A sun-soaked getaway to one of Florida’s historic resorts!
After a stressful start to the year, I found myself searching for sun and sand to restore my spirit. I wanted to go somewhere I had never been before, which is how I ended up in Ponte Vedra Beach, not far from where Ponce de Leon landed more than 300 years before.
But that isn’t the island’s only claim to history. During World War II, a German U-boat landed on Ponte Vedra Beach, and four Nazi agents planted explosives in the sand dunes. They were all later captured.
The Ponte Vedra Inn & Club opened in 1928 as a membership club, where guests across generations came for the summer. The social calendar included dances at the bandstand and tennis matches. In 1941, the Lodge and Club opened 1.5 miles down the beach, now part of the inn’s property.
The drive from my Atlanta home is just shy of six hours, but for this quick weekend getaway, I opted for a direct flight into Jacksonville, followed by a 30-minute drive. Ponte Vedra Beach is convenient to both Jacksonville and historic St. Augustine, making it an easy base to explore the cities.
Driving onto the palm-lined island is a fascinating look at some of the most luxurious homes in the country, where athletes and CEOs spend their down time. I checked in at the AAA Five Diamond inn, which has guest rooms, shops and restaurants in the circa 1940s space. A gallery showcases artifacts from the inn’s history, including photos and vintage room keys. Portraits of the owners hang above the grand fireplace in the lounge.
The property has 262 rooms spread across multiple buildings, and its recent and extensive renovation is evident. I stayed at the Ocean House, with large coastal-inspired suites with kitchens, soaking tubs and balconies that open onto the beach.
I wanted to stretch my legs but hadn’t brought the appropriate shoes for the gym, which overlooks the ocean, and it was too chilly to swim in the pools. The tennis courts and golf courses were other options, including the first island hole in North Florida. In the end, I rented a beach cruiser from the Surf Club, which also supplies chairs and umbrellas, and pedaled for a few blissful hours along the coast.
With my workout now out of the way, I made a beeline for the award-winning spa that has 30,000 square feet of treatment rooms, a cafe, an outdoor pool and saunas. I found a spot by the pool and bundled up in my robe, sipping on an Aperol Spritz in the sunshine.
Ponte Vedra’s restaurants are open to both members of the club and hotel guests, so you’re never far from a good meal. For breakfast, I walked across the street to the Inn Dining Room for avocado toast to start the day.
The Seahorse Grille on the upper level of the inn has a large aquarium tank in the center of the dining room. I enjoyed squid ink pasta alla vodka tossed with fresh shrimp and views of the water. The following night, it was on to the lodge’s Seaview Grille, a circular dining room with nearly 360-degree views. The skillet biscuit was the perfect start to the meal, followed by seared local fish with asparagus and a smoked Old Fashioned.
As the sun rose on the final morning of my stay, I made a cup of coffee and walked out onto the beach, leaving my shoes behind. The foamy sea splashed onto me, and I thought, “I could get used to this.”
THE PONTE VEDRA INN & CLUB
STORY: Caroline Eubanks
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