What do you expect from a five-star / five-diamond property? Immaculate rooms? First-class amenities? Knowledgeable and hospitable staff? 24-hour on-demand concierge service? Since 1928, Ponte Vedra Inn and Club has held itself as the epitome of luxury and sophistication.
Recently, we had the opportunity to visit and see for ourselves if they live up to their lofty reputation. This point-by-point review from arrival to departure will tell you everything that you can expect from a stay at the ‘Grand Dame’ of North Florida luxury beach resorts.
We’re more than just professional travel writers. Jenn is a 20-year veteran in the service industry who has worn many hats at four and five-star properties, including Concierge, Spa Lead, and Brand Standards Coach. She has developed signature treatments for luxury spas that are still used today and trained and evaluated hundreds of employees to the industry’s most demanding customer service standards.
Whether we want to or not, we notice if standards are met every time we stay at a property. We are keenly aware of which points are hit and which are not. You can trust us to use a sharp eye and give you the good, the bad, and the outstanding.
Ponte Vedra Inn and Club Property Overview
Ponte Vedra Inn and Club has eleven separate buildings spread out over 300-acres that contain 262 guest rooms. There is the historic Inn, nine beachfront houses, and a golfer’s paradise house that overlooks the Ocean Course’s signature Island 9th Hole. The Ocean Course is one of two 18-hole courses on the property. You’ll also find 15 Har-Tru Hydrocourt tennis courts, an 8,000 sq ft gym, and a 30,000 sq ft Spa on the property. Their ten in-house restaurants range from casual poolside service to signature white-glove dining with an ocean view.
A staff of over 700 employees is on hand to keep this enterprise flowing seamlessly. However, if you still need more to do, every guest has reciprocal access and complimentary shuttle service with the sister property —The Lodge & Club Ponte Vedra Beach. There you’ll find an adults-only pool area, exceptional oceanside restaurants and lounges, and much more.
Our Arrival On Property
When we pulled our well-loved Subaru Outback loaded down with bikes and a surfboard into the Ponte Vedra Inn and Club, we were a little afraid about how they would react. We weren’t exactly dressed for the role of high-end travelers going to a top luxury resort. The bell staff was immaculately professional. They greeted us with a smile and welcomed us to the property.
By the time we reached the front desk, the staff not only knew our name but had our reservation pulled up and had checked us into our room. That’s three points of service right there: a warm greeting, using our names, and anticipating our needs.
We followed the map in our welcome packet to the newly completed Ocean House. There was plenty of room for self-parking out front, so we got the first glimpse of our room in no time.
Our Room Review
Not all hotel rooms are created equal. We look for rooms that create living spaces, and of course, impeccable bedding. Our room, a superior oceanfront double queen, hit all these points and more.
Not only was there enough space in the bedroom to spread out and get some work done, but we could both do a bedtime yoga routine. The oceanfront balcony had enough space for us to recline and watch the waves crash on the shore. The bathroom was the masterstroke. It featured an oversized rain shower and a stand-alone tub with a portal opening into the main room. We could take a bubble bath together with an ocean view.
I love high thread counts and a soft bed with no sag. However, I am a self-professed pillow snob. I almost always travel with my own bamboo pillow in tow. It makes a three-star hotel tolerable and completes with most five-star accommodations. For Ponte Vedra, our pillows were relegated to the nightstand because the entire bedding package was on point. We slept like babies, and even after a vigorous surf session, I didn’t wake up with a single sore spot. There’s no higher compliment I can give to bedding.
Our Experience With Room Service
One fear we have about staying at dispersed properties is the response time from the front desk. Sometimes, even the most straightforward request seems like it takes forever to accommodate. We needed a sewing kit and wine glasses. Within 10-minutes of placing our call, somebody was knocking at our door with both items. I don’t think we could have made it to the front desk and back in that time.
We’ve also grown accustomed to reduced service post-COVID. Sometimes, it seems like you have to barter for extra bath towels. At Ponte Vedra, they still do turn-down service. We came back from dinner to a clean room and locally sourced chocolate.
Dinner at Seahorse Grille
We planned a romantic sunset dinner at the Seahorse Grille. Even though it faces east, the dramatic views of the Atlantic were spectacular. The surf was up that day, so we watched surfers cutting and carving the breaks at the Surf Club as the sun went down.
We began with hot garlic skillet shrimp, lobster tail, and fresh sashimi for starters. For mains, we had braised short rib gnocchi and chicken Milanese with chocolate mousse for dessert. A gastronomic journey from sea to land took us from savory heights to subtle nuances.
Our sommelier offered wine pairings from some of the best wineries worldwide, but we’re more cocktail people. They were sophisticated and smooth, but if he had any remorse about the choice, he didn’t show it. From the moment we checked in for our reservation to our last bite, everyone provided service with a smile, and they all knew our names.
Beaches, Biking, and Boards
From our beachfront room, we were only steps away from the beach. Not just any beach, but miles and miles of soft white sand stretching out beyond your imagination. Florida’s Atlantic beaches are more variable than their Gulf Coast cousins. They run cooler but are suitable for surfing on good days (or bad days), depending on your perspective. You’ll find the surf is generally higher during winter months, especially with approaching storms. The summer seas are lower, and you’ll be tempted to rent a kayak or SUP from the kiosk in front of the Surf Club. If you’re a paddling enthusiast, you’ll want to make the 10-minute drive to the North Guana Outpost to paddle in the protected estuary of the Guana River.
You can also rent beach cruisers, which is the perfect way to explore Ponte Vedra Beach, especially at low tide. Even if you’re a recreational cyclist, you’ll want to test your pedal on Ponte Vedra Blvd. Wide bike lanes and open sidewalks run six miles past palatial homes and seaside gardens to Mickler Landing Beach. If you’re inclined, the bike lanes continue for 10-miles along A1A through the GTM Preserve. Cycling Ponte Vedra should be on every rider’s winter bucket list.
Note: There is a beach renourishment project happening on Ponte Vedra Beach through March 2022. Beach goers accessing public beaches need to be aware that Mickler Landing Beach access is only available on weekends during this time period as this is a staging area for heavy equipment. This does not affect beach access for the Ponte Vedra Resorts guests.
The Gym and Pool
The Ponte Vedra Inn and Club gym was a gem in every sense of the word. More than 75 exercise stations were spread out in the 8,000 square foot facility, including plenty of cardio machines, weight machines, and free weights for the hard-core guests. It wasn’t only large and spacious, but beautiful too with clean new machines and ocean views. There is also a wide assortment of workout classes to choose from, including reformer pilates, spinning, and beach yoga.
Honestly, we were a little disappointed with the pool. For the right visitor, it would be spectacular. Our daughter, who was the captain of her swim team, would have loved the nine lanes dedicated to swimming laps, but that isn’t us. We appreciated the separation between the lap pool, play pool, and soaking pool. You might guess that we’re more soaking pool people, but it felt tucked away from everything behind the poolside restaurant.
To be fair, the weather wasn’t behaving for a pool day, and we might have felt different if we had taken the shuttle down to the Lodge’s oceanside adult-only pool area. The pictures look gorgeous!
Golf and Tennis
Ponte Vedra Inn and Club prides itself on its golf and tennis options. They offer the full trilogy of services: top-notch facilities, superior instruction, and well-stocked pro shops. 15 Har-Tru Hydro-court tennis courts and 36 holes of championship golf are available for guests and members.
We had the opportunity to tour the Ocean Course’s signature Island hole. Herbert Bertram Strong designed this 144-yard par-3 island hole in 1928, decades before Pete Dye built the TPC Sawgrass’ famed 17th hole on the Stadium Course. This is the original sink-or-swim ‘Island Hole’ and, much like the rest of the Ocean Course, it features sloping elevated greens, challenging pin positions, and multiple deep bunkers. You’ll need all 14 clubs on the historic par-71 Ocean Course. The 6,022-yard, par-70, Lagoon Course is no slouch either. It was co-authored by two design geniuses — Robert Trent Jones with the front nine holes in 1961 and Joe Lee with the back nine in 1977.
Aesthetically speaking, The Ponte Vedra Inn & Club’s 30,000 square foot Spa is breathtaking! It truly is a sanctuary of peace and tranquility with its own private (only for Spa guests) Spa Cafe’ and relaxation room, outdoor hydrotherapy pool featuring a waterfall, and four therapy grottos. The locker rooms are well-appointed with quality amenities and toiletries that one would expect from a 5-star property, including a steam room, dry sauna, and whirlpool. In addition, The Spa boasts 22 treatment rooms that include Private Couples Suites, a mani/pedi room, and hairstylist stations. There is even a boutique that showcases the products utilized in the Spa so you can take the experience home with you (minus the provider…lol!).
With more than 100 services to choose from, there are many ways to relax and beautify. They even offer CBD massage and beauty treatments to ensure you leave in a total state of Zen. The Spa is the kind of place where you book a treatment (or 2 or 3) and plan to make a day of it enjoying a healthy and delicious lunch and spending the remainder of the day relaxing by the pool and enjoying the other amenities. The Spa is the only amenity at the Inn and Club that you can enjoy without becoming a guest or member. So long as you have had a robed spa service, you’ll have access to the facility.
Unfortunately, at the time of our visit, the Spa was fully committed and unable to fit us in for a treatment. Though disappointing for us, it is a testament to the quality of the Spa and Spa providers that they tend to book out 4-6 weeks in advance. Next time we will ensure we get our Spa appointments booked early, then we can update this post with more details that speak to the quality of the services and service providers.
Departing Ponte Vedra
After our farewell breakfast at the Inn’s elegant Dining Room, complete with white linens, crystal touches, and fresh flowers, we had the opportunity to talk with Craig Schoninger, the Director of Sales and Marketing. He invited us to look around at the historical pictures of the four generations of guests who have enjoyed this property since it opened in 1928. He said it’s his goal to make guests feel like members and members feel like guests. It’s this legacy and belief that makes Ponte Vedra Inn and Club special. When you stay here, you get more than a bed. You get access to an exclusive lifestyle and timeless elegance.
For these reasons, we put Ponte Vedra Inn and Club on our list of the most romantic hotels in Florida. It lives up to its five-star / five-diamond rankings with a beautiful dichotomy of old-school charm and modern amenities. Whether you’re looking to take a romantic getaway to St Augustine and Florida’s Historic Coast or to stay on property and enjoy everything the resort offers, you’ll never forget your stay at Ponte Vedra Inn and Club. So much so, we know you’ll be eagerly looking to book a return visit.
Disclosure: A big thank you to Ponte Vedra Inn and Club and Florida’s Historic Coast for hosting us and setting up a fantastic itinerary! A big thank you to the Ponte Vedra Inn and Club for supplying us with images that we were not able to capture on our own including (but not limited to) the drone shots and the Spa shots.
For more Ponte Vedra Inn and Club travel inspiration check out their Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter accounts. Florida’s Historic Coast will inspire you on their Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter accounts.
As always, the views and opinions expressed are entirely our own, and we only recommend brands and destinations that we 100% stand behind.
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