptly discovered he moved onto a swamp. Undeterred, he began collecting some of the materials used in the making of his castle — the aluminum presses from the local newspaper. “He used to tell me he lived in a time capsule,” the guide said. The 12,000 square foot structure isn’t entirely open to the public, but there’s plenty on display to make it a worthy trip.
The man had a… quirky… sense of humor — presenting ‘the Tortoise and the Hare’… the ‘hare’ is that brown hair on the bottom… you get it…
The guide’s rapid-fire litany of descriptions, groan-worthy puns, and dad jokes is nearly non-stop — this is both a compliment and a thing I’d have changed. I love puns and jokes as much as the next guy… but I also love story and expanded descriptions. There’s simply so much going on in each room that trying to cover each and every piece that way is out of the question.
The world’s only square gun, and the world’s only square bullet.
What Mr. Solomon called his ‘hernia gun’ — this steampunk-ish gun supposedly weighs 70 pounds and would likely give you a hernia if you tried lifting it.
Jeb the bushman elephant — made from seven oil drums and has seashells for toenails.
I didn’t quite get the fascination with Waldo, but you’ll find him here.
What happens when you combine two animals into one? This guy.
The highlight for some will be the stained glass — some 90 pieces can be seen, one through most every window of the house. From the outside, look for the nine planets, nursery rhymes, and zodiac symbols among others.
“We’ve never lost a ship!” the claim goes — seeing as how the moat is essentially a swamp, there’s probably not enough water in which to lose on. The ship, a replica of a Portuguese galleon, is the on-site restaurant run by the family. Pass through it to reach some of the wooded areas and a souvenir shop:
The official guided tour ends here, but people are free to meander the property as they like. There are some trails amongst the woods, and presumably some more of Solomon’s genius on display. If you’re fascinated by the place, you can stay in the castle’s Blue Moon Room — a 500 square foot efficient apartment that sleeps two.
I would’ve loved to meet this guy in person, and envy those that have. Sometimes the best way to remember someone is to laugh and enjoy their quirky, punny creations. If you’re driving from Fort Myers or Cape Coral to Sarasota or Tampa, it’s definitely worth the detour. As a daytrip from any of those cities, it’s a worthwhile excursion.
Name: Solomon’s Castle
Address: 44533 Solomon Rd., Ona, FL, 33865 (GPS: 27.373151, -81.977257)
Directions: No public transportation available to this remote, middle-of-nowhere place. Plug the name into Google Maps and you’ll be good to go — be sure to turn on turn-by-turn directions (these are cached locally, meaning you’ll still get directions after you lose signal!)
Hours: 11:00am-4:00pm Tuesdays-Sundays (closed Mondays and from July to September) — tours start when a small group or more are ready to go.
Admission: $12.50, cash only (ATM on site)