As I sit in a rocking chair, listening to the crashing waves and watching the last light of the day disappear below the horizon, it strikes me that I don’t fully take advantage of the breathtaking beauty of Fort Lauderdale’s beaches. My husband and I have just driven about 8 miles from our home and checked in for a “staycation” at the Pelican Grand Beach Resort. While I treasure our home’s location along the New River, there is something special about falling asleep and waking up to the sound of the ocean. The peaceful view from the Pelican’s oceanfront veranda reminds me that I don’t have to go far for a rejuvenating retreat.
With the Southern good looks of a regal plantation, the Pelican has been a grand dame of Fort Lauderdale Beach since 2004. “This has been one of the most interesting properties in Broward County for a long time because we’re directly on the sand,” says Catherine Cumings, director of sales and marketing. “It’s the most gorgeous, small experiential resort in South Florida. The staff members here love what they do, and you feel that.”
The Pelican is currently celebrating the completion of a multimillion-dollar expansion, which included adding coveted new event and meeting spaces and its first spa. As part of the expansion, the resort enclosed a ballroom just steps from the sand, added an 11th-floor ballroom with floor-to-ceiling glass windows facing the ocean, and topped off the 12th floor with a new terrace and gazebo offering panoramic views.
“People have always loved this location, but we didn’t have the space to accommodate them,” says Cumings. “Now, they don’t have to look up and down the coast to find a beautiful venue. It can be used for a meeting, a 50th birthday or for a gorgeous wedding.”
This particular weekend, I’m using the resort for a much-needed getaway.
The Pelican boasts 156 rooms, 104 of which face the ocean. Sadly, I’ve slept through most of life’s sunrises, but during my stay, our suite’s oceanfront balcony encouraged me to get up early to catch the sun majestically rising over the water. The experience set a peaceful pace for the day.
Days at the Pelican are easily lazed away by the pool, on the beach or by drifting along the lazy river. And there’s no reason to leave in the evenings. We enjoyed happy hour at O2K Lounge with a spicy Jalisco Heat cocktail, full of fresh jalapeno, cilantro and cucumber, and the Tea Thyme Cooler, with rosemary syrup, cucumber and thyme. Once the sun set, we headed into the hotel’s signature restaurant, Ocean2000, where Chef Michael Bloise has been at the helm for almost a year. He sources from his own herb garden on property and from local organic farmers, while free-roaming chickens are being raised for the restaurant in Dunellon, Florida. The young chef will reveal a new tapas menu for fall, with items such as flavorful littleneck clams submerged in beer, foie gras, bacon and cornbread croutons; chicken and dumplings with macadamia pesto; and braised local lamb.
Main menu highlights include the Florida lobster with a lime-salt-chile sauce and the grilled Florida yellowtail snapper with roasted tomatoes on a bed of mashed potatoes. Other standout sides include a creamy saffron risotto served in a cast-iron dish and charred cauliflower with truffle oil. There are several new tables that sit directly on the beach, so you can feel the ocean breeze and hear the relaxing sounds of the waves rolling in and out as you dine. You can also reserve the Tiki-lit tables for a special dinner or romantic celebration.
The resort’s most extravagant new addition is the intimate PURE Spa. Start your pampering journey in the small relaxation room, swaying in a hanging chair while staring at the blue-green colors of the Atlantic through floor-to-ceiling windows. Grab the chair closest to the window and it feels like you are flying above the water. The ocean was crystal-clear the day I was at the spa, and I was able to spot a baby shark cruising the shallow shoreline (a little too close for my taste).
There are only three treatment rooms (rooftop treatment cabanas are on the way), so you’ll never feel overrun by chatty guests. My top choice for relaxation is the separate couple’s spa suite. “If you watch the reality show ‘Tiny Houses,’ well, this is the spa version of my tiny dream house,” says Cumings. The glass-enclosed “house” offers those same stunning views, with plenty of room for a couple’s massage or bath ritual.
PURE is also the only place in the U.S. where you can find the Swedish skin care line Maria Åkerberg. “The products are 100 percent organic and 100 percent pharmaceutical,” says George Powell-Lopez, executive spa director of PURE.
Spa professionals are licensed in more than one modality, so they can all perform facials, body treatments and massages. And you’ll never get a cookie-cutter massage with the PURE You Massage, which is customized to your preferences.
“We tailor treatments based on the needs of the guest,” says Powell-Lopez. “We may use a hot stone therapy or we may use aromatherapy. If the therapist has talents like cranial therapy or neuromuscular therapy, he or she can incorporate that into the PURE You treatment, so we don’t limit the professional.”
I was suffering from major tightness in my neck (magazine deadlines), so hot stones were used to rub out the tension, Thai stretching was used for my tight calves and extra time was devoted to my favorites – a blissful scalp massage and reflexology.
After a spa treatment, sunbathe on the rooftop terrace and indulge in a healthy spa lunch. Be sure to watch out for the flock of pelicans that patrols the skies around the resort. The staff will tell you that spotting them is supposed to be good luck. But really, who needs luck here; you’re assured to leave rested and relaxed.
The Best Seats in the House:
The hanging chairs in PURE Spa
The rocking chairs on the oceanfront veranda
The new beachside tables at Ocean2000 – the right way to celebrate a special or romantic dinner
The rafts on the resort’s lazy river, the only lazy river in Fort Lauderdale