Picture Perfect

Picture it: the excitement of South Beach’s vibrant nightlife yours for the taking, countless ways of exploring the everglades’ unique eco-system, and Miami’s Latin infused culture just moments away. Now, imagine enjoying all of that while staying in the tranquil luxury enclave of Bal Harbour, Florida.

Located on the northern end of Miami Beach, Bal Harbour is one of the world’s most affluent communities. Only one square mile in size, it is internationally known as a vacation destination for the well heeled, fashionable and discerning traveler.

Bal Harbour Beach warm clear water and soft sand as far as the eye can see. Photo Julie Kalan

Bal Harbour Beach warm clear water and soft sand as far as the eye can see. Photo Julie Kalan

Where for Art Thou?

The Bal Harbour community is passionate about art. So after landing at the Fort-Lauderdale airport, I am heading straight to the Wynwood Arts District of Miami to view the Rubell Family Collection. One of the world’s largest, privately owned contemporary art collections, the Rubell Family Collection displays exhibitions in a 45,000 square foot facility that formerly housed the Drug Enforcement Agency’s confiscated goods.

Shaded by tropical trees a mile long jogging path meanders along the Bal Harbour beachfront

Shaded by tropical trees a mile long jogging path meanders along the Bal Harbour beachfront
Photo Julie Kalan

Collecting for the last 5 decades, Donald and Mera Rubell have amassed a collection of over 5,000 pieces. Reluctant to part with any of their finds, they have sold less than 20 pieces. Wishing to share their passion for contemporary art, the Rubell’s not only present thematic exhibits drawn from their collection, but also regularly contribute pieces to other exhibitions at art museums across the country.

Guiding me through the two floors of mixed media pieces, Registrar Laura Randall explains the Rubell’s philosophy of supporting new talent and shining a light on emerging artists. Some pieces are comical, some thoughtful, and others edgy and provocative. (Note: some may find certain pieces offensive) The Rubell’s eclectic mix includes films of performance art and immense installations. Beginning in December a new thematic exhibit will fill much of the gallery space, but a select few remain permanently on view, like a Cady Noland installation featuring Budweiser beer cans and silver scaffolding.

Bal Harbour’s “Museum Access” program provides residents and visitors with free admission to some of the area’s top museums and celebrated private collections: The Wolfsonian Museum, Bass Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Pérez Art Museum, the Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation, the Rubell Family Collection, the de la Cruz Collection and the Margulies Collection. The community’s “Unscripted” public art program also hosts artist chats through the year.

The large inviting pool at the Ritz Carlton Bal Harbour Photo Julie Kalan

The large inviting pool at the Ritz Carlton Bal Harbour
Photo Julie Kalan

Bal Harbour’s ritzy address

The Ritz-Carlton Bal Harbour (formerly ONE Bal Harbour Resort & Spa) is located on the northeastern tip of Bal Harbour, where the Intracoastal Waterway meets the Atlantic Ocean. A winding driveway climbs up to the elevated entrance of this 18-story curated luxury hotel. The contemporary Asian décor includes leather upholstery, marble floors, and an abundance of warm mahogany, all accented by a $3.5 million one-of-a-kind art collection. From the monumental canvas by Ed Moses in the lobby, to the individual pieces of Jay McCafferty’s Solar Burns on Paper series that hang in each guest accommodation, the artwork surrounds you but is never obtrusive.

The resort has 124 guest rooms and suites. However, the semi-private elevators, that open up to reveal only two rooms per floor, project a far more intimate ambience. From my north facing balcony I have a clear view of the cute, light blue lifeguard stations that line Haulover Beach. Luxury is the standard in the large bathrooms with their floor-to-ceiling windows. You can choose to bathe in the free-standing tub while watching the occasional boat on the waterway below, or lather up with Molten Brown shampoo in the shower while watching your favourite show on the in-mirror TV. I even caught the local news while brushing my teeth.

The Ritz Carlton Bal Harbour prepares beach pails and shovels for little guests Photo Julie Kalan

The Ritz Carlton Bal Harbour prepares beach pails and shovels for little guests
Photo Julie Kalan

At the resort spa, clad in a plush bathrobe, I await my Pure Relaxation experience while reclining on a cinnamon coloured couch in a sunlit room that looks out on the Haulover Inlet. The 10,000 square foot spa includes an outdoor waterfront meditation terrace and small darkened cocoon-like spots for pre and post-treatment serene sensory relaxation. An aromatherapy bath with five sets of rotating massage jets begins the relaxation. Thoroughly soaked, I am ready for a classic Swedish style massage followed by a soothing scalp massage. Aah…

Along the resort’s 750-feet of sandy oceanfront, amenities such as lounge chairs, umbrellas and children’s beach toys are provided. While, mother nature provides the blissfully warm ocean water and gentle, bobbing waves.

Cultured Cuisine

The Bistro (formerly Mister Collins), located in The Ritz-Carlton Bal Harbour, offers indoor and outdoor dining with views of the Haulover Inlet. Large leather chairs and a relaxed atmosphere accompany the friendly service. My recommendations: for breakfast, the Belgian waffles with raspberries and chocolate chips; for lunch, the cornmeal crusted crab cakes and irresistible naan bread served with sweet heirloom tomato chutney.

The JG-Grill at The St.-Regis

The JG-Grill at The St.-Regis

When visiting Bal Harbour make sure to include dinner at J&G Grill, located in the St. Regis Bal Harbour. Named for famed chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, J&G Grill is a delight for the senses: dishes that tantalize taste buds, aromas that entrance you, and an oceanfront view that is a feast for the eyes. I highly recommend the black truffle pizza with fontina cheese, it is simply delicious; and for dessert a refreshing array of heavenly sorbet. For a pre-dinner treat, arrive early and head to the resort’s Wine Vault bar to see the traditional nightly St. Regis champagne sabering.

Located in the Bal Harbour Shops, Carpaccio is a fine dining Italian restaurant that is the place to see and be seen. La Goulue is the place to go for Parisian-style fare and a local French newspaper. Makoto serves up sushi, sashimi and edamane with flair in a trendy indoor-outdoor restaurant, thanks to renowned chef Makoto Okuwa. Tasty morsels encourage dining companions to sample each other’s fare, but be warned, the spicy tuna with crispy rice is so good that you may want to keep it all for yourself.

If you build it, they will shop

After a late dinner at Makoto, I find myself strolling past the closed boutiques at the Bal Harbour Shops. The warm night air, ponds of huge resident koi fish, and the sound of cascading water features accompany the stars on this luxury walk of fame. Like Audrey Hepburn staring at the window front of Tiffany’s, I stand gazing at a rainbow of colours and shapes through the Lalique window. Feel like channeling Marilyn Monroe? You can recreate your own version of “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” with the likes of Audemars Piguet, Bulgari, Piaget, David Yurman, Tiffany & Co., Van Cleef & Arpels, De Beers, Chopard, and Harry Winston lining the way. Want to dazzle like a star on the red carpet? Well, not to name drop,… but the list of luxury stores at the Bal Harbour Shops includes Oscar de la Renta, Armani, Dolce & Gabbana, Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney, Troy Burch, Versace, CH Carolina Herrera, and Chanel. Plus, flagship stores Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue.

Bal Harbour Shops

Bal Harbour Shops

Having more in common with Paris’ Champs-Elysées, and New York’s Madison and 5th Avenues than other shopping centers, the singularity of the Bal Harbour Shops is due to one man’s vision. Refusing to follow the suburban mega-mall trend of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, Stanley Whitman set out to create an upscale, open-air mall, just across from the beach. Stanley’s road-less-travelled approach proved to be an undeniable success. The family-owned Bal Harbour Shops are known as the world’s most productive shopping center (based on sales per square foot).

Putting your best face forward

“Hello, Gorgeous” is printed on the store front window of Gee Beauty, at the Bal Harbour Shops. Toronto originated Gee Beauty is a one-stop-shop for skincare, beauty products and accompanying services. The narrow, gleaming white boutique carries Clarisonic, Phylia de M., Glamglow, Rodin, Tracie Martyn, and other top brands. Their services, include tanning, lessons on how to apply makeup, and special customized facials. I am trying the “Give Me Some Air” oxygen hydrating treatment. It begins with a remarkably refreshing face cleanse and gentle scrub, using SkinCeuticals products. My treatment ends with invigorating cool blasts of oxygen. Pampering and rejuvenation – it’s all part of the Bal Harbour experience.

More Bal Harbour choice accommodations

Staying in style

Dusk from a spacious oceanfront balcony at the St.-Regis Bal Harbour Resort

Dusk from a spacious oceanfront balcony at the St.-Regis Bal Harbour Resort

The St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort is the newest hotel in the community and the most technologically advanced. From a flat screen, tablet-like, device beside your bed you can control the lights, curtains, TV and temperature. This 5-star resort caters to all ages, with a tranquility pool for adults and a separate pool for families (and Sea Turtle kids club). Bleached South African Movingue wood walls, massive crystal chandeliers and black marble floors with green accents, known as Chinese God Flower Stone, set the opulent atmosphere. Not to mention, the signature St. Regis Butlers and their custom white-glove service. However, the best reason for staying at the St. Regis Bal Harbour might be the view. Thanks to a clever design, every one of the 227 rooms has a huge ocean front balcony.

A home away from home

The tranquil pool at the bay front Bal Harbour Quarzo Photo Julie Kalan

The tranquil pool at the bay front Bal Harbour Quarzo
Photo Julie Kalan

The Bal Harbour Quarzo is a bay front boutique hotel with condo-like accommodations: kitchenette equipped rooms and full kitchen equipped suites. Decorated in white, black and aqua, the hotel’s contemporary, clean lines compliment the private garden lounge. A pebbled path, with large square stepping stones leads to the pool and pyramid-shaped cabanas offering quiet seclusion. The hotel will soon be opening a second phase with a rooftop terrace and restaurant.

A true classic

The Sea View Hotels heated Olympic sized pool framed by palm trees

The Sea View Hotels heated Olympic sized pool framed by palm trees
Photo Julie Kalan

The Sea View Hotel exudes charm. Remodeled in the last two years, the 1947 built hotel retains its classic ambiance. With a white coffered ceiling, dark wood accents and green marble floor, the lobby presents an unpretentious elegance. Adjacent to the restaurant, the welcoming bar has a pianist performing every night during the high season. Alongside the heated Olympic sized pool, you will find a row of Key West style cabanas, a 1950’s styled diner (serving ice cream treats during high season), and a shuffleboard area. With views of the Atlantic Ocean or the Intracoastal Waterway, the bright and cheery rooms include walk-in closets perfectly sized for longer stays.

Travel Planer

Bal Harbour is only 18 miles from both the Miami and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood airports, approximately a 30 minute drive. Air Canada flies non-stop daily from Montreal to the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood airport. West Jet flies non-stop daily from Montreal to Miami airport.

Bal Harbour www.balharbourflorida.com
The Ritz-Carlton Bal Harbour www.ritzcarlton.com/en/hotels/miami/bal-harbour
– Complimentary transportation to and from the Bal Harbour Shops is offered upon availability.
Bal Harbour Shops www.balharbourshops.com
J&G Grill www.stregisbalharbour.com/jg-grill
Makoto www.makoto-restaurant.com
St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort www.stregisbalharbour.com
Sea View Hotel www.seaview-hotel.com
Bal Harbour Quarzo www.quarzohotel.com
Rubell Family Collection: www.rfc.museum