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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.
March 17, 2008
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.
Like many other private country clubs, the International Golf Club & Resort 45 minutes west of Boston is in the midst of a transition. Once only a private club, the International has gotten creative in attracting new members and new business. While the Pines Course remains exclusively private, the club recently began offering public tee times after 9 a.m. on the Oaks Course, its newer, more forgiving Tom Fazio golf course.
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