Old World Tranquility and Endless Sunshine at the Ponte Vedra Lodge & Club
“Mineral City” just didn’t have enough ring to it. Certainly not if it was to become one of the most beloved coastal destinations in the country.
It was just after WWI and the mineral-rich sands of the Atlantic coast of Florida which had lent aid to the war efforts were no longer in demand. The area, 20 miles south of Jacksonville, was ripe for tourism but it needed some marketability. Legend has it that the planners visited the library in nearby St. Augustine and stumbled upon an old Spanish map of a town called Pontevedra, a hamlet at the same latitude as Mineral City. The name refers to a centuries-old Roman bridge (“Ponte Vedra” or “old bridge”) that spanned a river and sounded, well, more enticing to visit than the mineral city. So goodbye Mineral City, hello Ponte Vedra!
Soon thereafter in 1928 the fabled Ponte Vedra Inn & Club first opened its doors offering a winter escape for sun and fun. The property welcomed guests throughout the Great Depression, WWII and a kaleidoscope of change over time. The 1937-built clubhouse still stands before a massive fountain filled by stone seahorses, an elegant beach lodge to welcome guests at the AAA Five-Diamond Inn.
I recently stayed a mile down the road at the resort’s sister property, the 66 all-ocean view rooms at the boutique Lodge & Club Ponte Vedra Beach which continues the Old-World tradition of the Inn with Mediterranean-inspired architectural design also just mere feet from the sand and ocean. The facilities are connected by complimentary shuttle and reciprocal privileges are extended at both.
Overall, the 300-acre campus boasts 328 rooms, a 30,000 square-foot spa with over 100 beauty and pampering services, two 18-hole courses, a legendary tennis facility, an ocean-view fitness center, 4 heated pools, and over a dozen dining options.
With Florida’s thousands of miles of coastline and as many fun-in-sun vacation choices, Ponte Vedra offers a unique oasis-like experience; the simultaneous feeling of rustic isolation with miles and miles of shell-strewn beaches littered with sharks’ teeth but just minutes away from abundant activities. Plus, you are an hour’s drive from St. Augustine and its trove of wonderful historic sites.
But perhaps the most distinctive aspect of the Ponte Vedra Inn & Lodge is its service culture. Not only do the facilities capture a timeless essence of the area but the staff seems to revere the Old-World traditions as well, remembering my family by name even days after initially meeting them. Many of the staff we spoke with—from the front desk to servers to housekeeping—had been at the resort for years and frequently used the word “family” to describe their work experience. With an environment like that, I’d go back year after year even if it was called the Mineral City Club.
Know if you Go
Fly into Jacksonville International Airport (JAX) which is reachable by non-stop flights from most major hubs. The drive to Ponte Vedra is about 40 minutes.
Stay Ponte Vedra Inn & Club is a AAA Five Diamond resort with two seaside championship golf courses, an award-winning Spa, legendary tennis facilities, nearly a dozen dining experiences and more. The sister property, The Lodge & Club sits about a mile down the quiet street. Doubles start at $249.
Eat Over a dozen dining options spread throughout the compound with different POVs. If you like dining by the ocean the Sea View Grille (at The Lodge) and the Seahorse Grille (at The Inn) offer hyper-fresh seafood options with a front-row seat to the Atlantic. If you prefer taking on an island, The Golf Club Dining Room gives a dramatic view of the famous 9th “island” green. Several alfresco settings also await.
Relax among the waterfalls and water sculptures in the 30,000 square foot Spa at Ponte Vedra Inn & Club with 23 treatment rooms, private couples’ suites and over 100 beauty and pampering services. There’s even a Spa Café to ensure you won’t have to disrupt your bliss for a bite.
Play There are 2 golf courses on property, The Ocean Course and The Lagoon course. The Lagoon Course’s front 9 holes were designed by illustrious course designer Robert Trent Jones Sr. The Ocean Course, once slated to be the site of the 1939 Ryder Cup (but alas canceled because of WWII) is currently undergoing a complete $8 million renovation and will be ready for play Fall 2020. The Ocean Course’s famous 9th hole was one of the game’s earliest examples of an “island” green.