Palm Harbor, Florida (June 2010) — When Sheila Crump Johnson, Salamander Hospitality, purchased the Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club she did more than re-store the resorts four-championship golf courses.
She created an incredible family fun vacation destination, even if you never step foot on the course greens. Guests will find pleny of nature walks, incredible pools for splashing fun, swimming and sunning, world class restaurants with celebrity Chef Andre Halston ensuring culinary perfection. This affordable vacation destination includes plenty of tennis, biking, hiking and fun found in a variety of fitness, family and nature activities.
Younger players can enjoy the family friendly, and very affordable, nine-hole Fox Squirrel course. The resort offers three sizes of Junior Clubs ($10.00 rental fee with three balls) that can be used all day long for repeated play.
For those seeking championship level courses, Innisbrook offers four - the North Course, South Course, Island Course and the world famous Copperhead, are incredibly beautiful, offering plenty of lush, verdant green space enhanced with gorgeous towering Cyprus trees draped with Spanish moss.
The natural habitat is not confined to the golf courses. Innisbrook encompasses over 900 acres of landscaped areas, open natural space and protected wetland areas.
Most impressive are the towering trees, often centuries old, that line the walks throughout the property.
Walking the nature trails provides a passive lesson in West Florida’s vast eco-system as you take wooden walkways over the wetlands and walk through native plants that attract wildlife to live in the serene surroundings.
Keep your eyes open and camera handy for the magnificent osprey, eagles and American alligators that abound the property as well as the Great Blue Heron and Roseate Spoonbills that call Innisbrook home.
The Cypress dressed in long veils of silver gray Spanish moss are incredibly beautiful, particularly in the early morning when there is the slightest mist to the air and the sun is just rising.
Lake Innisbrook, filled with largemouth bass, catfish and bluegills, awaits the fishermen of the family. Nature tours with a property naturalist and charter trips for fishing on the Gulf of Mexico are also available (charter fees do apply).
A hallmark of Innisbrook is the spacious villas. This summer hard to beat packages have one bedroom villa rentals ($695) and two bedroom villa rentals ($995) that include many of the resorts amenities, such as the pools, nature trails, fishing.
Villa amenities include a full-kitchen, pull out sofa, complimentary high-speed Internet access, flat screen television, washers and dryers (so important these days when you need to pack less and less), complimentary parking and complimentary access to the property’s fitness center.
The 4,800 square foot state-of-the-art fitness center includes elliptical machines, exercise bikes, treadmills and free weight equipment. Guests can also sign up for nutrition programs, cycling adventures, Tai Chi, Pilates and Belly Dancing in the center’s studio rooms (additional fees for programs may be charged).
On property activities include basketball and volleyball, as well as tennis. The Island Clubhouse offers guests complimentary saunas and outdoor Jacuzzis at the Island, Copperhead and Loch Ness Pools.
Highlights of Innisbrook during our visit included the properties six pools located at the golf courses and at the properties main reception building where our hands down favorite, the Loch Ness Pool, is located.
With two fun waterslides, a dancing waterfall to cavort beneath and another to slide through the pool provided both the children and adults with plenty of fun in the sun.
The plunge pool at the base of the waterslides is filled with bubbling jets and a super-size. Nets for water volleyball, a zero entry space with splash fountains and plenty of loungers and poolside casual dining, it’s a great place for everyone to have fun in the sun.
Children, when not cavorting in the pool, will enjoy Camp Nessie, an activities based experience filled with crafts and games lead by experienced group leaders.
The property is gated and there are shuttles to take guests to wherever they wish to play or dine. Our guest suite was conveniently located to allow our age-appropriate children to safely walk to the pool on their own.
The Indaba Spa is among my top three. The space is ultimately comfortable with plenty of soft green colors and nature inspired textures. Getting to my appointment early left plenty of time for a pre-treatment shower, whirlpool and steam before a cooling rinse. The smells of sage and eucalyptus in the whirlpool and steam room area were so soothing helping to rest my mind and relax my body prior to my facial.
Indaba, meaning a coming together or gathering, focuses on centering their guests’ minds and bodies through a series of events the cumulate in their spa treatment.
From the relaxation room to the meditation labyrinth, Indaba Spa has created a whole body and soul experience that is spiritually renewing, restoring the elemental connection and awareness between your mind and spirit and body – bringing them together, focusing your mind and body allowing for a refreshing sense of well being and wholeness.
There is never one element of a spa that accomplished this. It is a seamless melding of the environment, the staff, the spa’s scents and colors, furnishings and art and the administrations of the estheticians, masseuses and highly trained professional that your surrender yourself to during a spa experience.
From a quick bite poolside to a romantic dinner, without the kids of course, Innisbrook dining offers a wide variety of choices for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Under the tutelage of Chef Andre, wherever you choose to dine, the experience will be healthful, fresh, and of the highest quality.
The Grill at Loch Ness is the properties ultra casual lunch spot and serves grilled sandwiches, salads, hotdogs and hamburgers/cheeseburgers as well tropical frozen drinks. If you want to take lunch out on a nature walk, ask the Market Salamander to prepare a picnic basket or just stop by for a delicious ice cream cone.
Market Salamander Grille is the spot for breakfast when you don’t feel like preparing this morning meal in your suite. Serving breakfast, dinner and desserts, the Market Salamander Grille offers kid sized portions of most meals, a breakfast buffet and always-cheerful service.
Menus are filled with traditional American cuisine offerings for three meals including robust, day starting breakfast options such as pancakes or perfectly prepared eggs to your liking as well as lighter granola, fruit and yogurt options.
At her heart, Innisbrook is a golf resort and their four courses are among the top in the nation. Architect Lawrence Packard designed the courses that are amongst the ranks of the Preferred Golf Club courses.
Between the four courses, players will encounter up to seventy-feet of elevation changes nestled within the properties lush and verdant landscaping.
The world-famous Copperhead course, which the property claims “PGA Tour Professionals call one of the ‘Top Five’ courses they play all year” is home to the annual Transitions Championship.
Revered by club members and site of the LPGA Legend Tour’s first major championship the resort’s Island Course takes golfers past beautiful Lake Innisbrook as they play this Par 71, and very challenging, course.
Spending time with Golf Pro Rodney Green almost had me picking up the clubs to walk the courses. Almost.
Instead our two young charges took a lesson and in less than thirty minutes he had the boys not only hitting the ball, but hitting it straight and pretty far as well.
Ms. Johnson’s ownership philosophy is evident in the staff and the programs the property has adopted.
Throughout our visit, I was very impressed by the staff’s friendly and helpful manners. We never encountered one instance where expectations where not met with a friendly smile and one-hundred percent dedication to our enjoyment. This is not an easy task to accomplish, but it is accomplished well at Innsibrook.
Exhibiting the resort ownership’s commitment to the environment, is the Innisbrook CARES! Program. A Florida Green Lodging certified property, Innisbrook practices environmentally sustainable programs and practices. The property recycles all glass, tin, aluminum, plastic and cardboard as well as composting programs in the kitchen to reduce kitchen landfill waste.
In addition to taking care of the environment, the group also reaches out to the communities receiving the Preferred Hotel Group’s 2009 Pineapple Award for overall leadership in philanthropy, community service and environmental initiatives.
Community events planned for this year include, but are surely not limited to, the July Backpack Challenge to provide children in need with backpacks filled with necessary school supplies, the over two week long Annual food Drive that benefits the local food kitchen F.E.A.S.T. and Kids Against Hunger and in October their Green Team Cleans Up as the resort steps forward to help with local environmental clean up projects.
The Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club 2010 Charity of Choice is Habitat for Humanity.
When making a choice to spend precious vacation dollars, it makes so much more sense to spend them at a property that cares about the world and the community in which it lives.
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