Fisher Island

 

Courtyard Villas, Vanderbilt Estate
At Vanderbilt Mansion (left). Hotel Director David Smiley (back row, far right), Larry Brown, CEO (back row, center), and Myra Sandlin, director of membership (front row, fourth from left). Virginia and John DeDad are in the middle row, far right.

 

Virginia and John DeDad, owners of Royal Service Travel, recently visited the private island off the coast of Miami Beach and learned about its new offerings and renovations.

Fisher Island has always been known for its privacy and exclusivity. Celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey and Steve Wynn have vacationed there. With that in mind, we were excited to experience the destination firsthand, through an invitation from David Smiley, hotel director for Fisher Island Hotel & Resort.

Upon our arrival, we were greeted by a lovely and knowledgeable young lady from the hotel, who, while waiting for our luggage to arrive, provided a preview of what we would expect during our visit. We were then led to a waiting limousine for the 15-minute trip from the airport to the Fisher Island’s ferry landing. A guard then directed our limo onto the deck of the ferry for a seven-minute ride to the island. All of this clearly emphasized luxury and privacy.

Driving off the ferry was like driving into a different world—meticulously maintained lawns and flowered pathways awaited us. We were immediately struck by the quiet, serene setting, in juxtaposition with the loud and lively Miami we had just left.

Courtyard Villas
Courtyard Villas, located in the Vanderbilt Estate, have garden views and private Jacuzzis.

Registration was quick and friendly, with the clerk welcoming us by name, as if we were frequent guests. Of course, champagne cocktails were offered. We were then driven by golf cart to our villa, where the bellman took us on a brief tour of our weekend home-away-from-home. The villa was tastefully decorated with a subdued tropical theme. On a table near our bed were four carafes of different fruit juices. On the bed were two hand-wrapped gift packages, along with a personal letter from Smiley welcoming us to the hotel. It was obvious that the staff paid great attention to its guests.

The bathroom was expansive with a large shower, soaking tub and frosted glass-enclosed toilet room. Outside the villa, through French doors, we could walk into our own private courtyard, which had an in-ground hot tub and lounge chairs.

The bellman then showed us to our private golf cart, which was parked just outside our front door, explaining that it was ours to use during our stay (someone would plug it in for recharging every night!). He then led us on a brief tour of the island, pointing out restaurants and other highlights.

After unpacking, we walked to a quiet beach and sipped a drink from the nearby Sunset Bar. On the beach were lounge chairs covered with padded terry cloth, umbrellas planted in the sand and small tables. Nearby were large, four-poster, fabric-enclosed lounge beds. No fighting for lounge chairs here or putting sandals or books on them to keep “poachers” away. This was a very different environment from the typical beach resort. The quiet was broken only by the sound of waves gently rolling up to the shore. That night, we and other invited guests were treated to dinner at Café Porto Cervo, which featured a wonderful Mediterranean menu.

The next day included a guided tour of the island, conducted by Myra Sandlin, director of membership, and Larry Brown, Fisher Island Club’s CEO. During the tour, Brown discussed the $60 million “Renaissance of Fisher Island,” an ongoing island-wide restoration project that includes the recently renovated Beach Club and Trattoria restaurants, tennis center, golf course marina and guest rooms. The next phase of renovations will include the resort’s spa and fitness center, Café Porto Cervo restaurant and other island facilities.

We toured the Spa Internazionale, which has a salon and all the amenities of a world-class luxury spa, and the resort’s Grand Slam Tennis Center, which comes with 14 clay, two hard and two grass courts, all fully lit for night-playing. We viewed the resort’s Links at Fisher Island, a par-35, nine-hole golf course designed by architect P. B. Dye.

We also saw the resort’s two deep-water marinas, which can accommodate yachts up to 250 feet in length. We inspected the resort’s upscale business center, which is nearby the Tennis Center and has all the amenities needed for today’s business meetings and conferences.

One of the stops during our tour was the resort’s aviary, a rather unusual but, nonetheless, interesting attraction. We were greeted by Pedro Palanco, the fulltime caretaker of the facility, who gently coaxed a number of cockatoos onto the arms of the visiting guests and provided interesting information about the birds in residence. Close to the aviary was another interesting stop, the resort’s observatory.

We also inspected one of the fully furnished three-bedroom, three-bath Deluxe Suites. Sized at 2,200 square feet, these suites include a full-sized kitchen, ocean or garden views, a private balcony, Wi-Fi, a fully stocked refreshment center and concierge service. Also available are one- and two-bedroom Deluxe Suites. The resort’s lodgings are all smoke-free.

Finally, we toured the Vanderbilt Mansion and its Garwood Lounge, an intimate lounge and piano bar. Brown told us that the mansion’s public rooms would soon be renovated and restored to their original elegance. He also provided a brief history of how William K. Vanderbilt, the great-grandson of famed “Commodore” Cornelius Vanderbilt, traded his 250-foot yacht, the Eagle, with Miami Beach real estate investor/developer Carl Graham Fisher for the latter’s property on Biscayne Bay. Vanderbilt then began construction of the mansion and other buildings in 1929 to entertain the elite guests of that time.

Accommodation at Fisher Island
Each Accommodation at Fisher Island comes equipped with a golf cart for guest use.

That night, we were invited back to the Vanderbilt Mansion for a dinner in its library, where we were served a four-course dinner prepared by noted chef Stephane Caporal. When each course was delivered to our table, Caporal provided content and preparation details. The presentations were outstanding. Accompanying each course was a specially selected wine that truly enhanced the culinary experience. The library was beautifully appointed, with unusual fresh fruit and flower centerpieces. We think this is a great place for a group dinner gathering.

Afterward, we retired to our villa and were greeted by handmade chocolates and small bottles of cordials for our pre-slumber consumption. This topped off what was truly an enjoyable and relaxing experience. The courteous and attentive staff, along with the resort’s luxurious accommodations, excellent restaurants, world-class golf and tennis facilities and relaxing beaches, make Fisher Island Hotel & Resort a wise choice for the elite traveler. We certainly recommend it.