Hotel Review: Turnberry Isle Miami

Turnberry Isle Miami

Review by Ron Bernthal

Spending a weekend at Turnberry Isle was like stepping back 50 years in time, to a period in Miami’s history when several large, Mediterranean-style resorts welcomed northern families laden with a dozen suitcases, golf bags, wooden tennis rackets, and a nanny for the kids.

The entry driveway at this iconic resort is still lined with palm trees, the main building is still centered around the original, sprawling banyan tree, and part of the property’s 300 tropical acres include a chef’s garden filled with mango, pomegranate and avocado trees, as well as sweet smelling herbs like chocolate mint, oregano, Chinese chives and fennel.

When the resort was constructed in 1967 this region of north Miami Beach was mostly sand, mangrove trees and swampland, but today, with the proliferation of nearby condominiums and upscale shopping centers, Turnberry Isle is truly an oasis of calm and timelessness just 20 minutes from downtown Miami.

Upon arrival a valet driver swooped in to take my car, a porter grabbed my one, small bag, and staff at the front desk provided a room key, offered ice water and lemon, and escorted me to my room in the Magnolia Wing (there are four clusters of accommodations, including the Hibiscus, Orchid, and Jasmine Wings). My room on the 4th floor was spacious, with hardwood floors at the entrance and plush carpeting inside. A marble bathroom offered a a small, flat screen television and a third dual-lined telephone, separate bathtub and glass shower stall with a rainfall shower head. In the room was a flat screen TV, Keurig coffee system, free Wi-Fi, and a balcony that overlooked part of the Soffer golf course and the resort’s signature 18th-hole Island Green and 64-foot waterfall.

Hisbiscus Deluxe Golf View room (photo courtesy Turnberry Isle Miami)

During my visit I had an opportunity to have dinner at Bourbon Steak, the resort’s fine dining venue, where noted chef and restaurateur Michael Mina has established a nicely designed steak house that is popular with guests as well as Miami residents. Famous for its American Wagyu and 40-day, dry-age steaks (which can cost as much as $90 per steak), my smaller 8-ounce filet mignon was tender and delicious.

Turnberry has 408 guest rooms, and enough activities to keep families or business groups busy without leaving the property. The Laguna pool is family-friendly, with a water slide and other kid attractions. My only disappointment of the weekend came at this pool, when I attempted to use the water slide in the morning, before I had to leave the property, only to find out that the slide wouldn’t open for another hour. Much like a six year-old, I was devastated. The Cascata pool is adults only, and remains quiet throughout the day. The two-story Spa and Fitness Center offers treatment rooms, sauna and steam facilities, and a large cardio fitness area. Although the resort is not on the ocean, a shuttle service transports guests a short distance to a private section of beachfront equipped with a seaside grill, beach chairs, cabanas, and other amenities.

                               

Breakfast at Turnberry Isle is served in the Cascata Grille, a two-minute walk from the lobby and next to the Miller course, the resort’s second 18-hole professional golf course. This is a casual restaurant with a nice outdoor terrace, and serves lunch and dinner as well as a lovely buffet breakfast. One wall near the entrance is covered with dozens of framed, black and white photographs showing former guests, including Frank Sinatra, Andy Warhol, Sugar Ray Leonard, Princess Caroline, Joe DiMaggio, Muhammad Ali, and Bill Cosby.

 

 

Many of the 1960’s and 70’s- era celebrities in the photos are shown embracing Turnberry Isle founder Donald Soffer, who not only created the resort but the nearby Aventura Mall, and many of the residential and commercial buildings that now form the upscale suburb of Aventura. The Soffer family still owns the property, another sign that this historic and enduring south Florida resort will continue to provide a Miami vacation experience that exempflies the impeccable, service, glamour, and style that has almost disappeared from today’s resort properties.

Contact:

Turnberry Isle Miami

19999 West Country Club Drive

Aventura, FL 33180

Phone: 855-777-6594

www.turnberryislemiami.com

Miami Journal: Is MiMo Next for Historic District Revitalization?

BY RON BERNTHAL

MiMo photos © Ron Bernthal

In 2006 Miami’s Historic Preservation Board voted to create a historic district along one of the city’s most iconic thoroughfares. Twenty-seven blocks of Biscayne Boulevard, including 115 historic buildings, would become known as MiMo, aka the Miami Modern- Biscayne Boulevard Historic District. The MiMo Historic District runs along Biscayne Boulevard between Northeast 50th Street to Northeast 77th Street.

The two main architectural styles of the district are Mediterranean Revival, which includes most of the residences and commercial buildings between 55th and 60th Streets, in the Bayshore subdivision, and Art Deco, represented mostly by a cluster of two and three-story motels and mixed-use buildings, between NE 71st and 74th Streets. There are about 16 Art Deco-style motels that have survived demolition along the highly trafficked corridor of Biscayne Boulevard. Some of these structures still maintain their multi-colored neon signs, on high pylons or building facades, which constitute the most memorable architectural component of early Miami tourist facilities in this part of the city.

There were hundreds of such motels built in the Miami area from the 1920’s to the early 1940’s. During this period, even Miami gas stations imitated the Art Deco look of the motels, although only one, the Gulf Station at 17th Avenue and Coral Way, has survived, and is still a working gas station!

Many of Miami’s 1920’s Mediterranean-Revival buildings were swept away during the hurricane of 1926, and more were demolished by developers during the urban renewal projects following World War II. Others succumbed to the heat, moisture, humidity and salt that has plagued Miami structures of all types since the earliest settlements in the 1800’s.

Thanks to the recent historic designation of this formerly overlooked section of NE Miami, two strip mall shopping centers have opened nearby– Antiques Plaza and 20th Century Row — with shops specializing in Miami Modern furnishings from the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s. Savvy shoppers can find authentic T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings furniture; Tommi Parzinger lacquered cabinets from the 1950’s; and Milo Baughman steel-framed leather lounge chairs from the 1960’s, often at lower prices than in New York or Los Angeles.

 

During a recent visit to Miami I drove up and down the stretch of Biscayne Boulevard that lies within the MiMo District. Many of the original midcentury Art Deco motels are either closed, or inexpensive, gritty-looking transient joints, with rooms rented by young, adventurous Europeans on a tight budget, or by local street walkers who bring johns into the dreary rooms, the windows covered by thick curtains to keep out the harsh sunlight and peering eyes of, let’s say, midcentury architecture fans. Historic midcentury residential houses on the blocks just off Biscayne were in better shape, and many of the smaller cottage homes have been restored into lovely, bougainvillea-covered bungalows.

Certainly, MiMo is not yet South Beach, where formerly decrepit Art Deco buildings were transformed more than two decades ago into trendy and expensive hotels and restaurants. It is also far, in development terms, from the midcentury buildings of upper Collins Avenue, where the 1954 Fontainebleau Hotel, designed by Morris Lapidus, was awarded the “Best Building in Florida 2012” by the American Institute of Architects.

Those areas have Atlantic Ocean beaches and cooling breezes. MiMo is landlocked, and Biscayne Boulevard is a hot and noisy commercial stretch that drivers use to get from North Miami Beach to downtown, without paying much attention to the faded pastel motels lining the road.

Miami, however, has had great success with revitalizing historic sections of the
City, most recently the resurgence of the Wynwood and Design District neighborhoods, and architectural restorations and new business ventures are slowly, but steadily, giving the MiMo Historic District a chance to both preserve its history and obtain a measure of economic prosperity.