500 years of Florida spas

The Florida Spa Experience: Then and Now

The Fountain of Youth has always been in San Agustín, Florida, where Don Juan Ponce de León found the natural spring that he thought the native Tainos of Puerto Rico referred to in their tradition. It was the height and healthy appearance of the Timoquan tribe that convinced the explorer that he was in the right place. A century ago, industrialist Henry Flagler began developing The Sunshine State, from St. Augustine to Palm Beach. St. Augustine’s Lightner Museum occupies the site of one of its first spas, which housed the world’s largest swimming pool, steam rooms, and saunas. Tourists of all stripes still visit Northeast Florida to turn back their biological clocks, only now their options are more diverse. From the white paradise of Debbie’s Day Spa & Salon on Anastasia Boulevard in St. Augustine, where the antique furnishings in the 11 treatment rooms evoke a bed and breakfast, to the spa at the Ponte Vedra Inn and Club, where a new 30,000-foot Square The state-of-the-art spa is scheduled to open in September, this is the place for pampering.

The Ponte Vedra Inn and Club dates back to 1928, but guests would never suspect it. This meticulously landscaped getaway offers golf, tennis, fitness, and a spa within walking distance of the room. The constant rhythms of the tide greet you: the beach is right outside your door and is visible from your terrace. The European-style reservation frees guests from a standing check-in at the front desk. Governor and Mrs. Jeb Bush and Bruce Springsteen have stayed here. You will dine on the delicacies of Chef Herman Mueller, who has taken care of the White House.

The current spa will soon give way to one with 22 treatment rooms and two couples rooms, five water treatments, grottos, a central relaxation patio, and an element where one feels like sitting on a glass of Alka-Seltzer. Spa staff have traveled to study treatments and menus from Baden Baden to the South Pacific. The reason for the new installation will be bamboo, stones and waterfalls, the exterior roofed with orange clay tiles in keeping with the overall complex. The Inn and Club also has 15 clay tennis courts, whose underground irrigation system ensures that the game is not interrupted for maintenance. The 8,000-square-foot gym has 75 ocean-view stations and 60 classes, including Pilates and spinning.

The Inn and Club experience is that of a walking town, no need to drive to access amenities. Be sure to take a day trip to St. Augustine, where sites like the original Fountain of Youth, America’s Oldest House, and glittering Flagler College are worth visiting. Between your relaxing stay at this resort and your exploration of DeLeon and Flagler era healing sites, your visit to the St. Augustine region will be rejuvenating.

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