If you’re trying to plan an escape-the-cold, beach getaway, but your bestie thrives on exploring a new city filled with eclectic shops and galleries, a thriving local food scene, plenty of cultural offerings, AND she wants it all walking distance, well, things can get a bit challenging.
Instead of taking separate vacas, I found the perfect answer. Remember that old slogan for Doublemint gum?
“Double Your Pleasure; Double Your Fun”” That’s exactly what you’ll find on Florida’s Historic Coast when you split your time between relaxing on the gorgeous beaches at Ponte Vedra, and exploring St. Augustine, aka “the oldest city in the United States.”
Two completely different travel experiences begin with a flight to Jacksonville. Barely a 30-minute drive brings you to Ponte Vedra and about then another half-hour to St Augustine. So your only conundrum will be, do you want to chill out at Ponte Vedra and then run around discovering St. Augustine’s many offerings (as we did) or vice-versa? There is so much to see and do there that I think next time I would reverse the order.
Ponte Vedra Inn & Club
Since I’m not remotely a golfer, I had never heard of this area but from the minute I arrived at the Ponte Vedra Inn & Club, I fell head over heels in love with it! Their tag line, “Setting the Standard of Excellence for Iconic Florida Beach Resorts Since 1928” is not hyperbole but simply states the absolute truth.
From the moment you enter the historic lobby, their well-trained staff exudes gracious Southern hospitality, which is just one of the many reasons this five-diamond resort repeatedly welcomes back generations of families.
They offer something for everyone including world-class golf, tennis, a state-of-the-art fitness center, glamorous spa, four swimming pools, as well as a variety of gourmet dining experiences.
Almost all of their 262 sophisticated, yet never stuffy, rooms face the Atlantic Ocean. My love intensified once I entered my expansive beach-blue room sporting one of the most well-appointed bathrooms I’ve ever seen. I was particularly fond of the soaking tub that faced the ocean.
I slipped off my shoes to walk along the pristine beach, where I happily observed more bright yellow umbrellas than people.
I had a real Zen moment, sipping wine on my private patio, just steps from the white-quartz, sandy beach, watching the every-changing ocean views while listening to the breaking waves.
After reaching my state of enlightenment, I slipped off my shoes to walk along the pristine beach, where I happily observed more bright yellow umbrellas than people.
Instead of combing the beach for shells, why not try your luck hunting for shark teeth. A local shared that it’s best to walk along the waterline at low tide, particularly after a big storm, and keep your eyes peeled for shiny black triangle shapes. Some people prefer a scoop and sift method for gathering these treasures.
Work it Out, or Not
After a long plane ride, a visit to the resort’s 30,000 square foot Spa, adorned with stunning flower arrangements, marble statues, and cascading waterfalls will have you whimpering with delight. Offering over 100 pampering treatments, it’s no wonder that The Spa has received rave reviews from Oprah, Best Spas USA, and many other wellness authorities. You can easily while away a day here, taking full advantage of the private swimming pool, therapy grottos, couples suites, relaxation rooms, and a healthy Spa Café.
If you’d rather reenergize, the 8,000 square foot, newly renovated gym has state-of-the-art exercise equipment, all lined up to take full advantage of the view. Check out the weekly roster of complimentary exercise classes to help keep that extra vacation poundage at bay.
Take time to explore the impeccably landscaped grounds as well as the main halls to discover some fascinating historical events that have taken place here. I stumbled across a plaque that marks the spot where four German spies landed during World War II, as well as a photo of Gloria Swanson sunbathing here.
The General Manager divulged to us that the best spot for taking sunset pics is from the top level at the resort’s parking garage. For sunrise shots (and more tooth hunting) head to Mickler’s Landing in Ponte Vedra Beach.
Memorable Dinner at the Resort’s Sea Horse Grill
Our first dinner opened with a bang, or more precisely a loud pop when the sommelier led us out on the deck, where he ceremoniously whipped out his sword to perform sabrage-a dramatic technique for slicing open a bottle of champagne.
After the bubbly beheading, we dined on a series of gourmet delights including a beet salad that pleasured both the eye and the buds!
Off-Premises: TPC Sawgrass
I have to warn you that it’s extremely difficult to tear yourself away from the resort but since Ponte Vedra is one of the East Coast’s top golf capitals you really do need to visit TPC Sawgrass, Home of THE PLAYERS Championship.
I have to warn you that it’s extremely difficult to tear yourself away from the resort but since Ponte Vedra is one of the East Coast’s top golf capitals
The course is said to be one of Pete Dye’s most difficult designs, particularly the iconic “Island Green”, 132 yard, 17th hole. It’s no wonder that divers retrieve over 120,000 balls from the pond annually.
Even though I always said I was allergic to golf, I thoroughly enjoyed our tour of the Clubhouse where one of the storyteller docents regaled us with fascinating narratives about their collection of PGA TOUR memorabilia. A couple of my favorite antidotes were how one golfer hid an engagement ring in the 17th hole for his “intended” to find when she fished out the ball. And how they changed the Waterford crystal trophy over to the “Goldman” in 2019, which resulted in Rory Mcllroy wearing gold shoes for luck.
Calling all golfers! Although TPC Sawgrass offers several different golf packages to play their championship courses, our storyteller told us that you can get the best deals by booking a Stay & Play package at the Sawgrass Marriott® Golf Resort & Spa.
Top off your golf education with lunch on the veranda at NINETEEN, which overlooks the 9th and 18th holes. NINETEEN scored Wine Spectator’s “Award of Excellence” in 2020 for one of the most outstanding restaurant wine lists in the world.
I couldn’t stop nibbling bits of their gigantic pretzel, although I’m not sure which of the 230 varieties of wine I’d recommend you pair with it.
Palm Valley Fish Camp
The charmingly, funky Palm Valley Fish Camp is a must if you’re a seafood lover. It’s virtually impossible to choose between their fresh seafood specials or their popular southern classic recipes so ideally, you’ll want to share a few different entrees.
However, if you’re dining solo, start with their perfectly Grilled Octopus & White Bean Salad, followed by a flavorful, oh-so-fresh, Fish Camp Shrimp and Grits.
For magical views, reserve an outside table perched over the intra-coastal waterway, where you can almost touch the setting sun followed later by the café’s twinkling lights.