Posted by Ric Garrido

Bal Harbour as a location did not have any real meaning to me prior to visiting the St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort.

My 2-night stay at the St. Regis Bal Harbour was sponsored by Starwood Preferred Guest American Express and my room rate and economy class airfare from Monterey to Miami were complimentary. I did not pay the $2,439.78 charge after tax for the two nights in a Grande Luxe standard room #1110 St. Regis Bal Harbour. All other expenses on top of the room rate at the St. Regis were out of my pocket.

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Balcony patio at St. Regis Bal Harbour, Room 1110.

This post is a preface to my St. Regis Bal Harbour hotel review. This is a description of the locale around the Village of Bal Harbour to set the scene for readers not familiar with the Miami Beach area. Travelers need a description of the Miami Beach island locations to provide some background for how St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort can charge rates starting at $1,000 per night for a standard room during my stay in the last week of December 2012.

Where exactly is Bal Harbour, Florida?

Google Maps shows Bal Harbour is at the north end of the barrier island known as Miami Beach. Bal Harbour is relatively close to Miami Beach on an island about ten miles in length north to south. Biscayne Bay separates the barrier island from the mainland of Miami.

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Google Maps shows the relative location of Bal Harbour to Miami Beach and Downtown Miami. The St. Regis Bal Harbour is located at 9703 Collins Avenue and W Hotel South Beach is at 2201 Collins Avenue, the other luxury location for a Starwood Hotel at Miami Beach.

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W Hotel South Beach, Miami Beach, Florida

The cross streets on Collins Avenue run from 1st Street at the south end of the island to 96th street with a bridge over to the mainland of Miami. South Beach is the area from about 1st to 25th Streets on the south end of the island shown as South Pointe on the Google Map.

Bal Harbour is a small village of 3,500 residents at the northern section of the island, north of 96th street.

St. Regis Bal Harbour is located just north of 96th Street on the beach side of Collins Avenue. The party side of the island scene for a tourist still seems to be concentrated in South Beach (around 1st to 25th Streets), about seven miles and 80 blocks south of the St. Regis Bal Harbour hotel.

Bal Harbour is a $20 to $30 taxi ride to travel seven miles to South Beach or a $2 bus ride. Traffic moves slowly at peak times in the day and slower in the evening on Collins Avenue. Expect 10 minutes driving time with low traffic, 20 minutes as a reasonable travel time and 30 minutes or more in heavy stop and go traffic at peak times. There are plenty of lights on Collins Avenue and the photo flashes to bust red light violators light up the streets frequently as cars push their way north and south along Miami Beach and Bal Harbour.

Located on the A1A

Collins Avenue is also State Route A1A which designates it as the eastern most major highway in this part of Florida. Google Maps shows US Route 1 running through downtown Miami on the mainland and 1A stands for route 1 alternate.

Locally 1A means the road by the beaches running this section from South Beach (1st to 25th Streets) of Miami Beach to Fort Lauderdale about 20 miles north and 13 miles north of the St. Regis Bal Harbour. The Fort lauderdale cruise ship port channel cut and no bridge forces the 1A road back to the mainland through Fort Lauderdale for a detour before routing back to the beaches north.

A1A designates the beach location on Florida’s eastern shore. Now I finally get the significance of that Jimmy Buffett 1974 album title A1A.

Scene and be seen

The whole South Florida winter scene is not part of my culture or past. I stayed in Miami Beach once for a week in July 1991 at the Fontainebleau Hotel. That trip was for the National Education Association Representative Assembly and my days were filled with meetings and business. The nights were spent partying with college students. I’ve seen the wild scene of Miami Beach before.

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South Beach Art Deco District around 10th Street and Ocean Drive, Miami Beach.

Turns out the Fontainebleau Hotel, Collins & 44th Street is actually Mid Beach, near the Four Points by Sheraton hotel at 43rd Street, and still four miles north from 10th Street in South Beach section of Miami Beach where the crowds hang out on the streets filling the restaurants, bars and beaches in vast numbers.

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Miami Beach near 10th Street.

The news weather broadcast the day I was hanging out in Miami Beach a few days ago stated the air temperature at 74 degrees and the water temperature at 74 degrees. The Atlantic Ocean water felt nice around my skin.

St. Regis Bal Harbour

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View from Room Patio 1110 St. Regis Bal Harbour. The beach chairs are for another property with this southeasterly facing view. The St. Regis lounge chairs are just out of view to left.

Bal Harbour seemed like a quiet location to me with a narrow beach miles away from the South Beach scene. Bal Harbour impressed me as a comfortable and quiet family-friendly place with a small community street in Surfside, just south of St. Regis Hotel at 96th street. Surfside offered three blocks of small businesses with restaurants, CVS Pharmacy, and a Publix grocery store in easy walking distance to the hotel.

A tourist seeking beach and bar action might prefer a hotel located in the 1st to 25th Streets location of Miami Beach 7 to 10 miles south.

Bal Harbour Shops

Bal Harbour Shops is a high end luxury mall with fashion icon shops like Prada, Gucci and Chanel, flanked by Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue. There are a few restaurants and cafes sprinkled around the open air mall on the west side of Collins Avenue, directly across the street from the St. Regis Bal Harbour hotel.

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Bal Harbour Shops

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Americana with International Flair 

Wikipedia describes Bal Harbour as a small, affluent village located between Biscayne Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. Population is only around 3,500 residents.

I heard as many people speaking foreign languages as English around the St. Regis Bal Harbour hotel. Italian, French and Russian were languages I frequently heard in addition to Spanish and I suppose some Portuguese, although I haven’t heard that language frequently enough to recognize the sounds.

Several news stories I read indicated Russian and South American investors are driving real estate price increases for the Miami Beach area.

An anonymous Russian buyer made history in August 2012 after closing the purchase on a $47-million dollar for a 30,000 sq. ft. 10-bedroom, 14-bathroom estate on a 200 ft. x 400 ft. 2-acre lot at Indian Creek, an island resort development two miles southwest of the St. Regis Bal Harbour, accessed by the 91st Street bridge from Surfside.

The Village of Indian Creek mansion is the highest priced residential real estate transaction in Miami-Dade County history for a luxury address on the 300-acre high security, gated island community of 32 estate homes and Indian Creek Country Club with golf course. Some might view this real estate deal as a bargain. The asking price was originally $60 million. Don Shula, former Miami Dolphins coach and entertainer Julio Eglesias also own houses in the Village of Indian Creek.

St. Regis Bal Harbour Residences apparently racked up $750 million in sales in year one since November 2011 according to this Dec 23, 2012 article in Miami Herald. Some 200 of 500 residential units have sold for $1.35 to $13.5 million. The St. Regis action is spurring several new condominium plans along the beach by other real estate developers and financiers.

This area has some high end real estate.

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St. Regis Bal Harbour Residences

The spectacle of luxury around the Miami Beach area was interesting to observe, but I am definitely an outsider to the high end lifestyle and trendy scene of Miami Beach. 

I could say I experienced Pax Americana for a couple of days with the titans of the world ruling in the Golden Age of the 21st century.

Truthfully, I just drank beer I bought at the Publix supermarket down the street, ate at a couple of simple food restaurants and snapped photos. Same kind of things I do in other great locations of the world, even when occasionally staying at luxury hotels.

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’AMERICANA’ – artist George Sanchez-Calderon.  ‘Americana’ is part of the artist’s ‘Pax Americana’ intervention and offers tribute to the original Americana Hotel from 1956 located at this site.

In 1980 the Americana was rebranded as the Sheraton Bal Harbour. That building and parking garage were imploded November 18, 2007. YouTube video of Sheraton Bal Harbour implosion. St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort & Residences were constructed on this site. The St. Regis Bal Harbour Hotel held its grand opening gala March 17, 2012.

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St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort & Residences, Florida

Blog posts coming soon:

  • St. Regis Bal Harbour – The Hotel
  • St. Regis Bal Harbour – The Room

4 Responses

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