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Take a seaplane to these new resorts in the Florida Keys and the Bahamas

Seaplane safari

Tropic Ocean Airways

Chartering a chopper used to be the height of chic for a weekend escape — Manhattan to Southampton in 40 minutes, anyone? But these days, it’s seaplane sojourns that are all the rage, not least from Miami and especially to the Bahamas and the Florida Keys. As with the helicopter flights, it’s not about YOLO bragging rights and tartly hashtagged Instagram posts from the sky — or at least not just about those things. It’s also plain convenient, cutting down on transit time, traffic frustrations and wasted hours waiting in lines and on commercial airline delays.

Blade, the Hamptons helicopter service that launched in spring 2014, began operating in South Florida the following winter, and the company reports that growth has been exponential there over the last year. Last winter, it started offering regularly scheduled weekend service between Miami and Palm Beach, with #flyblade fans also chartering and crowdsourcing planes to Bahamian destinations including Harbour Island and Baker’s Bay.

South Florida operator Tropic Ocean Airways saw growth of 31 percent from 2017 to 2018. Clients rely on its services to avoid slow-moving lines of cars on the one-lane highway down to the Keys, and to skip long security and immigration waits for the Bahamas. Tropic offers scheduled flights to several Bahamian islands and can handle charters anywhere within a 300-mile radius of Miami and Fort Lauderdale.

And just where are the well-heeled headed on their seaplane vacays? Here are the most exciting new destinations in the Bahamas and the Keys drawing folks south from Miami for some splashy R&R.


The Bahamas

Rosewood Baha Mar

After years of development, Nassau’s $4.2 billion, 1,000-acre Baha Mar is now fully up and running. The final major hotel piece, a 237-room Rosewood resort — which joined a 299-room SLS and an 1,800-room Grand Hyatt — debuted in the middle of last year. And now, luxe Baha Mar Residences are for sale, ranging from one-bedroom studios to eight-bedroom waterside villas. (And what better way to arrive at your new pied-á-plage than by seaplane?)

Those who buy into the residences will enjoy special access to Baha Mar’s extensive amenities, not least of which is its 100,000-square-foot casino, a private island, a 213-foot superyacht, top-flight shopping and a club co-founded by Tiger Woods and Justin Timberlake. Among the hot boîtes at Baha Mar, Skybar (Nassau’s only hotel rooftop bar) and Carna (the first spot outside Italy for Tuscan meat master Dario Cecchini), both at the SLS, are the latest arrivals. They join a Philippe Starck-designed Katsuya — and more than 40 other restaurants, bars and lounges in the development.

Beyond Nassau, the quieter pleasures of the Out Islands also have much to recommend them these days. On the pink-sand enclave of Harbour Island — known as the home (or at least one of the homes) of style-setters Diane von Furstenberg and Elle Macpherson — Coral Sands Hotel unveiled a major makeover of its beachfront cottages and Moroccan-inflected restaurant. Great Exuma’s Grand Isle Resort and Spa, for its part, just opened a new beach club last month. The club’s indoor-outdoor restaurant, infinity pool on Emerald Bay and plush cabanas are available to hotel guests as well as by day pass, making it a perfect spot to seaplane into for the quickest of getaways.


The Keys

Bungalows Key Largo

The string of islands stretching southeast from the tip of Florida have seen a surge of development in the past several years, only fleetingly paused by 2017’s Hurricane Irma.
Isla Bella Beach Resort — on Knights Key, at the east end of Seven Mile Bridge — opened earlier this month. The top-flight, white-clapboard hotel sits on 24 secluded, waterfront acres and boasts five pools, four dining spots (including a flagship Italian restaurant), almost a mile of private coastline and its own beach. That’s all for the guests of just 199 rooms, each of them decorated in soothing shades of white and blue, with ocean views to match. A 4,000-square-foot spa and 1,000-square-foot fitness center debut next month.

A few islands back toward Miami, Hawks Cay reopened on Duck Key last summer after a yearlong, post-hurricane closure and $50-million refit of its 177 rooms, lobby and restaurant. The redesign takes inspiration from the work of Morris Lapidus, the Miami Modern architect who created the original hotel here. The reimagined property now features an expanded adults-only zone with its own pool, bar, restaurant, outdoor lounge and firepit.

Even closer to the mainland, Bungalows Key Largo opened late last year on 1,000 feet of shoreline as the region’s first all-inclusive hotel. Sensing the seaplane trend, the resort has partnered with Staniel Air to create a three-night package that offers transfers to and from Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport. Meanwhile, the 200-room Baker’s Cay Resort Key Largo, part of Hilton’s Curio Collection, emerged in February on 13 acres of a former pineapple plantation. Notable among its offerings: day-trip excursions to Key West or Dry Tortugas National Park, with transport aboard a — you guessed it — seaplane.

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