Vacation Value: Innisbrook, Florida

Summer savings can buy your family a lot more than golf at Innisbrook.

The Valspar Championship is played at Innisbrook each March

Courtesy of Innisbrook

Sometimes you want an easy-to-reach getaway that isn’t the beach, a theme park or South Florida. Luckily, you don’t have to be a golfer to settle in to a perfect vacation at Innisbrook, a Salamander Golf & Spa Resort in Palm Harbor, just north of Clearwater. 

Golfers who regularly play Orlando with its bright, sunny resort courses likely know Innisbrook. Its four championship courses have been around since the early 1970s and spill across 600 of the resort’s 900 mature, rolling acres. It’s also where, each spring, the PGA Tour’s Florida swing comes to play the Valspar Championship on the Copperhead Course. 

Honeymoon Island State Park is a 10-minute shuttle ride from Innisbrook (©2013 STEVEN P. WIDOFF)

Diehards plunk down serious cash to play that course, too—especially following the tournament. Says Innisbrook head golf pro (and Orlando native) Jordan Lazenby: “There’s nothing like seeing a golf course on TV and then getting to show up and play it. That’s what people experience with Copperhead.” 

That privilege comes with a premium price tag—upwards of $240 in high season. Come value season (May, June and July), you can play it for as low as $165. Better yet, take advantage of the golf package, which gets you a room and a round of golf for $109 per person per night; savings that translate into affordable extras, such as a spa day or golf lessons. 

Flexible accommodations work for couples, families and groups, and range from studio to 3-bedroom units located in 28 three-story lodges spread across the lush, treed property. Each lodge is within walking distance of one of six swimming pools, and if you bring your bicycles (you can rent them on property, too), the riding is safe and satisfying. Plus, the resort is adjacent to the 38-mile-long, paved Pinellas Trail that connects artsy downtown St. Petersburg to the workaday Greek fishing village of Tarpon Springs, just four miles from Innisbrook.

You never need your car since there is an on-demand shuttle service that connects you to all of the resort amenities, including a family pool that is playfully in the shape of the Loch Ness Monster. Here’s where you stake your claim to a lounge chair and stay all day, mixing up pool time with playing a game of corn hole and indulging in snow cones. Roving servers ensure you only have to wrangle your kids from the pool long enough to eat lunch and reapply sunscreen.

Rent bicycles or bring your own to pedal on the Pinnellas Trail to historic Dunedin (TENNIS: ©GERIN CHOINIERE 2009)

If you’re considering some spa time, go big. Stay for hours. According to spa director Deborah Berlingeri, the recently refreshed Salamander Spa is resort owner Sheila C. Johnson’s pride and joy. Considering Johnson’s love of spas is what led her into the hospitality business in the first place (she owns all seven Salamander resorts and has invested $40 million into Innisbrook since purchasing it in 2007), this works in guests’ favor. 

At Salamander Spa, the staff has an uncanny way of figuring out what you need. Four 80-minute signature services—a massage, facial, body wrap, and mani/pedi—each include elements of massage and exfoliation and are customized with essential oils. Give yourself time for some deep relaxation in the cozy armchairs overlooking an immense oak tree and the Copperhead course beyond. Take a yoga class in the newly completed spa garden, where you can also enjoy a meal ordered from room service (who can argue with dining in your robe!). Finish up with a blowout and makeup application in the salon. Berlingeri’s staff know exactly how to make you feel cared for, indulged and beautiful. 

Tennis camps are available in summer and are geared to kids of all ages (©GERIN CHOINIERE 2009)

Wondering where your kids will be while you’re getting pampered? Innisbrook specializes in summer camps for kids. Camp Nessie is for kids ages 4-12 and is offered all summer with weekly themes packed with activities and water play at the Loch Ness Pool. Summer Junior Tennis Camps are for ages 4-16 and combine serious time on the Har-Tru courts with certified U.S. Tennis Professionals, plus downtime at the pool. Three uniquely structured golf camps address all skill levels.

Innisbrook is ready to make a golfer out of anyone. An hour-long clinic ($30) is offered at the driving range every day at 10 a.m. (complimentary clubs are available), and kids can take a free clinic on Saturdays at 9 a.m. One-on-one instruction will have you connecting your club with the ball in no time. Once you hear that satisfying thwak, you’ll be hooked and imagining how next time you’ll return to Innisbrook as a golfer, ready to play those tree-shaded courses and feel the Gulf breeze on your face. 

Get Set… Go!

Innisbrook is a 10-minute drive from one of the nation’s top beaches and a unique slice of Florida history.

Women’s Golf Day 
June 6th is International Women’s Golf Day, and Innisbrook takes its role in introducing women to the sport rather seriously. Expect a full slate of activities to get you swinging, chipping and putting on the course. No experience is required and no age is too young or too old to participate. Call 727-942-2000 for reservations. 

Fourth of July
The holiday weekend is packed with family activities at Innisbrook. The resort puts on its own fireworks display over the driving range. And since it’s exclusively for guests, you don’t have to hassle with parking or staking out a patch of grass. Afterwards, you can simply walk back to your lodge. 

Beach Time
Complimentary shuttle service at the resort delivers you to Honeymoon Island State Park, where you can hang or take a ferry to Caladesi Island, one of Dr. Beach’s 2016 Top 10 Beaches in the country. There, you can hike or kayak the nature trails (there’s a concession for rentals) or sunbathe on the soft, white sand. 

A visit to Tarpon Springs is like a daytrip to Europe without a language barrier. Explore this Greek fishing village on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places with lifelong resident Michaeljohn Targakis, who will show you where to get the best coffee, baklava, wine, boat trips and lunch. For tours, call 727-485-3539 or visit 

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