John Dorry and Bill Barnish faced a problem at their Cabanas Guesthouse and Spa that all property owners would love to have: they were totally sold out over the long Labor Day holiday. “We’re sold out now and the rest of September looks very good,” said Dorry. “It’s going to be a very busy month, and we are very pleased with that. I think our location has something to do with it — us being so close to the bars and the restaurants.”
It’s not just location that draws guests to the Cabanas. Located along the Middle River, one of Fort Lauderdale’s major canals, the guesthouse includes 18 rooms within several buildings, two pools, and a full-service spa on property.
Located on N.E. 26 Street just west of North Federal Highway, the Cabanas entered the gay guesthouse scene eleven years ago: Dorry and Barnish bought two proprties that had rented rooms weekly to a transient population, combined them to create one complex, and remodeled and landscaped extensively.
The Cabanas is the only gay guesthouse on the water, and that allows them to have kayaks for the guests; the property is also the only gay guesthouse with a steam room, as well as a salt water pool, which was created last year.
“The salt water, which they say are minerals, is much better on the skin than chlorine and it’s much more economical to run,” said Dorry. “The guests love it because it leaves a good feeling on their skin and they don’t feel dried out.”
The property also has a full-service men’s spa, located in a back corner of the property. Owned by Norman La Chance, a professional skin esthetician and massage therapist, the Cabanas Spa uses top-of-the-line products for facials, manicures/pedicures, body scrubs and a variety of massages. “The spa helps tremendously having that extra something to offer the guests, and we’re going to keep upgrading,” he said.
All guests get complimentary continental breakfast and free wireless Internet. There is also a smaller chlorinated pool and whirlpool for guests.
The various rooms at the Cabanas range from a standard room to a two-bedroom grand suite that occupies the entire top floor which, Dorry said, is popular when four or more people are traveling together. Some of the rooms have kitchens; others are waterfront rooms are on Middle River. The property is also pet-friendly.
Recent upgrades to the rooms include new flat panel televisions and replacing the air conditioners with quieter units. “We are renovating wherever we can and fixing different things up.”
Dorry credits his location in Wilton Manors to their success—because, as he says, they “are so close to everything.” The Green Hopper, a green commuter service which started operating earlier this year within the city of Wilton Manors, has also helped. Many guests who check into The Cabanas don’t drive or rent cars and if a guest wishes to go to the beach and don’t want to use a taxi; the Cabanas has complimentary bicycles for guest use.
The Cabanas locally has been a popular spot for various fundraisers throughout the years and recently appeared on the cover of Passport magazine, an international gay travel publication. The whirlpool area is also popular with local photographers and the wall behind the whirlpool is almost as well known as the guesthouse itself.
Dorry and Barnish have worked hard to keep their award-winning guest house attracting new guests as well as welcoming back previous ones because, as Dorry puts it, “in this business, you want to stay as full as possible.”