It might be pretty safe to say that everybody wants to have a space to retreat to for some relaxation. Be it a man cave, social club, local watering hole, having a spot that you feel welcome at and among friends is a luxury most would hold dear. Amidst the well-to-do in America, large private country or wilderness clubs and lodges are usually what fills the role, with couples or families spending a week or two – or even upwards of months – at an ultra luxe location where they’re catered to hand and foot.
The thing is, though, is that getting into these clubs can be hilariously expensive; think hundreds of thousands or even multi-million dollar entry fees for what basically amounts to a snazzy hotel you can visit whenever you want. On top of that, a lot of the most expensive of these clubs are only good for a single season, or have only one major hook (Cimarron Mountain Club in Colorado asks for nearly $3 million in fees and is just equivalent to any 5 star hotel). In this economy? I wouldn’t be caught dead.
Enter Paul Mihailides, a 40 year veteran of real estate development and a passionate supporter of the outdoor lifestyle. Over his career he’s built thousands of unique and beautiful properties from one corner of America to another, from hunting lodges to golf estates and more. But in his native Rhode Island, just two hours from NYC, he’s created his magnum opus. A place built for everyone: couples, families, friend groups, all comers have something to love here. And best of all, it’s surprisingly easy on your wallet.
Set on 3,500 acres of land a half hour from Newport and near some of the state’s best beaches, The Preserve Sporting Club and Residences is touted as New England’s only four-season sporting retreat, with a dizzying number of things to do.
“I saw a niche in the marketplace for a place where people want to spend time with their families in nature,” said Mihailides on his vision of the property. “I wanted to create something that everyone can enjoy, and have it be passed it through the generations.”
Using his decades of experience in development, Mihailides says his dream became a reality in every sense of the word. Practically everything he sought out to make with his original plan was realized, and every tiny detail made manifest. The only thing he says he didn’t expect was the 5-star rating and outpour of rave reviews.
“I definitely didn’t expect us to become a Relais and Chateaux property, it’s more than I could’ve hoped for,” he said.
So, what can you do here? The better question is what can’t you do here. Built for the outdoorsman and their kin, the club is home to 100 miles of hiking trails, nearly a dozen fly fishing ponds, on-site hunts for pheasants and chukars, biking trails, a 40 foot rock climbing wall, and a huge nearly 2,000 foot-long zipline. Taking from his experience building golf-centric properties, Mihailides’ club boasts a sprawling 18 hole championship course designed by Robert McNeil. There’s also room for tennis, volleyball, badminton, bocce ball, equestrianism, and much more. Other onsite services include a large outdoor pool and an upcoming OH! spa.
However, one of the most fleshed-out parts of the club is its shooting. An avid firearms enthusiast, Mihailides wanted to bring a new level of quality to the shooting experience that most other clubs either lack or offer in a sub-par fashion. The amount of effort and detail that went into the shooting here is on par with how golf resorts treat their courses (and no, I didn’t mean to make a pun there).
These aren’t your average plinking lanes. The Preserve offers 41 clay shooting stations, many of which are all-weather. Indoors, you’ll find Rhode Island’s largest and America’s longest underground automated shooting range with 150 lanes, which is quite the accolade. It also features virtual simulations for shooting, archery, and golfing. The range also offers solo and group/family training courses, as Mihailides is as much of a supporter of weapon safety as having fun shooting for a high score.
When it comes to dining, The Preserve certainly doesn’t skimp. Manned with chefs brought in with the help of their partnership with Ocean House Management, the property’s unique dining spots are as varied as they are delicious. Double Barrel Kitchen serves as the main course for dinnertime, a formal and rustic spot with French and European-inspired dishes, as well as a seasonal menu. The H2O cafe is situated right by the pool and is much more casual, serving Americana and sandwiches. The Hilltop Cafe is where the health nuts will be hanging around once the spa is up and running in March, where guests can take in the scenic views after a wellness routine.
Lastly, and possibly most interestingly, is the Maker’s Mark Hobbit House, a Tolkien-inspired hole-in-the-ground serving cozy mains like wild game sausage plates and glazed atlantic salmon, not to mention warm Maker’s Mark bourbon in ample supply (and features in most of the dishes, too). Best yet, Mihailides says that more Hobbit Houses are already under construction. When asked if he was a big Lord of the Rings fan, Mihailides said he’s more interested in the architecture of The Shire than he is in the story. In fact, he said he’s more of a Trekkie.
Finally, there are the homes. Ranging from 600 to 6,000 square feet, every residence is pristine and lovingly built, from the brown and wood-hued cabins on Whitetail Ridge to the Townhouses on the green, even the isolated and well-appointed tree houses. Every accommodation has fully-equipped kitchens, Matouk linens and Molton Brown bath amenities, and (save for the treehouses) granite bathrooms. Some of the larger homes also feature fireplaces.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. With this amount of stuff and with homes this grand, the membership fee has to be steep. Shockingly, the cost isn’t as high as you might suspect, with the package offering everything coming in at a solid $375,000 to $400,000. Mihailides’ payment plan revolves around the idea of every member paying a share of the costs as to not jack up the prices similar with other private clubs.
For people to enjoy what The Preserve has to offer, Mihailides didn’t want to price his most cherished project so high as to make it out of reach. The goal is to create a space where you can escape for a weekend or where mom can relax at the spa while dad takes the kids to the range, and everyone meets for dinner with Bilbo Baggins. Even if it does break boundaries, that doesn’t mean it should completely break the bank, too.
“I wanted to take away all the burdens of home ownership and have these amenities ready for you,” Mihailides said. “This is a place you’ll cherish.”