The world of Old Florida awaits past the gate to Turnberry Isle Resort & Club in Aventura, just north of Miami Beach. The cobblestoned drive, divided by a median strip filled with palms and tropical plants, affords quick glimpses of the two-story portico entrance where porters in white uniforms wait for your car. With a cheery welcome, they guide you up a staircase into the main building, where you can't help but imagine turn-of-the-century railroad magnate Henry Flagler walking by in full regalia. It is a place where he would be comfortable.
Turnberry combines the grace of Old Florida with the elegance of a modern luxury resort. Although it manifests that traditional Florida charm, the hotel was built in the early 1970s, and today it is run by the Rafael Hotel Group, which carried out an $80 million renovation in 1989. The 270-room hotel is situated near the Intercoastal Waterway; the ocean is minutes away, where the hotel's sister Marina and Yacht Club, with 70 rooms and a 117-slip dock, is located. There is a shuttle service that carries guests between the various parts of the property. This hotel runs flawlessly, and is geared to luxury without ostentation, and relaxation without pretense.
For the golfer, the resort is a compact version of paradise. There are two Robert Trent Jones courses, each having been refurbished in the past two years. The par-70 North Course is easier, and a bit shorter at 6,403 yards, but the par-72 South Course, at 7,003 yards, is a wicked combination of water hazards and sprawling Jones-signature greens. If the wind is blowing off the Atlantic, beware; the course gets even tougher. There is also an excellent tennis operation, which has been ranked among the top 50 facilities in the United States by Tennis magazine. Sixteen courts are at the resort and eight are at the marina complex.
Like many resorts, Turnberry also offers a comprehensive list of spa services, from massages to a complete workout center. There also is a full roster of workout classes, from aerobics to stretching.
Besides the standard grill/breakfast restaurant, the hotel boasts an outstanding restaurant on the premises, The Veranda. It doesn't get included in most dining guides because it is not generally open to the public; you must be a member of Turnberry or a hotel guest. Todd Weisz, the chef, is a master of modern culinary techniques. A recent meal included succulent crab cakes, an exotic cold-smoked cherry wood squab, and full-flavored Florida red snapper with lobster mashed potatoes.
Weisz buys fresh producefrom local farmers, and his kitchen bakes all the resort's bread. Like many chefs at south Florida's better restaurants, Weisz prepares an excellent plate of stone crabs in season, from October to May.
The wine list is extensive, with the requisite selections in Bordeaux and Burgundies, and sommelier Bernard Riviere is revamping the list and adding selections. While somewhat expensive, the list offers plenty of variety, with selections from all the major wine-producing regions of the world.
When the day is over, the resort's humidor in the bar will entice you with its selections obtained from the Miami-based Caribbean Cigar Co., including Morro Castle and Free Cuba. Or, take advantage of the wonderful smoking areas throughout the hotel, under the many verandas that line the interior courtyard or at the grill. Of course, you can always take a cigar on the golf course, and light up as you ponder one of the many water hazards surrounding the greens.
Turnberry Isle Resort & Club
19999 West Country Club Drive
Phone: 305/932-6200; fax: 305/933-3811
Rates: Rooms range from $150 to $405, suites from $300 to $2,100, depending on the season
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