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Portofino Island Resort and Spa a great base for a Florida golf trip

Tim McDonaldBy Tim McDonald,
Portofino Island Resort and Spa
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Portofino Island Resort and Spa sits by the Gulf Islands National Seashore. (Courtesy photo)

With tee times to be had on three excellent golf courses nearby - including Lost Key Golf Club and Tiger Point Golf and Country Club - Portofino Island Resort and Spa is an excellent Pensacola-area base for a Florida golf vacation.

PORTOFINO ISLAND, Fla. - The Portofino Island Resort and Spa doesn't have just rooms or suites. It has "sky homes."

That's because the five towers on the property loom above the waters surrounding Pensacola Beach, with far away, dazzling views of the Gulf of Mexico and Santa Rosa Sound.

It's a huge, $250 million resort spread out over 28 acres, bordering the Gulf Islands National Seashore nature preserve. The resort has 300 luxury accommodations, including two- and three-bedroom "sky homes." All have wrap-around verandas, floor-to-ceiling views of the sound and gulf, domed entryways, arched ceilings and whirlpool baths.

The resort has all sorts of amenities, including free movies, and each of the five towers has its own underground parking garage.

There is an eight-mile stretch of open beach, away from the crowded development at the other end of the island. There are also eight pools and spas: each tower has a 70-foot heated pool with whirlpool spa including a heated, Olympic-size pool overlooking the bay.

One of the best things about the resort is it sits hard by the Gulf Islands National Seashore, and you can look out at eight miles of semi-deserted beach and pristine sand dunes.

The resort has its own "Outdoors adventure" that offers kayaking, fishing, surfing, sailing, dolphin excursions and banana boat rides.

What is a banana boat ride, you may rightfully ask?

Well, it's where you ride in a banana boat. If you don't like banana boats, there is always the free cruise on a 65-foot catamaran to Portofino Boardwalk, an entertainment, shopping and dining complex.

It's a place and setting that begs you to work those tired, aching muscles - and if you want to know how fit you are, the fitness center offers a "fitness assessment," where a muscular, well-tanned instructor will tell you just how flabby you are.

If it's outdoor action you're craving, Portofino offers plenty of that on this coastal barrier island: there is surfing - when the waves occasionally break on the notoriously flat Gulf - as well as surf camps offering instruction. There are also boogie boards, which work in even fairly small waves.

There is also sea-cycling, volleyball and kayaking, or you can simply mosey along the eight miles of beach directly adjacent to the property. Rent a bike and ride on either the beach or, for hard-core racers, the four-mile concrete course.

The resort has five clay tennis courts, and offers lessons.

But, wait. There's more: Bay Adventures also offers a water trampoline, Hobie cats, a seasonal water taxi and charter inshore fishing excursions in the notoriously abundant waters of the gulf and bay.

If you're getting tired just reading about all this activity, just take the free two beach chairs and umbrella and waste away on the lonesome beach.

Portofino has a spa with customized body treatments, massage therapy, facials, salon services, dry saunas, steam rooms, "relaxation lounges" and a 25-meter Olympic-size, heated indoor pool that overlooks Pensacola Bay. If you're too lazy to leave your room, you can get an in-room massage.

There is a fitness center, of course, and it's a good one. It has the usual strength training machines as well as treadmills, elliptical trainers and upright and recumbent bikes, each with its own flat-screen TV and DVD player. For the rabidly trendy, there are aqua aerobics, Pilates, yoga, beach boot camp and kickboxing.

Terra Cotta is an excellent restaurant, overlooking the pool deck and bay. It specializes in local coastal traditions with Mediterranean and Italian influences. Or you can have your own personal chef make you a full-course meal in your sky home. The Terrazzo Grill and Cobalt Bar are open on a seasonal basis.

Several excellent golf courses are nearby, including Tiger Point Golf and Country Club, Lost Key Golf Club and Perdido Bay.

More photos

Lost Key Golf Club - No.18

Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • Portofino

    jan wrote on: Aug 17, 2008

    The only reason I am replying to your comments about Portofino is that I have an uncle (Johnny Myers, deceased) who has been interviewed several times in golf magazines so maybe you want think I am some kind of nut.
    My family just got back from Portofino and for the price it was NOT WORTH IT! We got there on August 12 and the only on site restaurant closed at 5. They do not have on site maids apparently. Our room was filthy. We were told it was cleaned the day we came. Ha. The pool at Tower 3 had wads of hair, lots of debris, there was no water shuttle or trolly running. Other people were complaining about the dirty rooms. They did come and fix the running toilet. Fingerprints were on every door, carpet stained, and the beds were horrible and then they tell you there is a fee for the internet. You could never reach anybody that knew anything about the hotel. The only great thing was the views. Maybe I should have slept on the golf course.


      • RE: Portofino

        Bob wrote on: Mar 7, 2009

        It amazes me that you feel this way. I have been to Portofino 5 times now. I go every year. It has only gotten better over the years. I did rent directly through an owner once and had a very dirty unit, but as long as you rent through the insite company you will get excellent service. And who blames them, If you are renting through someone else, it is that persons resposibility to help you. They do have an onsite housekeeping staff. I ran into them several times in the hallways and elevators and they were extrmely friendly and always greeted me with a smile. The staff is wonderful all the way around, and are eager to assist with anything.When you rent through the onsite management company you get a bunch of free stuff to like Beach chairs, the water taxi, Beach towels, and dvds. I went this winter, and they started giving FREE GOLF now. I played everyday at a different course for free! It was amazing. My wife loved the spa, My kids loved the beach, and I loved the golf. I will continue to go back every year.