After a month of sickness in the Schwannema household (pneumonia and HFM), several extra crazy weeks at work, and too many late nights and early mornings with the Mooch, the Husband and I were ready for a va.ca.tion. We wanted to SLEEP. Relax. Do nothing. We had a long weekend coming up, so we decided we needed a little getaway. Just us. No child. My parents were so generous in keeping Skyler so we could sneak away for a long weekend. (Thanks, Giggy and Baba!!!)
We stayed for four nights at the Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort & Spa in Ponte Vedra Beach, just south of Jacksonville Beach. And without further ado, the review!
Why this hotel?
The criteria for this vacation:
- warm, beachy or tropical
- must have a pool
- onsite or walkable dining
- direct flight on Southwest
- a Marriott hotel so we could use our points
We narrowed our destinations to a few Southeastern cities, and I scoured all available resort hotels with pools. I figured Justin would like Jacksonville; I spent my first two years of college at UNF and have had way too much fun along Jax Beach with my friends over the years. But I haven’t been back since 2009, and Justin had never been to Jax before, so we thought it would be a good destination! Of the Jacksonville Marriott options, the one that caught our eye was the TPC Sawgrass resort.
Justin loves watching golf and wanted to visit one of the most famous golf courses in the world; there are 3 pools and 3 onsite restaurants plus a bunch nearby within a 10 minute walk; Southwest flights were hella cheap; and we had a good stash of Marriott points at our disposal. Easy choice!
The Hotel Grounds
Absolutely lovely! Lush, vibrant, green. It’s not a super large property, but it’s big enough for some evening strolls. A little gazebo and a couple tiny footbridges create cute photo opps. Mossy trees overhang the two pools, winding sidewalk paths, and a little pond with fountains and a mini-waterfall that lights up different colors at night. You’ll spot lots of wild life: other fish, blue herons, egrets, turtles, carp, and the signs claim to watch out for alligators!
There’s a “mini golf” course on property that has either been entirely forgotten by the hotel staff or has been intentionally neglected so that Mother Nature will reclaim that space. 18 boring, small, shabby putt-putt holes are crammed into an area that should have maybe three or four. They’re overrun with fire ants and completely covered in pine needles and moss. The greens have not been maintained. There are no drink holders or small tables or anything to set your stuff on besides the fire-ant infested and filthy ground. (It wasn’t even worth taking a photo of.)
A mere ten-minute stroll will across the road will land you at a large shopping center where you’ll find many restaurant options, a liquor store, a grocery store, a CVS, and many boutique retail shops. Super convenient.
The buildings, a bit dated in exterior style and color, have been totally renovated on the inside so they feel fresher than they look from outside. The main atrium is spacious, full of light. The main building is only 7 stories, so this is not some ginormous resort. Several 1- and 2- story beige “villas” are scattered amongst the property, with 1 or 2 bedrooms, for those coming in groups or who want more privacy.
Adjacent to and affiliated with the TPC Sawgrass Golf Course, you can take a shuttle, drive a car, or follow the GPS walking down unmarked, unshaded roads for 30 minutes until you find the clubhouse. (Guess which one we did, lol I do NOT recommend this method. Take the damn shuttle.)
I’ve not been to a professional golf course since…. oh, gosh, I guess I was 12? In Scotland? I don’t remember it. But this was beautiful. It was peaceful and fresh-smelling. The clubhouse was exactly what I’d expect from a fancy golf course clubhouse: ornate, a tad pretentious, full of oak and large wall paintings, and very WASPy. But beautiful in its own right. The large patio out back of the restaurant, where we enjoyed a delightful dinner, looked out onto the perfectly manicured grounds, and for a brief moment during the sunset I could almost see the appeal of the sport. (ALMOST.)
Overall, the Sawgrass hotel relaxing and quiet, beautiful in its curated nature, and close to many restaurants.
We paid with points so we didn’t have much choice in the room: two double beds, mid-level floor, looking out back (so we at least had a view of the surfmachine, a pool, and some of the shaded walkways). I loved the oddly shaped chaise in the room, since it gave us somewhere else to sit besides the bed and added some much-needed character to an otherwise basic space.
The rooms are always equipped with everything you need — hairdryer, coffee pot, fridge, tv, decent internet, and plenty of plugs for charging.
(After looking at the Villa pictures online, and reading some reviews, I wasn’t sad we couldn’t upgrade to one of them; they didn’t seem nicer than what we had.)
The Pools and Beach
THE BEST PART AND THE WHOLE REASON WE CAME.😄 I love a good pool. And tbh, the pools were my main motivation for choosing this hotel. They have two on the main property, and a lap pool over by their beach club (the other beach pool was under renovation). They were no heated zero-entry pool like at Sandestin but I was very pleased and enjoyed many hours floating lazily, daydreaming and reading.
The beach was nice but it really just can’t compare with the beauty of the Florida trip we took earlier this year. But at least it was never crowded!
We only went to the beachhouse once because we actually preferred the setup of the pools by the main building; fewer guests, more privacy, more shade. (Plus it was easier to bring our backpack with pre-purchases beverages, shhhh.)
Hotel food can be hit or miss. The Marriott we visited in Alabama earlier this year: miss. But this place was pleasantly and surprisingly not bad! Priced about how you would expect, elevated bar food was available at the pub in the main building and the little cafe out by the pools. The main restaurant was little pricier with a menu that read appetizingly; the only disappointment there was that they didn’t have the dessert I was craving in stock😞
Drink prices are always outrageous which is why we stocked up at the liquor store and kept them cold in our room. If you’re discrete and not an asshole about it, you can usually get away with a few of your own beverages. Plus, when you’re eating on property, just buy a few legit drinks from the bar and overtip the bartenders, so if they see you later walking around with a White Claw in a coozie you brought from home, they won’t say anything.😉
Lovely, as expected. The guy who checked us in was so sweet and accommodating. They graciously provided me with foam instead of feathre pillows upon request. They answered all my questions kindly — even the ones I asked twice. When the sweet housekeeping attendant couldn’t understand me, she whipped out her phone so we could Google Translate and I returned to the room with armfulls of extra coffee. Bar service was friendly and prompt, even when they were being overrun with a private party of 30+ middle-aged white men in polos.
What did we do?
A whole lotta nuthin’.🙂 This trip was a straight vacation. The goal was to relax, shut down, reboot our brains. The kid was at home, so we could stay up late channel surfing (a weird thing I usually hate doing but look forward to at a hotel; probably something about how I don’t like wasting time during my regular life but during vacation nothing matttttttters), we could sleep in, we could take a nap in the middle of the day. I read a lot, hung out in my floatie a lot, let my brain drift and wander and get lost. I wasted so much time. And I don’t feel even the tiniest bit guilty about it.
OF COURSE even the laziest of vacations with me can’t be entirely absent of DOING SOMETHING. The best flight times took us out of JAX airport at 8 pm, and checkout from the hotel was at noon, giving us 8 hours to SEE or DO something and enjoy the fact that we were somewhere else other than home!
So we rented a one-way rental car (available from the hotel!), packed up our stuff, and drove up A1A. I hadn’t been back to Jax Beach since the very nascent stages of Justin’s and my relationship; and weirdly it hasn’t changed as much as I thought it might have. We parked and walked around, buying a stuffed souvenir for our son, walking along the beaches, and eventually stopping for lunch.
Post beach, we headed to my old stomping grounds: UNF. Now, this place has changed a TON. I had looked at the map online before our trip to reaquaint myself with the area, and it’s almost unrecognizable (in fact, we certainly made a couple wrong turns, despite using GPS). Full of grey, brutalist buildings originally filled with commuter students, UNF never appealed to me for its aesthetics. Compared to all of the other state schools, I liked its location and its size. The campus hasn’t expanded far past its original boundaries, but what they’ve added — new dorms with swimming pools(!), an updated stadium, a massive brand-spanking new modern student union, what must be an expensive landscaping budget — made it much prettier and made me pretty nostalgic about my first two college years. It was a fun detour that helped me get in lots of steps for the day.🙂
We still had a few hours to kill, so we decided to drive through downtown. I have not been to downtown Jacksonville since early 2004. It. Is. Different. The city doesn’t look familiar to me at all. So I really enjoyed driving around. We headed towards a hip little historic part of town called Five Points and found a nice rooftop bar to grab a drink and enjoy the river view. It was the perfect way to end our quick little jaunt to Jacksonville!
Would I go back?
I do think I would return to both the Sawgrass Resort and to the Jax Beach area. There’s plenty of outdoor activities; clean, large beaches; a city to explore; fresh seafood; good weather. It’s cheap to fly to Jax from Nashville, and the hotel was well worth the cost. I think next time, I would also day trip down to St. Augustine, where I have only visited as a pregnant lady and would love to explore when I have more energy and can enjoy the cocktail bars.
What about you? Have you been to TPC Sawgrass and the Marriott Resort? Where do you like to stay in the Jax Beach area? If we were to return, what should we add to our To Do list?