The Balfour offers a quiet hotel stay on South Beach: Travel Weekly
Anyone interested in staying in South Beach but not interested in the late-night hustle and bustle the destination is best known for might consider accommodation south of Fifth Street in Miami Beach.
The area is outside of the formal entertainment district which runs from Fifth Street to 16th Street, so there are fewer bars and restaurants that draw a crowd that is mainly there for the party scene.
A good hotel choice in this quieter part of South Beach is the Balfour, an 82-room vintage property at 350 Ocean Drive. Recently reopened after $ 4 million in renovations, the hotel sits on the southwest corner of Fourth and Ocean, so it’s only about a block from the action.
“If you want to party, you can party, but then you come back to the more peaceful side,” said general manager James Moore.
The new swimming pool at Balfour Hotel Photo credit: The Balfour Hotel
I recently visited on a weekend night, hosted by the Balfour, in a room overlooking Ocean Drive. I can attest that after 11pm there was very little street noise up to my fourth floor window.
I stayed in the newer of the two buildings that make up the property. Moore said the new building was developed by the previous property but had not been opened before the pandemic, so the Balfour’s opening on June 15 marked the first time it has been used by guests.
The more modern building forms a U-shape around a plunge pool which gives the Balfour a convenience it previously lacked. The suite I occupied had contemporary furniture and fittings, green paneling halfway up the walls, and ceilings formed partly of exposed concrete from the upper floor. It was eclectic but comfortable.
I found the bathroom to be particularly nice, with two sinks and two showers. I especially liked the shower controls, which were modern yet intuitive, unlike so many new designs. At the top of the new building is a welcoming lounge on the roof terrace, with comfortable daybeds and city views.
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The older of the two buildings was opened in 1940 as the Lord Balfour Hotel, a name that is preserved in the blue neon sign above the entrance. I have long been intrigued by this Miami Beach hotel named after a forgotten Edwardian British Prime Minister.
Lord Arthur Balfour was also British Foreign Secretary, a post he held in 1917 when he became British policy to create a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Jews who settled in Miami Beach in the first half of the 20th century gathered strongly south of Fifth Street, and Balfour was a hero to many of them, apparently including the developers of Lord Balfour, who also owned the Blum’s Hotel in the Catskill Mountains of New York.
The original Balfour was designed by Anton Skislewicz, one of the few architects responsible for most art deco designs in South Beach. On several of its hotels, including the Balfour, a long porch runs the entire length of the facade. The porch is a comfortable and convenient place to watch the passing scene while being protected from the sun and rain.
Inside there is an engraved brass elevator door and a spacious lobby with a bar and a deco-era limestone fireplace. The old building also has a U-shaped courtyard, paved in an attractive design in vermilion and white terrazzo and shaded by towering traveler palms. It looks like an attractive place to have breakfast.
The design of the rooms in the old building has been harmonized with that of the new building, although the bathrooms are smaller and darker.
The courtyard of the Balfour Hotel has a terrazzo design. Photo credit: Tom Stieghorst
Moore said he was in the process of getting approval to increase the number of restaurant seats at the hotel to 120. A new restaurant concept is expected to debut in November, which will have seating on the terrace, in the hall and in the inner courtyard. “It will be a restaurant in a hotel, as opposed to a hotel restaurant,” Moore said.
From the Balfour, it’s also easy to walk to several popular restaurants south of Fifth, including Big Pink, Sorbillo, and Joe’s Stone Crab.
The hotel has 55 standard king rooms, 10 queen double rooms, 16 superior king rooms and three suites. Off-season rates currently start at $ 219 a night and could reach $ 1,000 on New Years Eve, Moore said. Typically, rates are between $ 300 and $ 400, he said, with prices typically higher on weekends and lower during the week.