‘We are the hidden jewel of Siesta Key’

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Turtle Beach Resort & Inn offers a secluded tropical paradise on the south end of the island

By Jane Bartnett

After seeing the musical South Pacific for the first time, I became enchanted with the idea of visiting those magical islands. Whenever I hear the song “Bali Hai,” I picture the handsome young Navy officer, the setting, the tropical breeze.  Cue the orchestra!

 Oh well. Bali Hai may still be calling but the islands of the South Pacific are very far away. OK, onto Plan B.

Traveling the nearby roads of Siesta Key, I discovered what I believe to be a slice of the fictitious Bali Hai, right here in our own tropical paradise. Nestled among the mangroves and deep foliage of Midnight Pass, a charming of old-world Florida still exists.

 The Turtle Beach Resort & Inn on Midnight Pass Road has the feel of a secluded Polynesian resort. Only steps away from Turtle Beach, the resort and inn pay homage to the quieter, more secluded side of the island. Life here moves at a slower pace. Walking along the bougainvillea-filled passageway that traverses the front of the resort to the private cottages and docks, the world seemed quite far away. Could this be what the fictitious paradise of Bali Hai was supposed to be?

 At the resort office, I met Elana Rubinfeld who manages this charming place that harkens back to the Siesta Key that people speak of so fondly. Her parents, David and Gail Rubinfeld, founded the resort in 1992, after relocating to the Key from the Northeast.

 “When my parents opened the resort, it was a real bohemian center with lots of artists. Turtle Beach had a true old-Florida vibe. It still is close to nature. That’s why people love it here,” Elana said. 

Echoing her daughter’s sentiments, Gail Rubinfeld, who spoke to us by phone, noted that “Over the years we’ve had wonderful guests from all over the world. Many have become our friends.”

 For more than 30 years, this intimate boutique resort has been an almost secret getaway, known mostly to many well-versed travelers, families and couples who return year after year. It has also been discovered by honeymooners and those looking to escape the world for a few days.

 Divided into two separate locations, the resort, on Little Sarasota Bay and the Intracoastal Waterway, is designed for families, couples and pets. The inn, on the opposite side of Midnight Pass Road, faces the Turtle Beach lagoon.

 The resort holds 10 spacious and well-appointed cottages. Each has a full kitchen, indoor and outdoor seating, and a deck. Six have two bedrooms and two have one bedroom. There are also two townhouses that sleep six.

A common-area pool with seating and an outdoor barbecue faces the water. 

The Turtle Beach Resort & Inn, Elana reported, is the only waterfront hotel on the south end of Siesta Key that sits directly on the Intracoastal Waterway. 

“Some of our guests arrive by boat from as far north as Tampa and as far south as Naples,” she said.

I was sold. The idea of spending a few days in your own private cottage or suite, complete with a deck to watch the sun rise and set, is certainly appealing.

 Once guests arrive for their stay, Elana explained, there’s no need to leave. Even groceries can be delivered before arrival. “We have a full team on site and a virtual concierge service,” she said. Questions are sent and answered by text.

 “We work with many local vendors. We can arrange for special meal deliveries as well as on-site couple massages,” she added. 

Guests who bring their four-legged furry friends also can receive advice about local dog-friendly places. Canoes, bikes, beach chairs, and fishing equipment are also available for guests. Those who want to enjoy their own cookout can use the grills at both locations.

 A quick stroll across Midnight Pass Road brought us to the Turtle Beach Inn. Reserved for adults only, the private inn accommodations face the Turtle Beach Lagoon. “We direct guests with children and pets to the resort,” Elana said. 

The inn features three one-bedroom suites and seven studios. Each has a private hot tub, kitchenette and bathroom. The inn’s common pool area is undergoing a complete renovation that Elana expects to complete later this winter.

 Guests of the complex who want to explore the Key can either drive or take a short walk to Turtle Beach. Ophelia’s on the Bay, the celebrated fine dining restaurant, is next door. For casual dining, the popular Turtles on Little Sarasota Bay restaurant is also just a short walk away. 

For a visit to the Siesta Key Village, Elana suggests that guests hop on the free Siesta Key Trolley that stops at the nearby Turtle Beach trolley stop. 

“We are the hidden jewel of Siesta Key,” she said with pride.

 Discover the one-of-a-kind establishment at 9049 Midnight Pass Rd. Visit its website at turtlebeachresort.com, email it at info@turtlebeachresort.com, or call (941) 349-4554.

Jane Bartnett
Author: Jane Bartnett

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