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Published: Sunday, 2/20/2005

Florida resort a good family getaway spot

BY JAKE JONES
BLADE STAFF WRITER

NAPLES, Fla. - Steel drums play gently in the background and the palm trees overhead sway in a cool breeze that never seems to subside. The warm, tropical sun warms your skin and the white sand tickles your toes as you make your way to a seaside chaise lounge, where refreshments are served on request.

You can't help but feel like you've been transported to some remote island in the Caribbean. But you're actually at one of southwest Florida's premier resort destinations, the Registry Resort & Club.

My wife and I have spent plenty of time in sunny Naples (average winter temperature: 73 degrees) since 1989, but never before stayed at the Registry. What a pleasant surprise to finally enjoy some quality family time at the resort, which recently underwent a $30 million renovation.

The Registry was opened in 1986 along three miles of beaches on Florida's gulf coast and has since built a reputation as one of the great nature-inspired getaways in America. Nestled into 23 acres along a protected mangrove estuary, the resort is a great family destination, with turquoise water and a lush, tropical backdrop amidst the unspoiled beauty of the native flora and fauna.

There are 474 guest rooms (including 29 tower suites and 49 garden suites), most with spectacular views of the Gulf of Mexico. We found our room to be spacious and richly decorated, with lush carpeting and a warm, inviting interior that made us feel as though we were staying with friends or family.

Especially enjoyable were the quiet breakfasts spent on the balcony overlooking the waterfront. And at the end of the day, the kids could spot the occasional silvery fish breaking the surface of the bay as the sun set in the distance.

The children, daughters ages 6 and 8, also enjoyed our room's oversized tub.

Room and suite rates vary from $179 per night in the off-season (summer) to $969 during peak season. For the business traveler, each room is equipped with high-speed Internet access.

Outdoors, a trip down the winding half-mile boardwalk that leads to the Gulf and beachfront amenities will take you over the quiet, heron-inhabited waters of Clam Pass and through the majestic arms of the mangrove trees that line the bay.

Many of south Florida's natural wonders can be seen on this seaside trek; there's also a tram to the beachfront, and from that the kids were able to spot a variety of water fowl and fiddler crabs.

Most days found us at the girls' favorite spot, the hotel's Mangrove Pool, with its 100-foot water slide that makes a winding loop before depositing riders into the main pool.

Guests have access to five pools on the resort grounds, and the main pool features private cabanas and the Palm Terrace Bar & Grill, which serves up burgers, grouper sandwiches, and other tasty fare.

If the pool or beach isn't for you, there are plenty of other options available, from championship golf at the Rees Jones-designed Naples Grande Golf Club to tennis on the 15 Har-Tru courts at the Registry's tennis center, rated among the country's 50 best tennis resorts.

A year-round children's program provides kids ages 4-12 with supervised daily activities ranging from scavenger hunts to crafts and games. On weekends, "Kids Night Out" events such as poolside movies allow Mom and Dad to slip away for a quiet dinner at one of the resort's five on-site restaurants The Registry's cuisine ranges from award-winning gourmet fare to poolside snacks.

We had a memorable feast one night at the upscale Brass Pelican, which overlooks the main pool and serves a selection of beef, fresh seasonal fish, shrimp, stone crab, and Florida lobster. The pastry chef creates fabulous after-dinner treats that look too good to eat - almost.

An on-site health club with both sauna and steam rooms can help to melt away any guilt you might have after enjoying a decadent dessert.

The recently opened Sanctuary is an Asian-inspired spa with 13 treatment rooms offering everything from relaxing massage to therapeutic facials and manicures.

With all there is to do at the Registry, there's not much reason to leave the resort property during a visit, and that helps to cut down on the stress of family travel.

All types of packages are available, from romantic weekend getaways to sports deals that include professional instruction and unlimited tennis court time, to, of course, family packages.

Information: 1-800-247-9810 or www.registryresort.com.



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