Across a Miami’s waterway and only accessible by ferry or yacht is another world called Fisher Island. This iconic landmark for the well-to-do is a surreal and secretive place that is not only separated by water but by wealth and privilege. The zip code is the wealthiest in America with a median income over $1 million and as evidenced by the steady flow of Bentleys, Rolls Royce’s, Lamborghinis as well as the ubiquitous beau monde residents who putter around the island in their slow moving golf carts. The Fisher Island Resort and Spa offers a select few guests temporary access to this lifestyle for the ultra-rich and a holiday that offers nothing less than the best of everything.
Forbidden to outsiders and with no roads leading the to the resort, Fisher Island remains as exclusive as it was during the days of its former master, the Vanderbilt’s, and remains just as inaccessible to the public and uninvited guests. The eight-minute ferry transports the island’s few visitors to a uber exclusive hamlet that could not be further away from the manic pace of Miami.
The ambiance is unmistakably the Cote Azure or Porto Cervo as the resort offers two marinas where extravagant super yachts are parked in the cerulean waters of the Biscayne Bay with the Miami cityscape in the distance. Yet, the 216-acre island setting is instantly calming and tranquil with hundred year old banyan trees, towering palms, a verdant green golf course and several small lakes and lagoons. Guests will see black rabbits scurrying about, magnificently colored peacock strutting to and fro or along the waterfront, find a pod of meandering sloth-like manatees.
Fisher Island has it all. Beyond the marinas and tony residences, the island features a gorgeous private beach, one of the top tennis facilities and nine-hole golf courses in the U.S., an acclaimed spa as well as six restaurants. And of course the Fisher Island Resort and Spa whose guests have access to all but a few of the island’s privileges. The private and secured enclave is also home to 700 mega-wealthy residents, of which only third live year-round, and their multimillion-dollar private residences.
The focal point of the resort is the original Vanderbilt Mansion. The aristocracy and opulence of an era gone by still echo through the white marble floors and decadent interiors of the Spanish Renaissance era lounges, drawing rooms, the library and banquet rooms. Outdoors, the white limestone and red terracotta roofs reflect the Mediterranean Revival design for which Miami was renown at the turn of the century. Scattered about the area are various buildings built in the last century that have been repurposed into elegant and sophisticated private villas.
Like Miami, Fisher Island comes from a colorful history. Fisher Island is man-made and the result of the creation of a canal by the government in 1906. It was owned by Dana Dorsey, south Florida’s first black millionaire who sold to the real estate magnate and the island’s namesake, Carl Fisher. Legend has it that William Vanderbilt II traded his mega yacht and $10 for the island during an inebriated wager with Fisher. The Vanderbilt’s owned the island for the next few decades further developing it and adding the lavish Mediterranean-style mansion, several homes, pools, tennis courts and an airplane hangar. Since Vanderbilt’s death in 1944 the island has changed hands several times.
Fast forward to today and Fisher Island has recently gone through a $60 million restoration initiative to improve and upgrade the golf course, spa, beach club as well as the resort facilities and newly-restored One Bedroom Guest House Suites. Today’s guest will be impressed as they stroll through the historic hallways of the Vanderbilt Mansion, which is now, not only a beloved historic landmark, but a first-rate five-star resort offering an experience to delight the most discerning guests.
This is no ordinary hotel and offers a beautiful oasis with every conceivable creature comfort and the ultimate in exclusivity with only 15 accommodations. The ambiance is more of a guest house of an old world mansion and offers an extension of the private club lifestyle. The service is warm and personal with a welcome of Perrier-Jouët champagne, staff that greets you each day by name, and a concierge and butler are available for your smallest whim.
Guest room interiors are sophisticated and elegant with a décor that is more Caribbean Colonial than Miami Modern. The design does not seek to be ultra-contemporary but to create a style and presence of its own by merging old world style and traditional design with features relevant for today’s traveler. The accommodations are generous in size with king sized beds dressed in uber comfortable Frette linens, a bespoke pillow menu and where guests find simply the best of everything from the electronics, amenities and features. The bathrooms are well appointed as well with deep soaking tub and Bulgari bathroom amenities. Each day, fresh fruit is provided as well as twice daily cleaning service, complimentary shoeshine and your personal use golf cart is parked in your space and at the ready to dash you about the island from one venue to the next.
There are three categories of accommodations including the guest house suites located in the Vanderbilt Mansion as well as Rosemary’s cottage and the South Cottages with one, two, or three bedrooms and kitchenette making them ideal for a family. The Courtyard Villas are 1920’s era cottages and are today simply exquisite with well-appointed interiors with sumptuous fabrics and furnishings and French doors that let in plenty of natural light. What guest will love most is the outdoor living space, privately ensconced in a lush setting of palm trees and colorful tropical plants with chaise lounges, canvas umbrellas for lazing about and table setting for a sun-dappled breakfast or a romantic dinner under the stars. And speaking of romance, the private courtyard features a sublime inground jacuzzi, built for two, with steamy gurgling waters offering an uber romantic setting for couples to reconnect.
Guests will be spoiled for choice when it comes to dining options at Fisher Island with six restaurants that range from Mediterranean gourmet to the golf club bistro. Guests will also enjoy the casual Italian restaurant, La Trattoria, which offers exceptional wood fired pizzas, pastas, and other traditional Italian dishes. A more formal option is the Garwood Lounge which is their fine dining steakhouse located inside the Vanderbilt Mansion.
The Beach Club is a fun and happening place any time of day but especially in the evenings as up tempo lounge music plays as residents and guests gather for cocktails and to watch the sun set over Biscayne Bay. The Beach Club offers light style beach cuisine including sushi, fish tacos, salads and a casual dining menu.
Fisher Island’s most acclaimed restaurant is aptly named Porto Cervo and offers an evening of fine dining on sumptuous Mediterranean and Italian cuisine. Porto Cervo is an ideal for a romantic evening as live saxophone music waifs through the room while couples snuggle close in the restaurant’s cozy booths. There are only twenty or so tables that overlook the shiny mega yachts of the marina as the Miami skyline twinkles in the distance.
The menu is an innovative take on the traditional Mediterranean and Italian dishes created with haute cooking techniques and presentations that are nothing short of food as art. Not to be missed are the grilled octopus as starters and for an exceptional fish main, the branzino with tomatoes, pine nuts and raisins is beyond comparison. All of which are finely paired with wines from their extensive wine cellar by their extremely talented sommelier who is also the maître’d of the restaurant.
There’s so much for guests to do on Fisher Island that it is almost inconceivable that any resort guest would want to leave, even with the allure of South Beach and downtown Miami’s art galleries, theatres, nightlife and shopping that are just a few minutes away. Most guests will spend time lazing about the Vanderbilt Mansion Pool working on that perfect tan in between dips in the refreshing saltwater pool. The setting is nothing short cinematic, surrounded by elegant statues, the imposing mansion and the massive yachts of the marina creating the backdrop.
The island’s most popular location is the Beach Club which has more of a Hamptons, Martha’s Vineyard with a touch of French Riviera feel to it with sugar-like sand imported from the Bahamas and a calm blue sea. During the days, guests and residents spend the afternoon laying out on the uncrowded stretch of beach on lounges or under the shade of their waterfront cabanas.
Fisher Island is also a haven for avid golfers with a Pete Dye designed course that was ranked as one of the top ten 9-hole courses in the U.S. and has hosted national PGA and Senior Tours. The Links at Fisher Island is made for golf lovers with unique holes that play over beautiful lagoons or around sculptured bunkers with gorgeous, views of Biscayne Bay and the Miami skyline.
When it comes to tennis, it doesn’t get much better than the Fisher Island Racquet Club. The Mediterranean designed facility is one of the top in the world which Tennis Magazine ranked as the #1 facility on the East Coast region of the U.S. The range of surfaces and facilities is unrivaled with 18 tennis courts including two grass courts, two hard courts and 14 clay courts all of which are hidden from view with thick green hedges. The standards and playing conditions are of such a level that have made it the favorite of tennis greats such as Boris Becker, Andre Agassi, Andy Roddick, and Anna Kournikova.
Beyond the endless activities on the island The Fisher Island Spa offers a 20,000-square-foot Mediterranean-style spa offering a full range of treatments and wellness services. Spa Internazionale is reserved for hotel guests and residents and provides pampering massages, body treatments from a well-trained staff who apply the latest in therapeutic spa techniques. The state-of-the-art facility includes a dry sauna, steam room, hammam and lap-pool as well as a workout facility with the latest equipment, group classes and personal trainers.
Without question, the Fisher Island Resort and Spa is one of America’s most exclusive private islands resorts. It simply offers the best of everything including the riviera like setting, lavish accommodations, culinary offerings, and bespoke services. Fisher Island is close but yet so far from the manic pace of Miami Beach in a delightfully discrete little world unto itself.