As we continue dreaming of blissful locales, our sights are set this week on a hidden gem– Santa Rosa in the Florida Panhandle. This one involves some of the most beautiful beaches in the world with sugary white sand and beautiful blue waters. Allow us to introduce you to Florida’s Emerald Coast, also known as 30A- a 2 lane county road that stretches across the shores, from Sandestin to a collection of quaint beachside communities. Some of these might sound familiar- Seaside, Watercolor, Alys Beach, Rosemary Beach, just to name a few, and if they don’t, you’ll want to change that. Each one is unique with its own style and flair and are connected by a walking/bike path. You can move slowly from one community to the next, taking in different architecture, shops and restaurants.
Let’s take the trolley down 30A where we’ll arrive at the WaterColor Inn, evoking the laid back beach vibe we love, paired with luxurious southern hospitality. The 60 key boutique hotel is comprised of rooms and suites with stunning views of the bay and dunes. The tastefully landscaped grounds wind through open green space and manicured gardens. The property has a boathouse, tennis courts, spa, boutique shops, locally sourced restaurants, a fitness center and a private beach. WaterColor Inn offers guests access to a host of amenities, including private golf and beach club access, Camp WaterColor for the kids, adults only pool, complimentary bicycle use, kayak, canoe, pontoon boat and discounts on YOLO board rentals. One of our favorite things: beach bonfires. WIT will arrange all the details for you and your family. It’ll be one of your all time favorite beach memories! As a member of the Virtuoso portfolio, WIT is able to add these exclusive perks: full breakfast daily for two guests per bedroom (available at The Gathering Spot OR through In-Room Dining), a $100 USD food & beverage credit, early check-in/late check-out and upgrade on arrival, subject to availability.
The Pearl Hotel
Continuing on, past the local restaurants, shops and a few food trucks, you’ll come upon Rosemary Beach and The Pearl Hotel. This 55 key, adult-oriented, boutique hotel offering 41 standard rooms, nine suites, four cabana rooms and The Pearl Suite. All accommodations are bright, open and inviting with Old-World European charm. The Pearl Hotel is located in the heart of 30A with stunning views of the water and adjacent towns!
The hotel’s restaurants support local growers, purveyors and fishermen throughout the region to include meat, fish and produce from small production, family-owned businesses within 100 miles, such as City Green Farms, Ocheesee Creamery and Camp Flowers Honey. The Pearl Spa offers a nicely balanced selection of treatments to include the Mother of Pearl Body Scrub – a great way to relax and rejuvenate. As a member of the St. Joe’s Hospitality Collection, exclusive perks are available, like access to the WaterSound Beach Club, championship golf, tennis and more.
Situated against the Gulf of Mexico, and about a 30 minute drive from the beachside communities we’ve just visited, Destin is widely known as the ‘world’s luckiest fishing village’. It also harbors world-class resorts, dining, shopping and golf courses. The Henderson, A Salamander Beach and Spa Resort, a 170 room property, is in an ideal location, between the Gulf of Mexico and a 200 acre natural reserve, so choosing between dipping your toes in the sand or taking peaceful nature walks, is not a thing. You just get to have both. Traditional in feel with clean lines and modern luxury amenities, it is the perfect fit for families, couples, groups and girls getaways. For our wellness focused clients, there are spa guest rooms with private spa elevators, premium products and a yoga wellness pack. As opposed to some hotels where the spa is oftentimes an afterthought, at The Henderson, with over 10,000 square feet, it is a well thought out nurturing space. With everything from healing and balancing rituals, to caviar age-defying facials and sea gems collagen masks, you will find an impressive array of services to choose from. Now that we have you fully relaxed and hopefully recharged, you can’t go home until you’ve tried at least a few of the plethora of activities at your disposal- kayaking, paddle boarding, morning yoga, meditation, rooftop cycle and beach body fit. We could keep going with the endless activities available on each months fitness schedule.
And last, but certainly not least, how can you not fall in love with a destination that has a Canine Ambassador Program? At 10am and 2pm, come to the Living Room to meet Dune and Ranger, the adorable four legged staff members. Too cute! Our clients receive exclusive Virtuoso amenities with their stay, including: upgrade on arrival and early check-in/late checkout, subject to availability, $30.00 daily breakfast credit per guest, and $100.00 resort/hotel credit.
The city’s ideal location is a watersports lovers’ paradise. Allow the WIT team to set up excursions from scuba, snorkeling, wave runners, to parasailing and beach combing. If fishing is your passion, Destin will deliver. Whether you are fishing off a local pier, surf fishing or deep-sea charters to the south of the Gulf casting for grouper and amberjack, WIT will seamlessly handle all the arrangements, so you only need to decide how to enjoy your catch for dinner.
Located in the Destin area is Henderson Beach State Park, a beautiful swatch of the Emerald Coast with pristine beaches and 30-foot, snow-white sand dunes. You will find beachside hikes along a nature trail that winds to the park’s boardwalk. This state park was established for the preservation and protection of the last remaining coastal scrub area in Destin. After you come off the beach, refresh before hitting up the shopping in Gulf Place, right up the road. Gulf Place was designed for strolling palm tree- lined streets, outdoor cafes, boutique shops and a great local art scene.
Dining in Destin is local seafood focused, as the abundance of fresh fish has drawn some of the nation’s top talent to the restaurant scene. For the best sunset views in town, try the locals’ perennial favorite, The Back Porch Seafood & Oyster House. The restaurant’s claim to fame is for inventing the amberjack sandwich, while its menu is chock full of fresh Gulf seafood. For something a bit different, Vintij Wine Boutique & Bistro boasts a nice wine list to sip in the boutique before moving to the Bistro and classic fare.
Santa Rosa is considered the premier hot spot within the South Walton area and is known as the original beach community. Golf aficionados will love the The Santa Rosa Golf and Beach Club. The club’s 18-hole course was named the “purest in the Florida Panhandle” by Golf Magazine, and also ranked as one of the best places to watch the sunset by the locals. We say hit the clubhouse in time to watch a sunset with your favorite adult beverage. Also, all links lovers will drool over Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort, home to four award-winning golf courses: Raven Golf Club, Baytowne Golf Club, The Links Golf Club, and the semi-private Burnt Pine Golf Club. Named to both Golf Magazine and Golf Digest's Best Golf Resorts in North America, this is the only place in the world with course designs by the famous Jones brothers, Rees and Robert Trent Jr. If you are serious about your game, Sandestin is a must. WIT is here to plan your golf tour de force and will set up all your tee times, arrange for clubs, and make sure you are well taken care.
For the nature lover, Point Washington State Park provides a natural backdrop of trails and paths to hike and explore, or check out Eden Gardens State Park. Start in the fully restored 1895 mansion to marvel at the USA’s second largest collection of Louis XVI furniture. After you’ve been mesmerized by the intricate carvings and family portraits, stroll the grounds and delight at the rose and camellia gardens, a secret garden and a dedicated butterfly garden.
Avid bike riders will love the Timpoochee Trail. The 18.6-mile trail, named after an influential Euchee Indian Chief, takes you on an adventure through the dunes, state parks and several beach access points. Let us plan a day trip complete with bike rental, local tour guide, snacks, picnic lunch and a pick up at the end of the trail.
We might’ve exposed our hidden gem, but we’re happy to have shared our little secret with you. Let us know what excites you most!