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$15 million renovation complete at historic resort, The Island, by Hotel RL (PHOTOS)

Special to Gannett
Walton Sun

FORT WALTON BEACH — Originally built in 1966 with just 100 rooms, Okaloosa Island’s iconic beachfront hotel has completely transformed following a more than $15 million renovation. Since January of 2018, The Island, by Hotel RL has been in the midst of the most extensive facelift in the property's 54-year history.

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Before The Island was the chic, newly renovated boutique beach getaway, it was one of the first hotels on Okaloosa Island. Owner Fred Tolbert had the vision to build a place where families could come and enjoy the sugar white sands and sparkling emerald waters of Fort Walton Beach. Five decades later and his son, Tripp Tolbert, has continued that vision by partnering with well-known Northwest Florida developer, Jay Odom, to revive the property.

Originally built in 1966, the resort consisted of the two-story sunrise, sunset and sunshine wings, consisting of 148 rooms. A few years passed, and the owner bought the property next door and added another 306 rooms, along with the Lobster House restaurant and Pelican’s Roost Bar & Grill. The famous grotto bar and beach tower were added in 1975. Throughout the years, the resort saw countless memorable moments, including concerts featuring international superstar bands like Heart and the Beach Boys, as well as visits by celebrities like Bob Hope and Joe Namath.

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In January of 2018, partners Odom and Tolbert initiated the renovation with the mission to restore the property to provide guests with a more local, boutique feel.

“My father’s philosophy was to make the resort a place where kids wanted to go and the parents would always follow,” said Tolbert. “Still today, we have several generations of families that continue their tradition to vacation with us.”

The extensive upgrades begin the moment guests arrive on property with an upgraded, modern porte cache, lobby and registration area. The entire exterior of the building was painted a fresh, clean white with rich blue accents and the exterior walkways were resurfaced. The pool area was enhanced with a new lounge area, a live performance stage and complete upgrades to the famous grotto swim-up bar. The beach patio area added five putting greens and two large grass AstroTurf areas with lounge furniture and corn hole. The beach bar, “Tripp Tide” was completely renovated. The guest rooms are fully revitalized with new carpet, furniture, décor along with all new showers, sinks and fixtures.

The resort proudly added a new restaurant, the Fish House, featuring an elevated dining experience serving fresh gulf seafood and other coastal American dishes, along with over 10 craft beers and a unique cocktail and wine list. The event space added two new venues to create more than 17,000-sq. ft. of revitalized ballrooms, boardrooms and meeting rooms that feature new carpet, fixtures and décor. Additionally, the furnishing throughout the entire hotel emulates the deep ocean hues of sofas and chairs are brightened by shimmering fabrics that sparkle like sun reflecting on water.

The property offers a chic, vintage Florida vibe that gives guests the feeling of walking into their dream beach home.

“It is a privilege partnering and working with Tripp to bring The Island back to its full iconic glory through a massive re-branding and modernization renovation. The Island Resort has brought endless joy and unforgettable memories to thousands of families from all over the world for the last 54 years,” said Odom. “With the magnificent renovation complete, we welcome everyone to visit the resort to make your own memories, experience all the amenities of the Island, and enjoy the world's most spectacular, breathtaking snow-white beaches.”

Guests can look forward to poolside DJ parties, children's activities for all ages, beachfront yoga, full moon parties, live sunset music sessions at the Tripp Tide bar, fresh gulf seafood, free fireworks on Wednesdays during the summer months and the opportunity to meet and greet their real-life resident mermaid, Misty, in the grotto pool every Saturday and Sunday.

The Island encourages loyal returning guests and future friends to bring their beach memories back to life at Fort Walton Beach’s iconic beachfront resort.