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The Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club (and Spa): So Much More than Just a Golf Course

By Derek Duncan, Contributor

The Naples Beach Hotel & Golf ClubNaples, FL - The sun has always shone hard at this latitude, its baking intensity so severe during the summer months as to render its citizens prisoners of temperature-controlled interiors. Before air-conditioning fully salvaged this vivacious yet formidable landscape, there was little reprieve from the climate aside from the gentle breezes coasting in off the Gulf of Mexico or in the cool waters itself.

It's the breeze and the allure of those cooling waters that still charm people from across the country, drawing them to Naples from their own heat, and particularly from their own cold.

From October to April, the intemperateness of places not as ideally situated as South Florida has always spawned a mass migration away. The rich and famous regularly retreated when it became cold, and in the first decades of the last century, Naples grew to be one of the finest destinations to absorb the wealth and the beach-seekers. For six winter months of every year, the town became one of the busiest of luxurious escapes, a destination where the roll call of celebrities who gathered here each winter read as a who's who of that era's social elite.

That's how it started, and never stopped. And when they came to Naples, when they sought the beach and the finest accommodation, they likely unpacked at the Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club. A star on the coast since 1946, the hotel has, for 55 years, witnessed the coming and going of families and residents, and played host to nearly everyone who's made the visit to this warm climate.

Witnessing the growth of Naples from small tourist town to a thriving modern city, growing along with it, while always reminding it of its gentle past, no other hotel or resort in southwest Florida has welcomed or charmed so many guests. No other can boast a greater heritage or history, show a better feel for the tradition of the area, or state as unequivocally its importance to the community.

The Naples Beach Hotel & Golf ClubThe original Naples Beach Hotel was founded by Henry Watkins of Columbus, Ohio in 1946, in a small structure just north of downtown, set two blocks back from the beach. When a run-down golf course came up for sale several blocks north of the original hotel, Watkins purchased it and the land on the beach across from it-125 acres in all-and moved his hotel there. The Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club has continued to define Naples from that location ever since.

Now run by the third generation of Watkins, the hotel has never strayed far from the simple principles of its early days. Michael Watkins, owner and President, understands the broad tradition he's inherited and the role his family and the hotel have played in the growth of Naples. Decisions are made with one eye on the past and one eye on the guests, with the understanding that each change made to the hotel, plays an integral part in the resort's continuing history.

Naples and the hotel have grown together. What was formerly a warm vacation escape is now the scene of conspicuous wealth and glitz, perhaps the most significant this side of Boca Raton and South Beach. Naples boasts more millionaires per capita than any city in the U.S., and according to the 2000 census, it is the second fastest growing city in the county behind Las Vegas. The 1990's saw nearly 100,000 move here and its population balloon from around 150,000 to over 250,000 people.

Chic, but not yet trendy, the city has become a striking trifecta of affluence, nature, and tropical color. It's a place designed to impress, to sway you away from typicality into its posh world of coral, white, almond and teal, making you feel the vogue expressions of high-end South Florida style.

The Naples Beach Hotel & Golf ClubThe vegetation is rich. Parallel to Gulf Shore Boulevard, two inlets twist in from the Gulf of Mexico creating private waterways and playgrounds. These inlets are lined with marinas, shopping, and massive homes with yachts suspended on docks. The sum of wealth along these corridors is staggering.

Of course it's not all like this, but it's where the Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club is located, a property directly in the center of this most desirable stretch. The resort is completely at home in these impressive surroundings, yet is able to inject the tangible hope of relaxation and accessible luxury into the forbidding ostentation.

Formerly the northern boundary of the city, the hotel is now firmly centered geographically. It sits at the breakpoint between the stunning strand of million-dollar beachfront homes to the south and the long row of condominiums, town homes, clubhouses and newer hotels that extend for miles along Gulf Shore Boulevard and the ocean to the north.

Situated among the palms on the lake-like calm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, the hotel consists of six separate and architecturally diverse buildings totaling 318 guest rooms, each comfortable and reflective of an historic style or theme.

Constructed primarily from 1946 through the 1970's and with names like Old Florida and the Cabaña Wing, each abode is modeled and decorated in varying, authentic fashion to show a range of unique Florida flavors. The majority of the rooms are only a matter of steps from the beach, and the open nature of the layout ensures that guests will constantly interact with the surf and the beautiful hotel lawns whenever they step outside.

The Naples Beach Hotel & Golf ClubSuch is the Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club, the epitome of the old Florida vacation retreat. In so many ways it bears more resemblance to the era of the 1950's than the 1990's. The mannerisms of the hotel and staff, led by Michael Watkins, are reminiscent of a time when vacationers would stay for the season rather than the weekend, and everything done here reflects that unspoken desire: you are wanted to stay for as long as you can. It's the type of familiar envelopment rarely found in the corporate hotel atmosphere.

It's an environment ideally suited for families. "Our sales department is always trying to bring in meetings and corporate groups, and they do a good job," Michael Watkins says, "but I'd rather cater to our social guests. They're what we're really all about."

Watkins' sentiments are refreshing and honest. The resort was founded on a fun, casual ideal that catered specifically to vacationers, and the Watkins family has not forgotten how important the individual guest is to the hotel's success.

The always busy "Klub 4 Kids", a romper room type area where guest children can play with others and enjoy activities while their parents indulge in the resort's adult amenities, is an example of how seriously the hotel takes the family vacation. This small touch is just one of many examples of how the Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club extends its guests every courtesy.

The Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club warmly embodies both the class and casual elegance of Naples. Visitors and celebrities have long ago decided that this was the place to make their winter home, and the very definition of the Southwest Florida experience is not truly understood until passage through the Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club has been booked.

Room Rates

Rates are for double occupancy, per night (Standard, Deluxe, Superior, Suites)

Winter (12/17-4/16)
$215-$285 $290-$300 $320-$360 $300-$495

Spring/Fall (4/17-5/31, 9/27-12-19)
$205 $210-$250 $230-$270 $250-$340

Summer (6/1-9/26)
$165 $170-$195 $180-$205 $230-$280

Holidays (12/17-1/6 and 4/5-4/16)
$190-$250 $255-$295 $300-$340 $290-$480

Packages

The Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club offers a variety of themed packages, and these are perhaps the best way to take advantage of this beautiful property. Click here to view the packages.

Recreation

The soft beach and the warm water of the Gulf of Mexico are the highlight outdoor attractions of the resort, but the large swimming pool with a view of the ocean, its surrounding sundeck, and the various beach activities are popular as well. The calm Gulf waters are perfect for fishing and kayaking, and the public beach extends several miles each way and makes for a gorgeous stroll under the stars. Beach gear and water equipment are available for rent.

Afternoon tea, in keeping with another time-honored tradition, is offered every afternoon in the lobby.

Spa When the new three-story, 74,000 square foot Clubhouse and Spa was completed last year, the Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club put itself on level with the great resorts of Florida and the Caribbean. In addition to vastly expanding their meeting/convention space (to 34,000 square feet, 22,000 of it in the new facility) and housing the golf pro shop, the Spa and Fitness Center has become perhaps the key attraction, the crowning jewel of this already impressive resort.

The fitness center features contemporary exercise equipment, personal trainers, and an aerobics studio.

The posh spa, complete with its new lockers and comfortable relaxation rooms, salon, whirlpool, sauna and steam room, offers the complete array of beautification and relaxation services, from massage to body treatments to luxurious facials. Only Yon-Ka products are used here, the treatments of choice amongst the world's finest spas.

Look in the package section for exclusive Spa Packages.

Golf

The Naples Beach Golf Club, the oldest in the region with its origins dating back to the 1920's, has more history behind it than the resort itself. Located across Gulf Shore Boulevard from the hotel, its 18-holes have attracted visitors to Naples for decades and many attribute the city's success as a vacation destination to the existence of this golf course. The hotel's golf packages are vastly popular, and though the course is a star attraction, its just one of many amenities offered.

"We don't think of ourselves as being a golf resort," says Michael Watkins. "We think of ourselves as being a resort that has a golf course."

For more about the Naples Beach Golf Club, click here.

Tennis

The Tennis Center, located adjacent to the golf course, is run by Chris Eddy, Florida's #1 ranked Women's Tennis Pro in the 45 and older bracket. The Center features six Har-Tru Hydro-Grid courts and pro shop, and lessons are available with Eddy. She and her staff also provide the invaluable service to hotel guests of arranging matches with other guests, so finding a game should never be a problem.

Court fees range from $11 per hour for singles and $8 per hour for doubles from November through April, and $10 per hour for singles and $7 per hour for doubles May through October.

Dining and Drinking

Eating is a pleasure at the Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club as guests have three restaurants to choose from.

The splendid breakfast buffet can be taken in the Everglades Room, a spacious dining room just off the lobby overlooking the lawns and ocean.

The Naples Beach Hotel & Golf ClubHB's on the Gulf is a moderately casual affair open for lunch and dinner. HB's, Naples only true beachfront dining, is literally on the beach, paces from the water and immersed in maritime flavor.

Broadwell's is the hotel's newest restaurant, a fine dining experience located in the new clubhouse and spa building adjacent to the golf course. The fashionable establishment overlooks the 10th tee and watery 18th hole. Director of Food and Beverage Jim Anderson's culinary staff is creating some of the most impressive dishes in Naples at this enviable new establishment. Broadwell's is open for lunch and dinner, and terrace dining is available.

The Sunset Beach Bar is an open-air bar between the beach and the pool that exudes a laid-back island feel. This is where guests take that first cocktail of the evening and then give the sunset a rousing round of applause each night. One of the great Naples traditions is Sunday nights at the Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club, where hundreds of locals come to drink, mingle, dance, and socialize. It all takes place surrounding the Sunset Beach Bar.

The Seminole Store is a checkered-tile floor throwback to the soda fountains of the 1950's. Guests come here for ice cream, coffee, sandwiches, and any other food items they need to go. Around the corner is the one-chair barbershop, a priceless, timeless amenity where Michael Watkins still gets his hair clipped.

Around Town

Naples is approximately two hours west of Miami and two hours south of Tampa. Visitors will most likely fly into Ft. Myers, only 30 minutes north. Just a matter of blocks south of the hotel is the old downtown district, which is now a very modern center for designer shopping, coffee shops, restaurants, and drinking establishments.

The Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club (and Spa)
851 Gulf Shore Blvd. North
Naples, FL 34102
Phone: 800 237-7600
www.naplesbeachhotel.com

Derek DuncanDerek Duncan, Contributor

Derek Duncan's writing has appeared in TravelGolf.com, FloridaGolf.com, OrlandoGolf.com, GulfCoastGolf.com, LINKS Magazine and more. He lives in Atlanta with his wife Cynthia and is a graduate of the University of Colorado with interests in wine, literary fiction, and golf course architecture.


 
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Dates: November 1, 2013 - December 31, 2014
One night accommodations, in-room amenity, unlimited golf based on per person occupancy on Biltmore's Signature Donald Ross course, complimentary range balls, unlimited use of practice facility, complimentary town car transportation to Coral Gables shopping and dining.
Price range: $364