NAPLES, Fla. - Want to get your feet wet, your knees sandy and the rest of your body pampered, on the edge of the wide Gulf of Mexico and the wild 10,000 Islands?
They used to do it at The Registry, a luxury resort here in the corner of southwest Florida, smack dab on the sandy gulf beach. They're still doing it, only under a different handle and in altered surroundings.
The Registry was relaunched in December 2005 with a new name, the Naples Grande Resort and Club, and a distinctly new look. The facility has been undergoing a multi-million dollar renaissance, in stages, including a full redesign of the lobby, lounge and banquet facility as well as the bungalows and other accommodations.
The lobby now features soaring ceilings that range in height from 12 to 35 feet, and the whole area has been opened up and simplified. With glass alcoves dressed in white fabric for intimate seating areas and a dramatic new fountain; it is impressive from the moment you walk in.
There is also a new dining room, Aura, complementing the beachfront Paradise Grill, and the Strip House steak restaurant is nearly ready. Also on the drawing board is a state-of-the-art Golden Door Spa.
The new banquet facility covers 5,700 square feet overlooking the pool area, with floor-to-ceiling windows on two sides with sweeping views. A fire pit added to the outdoor area gives the banquet space a more casual feel, especially at night with the sparks fanning out over the gulf.
The 395 guestrooms and 29 tower suites overlooking the water are also getting makeovers. They feature oversized closets with plantation louvered doors, granite-topped dry bars and large bathrooms with five-fixture arrangements and dual vanity sinks. The bathrooms have large tubs and separate glass-enclosed showers with stone and marble finishes.
All the suites have separate living areas and dining areas that seat eight, with spacious patios and an extra half-bath. Cramped you won't be.
The 50 "Asian-inspired" bungalows are adjacent to the main resort and they are scheduled to be finished this fall, as is the all-red-interior Strip House. The new spa will mix elements of traditional Japanese architecture - sand gardens, antique stone lanterns, koi ponds and a "meditation maze."
The Naples Grande's "backyard" is 23 waterfront acres that include the beach at Clam Pass and the resort's own mangrove estuary, accessible via seaside boardwalk. If you don't like immersing yourself in saltwater, the resort has five swimming pools, three with whirlpool spas, and the Mangrove Mountain 100-foot water slide.
The main pool area has natural rock formations and private cabanas with butler service.
"I liked it the way it was. I like it even more now," guest Rocky Lacquemore said. "When they get done, it's really going to be something."
Just down the road, owner LXR Resorts maintains another, smaller property, the Edgewater Beach Hotel. Though less formal than Naples Grande, it is also getting a dramatic renovation.
The Edgewater is the only all-suite beachfront hotel in Naples, with 125 luxury units. All have a living area, kitchen, separate bedroom and private balcony. There is 3,000 square feet of meeting space hosting groups from 12 to 90 and a beachfront cottage with adjacent lawn.
I loved the tropical courtyard café, with its heated pool and poolside bar, but it is also due for big changes. The lobby has just undergone a complete top-to-bottom renovation with the addition of a restaurant and bar. The guest rooms will be refurbished later this year.
The Coast, the Edgewater's restaurant, proffers fresh local seafood with an exotic international touch, along the lines of banana-leaf-wrapped grouper with coconut basmati rice
The facility has a fitness room and spa services, and guests get reciprocal services at Naples Grande. As does the bigger resort, the Edgewater caters to water-sports enthusiasts with sailing, windsurfing and kayaking. There are also bike rentals.
A huge draw for golfers, available to guests at both resorts, is access to the golf course at Naples Grande Golf Club. Rees Jones' old-fashioned parkland layout embraces once-popular design traits that seem to have fallen out of architectural favor. The small greens are treacherous if you miss long; the well-manicured fairways are unmarred by condos.
"The golf course is certainly built with that traditional feeling," Head Professional Ryan Brandenburg said. "That's definitely one of the selling points out here - it lets you play a course that looks like it was built back in the 1950s or '60s."
A new addition is the golf school, with individual and package lessons, group and clinic instruction as well as video analysis, club fittings and general game assessment.
The school has two PGA Professionals. Mark Durant has 10 years of teaching experience at the Dave Pelz Short Game Schools and Nicklaus-Flick Golf Schools; Jeff Belen has taught for more than 17 years. Both teach Neutral Golf, which incorporates two training aids, the swing-path liner and neutral grip. It has Saturday-afternoon schools designed specifically for juniors.
October 23, 2006