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The Best Of Florida

By Debra Masters

Travel Consultant

Posted: 13 November 2014
Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Orlando: Fireworks

Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Orlando: Fireworks

Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Orlando: Fireworks W South Beach: Wall Nightclub The Breakers, Palm Beach: Spa Loews Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando: Kids Suite Fontainebleau Miami Beach: La Cote The Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne, Miami: Exterior
Mandarin Oriental, Miami The Setai, Miami Beach: Outdoor Pools The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes: The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club

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Orlando Debra and Caroline's epic Florida journey began in Orlando at Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, which they say is a great base if you want to be in the thick of all that Universal has to offer, as you can easily walk or take the complimentary shuttle boat to the theme parks. It’s perfect for families, boasting a beach pool with a slide, weekly ‘dive-in’ movies (how cool!) and 'Despicable Me' themed children’s suites complete with ' minion' beds! Grown-ups can chill out at the Mandara Spa or the adult only pool. Next door, Hard Rock Hotel® is great for anyone with a love of music − which is even played underwater in the pool − and suits those travelling with older children. Its selection of dining venues and the ice-cream parlour are sure to please all taste buds, but Universal CityWalk® − which is close to both hotels − offers more dining options for the whole family, as well as nightlife for those who want it. Universal Studios Florida® and Universal’s Islands of Adventure® theme parks are fabulous, and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey™ is a must − after one ride the girls just wanted  to get straight back on! Debra says that a huge advantage of staying at either hotel is the Universal Express. Unlimited ticket which allows guests to access fast track queues for rides and permits entry to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ an hour before it opens to the general public.

No trip to Orlando would be complete without seeing Mickey Mouse and Elegant Resorts offers accommodation at Disney’s Beach Club Resort, Yacht Club Resort and Grand Floridian which all have a unique Disney theme. If you’d prefer to stay outside of the theme parks, The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes is just a short drive away − with a regular shuttle service to the parks − and Club Level guests can watch the Disney fireworks display each evening from the comfort of the Club Lounge.

Palm Beach The next stop for the girls was beautiful Palm Beach, home to fabulous beaches, the designer shops of Worth Avenue and some of the ‘grand dames’ of the Florida hotel scene. The girls loved The Breakers Palm Beach − an historic landmark hotel set on a beach where stunning architecture of a bygone era combines with all the modern facilities you could wish for. It’s perfect for couples who are sure to like the HMF lounge where amazing Sushi and cocktails, including the divine Chanel #6, can be enjoyed, while families will be pleased to learn there is a wonderful children’s entertainment centre. The sumptuous Four Seasons Resort Palm Beach, boasts an equally stunning beach location and the girls particularly liked the Atlantic Bar & Grill which serves great world street food, as well as award-winning burgers to satisfy the more traditionalist of diners.

Miami They left Palm Beach for the bright lights of Miami and if you want a taste of the infectious Miami vibe − including the nightlife, the great restaurants and the pool parties − Fontainebleau is for you. It’s one of ‘the’ places to be seen and boasts a magnificent beach setting, two nightclubs, three bars and an array of stylish restaurants. Despite its large size there is a tremendous sense of space and it’s easy to find a quiet spot to relax. Equally as fabulous is W South Beach on Miami Beach where rooms and suites have a balcony with ocean views, afternoon drinks can be savoured in the garden at the Grove and wonderful restaurants include Mr Chow of New York fame and The Dutch, which they describe as a cross between a traditional American diner and a comic book! Relax by the pool, where a DJ plays at weekends, while in the evenings the living room becomes the centre of the action - it mixes up a mean 'Dark & Stormy'!

The Setai is a different experience again; it comprises an original Art Deco building, as well as modern towers that house most of the guest rooms – all with Miami city or beach views. Original features and antique pieces have been used to create a rich Asian-inspired flavour – a theme that extends to the cuisine and after sampling most dishes on the dinner menu they can safely say that everything was delicious.

If you are travelling with your family, there are a couple of options located a little bit out of Miami’s centre which means you can dip in and out of the craziness if you prefer! Acqualina Resort & Spa on the Beach is located on Sunny Isles Beach which is a relaxed, yet decidedly upscale location minutes from the luxury shops of Bal Harbour Mall and only eleven miles from South Beach and Ocean Drive which is home to Miami’s fabulous Art Deco buildings. It excels at catering for families, offering one to three-bedroom residential-style suites with a kitchen, the Aquamarine children’s entertainment programme and family-friendly pools. This teamed with an adult-only pool, the ESPA spa, exceptional dining at Il Mulino New York and a bar where you can grab a quick bite to eat and catch a local sporting event – they soon became fans of the Miami Heat basketball team – means there is something for everyone. Another option is The Ritz-Carlton, Key Biscayne, located on a seven-mile long barrier island and offering a slice of tranquillity with a 20,000ft² spa, two oceanfront swimming pools (including an adult only pool), tennis courts, The Ritz Kidz activity programme and five bars and restaurants including the Dune Oceanfront Burger Lounge which serves fabulous speciality burgers and hosts a chill out party on Sundays.

Key West The next part of the adventure took the girls on an awesome drive down the Florida Keys to Key West which they highly recommend. They visited Casa Marina, A Waldorf Astoria Resort which is the oldest hotel in Key West and is located on a large stretch of beachfront with two huge pools and some great water sports. A short walk away is the centre of Key West where the social hub, Duval Street, has good restaurants and quirky shops.

On the drive back towards Miami they stopped at Little Palm Island Resort & Spa, an adult-only private island resort reached by a short boat ride from the mainland. There are just thirty suites (located in bungalows), each one refreshingly low tech – with not even a television – with a cosy feel and beds so high that you need steps to get in, which reminded them of the ‘the Princess and the Pea’ fairytale. We're told that it’s a very special and peaceful place where it’s easy to forget the daily grind as you relax by the pool or at the spa, take to the water or savour the food which is out of this world – you can even dine barefoot in the sand.

Naples After their stay in the Keys they drove across the state through the Everglades to Naples which is a great place with fabulous beaches and nautical overtones. They found their bearings on a fun segway tour and after a ten-minute tutorial on how to master their beasts they set off and listened to their Guide on headsets as they weaved our way around, stopping for refreshments at naples Pier, a popular spot for fishing. The Ritz-Carlton, Naples is a great resort hotel with a fabulous spa, a wonderful beach and a range of dining options including Gumbo Limbo Beach Restaurant that serves amazing fish tacos with guacamole, a fine dining grill and a Sushi restaurant. Families will love Nature’s Wonders which offers an educational look at all things nature based in the area through a range of fun activities. They also visited Naples Grande Beach Resort, a chic retreat with an urban edge where spacious guest rooms have a residential feel and the spa is beautiful. It’s set slightly back from the beach, but has incredible views across the mangroves to the water and a frequent shuttle service is on-hand to escort you to the hotel’s beach club.

By the end of their Florida adventure they realised that every destination they had visited was different and they experienced something new everywhere they went, so their best piece of advice is to hire a car and explore.

About Debra

I'm lucky enough to have travelled to many worldwide destinations and have excellent knowledge of Africa the Arabian Gulf, Asia, Australasia the Caribbean, Europe, the Indian Ocean, the Middle East and The Americas.

Read More About Debra

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