Golf, sun, surf and more await guests at this luxury resort north of Miami in Aventura Florida.
By Kelly A. Magyarics
Before my most recent visit a month ago, previous trips to South Florida were all about hitting the beaches and craziness of South Beach. But this time I headed north ten miles or so, and found a different Miami experience.
Located in the tiny, planned community of Aventura, and part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection, the Turnberry Isle Miami boasts 408 rooms and suites, three outdoor pools, four restaurants and five bars. Like golf? They’ve got you covered, with two Raymond Floyd-redesigned 18-hole championship golf courses. More of a spa junkie? Head to the 25,000 square foot spa with twenty-one treatment rooms. And foodies can sip and savor at Michael Mina’s acclaimed restaurant Bourbon Steak.
My husband and I recently spent two nights at the property, on an unusually warm weekend in South Florida in late February. We checked into a golf view room, with a semi-private balcony that overlooked one of the courses, as well as some of Aventura’s high rise buildings. The room was furnished in soft neutral tones, with amenities including a separate bathtub and glass shower stall with a couldn’t-drag-me-away-from rainfall showerhead, Keurig coffee maker, refrigerator, mini bar and wireless internet. An adjacent sitting room featured a flat screen plasma TV.
Since the Turnberry isn’t located on beachfront property (more about that later,) the pools are the main outdoor water draw. Families flock to the 7,500-square foot Laguna Pool, with its 180-foot long waterslide, 800-linear-foot lazy river, separate hot tub and toddler wading pool. The lazy river was great fun—albeit a little shady in parts—with a surprise waterfall soak mid-route. We had access to one of their 18 cabanas during our stay; it was really more like a living room, with lounge and upright chairs, a 32-inch flat screen television, cabinets, ceiling fan changing area and refrigerators stocked with water and a fruit plate. Cabana prices vary throughout the year, with daily rates averaging $299—at that price, they are a nice-to-have, but definitely not a need-to-have, as ample lounge chairs dot the pool area. You can grab a post-swim lunch from the casual Laguna Grill, either from the comfort of your cabana or lounge chair, or at outdoor tables at the restaurant. Fare ranges from the typical salads and sandwiches, to more local favorites. We were especially impressed with the Grilled Island Jerk Mahi Mahi, served with mango salsa and shoestring fries ($18).Wash it all down with a variety of cocktails, specialty and frozen drinks ranging in price from $12 to $16, beers ($5-$6) or wines ($10-$16.) We eschewed the sweet, blended stuff for poolside pints of Key West Sunset Ale.
Couples, or anyone traveling sans kids seeking a little more tranquility, will want to soak up some sun at the quieter Cascata Pool. Situated in the middle of the resort, the Cascata Pool offers lounge chairs and a heated pool amid tropical flowers and two stone fountains; an adjacent outdoor bar serves up adult beverages. Dishes at the Cascata Grill are a bit more ambitious and upscale than at the Laguna Grill, like the Yucatan Style Fish Tacos ($16), with blackened grouper, warm tortillas, Napa cabbage, pico de gallo, lime and chili cumin crema; or Tostadas “Al Pastor” ($15), with slow roasted pork carnitas, pickled red onion, grilled pineapple salsa, queso fresco and crisp tortillas. We didn’t try lunch at the Cascada Grill, but did dine inside one night for dinner, overlooking the waterfall; it was really our only dining disappointment at the Turnberry. The harsh lighting and dated décor screamed budget hotel chain restaurant, the lack of a cocktail menu was met with our server’s overstated declaration “but he can make anything,” and beyond a Grilled Romaine salad ($14) that the kitchen graciously split for us in the kitchen, our food was not particularly memorable—the local seafood was woefully, and unfortunately, overcooked. My advice? Stick to the Cascata Grill for lunch—and opt for one of the outside patio tables overlooking that waterfall, which were unavailable during our dinner due to a private party—or have the food delivered to your lounge chairs, either of which will give you a better view than inside the restaurant.
If you do want to dip your toes in salt water, the Turnberry offers guests use of a private beach club, accessible by a free shuttle from the resort that runs every fifteen minutes or so (the shuttle also takes guests to and from the huge Aventura Mall nearby). While not on par with the luxury standards of the Turnberry resort itself (the publicist admitted to me that the beach club was in the process of renovation—construction workers were jack-hammering the concrete around the beach club pool during our stay)—we found it to be more than adequate. With the clear, warm, turquoise South Florida water as our backdrop, we didn’t really need much more. The beach club has a bar and café (with the same menus as the Laguna Grill), locker rooms, hammocks in the sand, small cabanas, and helpful attendants to set up lounge chairs, umbrellas and chairs surfside. There is no additional fee for use of the beach club—it all gets rolled into that ubiquitous daily $17.95 resort fee charged by the Turnberry.
Guests looking to do more than sunbathe and nosh can hit the links at either the Soffer or Miller courses. Rates vary depending on the time of day, time of year and if you want to play nine or eighteen holes, but range from $40 to $280, which includes green fee, cart fee and range balls prior to play. PGA instructors Hiro Suzuki and Gary Knapp are on hand for lessons, and daily clinics offered each morning help both novices and more advanced players hone their skills ($45 per adult.) An on-site Pro Shop offers attire and equipment.
The well-developed tennis program is overseen by Guillermo Cañas, who has seven ATP singles championship wins over players including Roger Federer and Andy Roddick. Four HydroCourts are ready for lessons, clinics, social and competitive play. Guest court fees run $20 per player per day, and racquet rental is $10 per day; when you check in, ask for the weekly tennis schedule, which features events like daily drills, BBQ tennis nights and cardio tennis for $40 per player per event.
The spa and fitness center are accessible via a short walk from the hotel lobby. Its three levels are linked by a grand spiral staircase with a glass dome skylight, 40-foot curved glass wall and a fountain. After donning my robe and slippers, I was escorted to a waiting area with lounge chairs and covered in a soft blanket. I returned here after my treatment to enjoy cucumber water, trail mix and fresh fruit; I’m surprised I ever left. The spa menu includes a bevy of massages, body experiences and facials. My highly appropriate 60 minute “Detox and Revive” ($149) treatment consisted of a body scrub, scalp and foot massage, with citrus oil-based products.
It’s a treat just to stroll the Turnberry Isle property, with its lush tropical foliage and Mediterranean architecture. A focal point of the resort is its 100-year-old banyan tree; the resort has literally been developed around the tree in order to preserve its continued growth.
We also had the opportunity to take a tour of the Chef’s Garden, overseen by Executive Chef John Sexton and Executive Sous Chef Garrette Gray. Available to all resort guests each day at 4 P.M. with advanced reservations, the tour included samplings of their garden bounty, including pineapple sage, pigeon peas, mangos and miracle fruit. Chef mixed up some refreshing lemonade in coconut shells, and gave us a cooking demonstration (and tasting) of the resort’s signature appetizers: mango salsa with fried plantain chips.
The big culinary draw for the resort is undoubtedly Michael Mina’s Bourbon Steak. I’ve dined several times at the D.C. outpost, so I was especially curious to see how the Miami location varies. A meal there never comes cheap, but it’s always paired with stellar service and cuisine. The restaurant’s entrance, accessible directly from the lobby, is impressive, with a host stand filled with thousands of corks, and a large glass box backdrop stocked with bottles of booze, etched with lots of gold letter “B”s. The overall vibe of the restaurant is decidedly Miami: flashy and chic, with bright orange and pink, along with neon lights and sharp-angled mirrors on the wall that render an art deco feel.
Rafael Vazquez heads up the cocktail program, and he told me he strives to maintain a balance between trend-forward cocktails, and the classics that many restaurant guests request. We loved their Mai Tai twist; the “Bourbon” Tai ($15) uses Bulleit Bourbon, Orange Curaçao, lime and house-made spiced orgeat syrup. And I had to try the Ticket to France ($15), as the menu touted it as an “award winning cocktail by Carlo Splendorini.” It was delicate and lovely, with Domain de Canton, Yellow Chartreuse, Goji Berry Liqueur, lemon and egg white, topped with Brut Rosé.
Sommelier Craig Teriaca is in charge of the wine list, which runs heavily on high end steakhouse favorites from Napa, Burgundy and Bordeaux, but also hits upon great finds from around the world. It’s fun to start a meal with the proprietary Iron Horse Vineyards Michael Mina Blanc de Blancs Cuvée ($19), a low dosage, crisp bubbly from Sonoma; with such a large list we found it more manageable to wave the white flag and allow him to pair our courses with by the glass pours.
After the trio of duck fat fries with three dipping sauces that begin every meal at Bourbon Steaks, we asked our server to recommend local dishes that were unique to the Miami, including the sweet, fresh, Key West shrimp ceviche, with aji Amarillo, cilantro and lime ($13), and Pan Seared Local Snapper ($32); on the side was the completely addictive Sauteed Baby Bok Choy with a Shitake Soy Vinaigrette ($10), the best side dish I’ve ever eaten at any Bourbon Steak.
Rooms at the Turnberry Isle Resort start at $249, plus taxes and a daily resort fee of $17.95. For reservations, visit their website.