Imagine a sunny tropical island where cool sea breezes drift ashore and palm trees gently sway. Then think of a tight-knit community, where everyone’s interests, needs and desires are carefully considered. This is exactly what groups can expect at Ocean Reef Club in an exclusive enclave tucked away seaside at the northernmost reaches of Key Largo. The 144-suite inn exudes an elite island lifestyle with 30,000 sf of high quality meeting space, a dozen varied outdoor venues, and an exceptional staff where most have more than 10 years of service.
This scene is set amid 1,700 waterfront estates, private homes and condos—many of which can be utilized for additional accommodations—all located about a 1-hour drive from Miami International Airport. Or you can charter and touch down on the 4,400-ft lighted landing strip here. After that, the primary modes of transportation at Ocean Reef are golf carts and flip flops.
What was once a small, modest fishing camp for the friends of Minneapolis entrepreneur Morris Baker back in the 1940s hasn’t just developed but has distinguished itself as one of the most exclusive club communities in the world. This is in part because the Club is impeccably maintained, having for instance invested over $50 million in upgrades in just the last three years.
“Ocean Reef Club’s way of life embraces every aspect of club living,” says President Paul M.G. Astbury. “We’re quietly proud of our lifestyle because it results from the positive attitudes and creative contributions of everyone in the community.”
For us, as meeting professionals, we are constantly in search of the elusive, once-in-lifetime experience that isn’t easily obtained but one we can create for our groups.
Well, here it is.
Another major draw for Ocean Reef is all of the group experiences available on-island. The marina is a hub of activity for anglers departing for the world famous deep-sea, reef and flats fishing just offshore. Non-fisherpeople tend to navigate toward the fleet of sailboats for fun mini-regattas or a quiet half day of snorkeling and scuba diving.
On land, there are nine HarTru courts for tennis tourneys, a full-size croquet court, and two breezy 18-hole/par-71 golf courses. The Dolphin Course features scenic wide open fairways and uber challenging greens. The Hammock Course offers 14 holes of water hazards, intense flora and tight fairways where you tee off over tropical marshes.
During my visit, I enjoyed a tranquil few hours eco-kayaking off Buccaneer Island where Ocean Reef’s naturalists lead explorations through lush mangrove forests. I saw all kinds of rays, small sharks, quite a few jellyfish lurking about and a few startling but harmless flying fish. With more than four different tour areas and several naturalists, you can accommodate several small groups at once.
I also couldn’t pass up a chance to explore the depths of the blooming Carysfort Reef, where the close proximity of the Gulf Stream provides perfect conditions for a healthy 4-mile reef with great ridges, drop offs and exceptional coral formations. I was astonished by a graceful spotted eagle ray and a bit wary of the 8-foot eel tucked back into the coral.
For dining events, Chef Philippe Reynaud oversees a fun and wide ranging collection of 11 restaurants and lounges on-property, spread around the golf courses, marina and inn.