Founded in 1930, The Surf Club was an unlikely addition to the Miami Beaches. After all, the then southernmost city was a place for the limelight as much as the sunlight. Still, there’s always that coterie of like-minded folks who prefer to socialize behind closed doors, which was precisely the appeal.
The idea for the club was born in the late 1920s on tire tycoon Harvey Firestone’s yacht the Marybelle. He was cruising up the coast with friends when they came upon a pristine beachfront. It was the height of Prohibition, and they had been looking for a private place to gather. Having found the spot, they called on architect Russell T. Pancoast to bring their vision to life.
Opened on New Year’s Eve 1930, the club quickly became a mecca for some of the most exceptional figures of the past century. Among those who descended were Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Elizabeth Taylor, Winston Churchill, Alfred Hitchcock, Mohammad Reza, Shah of Iran, and more. There was always something fabulous taking place—from poolside fashion shows and debutante galas to black-tie boxing nights and over-the-top parties, some of which are pictured here in all their carefree glory.
Last year, a new chapter of the legendary club was brought to life after a magnificent multi-year restoration. Nadim Ashi, who assumed ownership in 2012, decided to gather some of the most prominent creative minds from across the globe to restore the club’s iconic magic. Today, a new wave of glamour is sweeping its shores. The nine-acre property houses a Four Seasons hotel and Four Seasons residences along with two exceptional culinary destinations: Le Sirenuse, by Antonio Mermolia, and The Surf Club Restaurant, helmed by the multi-starred chef Thomas Keller and designed by Martin Brudnizki. Among the others on Ashi’s roster were Richard Meier, who added three new glass towers above the original Mediterranean Revival–style structure to house 77 guest rooms and 50 residences; Joseph Dirand, who brought the fabled Peacock Alley walkway back to life, and designed the sumptuously sleek rooms of the hotel, residences, and overnight cabanas; Fernando Wong, the landscape designer behind the tropical oasis on the grounds; and Cathy Vedovi, the art collector who grew up spending winters at The Surf Club with her family and loaned several pieces from her own collection.
With the white-glove service of Four Seasons, today’s Surf Club is one of the most luxurious retreats in South Florida. The vast Four Seasons Spa celebrates an age of secluded seaside escapes with relaxation rooms in the form of indoor cabanas; its treatments offer the latest from advanced skincare line Biologique Recherche. Joseph Dirand created what is arguably one of the chicest kids’ clubs in the world, home to the Kids For All Seasons program. And Le Sirenuse Champagne Bar, offering the largest selection of Champagnes in Miami, is a soaring homage to the original Surf Club and its Riviera-tinged glamour. Live bands nestle between the palms to perform on Thursday nights, while DJs shuffle in to play on weekends. Sunday brunch at Le Sirenuse serves up a true taste of la dolce vita, even down to the tunes, with live musicians crooning French and Italian favorites.
But The Surf Club is not one to rest on its laurels. Innovations continue to trickle out, from the 30 recently opened daytime cabanas for hotel guests, residents, and members, to “Private,” a members-only club that’s scheduled to launch sometime next year. Like that original club conceived on the deck of a tire tycoon’s yacht, the new members’ club will be reserved for a select and happy few. Thankfully, for everyone else, Four Seasons Hotel at The Surf Club is open for reservations 24 hours a day.