Can a vacation in Florida’s Rosemary Beach be more perfect?
Silky white beaches, gentle gulf breezes and sky blue waterit’s hard to find a more idyllic setting for a seaside holiday than Rosemary Beach, a perfect blend of upscale resort and small-town friendliness.
The first thing I noticed was the heavenly silencethe absence of traffic in this community that’s perfect for pedestrians and cyclists. Architecture inspired by homes in St. Augustine, the West Indies, New Orleans and Charleston also is noteworthy.
Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk designed this 107-acre gulf-front town in the 1990s. They wanted to resurrect the concept of small town America, a place that was not dependent on cars or saturated with fast food restaurants, tacky souvenir shops or gas stations. The project was inspired by Seaside, another classic beach town located eight miles west of Rosemary Beach.
While Seaside is known for its pastel-colored homes, buildings in Rosemary Beach are finished with wood siding, cedar shingles or stucco in earth tones. Thirteen building types were used to ensure the integrity of the town plan, but each is custom-designed to reflect the taste and needs of the owners.
Everything is within a five-minute walk or bike ride of downtown. Pedestrian footpaths, boardwalks and pathways lead to the town square, beach, swimming pools, parks and tennis courts. The plentiful green spaces and pocket parks are great for croquet, Frisbee tossing, picnicking and walking barefoot through the grass.
Comforts of home
Accommodations at the beach mainly consist of rental flats, houses and cottages. My rental carriage house had parking for two cars; washer and dryer; balcony; fully equipped kitchen; television with cable, DVD player and stereo. The kitchen had a full-size refrigerator, stove, microwave oven, cooking utensils, dishes, glassware and silverware. Complimentary gourmet coffee, biscotti, microwave popcorn, bottled water and juice were a big plus.
Rental properties include cottages with two to five bedrooms accommodating up to 16 people that rent from $310 to $1,586 per night, cozy carriage houses that sleep two to seven people renting from $170 to $445 a night, lofts and flats. All are privately owned.
Other lodging options include The Pensione, an eight-room European bed-and-breakfast, and the upscale 56-room Hotel Saba, which is due to open in early 2008.
A slice of paradise
A concierge can assist guests with tee times at local golf courses, dinner reservations at local restaurants, babysitters and advance stocking of the pantry and refrigerator.
The town center is a short stroll away. The town hall, post office, shops, restaurants and the Solace Day Spa are located here. Interesting shops include the Bamboo Beach and Bicycle Company; Rosemary Beach Trading Company, featuring apparel, cookbooks, souvenirs and more; and The Gourd Garden for home and garden items.
Neighborhood restaurants include Onano Neighborhood Café that specializes in northern Italian cuisine with both indoor and outdoor tables; Courtyard Wine and Cheese, featuring 50 wines by the glass and gourmet cheeses; Summer Kitchen, offering casual fare for breakfast and lunch and changing to Blue by Night for dinner; and the Sugar Shak, a favorite with young and old alike serving ice cream, cookies, lemonade and other snacks. Café Thirty-A, a short drive from Rosemary Beach in Seagrove Beach, is known for its fire-roasted seafood, creative martini menu and desserts.
Around and about
Rosemary Beach is within an easy drive of beautiful parks, vast strands of pine forests, historic sites, fantastic shopping, boat trips, freshwater and deep-sea fishing, magnificent golf courses and many other attractions.
Eden Gardens State Park, which is located on the shores of Tucker Bayou in Santa Rosa Beach, encompasses 163 acres of land, including the historic Wesley Mansion. The house is surrounded by azaleas, camellias and towering Spanish moss-draped live oaks, some dating back more than 600 years. The mansion was built in the 1890s and houses a large collection of original Louis XVI antiques. Guided tours are available hourly Thursday through Monday.
Popular Grayton Beach State Park provides a delightful setting for swimming, sunbathing and surf fishing. Canoes and kayaks can be taken out on Western Lake for a closer look at a salt marsh ecosystem. Hikers and bikers can follow four miles of trails through flat woods.
Santa Rosa Golf and Beach Club winds through pure white sands, pristine ponds and tropical vegetation and offers the area’s only gulf-front holes. The club’s beachside dining room offers amazing gulf views and spectacular sunsets.
The 2,000-mile Great Florida Birding Trail includes four state parks in Walton County: Topsail Hill, Port Washington, H. A. Laird and Grayton Beach. Silver Sands Factory Stores in Destin is a large designer outlet center. Wetland Wilderness Adventures offers tours of the Choctawhatchee Bay and river system.
Rosemary Beach is the perfect place for a special occasionor no occasion at all.
Marge Peterson is a contributing editor from Ralston, Neb.
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