Watching the sapphire-blue breakers unfurl on the groomed beach of oatmeal-colored sand, it was hard to believe that such a spectacular shore could have remained untouched for so long. The 66-room Ponte Vedra Lodge is located in an oceanside community 24 miles southeast of Jacksonville and is the kind of quiet and beautiful place that most people discover through word-of-mouth.
The Lodge’s sister property, the Ponte Vedra Inn & Club (217 guest rooms and 32 suites), has been a much-loved getaway for northern Floridians ever since its rustic beginnings in 1928. It first became nationally known for its 18-hole Ocean Course, which was designed by the famed British architect Herbert Bertram Strong (with later revisions by Robert Trent Jones Sr. and Bobby Weed). The Ocean Course has hosted the U.S. Open qualifying round five times.
The Lodge, which opened in 1989, recently completed a thorough renovation. On arrival, its manicured tropical gardens seemed to convey a kind of gentility. We instantly loved our Preferred Oceanfront Room, with its king-size bed, gas fireplace and picture window overlooking a spacious private balcony. A gray cathedral ceiling and a mahogany-colored armoire were complemented by pale citrus-green curtains and lemon-chiffon-colored walls. The lighting was excellent, and the travertine-tile bath came with an oval soaking tub, plus a separate walk-in shower. As the Lodge was built right on the beach, we could turn off the air-conditioning and fall asleep while enjoying the iodine scent of the ocean and listening to its roar.
Downstairs, public spaces included a seaview terrace with a gas fire pit, plus a second terrace with a long granite bar and high-top chairs. The Lodge has two oceanfront swimming pools — one is adults-only — and guests here have access to all of the facilities at the Ponte Vedra Inn & Club, including two golf courses, tennis courses, a shopping arcade and an exceptional spa.
The night we arrived, we had a delicious meal of Minorcan clam chowder, a specialty of nearby St. Augustine, and crab-stuffed grouper in lemon sauce at the Lodge’s Sea View Grille. Later in our stay we ate at the casual-chic Seahorse Grille, where we enjoyed seafood gumbo, and grouper with sweet potato, coconut-cream greens, eggplant, chile and basil. Overall, the cooking style here is upscale American comfort food with a Southern accent. The prices are reasonable for the quality of the food.
Looking back, I recall the Lodge as a relaxed, friendly and impeccably polite place, with truly exceptional service. For example, the waiter who delivered a simple room-service lunch — memorably good club sandwiches with excellent fries and two glasses of Sauvignon Blanc — wasn’t just delivering food but proffering hospitality. A gracious and charming man, he’d worked at the resort for many years. And it is continuity that gives this place such a settled and cordial atmosphere.
Overall, our weekend was a delightful and nostalgic journey back to an era when American seaside hotels were exemplified by properties like the now closed Shawmut Inn in Kennebunkport, Maine; the happily still surviving Greyfield Inn on Georgia’s Cumberland Island; and Ocean House in Watch Hill, Rhode Island.
The fresh and attractive coastal décor of our room; the spectacular seaside setting; the outstanding service.
The house wines could be improved.
Book your treatments before arriving at the hotel, because the resort’s spa is very popular with club members and hotel guests alike.