Last week, I put my travel shoes back on and hopped on a plane to Florida. It felt like forever since I had some salt water in my hair and sand on my toes! I was really looking forward to spending some time on the boat... my favorite mode of travel. I just love living on the water. There's something so thrilling about waking up and heading out to sea, not knowing what you'll see or experience.
Last year, I took this similar trip... it was right after Hurricane Irma had hit the Florida Keys pretty hard. The only marina open was all the way down in Key West, and still, there was evidence of destruction. This year, I would get to explore two new (to me) places: Key Largo (Ocean Reef Club) and Marathon (Faro Blanco Yacht Club). But first, I'd spend a night in good 'ol South Beach at Sunset Harbour Yacht Club...
Key Largo is one of the northernmost Florida Keys, and it's the first Key you'll get to via Highway 1. It's roughly 70 miles from Miami... but, it's a lot closer if you're traveling on the water. I would be spending two days at Ocean Reef Club marina. ORC is a private community in Key Largo that sits on 2.5 thousand acres of luscious, jungle-like land. It wasn't always a private club though, it actually got its start as a fishing camp and 26-room lodge in 1948.
As you make your way to the marina, you'll travel through this inlet that passes along Buccaneer Island.
Through the years, it's developed itself into a luxurious hamlet possessing its own 4,000-foot private airstrip, school, museum, security force and fire department. It also has top-rated restaurants, three golf courses, an inn exclusively for club members and guests, and a man-made lagoon created with sand brought in from the Bahamas. Some people consider it, "Florida's best kept secret"...
So, how do you stay here if you're not a member? If you don't feel like spending a million dollars on a condo... plus those pesky membership dues, you can book a room at The Inn, their on-site hotel. Rates are seasonal, and can range from $369-2K per night during summer/fall. Or, splurge on a vacation rental where you can stay anywhere from an intimate condo to a luxurious mansion. Vacation rentals range from $300-6K per night during the summer/fall season... many renters use VRBO to list their abodes. Since I was touring the club, I was able to stay at the marina.
ORC has a dozen dining options so, I didn't get to experience all of them! Also, part of the club is going through a beautiful renovation right now, so some places were closed. My favorite lunch spot was The Raw Bar; an adorable maritime eatery that's very casual.
Everyone's golf carts in the parking lot by The Raw Bar :-)
I had some fresh shrimp civeche and sipped a glass of chardonnay while I gazed at impressive yachts passing through the inlet.
My favorite dinner spot was Gianni; a modern, Italian restaurant perched above the marina. Gianni is known for fresh pasta and wood-fired pizza, but I decided to order the dinner special which featured a lovely Hogfish. As my first time trying this native fish, I was delighted by it's light texture and savory taste. 9/10 stars from Golden Girl!
Contemporary, cozy interior design made me feel all the good feels.
My awesome Hogfish! Other fish on the menu include snapper, grouper, and shrimp.
Each morning, I rode the golf cart from the marina over to the Fishing Village... this is where you'll find your coffee shop, retail stores, and market. It reminded me of a New England town center! I absoulety loved strolling through the Fishing Village in the warm sunshine as I sipped my coffee.
Everything is small and intimate, having the same architecture and similar island vibe.
My first stop for some fresh coffee: Reef Treats! They also offer a handful of ice cream flavors and freshly made breakfast items.
Some of my favorite stores were Lilly Pulitzer, Vineyard Vines, J McLaughlin and the Reef Gallery (SO many pretty paintings!). There were also a few other boutiques where you'll find unique, nautical trinkets. Since it was Halloween, their annual "Barktoberfest" event going on... doggies dressed up in their scariest costumes and members cruised around in their freakishly decked-out golf carts. In all, it made for excellent people watching that weekend.
It wasn't hard to spot the Lilly Store and their vibrant umbrellas!
Posted outside The Burgee Shop, which carries everything ORC!
Some of my favorite water color paintings at the Reef Gallery!
Where to begin? I guess I'll start with relaxing at the pool, located on Buccaneer Island. I plopped myself under an umbrella the first day, and enjoyed their entertainment which included an acoustic guitarist/singer playing my ultimate island playlist... Bob Marley, Jack Johnson, the list goes on... could the views of the ocean get much better?
Swimming around the giant ORC logo in the pool!
The Beach Grill is just behind the pool and offers ice cold cocktails and freshly grilled fish sandwiches, among other great snacks.
In addition to enjoying being a pool rat, I quickly became obsessed with paddle boarding around the inlets within ORC. Here's a map to give you a better idea of where I was, and how a (small) section of ORC is laid out.
I started in the marina, and made my way around "Channel Cay".
One morning in particular, it was extremely calm and just the right temperature for a nice paddle board... The water was pretty clear and I saw some fish and a little shark near a bridge. I also found my "favorite" ORC dream house!
Paddling through inlets lined with houses and yachts.
Me and my favorite home along Channel Cay!
There are tons of other activities to do at ORC that I didn't get to do, but would love to come back some day and experience. They also have numerous special events like Vintage Weekend; a four-day celebration of classic planes, cars, and yachts. (On my list!) Here are some other activities on my ORC to-do list:
Golfing, tennis, pickleball
Snorkeling and diving
Pampering at The Spa
More shopping! :-)
Woof! Some friendly faces waiting for their parents outside Reef Treats.
Since I've been home, I've been dreaming of my stay at ORC, and I can't wait to come back and visit. It was such a unique treat getting to stay at their lovely marina. Although it literally seems like "heaven on earth," I think I would get a little lonely living there unless I had plenty of friends and family moving with me. There's tons of beautiful places in the world, and this is just one of them. Now, it's time to plan the next fun adventure...
XO, Golden Girl