The sumptuous pool at the Salish Lodge
& Spa outside Seattle
As the nationwide competition for meetings business
heats up, more top-of-the-line hotels are turning up in
cities that sometimes fail to make the A list in planners’ site
selection itineraries. Indeed, some of the hospitality industry’s
best-kept secrets are luxe, lavish resorts tucked into beautiful
settings within an hour’s drive of better-known destinations. The
following pages feature some of these properties, all of which
prove that when it comes to accommodations, second-tiers can lay
out a first-class welcome mat.
Amelia Island Plantation
Amelia Island, Fla.
Built in the early 1970s’ flush of environmental awareness,
Amelia Island Plantation glories in surroundings of 1,350 acres of
live oaks, Spanish moss and salt marshes. Guests stay in one of 249
rooms at the Amelia Inn or in one of 411 additional rooms in a
“village” of one- to three-bedroom villas.
On-site meeting accommodations also take full advantage of the
resort’s natural setting. In addition to 48,000 square feet of
indoor event and pre-function space, the Plantation has a
10,000-square-foot tented pavilion for open-air functions.
Attendees can fly into Jacksonville International Airport and
take the half-hour ride to the resort with Jacksonville-based First
Coast Arrangements (www.firstcoastarrangements.com), which can
provide town car or limo service.
As with any island retreat, the recreational possibilities of
water are a big draw here. Guests can join a fishing expedition
that leaves from downtown Amelia Island, or go horseback riding on
a strip of unspoiled beach. Got a group with its feet planted
firmly on the ground? The resort offers shuttle service to the
downtown district, a shopper’s paradise with its quaint Victorian
collection of small stores and boutiques.
The Plantation added a spa in 2001, and the facility offers
treatments ranging from the decadent like a couples’ massage to the
esoteric. The signature treatment, Watsu, is a form of massage
during which the bathing-suit-clad subject floats in a pool of
water alongside the therapist.
Attendees also can unwind on three well-manicured 18-hole golf
courses as long as they don’t mind sharing the fairway with
majestically nonchalant herons and egrets.