Southern Charm Meets the Gulf of Mexico at the Sandestin Resort
Elephant Walk Restaurant, fashioned after the plantation owner's home in the 1954
Elizabeth Taylor film of the same name, overlooks the Gulf of Mexico. The menu
features creative cuisine specializing in fresh local seafood with an exotic flair.
photo: © Sandestin.
in Northwest Florida between Pensacola and Panama City is the highly impressive
2,400-acre Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort. The resort, located just off the Gulf
of Mexico's sugar-sand beaches, creates the perfect backdrop for a luxurious Southern
first opened in 1973 and exchanged ownership hands several times before the Vancouver-based
Intrawest Corporation purchased the resort in 1998. Intrawest, better known for
such famous ski resorts as Tremblant and Whistler Blackcomb, launched a $400 million
development program to revitalize the property. Progress to date has included
the addition of the world-class Raven Golf Club in March 2000 and the 28-acre
Village of Baytown Wharf, which introduced its first phase in 2002.
coincide with Sandestin's 30-year anniversary, the resort opened the elegant Grand
Sandestin hotel and adjoining Baytown Conference Center in Fall 2003. Both are
designed with Southern sophistication and perfectly demonstrating this is the
conference center's Magnolia Ballroom, the largest ballroom on northwest Florida's
the Grand Sandestin and nearly thirty additional types of accommodations throughout
the resort, you're certain to find something that suits both your budget and taste
-- from spacious villas and cottage-style town homes to beachfront condos.
Grand Sandestin is a 168-unit Southern plantation-style estate featuring a sweeping
two-story veranda offering picturesque views of the Bay and lush formal gardens.
a guest at the resort, I stayed in the beautiful Grand Sandestin, an upscale,
168-unit luxury condominium hotel offering one-, two-, and three bedroom suites.
First glance at the hotel evoked a sense of Southern grandeur with formal gardens
and architecture reminiscent of a lavish Savannah estate. The lobby features large
white pillars and gleaming marble floors with a full service wet bar, seating
area and a piano mechanically playing relaxing classical notes.
my room, I was greeted with sunny, warm tones of blues and yellows while sepia-toned
artwork graced the walls, creating a sense of tranquility. The one-bedroom condo
was fresh and airy, and had all the necessary amenities from a washer and dryer
to wine glasses and a corkscrew. Directly off the kitchen was a spacious dining
and living area with television and DVD player. A glass door opened up to a large
wraparound balcony and patio set overlooking the gardens, and was perfect for
enjoying a cup of complimentary Italian coffee. The bathroom featured double sinks,
a deep soaker tub, fluffy white towels and specialty items such as lavender body
soap and almond moisturizing lotion.
clean design continued into the bedroom with a comfortable king-size bed and additional
television for cozy, late-night viewing. I found my bed turned down each night
with a bar of chocolate welcoming me to The Village of Baytowne Wharf.
from The Grand Sandestin is The Village of Baytowne Wharf, located directly on
the Choctawhatchee Bay. Reminiscent of an old world fishing village with a New
Orleans flavor, Baytowne Wharf sits as though it naturally evolved around a fishing
port. The Village offers eclectic dining and shopping, and an animated nightlife.
in the Village, enjoy a loose leaf tea in the traditional Magnolia and Ivy Tea
Room or browse Bark Avenue, a boutique that caters to the spoiled pet population
with bejeweled collars, costumes and gourmet treats for Fifi.
Village of Baytowne Wharf at Sandestin.
Photo: © Sandestin.
carefully chosen boutiques in the Village include everything from upscale ladies
wear and jewelry to fine wines and home decor. And if that's not enough, take
a shuttle to The Market Shops at Sandestin or the local Silver Sands Outlet. The
Market Shops present nearly thirty stores to discover that perfect souvenir while
the Silver Sands outlet offers more than a hundred designer stores from Jones
New York and DKNY to Waterford Wedgwood and Zales. For the serious shopper, it
doesn't get better than this.
an exhausting day shopping, what better way to relax than with a visit to the
full service Sandestin Salon and Day Spa. The spa itself was clean and spacious,
and offered a mix of beauty and bath products. Though not yet updated to match
the sophistication of the rest of the resort, plans are slated for completion
of a stand alone European-style spa facility in 2005.
the customized facial was heavenly. A series of exfoliation processes and treatment
masks along with a massage and soothing rosewater eye treatment left me feeling
renewed and my skin luminous. Besides six different types of facials, the spa
offers a full range of other services including hair care, nail design and body
treatments. Or truly indulge yourself with not just one service, but an entire
spa package such as Beach Bliss or Travelers Retreat.
Pine Golf Club's hole #14 is the signature hole of this Rees Jones' designed course.
the more athletic-minded traveler, the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort features
championship golf courses and award-winning tennis. Four distinctly different
golf courses offer varying challenges and spectacular views. For old and new players
alike, the Hank Johnson School of Golf helps students of every skill set improve
their game from the swing to the shot to the score. If you're still feeling apprehensive,
you may have better luck at The Dunes Putting Course, a miniature golf course
with 18 fun and challenging putting holes.
golf isn't necessarily your strong suit, try your hand at a little tennis. Sandestin
is the ideal place to learn and to perfect your game on either clay, hard
or natural grass court surfaces. As a guest at Sandestin, you receive a complimentary
hour of tennis court time daily. The resort also offers a new Tennis Package which
includes one-night accommodations; breakfast buffet for two adults and two hours
court time per day. Prices for two adults range from $103 to $159 depending on
full service 98-slip Baytowne Marina also hosts a variety of recreational activities
and rentals including kayaks, canoes, pontoons and boogie boards. With some trepidation,
I chose the Yamaha XL 700 waverunner as my mode of transportation to explore the
waters. Chris Miller, Director of Marina Services, did a great job easing my concerns
and making me feel more comfortable with the waverunner. It was the perfect opportunity
for me to absorb the breathtaking surroundings, and a chance to meet close-up
with dolphins home to the area. Ecotour Excursions are also available if you would
rather not venture out on your own.
lessons and sunset cruises provide another opportunity to experience the coastline.
Whether it be on the magnificent 70-foot Jennifer Marie with a large group of
people or the 60-foot Island Belle enjoying a drink on the deck, a beautiful tour
of the Emerald Coast will be a memorable one.
As the sun starts to set,
you're feeling sun-kissed, pampered and have slipped into that little black number
you purchased on your shopping excursion. The Village of Baytowne Wharf hosts
an array of dining choices that will perfectly complete your day. Located right
on the Choctawhatchee Bay overlooking the Baytowne Marina is Poppy's Seafood Factory,
serving up steamed seafood and the house specialty, blackened lobster, which is
a sight to feast your eyes on. Owner AJ Tusa does his best to ensure that each
and every guest enjoys their dining experience. Other delicious dining options
in the area include the Marlin Grill, specializing in wood grilled steaks and
Bistro Bijoux, an upscale bistro featuring a mouth-watering flourless chocolate
cake. You'll still be talking about it days later.
how to prepare delicious Cajun specialties and other gourmet delights at Gerards
Cookery and Cajun Market. Photo: © Sandestin.
a unique dining option, visit Gerard's Cookery & Cajun Market. Learn a few
tricks of the trade with chef Patty Hay as she guides you through an informal
cooking class with such specialties as lobster bisque, crab cakes and my favorite,
white chocolate macadamia nut key lime pie.
indulging in a gourmet meal, put on your dancing shoes and explore the nightlife
within the Village. The recent addition of Rum Runners Dueling Piano Bar &
Grill provides an upbeat atmosphere with, of course, dueling piano players on
baby grands playing a mix of hits from both the past and present. Audience participation
is highly encouraged with sing-a-longs and dance routines led by the staff.
head over to John Wehner's Famous Door Nightclub. The Famous Door is host to both
tourists and locals looking to have a good time. Following in the footsteps of
the original club out of the New Orleans French Quarter where celebrities like
Zsa Zsa Gabor, Joe Dimaggio and Walt Disney visited, the Famous Door offers up
fantastic happy hours and energetic live entertainment.
this point in the night, my cozy, king-sized bed was calling my name, and with
a satisfied smile fit for a Southern belle I was willing to give in. A warm breeze
was in the air as I stroll back to my room through the shell-paved corridors of
the village and past the charming boutiques, giving me just enough time to pose
the question, "What's in store for me tomorrow at the Sandestin Golf
and Beach Resort?"
yourself with Southern hospitality and plan an unforgettable trip to the Sandestin
Golf and Beach Resort. You will find everything you need to know at http://www.sandestin.com/ in order to arrange the perfect getaway. (...BACK)
at the Okaloosa Regional Airport (VPS). Located on the Elgin Air Force Base and
roughly 25 miles from the resort.
ahead of time for the Bayside Airport Shuttle to transport you from the airport
to the resort. The service is clean, reliable and the drivers are friendly and
helpful in providing background information about the area. The price is reasonable
out the various travel packages Sandestin has to offer including the Mardi Gras
Package, Luxury Beachside Package, Sandestin Spa Package and the Sandestin Romance
Package, perfect for that overdue snuggle session.