An endless coastline, rich heritage and spirit of imagination converge in Florida to create the ultimate luxury lifestyle.
Photo courtesy of Fisherland Club
Fisher Island Club
Florida is a kaleidoscope of iconic images, from signature white-sand beaches and championship golf to Miami’s seductive skyline or theme parks encompassing much more than simply a Magic Kingdom. The entire world convenes on this alluring peninsula for every imaginable recreational experience, and its elite residents enjoy unparalleled luxury.
Florida cannot be defined by a single place or attitude, as its communities represent an incredible spectrum of physical and cultural diversity. Some feel a bit like Savannah or Biloxi, others more spiritually akin to Havana, San Juan or Brooklyn with traditions, music and aromas to match the accents. The fourth-generation Pensacola fisherman and the South Beach fashion designer who recently emigrated from Brazil contribute equally to the state’s personality.
With its 1,350 miles of coastline, luxury residential and hospitality developers find Florida irresistible. South Florida, where the Atlantic Coast is almost continuously developed from Miami to Palm Beach, receives the most attention, but beautiful beaches are also found in less congested areas.
Ideal for catching rays are Clearwater Beach outside Tampa and Atlantic Beach near Jacksonville, both offering wide expanses of white sand. The Space Coast’s Cocoa Beach is favored by surfers, while the dune-swept beaches of Amelia Island attract bird-watchers. The Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island is preferred by amateur ornithologists seeking maximum comfort.
Florida’s Panhandle, whose oceanfront is appropriately referred to as the Emerald Coast, features uncrowded beaches with sugar-white sand. “Distinctly more Southern than South Beach, the area is a throwback to the uncluttered and carefree beach lifestyle of years past,” reports David Merryman, manager of a premier boutique hotel called The Pearl, whose Rosemary Beach locale is reminiscent of New Orleans’ French Quarter.
Photo courtesy of Venjhamin Reyes
The Penthouse at The Mansions at Acqualina
It is impossible to overstate the significance of golf to Floridian culture and economics. The game is almost a religion here, despite competition from major league and high-profile university teams, not to mention watersports. Golf generates $11 billion annually to Florida’s economy, a figure surpassing the state’s portfolio of theme parks. With approximately 1,250 courses, Florida offers more opportunities for duffers than any other state, while touring professionals are attracted to the climate, amenities and absence of state income tax.
Based in Palm Beach Gardens, PGA legend Jack Nicklaus is nearly as dominant in golf course design and development as he was on the links at the height of his career. The Golden Bear has designed courses throughout Florida, including King & Bear in St. Augustine, a collaboration with the late Arnold Palmer. The Bear’s Club in Jupiter features a 40,000-square-foot Tuscan-style clubhouse and $10 million estates line its fairways. In Naples, Nicklaus rival Greg Norman authored two courses at Tiburón Golf Club, paired with a Ritz-Carlton hotel.
Luxury homeowners on the barrier islands — they trace Florida’s Atlantic Coast like a string of pearls — enjoy access to both championship golf and the water. Because it occupies a small island, the homes surrounding South Florida’s Indian Creek Country Club are both waterfront and golf course-adjacent, resulting in prices pushing $30 million. Less pricey is the real estate bordering Juno Beach’s Seminole Golf Club, but its membership is so exclusive it reportedly once turned down Nicklaus himself.
State of Design
While influences are imported from other regions, Florida has developed its own signature style, most conspicuous in its architecture. The charismatic skyline of Miami first gained attention during the opening credits of the iconic 1980s series Miami Vice, and things have only accelerated since.
With flashy postmodern buildings and pastel-hued Art Deco jewels, Miami makes other American cities look gray and unimaginative. Celebrity architects from around the world — Norman Foster, Frank Gehry and Zaha Hadid, to name a few — have contributed to the metro area’s skyline, which some experts consider the greatest design laboratory in the world.
Much of Miami’s world-class architecture is driven by a competitive luxury real estate market in which developers use design to sell condos at a premium. In addition to those “starchitects,” residential towers are emblazoned with luxury brands — Aston Martin and Porsche from the automotive world, Armani and Fendi from the fashion world — to increase cachet value. Then-chairman/CEO Pietro Beccari stated at the project launch, “It fully expresses the codes, history and savoir faire that characterize Fendi.”
Further honoring that creative spirit is the 18-block Miami Design District that combines luxury home furnishings (e.g. Bulthaup, Poltrona Frau) with legendary fashion labels Cartier, Versace and Hermès, as well as chic restaurants and the Institute of Contemporary Art’s sleek new digs. The Gulf Coast city of St. Petersburg has created multiple districts to promote local artists and artisans.
Photo courtesy of Bill Sumner
Vizcaya Museum & Gardens on Biscayne Bay
Demand for luxury accommodations has fueled massive investments by premier hospitality brands, including a dozen-plus Ritz-Carlton properties throughout Florida. The Fontainebleau, an iconic landmark in Miami Beach since its debut in 1954, has been reimagined as a trendy, Vegas-style property for a new generation. More laid-back is Little Palm Island Resort & Spa on Little Torch Key, which will soon reopen after Hurricane Irma shuttered it for two-and-a-half years. Pat Colee, founding owner of Noble House Hotels & Resorts, states, “This restoration has been a true labor of love and we believe we’ve maintained the authentic character of Little Palm while ushering in added amenities.”
Historic and stately are The Breakers in Palm Beach, a perennial high society retreat, and Miami’s Fisher Island Club Hotel & Resort, a former Vanderbilt estate located in America’s wealthiest ZIP code, a seven-minute ferry ride from the mainland. CEO Bernard Lackner says of the intimate hotel with private club privileges,
“One of the few true private island sanctuaries, Fisher Island offers a lifestyle rich in leisure and recreational activities, yet just minutes from Miami’s world-class commercial, cultural and culinary offerings.”
In Florida, luxury hospitality companies have experimented with their branding of condominiums, an increasingly popular trend. Fort Lauderdale, once famous for spring break, is the site of a glitzy Four Seasons Private Residences where a 3,965-square-foot unit commands $8.9 million. “Four Seasons Fort Lauderdale has captivated buyers with its beautiful, high-class design and comprehensive lifestyle experience in the yachting capital of the world,” states Nadim Ashi, founder of project developer Fort Partners.
The Acqualina Resort & Spa in Sunny Isles Beach, one of Greater Miami’s most exclusive hotels, offers luxury residences at the Mansions at Acqualina. A $38 million penthouse in that tower includes both a Rolls-Royce and Lamborghini.
Arts & Culture
Most surf-and-sun destinations lack robust art scenes, but Florida’s cultural calendar attracts talent from around the globe. Even laid-back locales offer engaging opportunities such as Coral Springs Museum of Art near Pompano Beach, Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg and the Ernest Hemingway House in Key West. “Culture Builds Florida” is a statewide arts campaign designed to promote these assets.
Art Basel is one of the world’s most prestigious art shows (and celebrity scenes), earning Miami the international stature usually reserved for much larger cities. Year-round, Miami offers the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) and the stunning Vizcaya Museum & Gardens on Biscayne Bay while performing arts enthusiasts gather at the César Pelli-designed Adrienne Arsht Center or Gehry-designed New World Center.
Tampa’s Straz Center — it is the largest performing arts venue in the state — has been a catalyst for downtown development. “The slogan ‘Culture Builds Florida’ is true and true for us in the Tampa Bay area as well,” reports Judith Lisi, president & CEO of the Straz Center. “The arts renaissance throughout Florida reflects a statewide sense of wanting more authentic, more alive experiences in local communities,” she says.
Photo courtesy of Bazaar Photo © 2013 Ryan Forbes
The Bazaar on South Beach
With multiple cultures converging in a resort setting, it should be no surprise that the state’s culinary scene is diverse and imaginative. Pioneering chef/activist José Andrés draws inspiration from many sources at The Bazaar South Beach, incorporating foie gras into an elegant riff on Cuban coffee or winking at the Big Apple with a sophisticated, artfully presented interpretation of bagels and lox.
“Another day, another country,” is how Anthony Bourdain once described Miami, citing flavors from Africa, across the Caribbean and throughout Latin America. Florida is a Southern state, so a satisfying bowl of shrimp and grits is never far away, and regardless of cuisine, chefs proudly showcase the bounty of Florida’s farmers, ranchers and fishermen.
The food hall craze has arrived in Florida, with Heights Public Market occupying a former streetcar facility in Tampa and the 50,000-square-foot Central Fare part of a six-block development in Miami incorporating a hub for high-speed Virgin Trains. Those trains are intended to make it easier for Floridians to traverse their state, akin to Europeans whisking through the French countryside on the high-speed TGV. In Orlando, a future Virgin destination, dining options include Bull & Bear, an elegant steakhouse at the Waldorf Astoria, and acclaimed Luma on Park.
Celebrity chefs like Daniel Boulud, Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Michael Mina are flocking to Florida. Joining them is New York’s Michelin-starred John Fraser, who is bringing The Loyal, his American brasserie concept, to an ambitious new development in Miami. “Esplanade at Aventura felt like the perfect fit because they’re creating an approachable upscale culinary experience that not only captures the essence of what I try to do, but also allows me to present my craft to an entirely new audience,” reports Fraser.
The Aventura Mall was already one of the premier shopping/dining destinations in Miami, and the adjoining Esplanade demonstrates the confidence its developer, Seritage Growth Properties, has in the local economy. “Esplanade’s exciting and diverse offerings will truly resonate with both the local population and the large number of international visitors in this market,” says Meghan Kruger, senior vice president of leasing for Seritage.
Photo courtesy of José Andrés
Open for Business
Florida is big business, and if the Sunshine State was a nation, its $1 trillion gross domestic product (GDP) would be eclipsed by only 16 countries. Tourism has an annual economic impact of more than $85 billion, but the Florida economy is much more diverse than manicured fairways, white-sand beaches and theme parks.
Aerospace, which arrived with the Space Program, continues to be an economic engine, with aircraft and related parts now being the state’s number one export. With long growing seasons, agriculture contributes even more to the state’s economy than tourism, and it is not just citrus (in fact, Florida’s most exported commodity is meats). Greater Orlando’s economy is no longer dominated by Mickey and Minnie, and its burgeoning technology community contributes $12.5 billion per year to its economy.
Another accelerating business sector statewide is health science, best represented by the world-class Scripps Research Institute in Palm Beach County. Florida’s growing economic influence naturally translates into greater demand for luxury amenities and residences.
Golf has always been considered an elitist sport, but when precious metals and exotic leathers are introduced, it’s a whole new game.
With its expensive equipment and country club heritage, golf has always been considered a luxury pursuit, even though aggressive youth programs and some hip touring professionals have begun eroding the sport’s buttoned-down image. Nonetheless, players with unlimited resources or a penchant for fantasy are fueling demand for some over-the-top golf equipment and accessories.
The venerable luxury brand of Tiffany & Co. creates some of golf’s most coveted trophies, including those of the PGA Championship and Arnold Palmer Invitational. It also produces an elegant sterling silver putter ($2,500), which is an ideal gift for any golfing enthusiast who likes to flash some bling on the greens. A more discreet way to glamorously accessorize one’s game is with the company’s sterling silver tee, which at $175 is a relatively inexpensive way to give a loved one a little blue box from Tiffany. Hopefully, it will not be lost on the course!
The Garia “Golf Car”
The most expensive regular-production golf clubs are the platinum-and-24-karat gold-accented Beres 5-Star series from Japanese manufacturer Honma. Veteran golf retailer Bill Stauff er of Las Vegas Golf & Tennis Superstore reports that a 14-club set with bag sells for about $65,000 and is popular with status-conscious Asian tourists who would pay more for these products back home. “There’s no question the quality is there,” states Stauffer, who insists Honma products are not simply for bragging rights. He explains the clubs are all made-to-order by seasoned craftsmen, which results in an eight-week wait for delivery. While the brand has traditionally been more popular with billionaire duff ers than PGA pros, superstar Justin Rose just inked a 10-year endorsement deal with Honma.
Transforming the clunky electric golf cart into a sophisticated driving machine is Garia, a Danish manufacturer whose top-of-the-line vehicle begins at $73,000. The Garia “Golf Car,” inspired by Mercedes-Benz, combines luxury, state-of-the-art technology and the true spirit of the game. For functionality, it features a scoreboard displayed on a touchscreen and handy tray for balls and tees, while comfort is ensured by the inclusion of that essential amenity on the golf course — a built-in refrigerator. And with an attainable speed of 43 miles per hour, albeit not recommended at stuffier country clubs, Garia has not overlooked performance. This aerodynamic Mercedes Benz-styled ride puts an end to the plastic buggy age and allows luxury golf enthusiasts to express themselves on the links.
Anders Lynge, designer and co-founder of Garia, explains the inspiration for the product was to take Mercedes-Benz design values onto the golf course, noting the iconic automotive brand has previously applied its sense of style to yachts and helicopters. All Garia golf cars are more than just your average golf cart,” insists Lynge, citing features like sports car-inspired double-wishbone suspension with disc brakes and an integrated instrument cluster. While it offers the functionality and simplicity of a golf cart, the designer maintains it drives more like an automobile.
“Buyers are wealthy individuals who need the car for golf and street usage inside their communities or on their properties,” says Lynge, who reports the car is street legal in both the EU and U.S. “Some are Mercedes collectors, some avid golfers who want the very best, others are athletes or entrepreneurs who have made it and now live in a golf community and want the best possible vehicle for driving and golfing,” says Lynge of his globally diverse clientele.
Par West Custom Golf Shoes is another brand that has gained traction among discriminating golfers. Paul Raddatz founded the business after making his first pair of shoes for PGA pro Payne Stewart — the game’s most flamboyant dresser in the ’80s and ’90s — from NFL football leather.
Currently, three of the top 10 ranked players on the Tour are wearing Par West shoes. The Wisconsin-based company custom-makes all shoes from a foot mold kit, taking into consideration clients’ sock preferences and habits on the course.
Honma Beres S-06 Driver
Sterling in Tangerine Ostrich
Reporting he has sold shoes with more than 5,000 distinct color and style combinations, Raddatz says many of his customers are simply unable to find shoes that fit in any pro shop. “Others are people who really want to look their best and care about quality,” he explains. Traditional styles are offered for conservative dressers, but for those more daring in their golf fashion, perhaps influenced by the PGA’s Rickie Fowler, Par West has plenty of eye-popping options to choose from.
Raddatz, a leather industry veteran, utilizes sharkskin, ostrich, American bison, crocodile, African elephant, and stingray for golf shoes, among other exotic leathers. He reports bold color choices like fuchsia, canary yellow or tangerine are surprisingly popular, and a pair of royal purple American alligator shoes is priced at $5,200. An avid golfer himself, Raddatz states, “I don’t care how much you spend on clubs or lessons. Stability on the ground is the basis for a good swing.” A large part of Par West’s business is corporate gifts, ideal for the Fortune 500 executive who fancies himself as the best dressed golfer at his club.
Some fashionable duffers may opt for a vintage Louis Vuitton golf bag, but among the most expensive currently available are ostrich, crocodile or carbon fiber bags from Barchi, handcrafted by Italian artisans. Customers should be prepared to spend more than $40,000 for these luxury bags, available in vibrant colors and accented with palladium hardware.
Considerably more modest but with plenty of cachet is Louis Vuitton’s golf kit clad in the design house’s signature Monogram canvas. The $850 item, which can be clipped to one’s golf bag or Garia cart, neatly holds three balls and four tees. Players with fancy accessories should probably consider membership at a country club that is equally selective, and the most expensive in America is Liberty National Golf Club in New Jersey, where the initiation fee is reportedly $500,000.
Riviera in Cognac Calf & Chocolate American Alligator
Red McCombs, the developer of the Palmilla Beach Resort and Golf Community, says “the damage to our golf course caused by Hurricane Harvey gave us a great opportunity — not just to rebuild the golf course, but to reinvent it to be much better, especially for vacationing families.”
Palmilla Beach Golf is open to the public year-round, and everyone is invited to join the grand opening celebration from 10am-3pm on Saturday, June 1st.
Festivities will include:
- Live music
- Demonstrations from Callaway and a Dulce Vida tequila tasting tent
- Guests can ride the new golf boards.
Palmilla Beach appeals to families looking for a luxurious community or vacation stay and has made changes to the golf course to include all types of golfers, including children, beginners and more.
“The improvements to Palmilla Beach Golf were influenced by changing consumer and golf trends,” commented Joe Shields, McComb’s grandson. “Play at traditional courses is down and Port A visitors want more variety, entertainment, and fun from their vacations.” The new course is a terrific activity for friends, families and novice golfers, yet still challenging from the tips for serious golfers, according to Shields. “It’s designed to be fun for everyone. And we are excited to bring these positive changes to the great game of golf.”
Additions to the course:
- 9 holes of true links-style golf (still the only of its kind in Texas)
- The LOOP, a 3-hole short course
- Class A driving range
- Electric golf boards (plus traditional golf carts)
In addition to booking a 9-hole round of golf, Palmilla Beach Golf is introducing the 12PACK and 21PACK. The 12PACK combines the 9-hole course plus The LOOP, a 3-hole, 85-100 yard pitch and putt. For avid golfers, the 21PACK allows players to play the 9 holes twice, followed by The LOOP. The course also includes a full-size Class A driving range with five target greens, plus a short game practice green.