By Christi Ashby
When I was recently invited to experience a newly opened resort on St. Augustine Beach, I could already smell the salt air and feel the ocean breeze. But I was more than surprised when I received some images, especially of the expansive pool deck and contemporary décor, because this property is an evolved, elevated version of an Embassy Suites. In fact, I would find out, it’s a whole different prototype for the brand.
The location itself — adjacent to the iconic St. Augustine Pier and Anastasia State Park – makes the Embassy Suites by Hilton St. Augustine Beach Oceanfront Resort hard to resist. I love visiting St. Augustine as it’s a quick getaway that’s historic and quirky. But there are limited accommodation options in the historic area (although Casa Monica is a favorite).
When my husband, Rob, and I arrived, we were warmly greeted and offered complimentary valet – a nice perk. As we walked inside the supersized lobby with several sitting and lounging spaces, we knew for sure this was not a typical Embassy Suites. The cool, calming neutral tones, whitewashed wood accents and layered textures with pops of ocean hues are inviting but not intimidating. Walls and halls have Interesting art, but the big picture is the unencumbered view of the Atlantic just beyond the pool.
While waiting for our room, we made our way outside, winding through the terrace and veranda to the deck where we discovered the Castaway Cantina, which offers Latin-inspired dishes and custom cocktails poolside. It was the perfect perch for some people watching.
We found our two-room suite – private bedroom and separate living room with a sofa bed – very comfortable and with plenty of amenities, inclcuding flat-screen TV, wet bar, refrigerator, microwave and complimentary WiFi. I left Rob to take a little siesta while I went out to soak up a few rays. Although I was fine pool lounging, you can enjoy beachside food service, beach chairs and umbrellas, as well as surfboard and paddleboard lessons and rentals.
Before long it was time to get dressed and ready for the Rhum Bar’s complimentary evening reception with appetizers and beverages. In a when in Rome mode I ordered a refreshing rum-based cocktail. On the menu are house-prepared items such as flash-fried calamari with pickled shrimp and steamed PEI mussels with applewood smoked bacon and garlic shallots. The crowd was a mix of business and leisure guests and the conversations were lively.
After a stroll from the veranda down to the beach and pier, we were seated at our table in Harvest & Reel which serves farm-fresh and shore-to-table cuisine from a large open-kitchen design. Signature dishes include Pan Seared Jumbo Crab Cakes with a lime mustard aioli, a traditional Bouillabaisse, and Diver Scallops Corn Maux Choaux with smoked bacon lardons, as well as daily fresh-catch specials. The service was superb.
In the morning, we grabbed a coffee to go in the lobby (there is also a Starbucks onsite), and took a short walk before diving into a full breakfast with made-to-order omelets and sides. We debated whether to stay, but because of rainy weather we decided to head back home. I made a vow to return for a longer visit and by the time you read this I will have just wrapped up a three-day girls’ trip.
For exploring beyond the resort, there are three restaurants on the other side of A1A. Little Margie’s is a funky, fun spot for breakfast, brunch or lunch. Sunset Grille, open for nearly three decades, serves up seafood and other favorites, and Salt Life (yes, that brand) Food Shack offers everything from burgers to sushi in an open-air space.
The 175-room resort is also just 10 minutes from historic downtown St. Augustine where you will find plenty of activities, shopping and dining. For more on those, check out the September/October 2018 issue online (orangeappeal.com).
Embassy Suites by Hilton St Augustine Beach Oceanfront Resort
St. Augustine 32080