After three days in paradise at the Polynesian, we checked into Disney’s Beach Club Resort, which is located in close proximity to Epcot and the World Showcase. While the Beach Club does not have the incredibly immersive theming of the Polynesian, it does have some very nice decorative touches inspired by North Atlantic beach resorts like Martha’s Vineyard, MA and Cape May, NJ. The exterior echoes a Victorian House, albeit in a continuous and massive structure, which is doubled in size by its architectural attachment to the Disney’s Yacht Club Resort. The interior color palette is sea-inspired, with soft peach, white, sand, and sea foam green colored accents in the lobby, hallways, and guest rooms.
Be advised, this is a very popular resort with families and the lobby and the gift shop are usually packed in the morning and early afternoon with people waiting for their ADR’s at the Cape May Character Breakfast. However, there are many light-filled sitting areas for resort guests off the main lobby that have spots where you can read, meet up with friends, or enjoy a cup of coffee during your stay.
Our check-in at the Beach Club was lackluster at best, bordering on unfriendly, and my husband and I both agreed that it knocked the Disney “magic” right out of us for a day or so. This was compounded by a fire alarm throughout the building that rang for a drill for a full fifteen minutes during our check-in process, and a first room offered to us that smelled like a gym locker. We asked to be moved to a room facing the Quiet Pool, which was clean and in good shape, however they were painting the trim in the hallways around the rooms and we had to be super careful moving the luggage in through the doorway to avoid getting paint on everything. While refurbishments and fire drills are likely in order at the Beach Club, we wonder why they chose check-in time the day before Thanksgiving, traditionally a premium day for full bookings at Disney, to do both.
Our room off the small Quiet Pool turned out to be lovely for the duration of our three-night stay. The double-sinks shaped like shells, bright interior, soft beds, and wide dresser made it the most functional room of our Disney Resort trio. We enjoyed the view of the Quiet Pool and we often cut through the pool area on our walks over to Epcot. Rooms on the Quiet Pool have the benefit of two separate doors leading out to the walkway to the World Showcase, which enabled us to avoid the busy lobby area. I highly recommend booking a first floor room in this part of the building so that you can come and go easily without having to wait for the elevators from the upper floors.
There are two prime reasons to stay at the Beach Club: proximity to both Epcot and Hollywood Studios and the main pool, which is known as Stormalong Bay. The Beach Club is a short five minute walk along the waterfront to the back entrance of Epcot’s World Showcase. The path to Epcot is lined with fragrant flowering trees and soft international music guides you into the park through this little-known gate. Upon entering the World Showcase via this gate, you will be strategically situated between the United Kingdom pavilion on your left and the France showcase on your right. This makes grabbing some fish-and-chips and a giant bottle of Shalimar as easy as pie!
If you want to go to Hollywood Studios, simply walk to the nearby dock marked by the little lighthouse in front of the Yacht Club and hop on board one of the Friendship Boats. The enclosed boat will take you directly to Hollywood Studios, with one brief stop at the Westin Swan and Dolphin hotel complex. This is the best option for traveling to and from this park. The alternative mode of transportation is a Disney bus, picked up in front of the resort. On the night we headed to Disney’s Hollywood Studios the boats were sadly not running and we found the return trip back to our hotel two hours before closing an aggravating nightmare. We waited in thirty-five degree darkness for over forty minutes for our resort bus to show up, with masses of Boardwalk, Yacht and Beach Club guests who had seemingly been there for much longer. Once on the bus, we found there was very little seating and minimal standing options due to a very poor design of the interior. Considering the massive amounts of visitors to Disney, a redesign of these buses should be a priority (‘cram us in like sardines please, we beg you). We strongly urge Disney transportation management to visit the MTA in New York City to learn how its done.
If you have children, or, like us, are a big kid yourself, you will want to stay at least once at the Beach Club to experience Stormalong Bay. This one stay will likely make you addicted to the Beach Club, so you better have deep pockets too! The gorgeous pool complex is the best in all of Disney and it is shared by both Beach Club and Yacht Club resort guests. A form of water park, Stormalong Bay offers yards of aqua swimming areas with a sandy bottom to splash around in. The heated pool is organically-shaped, with small grotto areas that feature waterfalls and secluded hot tubs. Zones of the pool are connected by a network of white bridges. At times, you will need to get out of the pool and cross the bridges or the pool deck to access another section. There is also a creek that runs around the pool with a gentle current that will push you along in an inner tube. Unlike the majority of Disney resort pools, which bottom out at four feet deep, parts of Stormalong Bay are almost nine feet deep, particularly in this creek area, so very close supervision of children is critical.
For the littlest guests, a large shallow bay and sandy beach play area is located on the right side of the pool complex. Facing the pool from the Beach Club lobby, the left-side of the complex features a splash-down area from the Stormalong Bay pool slide. My husband, the fearless water slide enthusiast, climbed up into the wreck of the pirate ship that serves as the jumping off point. He has to say, although the pool is his favorite at Disney, this slide is not. The seams of the slide are rough and hurt your back as you hurtle towards the end.
Some of the best moments of our honeymoon trip were the unplanned quiet ones away from the parks. One of our favorite memories of all was swimming in the Beach Club pool during an afternoon rain shower. We pretty much had the entire place to ourselves. The weather even got all of the kids out of the hot tub so we could finally get into it. (Why are children hanging out in hot tubs?) My new favorite area of Stormalong Bay is the semi-secret “whirlpool” just off the splashdown zone. We swam into it by accident and whirled around in circles in the strong current. It took us a few attempts to swim out of it (although we really weren’t trying too hard). Nearly invisible from the pool deck, the whirlpool and its underwater quicksand is one of those fun hidden gems that makes a swim in Stormalong Bay special.
At the far side of the pool is Hurricane Hannah’s Waterside Bar & Grille, which unfortunately was not open during our stay at the Beach Club. We have since heard from everyone’s favorite mermaid (aka my mother) that this is a wonderful place to pick up a grilled cheese sandwich for your poolside picnic, delightfully served up in a souvenir plastic sand pail. The snack bar also serves cocktails and mocktails, woefully not served in a plastic sand pail, as well as what is rumored to be the queen of lobster rolls at Disney.
Facing Stormalong Bay is the Ship Shape Salon, the perfect place to get your hair blown out and styled again after your rigorous paddling around Stormalong Bay. Disney offers very few options for women and men who wish to get spruced up while on vacation, so I highly recommend you prebook your appointments here. Also available are massages, facials, and manicures. Next door are the fitness center (let’s work off those character breakfasts), Lafferty Video Arcade, and Beaches and Cream. Beaches, an old-fashioned soda fountain and ice cream shop has a limited range of American lunch offerings include hot dogs and the infamous belly-busting “Kitchen Sink” ice cream sundae in its narrow sit-down cafe, but the wait can be long for a table. We preferred walking around with cones from the takeout window.
The Beach Club is located in the Boardwalk-area of the Disney Resort Complex. On one side of the lake are the Beach and Yacht Clubs, on the opposite side is Disney’s Boardwalk Inn. Although the Boardwalk Inn has its loyal followers, we will never stay there because the sight of its clown-themed pool gives us night terrors. The Boardwalk district, however, is a great place for nightlife at Disney after the parks close. Stroll the boardwalk in the evening and pop into the Big River Brewery, the Flying Fish Cafe, or grab a cocktail at Todd English’s Bluezoo. The Jellyrolls Dueling Piano bar is not to be missed by first-timers, although there is a hefty cover charge. The Atlantic Dance Hall plays a wide range of 80’s and 90’s music into the wee hours for dance enthusiasts, it’s main draw being the massive video screens that light up its cavernous interior. Our family motto is “hit the dance floor!” If you’re the shy type, we urge you to leave your pride on the side and just dance. The floor at Atlantic is sometimes empty, but why should that ever stop you from making a spectacle of yourself?
During the day, the boardwalk provides a nice loop for jogging and bikes can be rented to explore the area and carry you to other side of the Swan and Dolphin Hotels for a fun game of miniature golf at the Fantasia-themed course. Hair-wrapping stations and pearl-hunt jewelry pavilions also can be found on the daytime boardwalk. There is also a bakery, gift shop, photo booth, and pizza counter located on the first level of the Boardwalk Inn.
The Beach Club is not well-known for its culinary delights (the pool people, remember it’s all about the pool), however, the Cape May Cafe has a fun and bustling character breakfast featuring Minnie, Donald, and Goofy in beach attire. At night, the Cape May Cafe offers a nice buffet spread modeled after a summer “clambake”, featuring seafood, carved meats, salads and desserts.
If you are in a hurry, or just want a quick breakfast or light snack, the Beach Club Marketplace provides quick counter-service sandwiches and flatbread pizzas “to go.” The store also offers a grocery area with boxes of cereal, milk, cartons of eggs, and sandwich items, likely for the Beach Club Villa guests who have access to kitchens and people who enjoy cooking and cleaning while they are on vacation (I know you’re out there). In addition to food, the store offers sundries like suntan lotion, over-the-counter medications, and toothpaste, as well as candy, magnets, and Disney fashion merchandise galore! This is a fun, organized place to browse and pick up items for gifts and I usually can’t leave without a few Mickey-shaped rice-crispy treats and a sack of Goofy’s unicorn horn lollipops. We visited during the holiday season and the Beach Club was the only hotel gift shop other than the Grand Floridian that we noticed selling Disney’s coveted Christmas gingerbread. Chewy, lightly spiced, and delicious, we wished we had brought more than two pieces home with us.
The Beach Club decorates for the holiday season with sea-themed Christmas Trees. Featuring turquoise and gold glass ornaments and seahorses, the trees add pretty theming to the lobby. The real centerpiece of the Beach Club’s holiday display is its annual gingerbread carousel. It is a work of art! Each horse is decorated with fondant and chocolate in a different style and the entire lobby smells like fresh-baked gingerbread. Pin Collectors ALERT: We happened to see the carousel during it’s construction in the lobby by a Disney master pastry chef who offered visitors a special commemorative Disney gingerbread-themed pin. Supposedly there are four different ones to collect and trade.
Next stop…Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge!