While recently touring the expansive chef’s garden at the legendary Fairmont Turnberry Isle and helping to pick ingredients for the evening’s dinner, the resort’s Executive Chef Daniel Buss excitedly pointed out a brand new addition to his prized botanical wonderland. “This is a Jabuticaba tree,” says Daniel. “It bears some of the finest grapes and will enhance some of the homemade fruit preserves I put on the breakfast buffet at our Cascata Grille restaurant.”
The Jabuticaba tree is one of more than six dozen different plants and trees that are grown in the nearly quarter-acre plot. Among the findings are pineapple sage, rosemary, mint, mangoes, longans, lemongrass, sugarcane, pigeon peas, bananas, star fruit, key limes, avocado, strawberry-guavas, kumquats, peppers, okra and artichokes. After an hour of wandering through the garden and taste-testing various fruits and spices, Chef Buss took me to other parts of the resort where we made a surprising discovery of an allspice tree and figs.
With over 300-acres, this Mediterranean-style retreat is full of hidden treasures and extraordinary experiences. Fairmont Turnberry Isle is conveniently located in a beautiful residential neighborhood called Aventura in North Miami, and has 392 spacious guest rooms and suites that are all beautifully-appointed. We stayed in a Deluxe Golf View room and each day sipped coffee on our outdoor balcony while soaking up views of a signature 18-hole island green and magnificent 64-foot waterfall.
During my stay, I tried my hand at the two-championship Raymond Floyd-redesigned golf courses and unfortunately lost a number of golf balls to the water surrounding the 18-hole on the challenging Soffer Course. However, the courses look impeccable and thanks to the exceptional instruction I received in a daily golf clinic from Turnberry Isle’s resident pro, Hiro, Suzuki, , I luckily avoided causalities during my 36-holes of play. Before joining Turnberry, Hiro served as golf director under Robert Trent Jones, Sr. He played a role in assisting the design team in the reconstruction of Turnberry Isle’s two masterpieces and is joined by award-winning instructors Gary Knapp and Cristina Trammell, along with Bob Coman, who is the golf director.
Even if you’re not a golfer, Fairmont Turnberry Isle features a diverse number of world-class amenities that cater to everyone. The four-clay hydrocourts looked inviting so I borrowed a tennis racquet and rallied with Elisabeth Cuscack, the head tennis professional. Elisabeth informed me that 18-time Grand Slam champion, Fred Stolle, has been the resort’s tennis ambassador for over 20 years. Although, I didn’t meet Fred this time, there were other celebrities around. Did I mention Michael Jordan on the golf course?
At nationally-acclaimed Chef Michael Mina’s Bourbon Steak restaurant, located off the main lobby, I happened to park myself in a chic orange leather barstool a few seats away from James Caan. The famous actor was dining with Donald Soffer, real estate mogul and founder of Turnberry Associates—the parent company over Fairmont Turnberry Isle, Aventura Mall and Fontainebleau, to name a few. A little side note, Aventura was once made up of marshlands until it was brought to life from a cocktail napkin sketch drawn by Donald.
Once I got over being star-struck, I sat down to an incredible dinner prepared by the restaurant’s talented Executive Chef Gabriel Fenton. Each meal comes with a trio of duck fat fries—need I say more? Chef Gabriel sent over an apple cider-glazed pork belly that was bursting with flavor and then my guest and I both shared a lobster pot pie and a butter-poached steak grilled to perfection over a wood-burning grill.
Following our delicious meal at Bourbon Steak, we retired to our guest room and got into our cozy bed –the best sleep I’ve ever had—so we could get up early and hit the Willow Stream Spa and fitness center to burn off calories from the night before.
Now let me tell you, I had expected a spa the size of a studio apartment and instead walked into a spectacular 25,000 square-foot, three-story facility. As I made my way up the grand spiral staircase to the fitness center on the third floor, I couldn’t help but admire the tranquil fountain at the foot of the staircase, the 40-foot curved glass wall and the domed-glass ceiling casting natural light throughout the Willow Stream Spa.
At first glance, the fitness center looks like any other gym with state-of-the-art equipment and an aerobics studio, but I quickly learned there is much more. It turns out Fairmont Turnberry Isle is home to a Pure Pilates studio and a comprehensive wellness program led by the country’s top performance coach, Pete Bommarito of Bommarito Performance Systems, and sports medicine physician, Dr. Matthew Cooper of USA Sports Therapy. After receiving an in-depth bio-mechanical assessment, I got into my spa robe and was led to a vichy shower room on the second floor to be pampered like never before. There are a mind-boggling 75 ritual experiences on the spa menu. The signature Feast of the Flowers scrub and rain massage left me feeling refreshed and my skin aglow.
Afterwards, I wanted to checkout the Laguna Pool. We spent the entire afternoon at this tropical enclave in a private cabana equipped with a flat screen television and refrigerator, and only peeled ourselves off the cushiony lounge chairs to wade into the zero-entry pool and nosh at the Laguna Grill. However, upon accepting a dare, I did zip down the 180-feet long waterslide to find I couldn’t wait to ride it again. Then, we meandered along a lazy river relaxing in a float while water ran through our hair and tickled our toes. The resort also features a more tranquil Cascata Pool, along with a newly renovated private Ocean Club right on the Atlantic.
A stay at Fairmont Turnberry Isle would not be complete without a trip to Aventura Mall, situated right across the street. We strolled from store to store –there are over 280 of them—before reluctantly leaving paradise to head back home.
If you go, be sure to take advantage of low rates this summer from $149 per night plus complimentary greens fees, starting Memorial Day weekend. For reservations, call 1-866-612-7739 or visit www.fairmont.com/turnberryisle. Fairmont Turnberry Isle is also the perfect place to hold your wedding or special event.