Why should tourists have all the fun? The Sunshine State offers plenty of reasons—from beach retreats to golf getaways—for residents to pack their bags.
One Ocean Resort Hotel & Spa
1 Ocean Blvd., Atlantic Beach, 800/874-6000
Where: About 4.5 hours drive time, 13 miles east of Jacksonville
Why Go: This property, once the venerable Sea Turtle Hotel, has always been the grand anchor of Atlantic Beach. But its incarnation as One Ocean takes it to a whole new level of luxury and beachfront style. The hotel numbers under 200 rooms with a wide beachfront, dreamy luxury spa, great vistas and excellent dining. Perhaps its most delicious amenity is its docent service—think your own private butler, who can accommodate everything from unpacking bags and walking dogs to planning excursions, arranging for a nanny or running errands.
Even if you decide to rough it and dial up room service, One Ocean offers the best of both vacation worlds—part getaway, part party central. First, it has all the ambience of an oceanfront retreat, including the calm North Florida vibe (no blaring salsa in these parts).
Plus, it has location, location, location. One Ocean is smack dab in what the locals call “The Corner,” arguably the hot spot of the Jacksonville beaches, with a number of small restaurants and bars, including iconic Pete’s Bar, the oldest in Duval County and legendary in its own right, for all the good (and bad) reasons. Dining options include Ragtime Tavern and Slider’s for seafood, Poe’s Tavern (burgers) and the Flying Iguana Taqueria, but everyone comes here for entertainment, so barhopping is a weekend staple.
That said, the best food in The Corner is right in the hotel at Azurea, which is sublime. The dinner menu has Florida hogfish for starters (no one ever has that) as well as other seafood choices and a carnivorous list. Between that and a bar that is routinely awarded “Best Hotel Bar” by local publications, you may elect not to even step outside.
Wait, There’s More: Azurea also offers a five-course dinner option “for the adventurous palate” which just might be the best way to cap off your vacation at this delightful North Florida resort.
HITTING THE LINKS
Hammock Beach Resort
200 Ocean Crest Drive, Palm Coast, 888/825-3062
Where: It’s a straight shot up I-95, about four hours from Boca and some 30 minutes north of Daytona Beach
Why Go: Nestled within a lob wedge of the Atlantic, this inspired oceanfront retreat may, on the one hand, be the closest thing to Pebble Beach that golf enthusiasts have in Florida. On the other hand, it’s one of the state’s hidden gems for families looking to sneak away for a long weekend.
The spaciousness of the accommodations, alone, distinguishes this 330-room property—options include multi-bedroom villas and suites with private wrap-around balconies, stunning views and, in some cases, fully equipped kitchens with living and dining room areas. If you bring the kids, pack extra sunscreen and goggles; chances are they’ll never leave the 91,000-square-foot water pavilion, complete with a lazy river and water flume.
If you bring the sticks, and you have a handicap in double digits, pack a few extra sleeves of balls. Hammock Beach features two championship golf courses—emphasis on championship given that the devilish Ocean Course is designed by Jack Nicklaus while the Conservatory Course is courtesy of Tom Watson.
The Ocean Course regularly cracks lists of the state’s best layouts, and for good reason. Jack offers all kinds of eye candy, especially during a home stretch of holes dubbed “The Bear Claw” that brings the Atlantic into view—and, depending on the day, its severe winds into play. But too much looking and not enough thinking, and Jack will punish you; it’s a course, with water on 12 of 18 holes, that forces golfers to carefully consider each shot.
The Conservatory, which plays a staggering 7,776 yards from the back tees (and is equally challenging from the closer tees), makes its own demands as the longest course in all of Florida. Aesthetically, it’s a beauty in its own right, with undulating fairways, bunkers that border the entire length of certain holes, waterfalls and brooks, and velvety smooth greens.
Throw in a 200-slip marina (with kayaking available), a 10,000-square-foot spa, eight clay tennis courts and access to a pristine beach, and it’s easy to see why this is one Hammock that guests could relax in forever.
Wait, There’s More: Lest we forget, Hammock Beach has a slew of dining options, including a poolside café, the appropriately named Sushi Bar, and Delfinos for Italian fare. The Atlantic Grille, in addition to serving breakfast and lunch, offers four-star evening fare on its simple but expertly curated menu of meat and seafood dishes.
Summer Specials: Click on the “specials & packages” link athammockbeach.com for a full menu of deals in several categories, incluing golf, spa and family packages.
7593 Gathering Drive, Kissimmee, 866/880-8563
Where: A little more than three hours if driving the turnpike from Boca; a stone’s throw from Disney World
Why Go: Like Hammock Beach, Reunion is not only part of the Salamander family of properties, it also has an irresistible golf component: Reunion is the only destination on the planet to feature courses designed by Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson and Arnold Palmer—who, between them, account for 33 major golf titles.
As one might expect, the beautifully manicured layouts take on the personalities of their architects: the Nicklaus, with its calculated design, can produce brain cramps; the Watson, with its challenging bunkers and sprawling greens, tests the short game; and the Palmer, with dramatic elevation changes and tempting high-risk shots, encourages your swashbuckling side to come out and play.
Adding to the golf setting is the first teaching facility from LPGA legend Annika Sorenstam, as well as the Frankly Golf Putting Academy.
Along with the one- and two-bedroom villas at the 11-story Reunion Grande, the resort features an array of spacious condo-esque offerings, plus vacation homes (see “Wait, There’s More” section). Because of this, the property has more of a small community vibe—one that happens to have a full-blown water park and 10 additional pools.
Dining highlights include Eleven, a meat-lover’s paradise (think 16-ounce, bone-in rib-eye or double-cut Mongolian lamb chops) on the rooftop of Reunion Grande that offers nightly views of the fireworks show at nearby Magic Kingdom.
Wait, There’s More: Part of Reunion’s allure is being able to draw from its pool of sprawling luxury rental homes, perfect for family gatherings, getaways with a group of friends or bachelor/bachelorette weekends. One such property caught the attention of HGTV’s “House Hunters”—a nine-bedroom, 5,550-square-foot estate with nine full bathrooms, a private pool and a Harry Potter-themed home theater.
Summer Specials: Go to reunionresort.com/packages for a list of featured specials.
TASTE OF MIAMI
485 Brickell Ave., Miami, 866/781-9923
Where: About 40 minutes south of Boca, depending (of course) on traffic
Why Go: The better question is, “Why not?” If you’re looking for a little two-night “unplug-and-unwind” escape, the Viceroy promises to recharge your batteries in more ways than one. Though stacked snugly in the heart of the city’s financial district, the resort and its play areas are dripping with Miami chic.
Look no further than the scene outside the 15th floor, home to, what the Viceroy describes as, “Florida’s longest infinity pool.” The only thing as visually striking as the series of pools that seems to stretch for two football fields is the jaw-dropping view from the back deck that overlooks Biscayne Bay. The people-watching, as one might expect, is an amenity in and of itself.
From that back sun deck, it’s a short walk to the Viceroy’s 28,000-square-foot spa, the interior vision of renowned French designer Philippe Starck. Treatments run the gamut, from HydraFacial therapy and couples massages to special pre- and post-pregnancy offerings. The spa also offers more fitness classes than many stand-alone gyms, including a deceptively all-encompassing bodysurf workout—SurfSet—unique to South Florida.
On the restaurant front, the seasonal fare at 15th & Vine is a Miami must. The emphasis here is small plates, fresh ingredients and some global spice mixed with contemporary American dishes. The spring menu included a to-die-for chicken-and-chorizo paella, and fork-tender corvina fish with leeks, haricot vert and potato confit. It’s worth checking out the Chef’s Tasting Menu ($65 per person for eight plates, $90 per person for 12 plates) just to experience everything the restaurant has to offer.
Accommodations at the Viceroy include junior suites that run nearly 600 square feet and East Asian-inspired decor by interior designer Kelly Wearstler. But trust us: With so much to see and do, no one is staying in their rooms for long at the Viceroy.
Wait, There’s More: Oh yes, how could we forget: The Viceroy also is home to one of the sweetest weekend hot spots in town. The über-cool FIFTY Ultra Lounge, open on Fridays and Saturdays only, draws the velvet rope crowd into the wee hours (the club is open from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.). Why? If overlooking all of Miami from its 50th floor perch isn’t enough reason, there is the rooftop pool, the killer DJ, the outdoor cabana tables and indoor VIP tables—and the potential for spotting a celebrity or two. Or at least someone who looks like one.
Summer Specials: The hotel’s “Some Like It Hot” campaign, running through Sept. 30, features a variety of promotions—Florida resident discounts; buy-one, get-one-free spa treatments between noon and 2 p.m. on weekdays; spa/lunch deals; happy hour specials at 15th & Vine; and much more. Visitviceroyhotelsandresorts.com/en/Miami, and click on the offers link for details.
40 Island Ave., Miami Beach, 305/673-1717
Where: One hour’s drive south to Miami, on Belle Isle in Biscayne Bay
Why Go: Everyone associates Miami Beach with life in the fast lane, and that’s pretty easy to find. But sometimes, getting away from it all is exactly what the doctor ordered, and that is what The Standard is—times 10. This luxurious minimalist boutique hotel has a hip European vibe and a big spa emphasis. Getting there is even trippy, with a romantic retro ride across the charming Venetian Causeway to Belle Isle—a trip back to a more graceful era in Miami’s history, and to the place that hotel magnate André Balaz renovated from the Lido Spa.
Described by American Spa magazine as “a haven of communal relaxation and hydrotherapy,” The Standard is all clean lines and light (rather than Rat Packers slamming martinis), ensconced in lush tropical gardens with hidden-away nooks and whimsical seating areas. Then there’s the spa: think floral treatments that exfoliate and “resurface” skin, cleansing massages, facials, the works—or you can do Pilates, jiu-jitsu or meditation.
Our favorite point of interest, the Lido Restaurant & Bayside Grill, smack on Biscayne Bay, may have the best view of Miami. This open deck on the water is the way most people wish Miami still was—water the color of polar mints, megayachts cruising by, a silver city skyline sparkling across the bay. And there you are with a glass of very good Rosé and your pick of a light but flavorful menu inspired by the Mediterranean diet. This is a whole fresh take on Miami, and the kind of getaway that may restore the spirit as well as delight the senses.
Wait, There’s More: The Standard offers a vast array of wellness programs, from Tantra wisdom and meditation circles to healing sound baths. You will want to live here.
Summer Specials: Ask about the “Spoiled by the Spa” special, which includes a daily spa credit. Visit standardhotels.com, and click on the Spa Miami Beach option for more info.
HOME AWAY FROM HOME
Boca Raton Resort & Club
501 E. Camino Real, Boca Raton
Where: Your own backyard
Why Go: The sumptuous Boca Raton Resort & Club has been part of the city landscape here for so long that those of us who are not resort Premier Club members may forget what it has to offer.
Like gourmet dining options such as Morimoto, 501 East, Lucca or The Blue high atop the tower. The sleek Beach Club is a whole other story, with its Sea Grille, surf school, paddleboards and pools. The Resort has undergone a sea change—literally—with a new emphasis on its coastal attributes and a move toward lively and hip diversions in addition to the standard golf, dine and drink model.
The newest attraction is the FlowRider by the Tower Pool, a water attraction that offers guests thrilling surf rides—at all different levels—by generating “sheet waves” that emulate ocean waves in an enclosed system. Inventor Tom Lochtefeld says the experience is not as much like surfing as it is like “skateboarding a half-pipe with water as a medium.”
The FlowRider and the surfing school offer active family fun and complement the luxury amenities of this classic destination resort. It may make sense to stick around this summer—and see what’s happening in your own backyard.
Wait, There’s More: Think of a scavenger hunt—only more educational—and dive into the resort’s innovative Mizner’s Quest, a self-guided family discovery tour filled with interactive learning experiences. This customized walking tour is comprised of 17 Points of Discovery around the historic resort, complete with map, special signposts and wristbands collected after each stop. Families are encouraged to share their experiences and photos on Facebook, and can become eligible for the Resort’s “Top Explorer of the Week.”
Summer Specials: The resort has summer rates in effect through Aug. 31 (with room nights starting at $199) and specials including a “Uniquely Boca Inclusive Package” that offers free breakfast, and discounts on golf, tennis and spa treatments. Visit bocaresort.com for details.