This Miami Hotspot Was a Members-only Social Club in the 1930s — Here's Why It Still Hosts A-listers Today
Founded nearly 100 years ago, The Surf Club remains a presence within Miami's Four Seasons Hotel in Surfside. You feel it when you walk down the hotel's palm-lined Peacock Alley, with handmade Italian tile underfoot, opulent chandeliers overhead, and the ocean beyond the arched doorway. You know it when you pass the black-and-white photograph of Winston Churchill painting a beach scene during one of his visits to The Surf Club. Opened in 1930 by tire magnate Harvey Firestone, the exclusive social club hosted Hollywood stars like Elizabeth Taylor, Frank Sinatra, and Gary Cooper as well as notables that included Douglas MacArthur and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.
Fast forward to today, when Four Seasons Hotel at The Surf Club continues to welcome guests who appreciate the modern style of architect Richard Meier's 2017 redesign under the ownership of Fort Partners. The ballroom that saw The Surf Club's opening on New Year's Eve 1930, extravagant themed parties with costumed guests, plenty of Prohibition-era booze, and over-the-top décor is now the Four Seasons' stunning Champagne Bar. Look around while you sip a cocktail or a glass of bubbly, and you'll see the original arched windows and ornate ceiling. Imagine the debutante balls, black-tie dinners, and lavish celebrations that continued well into recent years.
"The thought process behind The Surf Club's creative vision has always been to preserve its spirit and respect its iconic story," Gabriela Navarro, head of creative at Fort Partners, told Travel + Leisure. "Introducing a contemporary language that would integrate seamlessly whilst enhancing the whole was paramount. The selection of elements has been a process that is both intrinsic to the place and intuitive in nature, in this way enabling the creation of a new tradition."
Among Miami's most luxurious properties, this hotel stands out not only for its history, but for its transformation into a welcoming destination for families, couples, and full-time residents. Guest rooms and suites offer floor-to-ceiling views of the Atlantic Ocean, Biscayne Bay, or the city alongside the comfort and contemporary style of French designer Joseph Dirand. For longer stays, one- and two-bedroom residential suites include fully equipped kitchens and expansive living areas with private balconies. The 7,200-square-foot Marybelle Penthouse Suite, the hotel's largest and most exclusive, features four bedrooms, six bathrooms, a private rooftop pool and terrace, a gourmet kitchen, and two dining areas.
Dining is another great pleasure at The Surf Club. Lido Restaurant, for breakfast, lunch, and dinner on the oceanfront terrace or in the dining room, is named for the original Surf Club fine-dining spot. Italian cuisine, exquisite service, and an expansive wine list create memorable dinner experiences at Lido. Winston's on the Beach offers a casual alfresco menu just steps from the sand. From Wednesday through Sunday, Mediterranean Nights with Leila feature hot and cold mezze and entrees like shish kebabs, branzino, and spiced ribs. You might be just as content to take in the sophisticated ambiance of the Champagne Bar with a delicious crudo or light dinner accompanied by a glass chosen from the largest selection of Champagnes in Miami. Finally, chef Thomas Keller's The Surf Club Restaurant is located in a meticulously updated space, modern yet reminiscent of the historic club's past. The menu focuses on classic continental cuisine with dishes like oysters Rockefeller, hand-cut steak tartare, and filet mignon.
Throughout the hotel's public spaces, contemporary art, photographs, seating areas, and a library's worth of coffee table books beckon guests to relax a while and enjoy the surroundings. The reception desk is discreetly set to the side, enhancing the atmosphere of a posh living room with quiet spots here and there, surrounded by lush palms.
Most guests plan at least a few visits to the spa for a facial, massage, or to simply enjoy the serene atmosphere of the lounge overlooking the ocean. Individual rooms for post-treatment tea and fruit are a favorite. Yoga and wellness experiences are available, including healing experiences like the sound bath ceremony and meditation coaching. Guests traveling with children will appreciate The Surf Club's kids' program, with a variety of indoor and outdoor activities under the guidance of camp counselors. Three pools, and of course, the stunning stretch of beach are there to enjoy, whether from a soft patch of pristine sand or a private cabana.
Beachfront cabanas have long been favorites of Surf Club guests, and the tradition continues today with fully furnished daytime cabanas, outfitted with rattan furniture, terrazzo floors, air conditioning, lounge chairs, complimentary bicycles, and refreshments. For the ultimate beachfront treat, there's the Ocean Bungalow with a king-size bed, full bath, flat-screen TV, patio, and sea breezes. Wherever you choose to enjoy the hotel's elegant mix of old and new, historic and contemporary, luxurious and approachable, you'll want to return again and again — as many guests do — to find new favorite places with each visit.
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