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Florida: The Club At Hammock Beach

by Kathryn Lemmon, Wedding Zone Staff Writer

Think you know Florida ... all cookie cutter hotels and strip malls? Not so. The Club at Hammock Beach is a different animal altogether. Think upscale.

The Club is an all-suite property situated in an area known as the Palm Coast, between Daytona and St. Augustine. Although each suite is privately owned, many are on the short-term rental market. The development rests on one of the last major tracts of oceanfront on Florida's East Coast and has over two miles of unspoiled beach frontage.

Matt Hagler is the resort developer and Executive VP of operations for Ginn Hospitality, a division of Ginn Company. Hagler comments, "We designed The Club based on the area's history. It's patterned after the old Ponce de Leon Hotel, which is now Flagler College in nearby St. Augustine. We wanted to revive the hallmark era, where travelers who visited that city knew it as the Newport of the South."

Entering the lobby, which Hagler calls the "heart throb" of the resort, guests quickly sense a welcoming haven appointed in grand Flagler style. Make no mistake, this is a high-end property, but if you can't live it up on your honeymoon, then when?

The Club is experimenting with a new concept in the hospitality industry-the personal concierge. This individual acts as the host or hostess, similar to the proprietors at a small inn or Bed & Breakfast. It's a service concept not usually found at large resorts.

The personal concierge at The Club contacts guests before they leave home to determine any special needs and their time of arrival. They arrange tee times, spa treatments, deep-sea fishing and all other resort services, staying in touch with wireless PDA.

The service is meant to eliminate the "run-around" you sometimes get at a large hotel. You can deal with one person and one person only, during your entire stay.

My suite was a 3-bedroom, 3-bath unit, including a large patio with an ocean view. The architects skillfully managed an ocean view for every suite in the 12-story structure. It was definitely one of those "wow, all this for me" sensations as I entered for the first time. While The Club has all the usual amenities, lodging there feels nothing whatsoever like a hotel.

I spent an hour noticing all the small details. The interiors of my suite had an African influence. Small figurines of monkeys in top hats graced my dining table, while ceramic tigers watched over the deep, oval bathtub. The color palate was a comfortable mixture of dark woods and neutral fabrics.

Curious, I opened every cabinet in the kitchen and in each bathroom. The kitchen was well-stocked with all the appliances you might need, along with all the standard dishes. Even laundry soap and fabric softener was provided.

For meals, The Club has fine dining in the Seaside Grille. Award-winning Head Chef Michael McBride and his staff change the menu frequently to reflect whatever fresh seafood is prevalent at the time.

Snacks are available at Loggerheads Lounge and both offer panoramic views of the ocean and golf course through floor-to-ceiling windows. Another option is 24-hour room service.

Water-lovers will quickly discover the multi-million dollar water pavilion. A lazy river ride and a 65-foot water slide, among other things, are set among tropical landscaping. An indoor pool is also available. If salt and surf are more your thing, the ocean is close at hand.

Matching the rest of the property, The Club has a sizeable spa featuring Pevonia Botanica products. This was my second experience with Pevonia, a company with a commitment to the environment and a solid stance against animal testing. I had a facial and massage, my preferred combination. Why not surprise him with a couples massage? You have your choice of outside or in.

For an afternoon away from the resort, historic St. Augustine is a good choice. Brimming with centuries old buildings and a stone fort, St. Augustine can be visited on foot or via their hop-on, hop-off trolleys.

When checking resort reservations, be sure to inquire about their special Romance Packages. For more information click on www.theclubathammockbeach.com.


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