If you're in the mood for shopping, the perfect venue is found in Bal Harbour and its adjacent Bay Harbor Islands. The Bal Harbour campus is famous for its collection of upscale shops, galleries, boutiques and restaurants.
The islands were developed after World War II by a New York attorney, Shepard Broad, and his Rhode Island businessman partner Benjamin Kane (for whom the town's main road, Kane Concourse, was named). The Broad Causeway over the Intracoastal Waterway, opened in 1951 and the most convenient, fastest road (50-cent toll) from the mainland, was named for Broad, who had obviously come a long way from his birthplace in Pinsk, Belarus.
Across the street from the cafe's superb waterfront site is another New York export, Palm, a steakhouse known properly as Palm, not The Palm (9650 E. Bay Harbor Drive; 305-868-7256). There is a Palm Two in Manhattan, featuring the same kind of double steaks, giant lamb chops and humungous lobsters. The Bay Harbor Islands spinoff is fond of pointing out that "New York has Palm One and Palm Two but Miami Beach has Palm Tree!"
Palm Tree is tucked into the lush landscaping of the place to drop after you shop -- the Bay Harbor Inn and Suites, a casebook study of adaptive restoration and renovation. It is a split-personality kind of place, with half the accommodations creekside and half on Palm's side, where the main lobby is located.
That spacious lobby, with its antiques and dark woods, is a fine introduction to the guest rooms and suites, furnished with period reproductions and boasting such luxuries as two television sets (one in the living room and one in the bedroom), four-posters that are truly king-size, super comfortable sitting chairs and couches, dramatic window treatments, fine fabrics and linens, and a complimentary morning paper -- just the thing to peruse while working through the complimentary deluxe continental breakfast buffet.
Also included is 24-hour concierge service and parking (there is dockage for those who come by boat). That's creekside, along the other half of the inn, the one that's much more Miami Beach modern with lots of pastels and wide balconies facing the ribbon of water, with a free-form swimming pool and wooden deck, weathered gazebo and tower and the Islands Cafe (9601 E. Bay Harbor Drive; 305-868-4141), a fine tropical retreat to remind you that you are still in Florida.
There's another advantage to the cafe. It's run by staff and students of the North Miami branch of Johnson & Wales University (1701 NE 127th St; 305-892-7600) which started in Providence, Rhode Island. Providence was the home of Benjamin Kane and it's where he made his money, enough of it to join Shepard Broad in buying Bay Harbor Islands.
IF YOU GO
Getting there: The inn is on the corner of East Bay Harbor Drive and 96th Street, the Kane Concourse, two blocks west of Bal Harbour.
Rates: The average cost of the 45 rooms and suites is $200, which includes complimentary expanded continental breakfast buffet and parking.
Information: Contact the Bay Harbor Inn & Suites, 9660 East Bay Harbor Drive; Bay Harbor Islands, FL 33154; telephone 305-868-4141; www. bayharborinn.com.