The Beaches of South Walton

To many vacationers, a trip to Florida isn’t complete without a visit to Walt Disney World, a stroll down South Beach, or snorkeling in the Florida Keys. But for clients who’d rather “discover” a destination rather than walk in the footsteps of mass tourism, detour them to the Florida Panhandle, where the Beaches of South Walton offers 26 miles of pristine beaches and charming, seemingly untrampled towns.

Located on Northwest Florida’s Gulf Coast, the Beaches of South Walton are, says Tracy Louthain, dir. of communications, Beaches of South Walton Tourist Development Council, “primarily a drive market now, but we except to be welcoming many more air travelers once the Panama City-Bay County International Airport opens in May 2010.

Most importantly, she adds, “The addition of the Panama City-Bay County International Airport will open the region to a worldwide audience and allow for lower travel fares and easier access for domestic and international travelers. The state-of-the-art airport is just a 20-minute drive from Rosemary Beach at the east end of the Beaches of South Walton and is being designed with multiple eco-conscious features. The airport will be developed in conjunction with a massive nature preserve that will feature Florida’s largest expanse of undeveloped coastline and showcase the region’s phenomenal natural beauty.”

Add to that the area’s varied selection of accommodation and dining options, as well as the myriad outdoor activities available, and there’s no doubt this Florida getaway should be on your radar for 2010.

“Our number one quality is relaxation,” promises Louthain. “This region offers a relaxing escape—an upscale, yet casual, place to unwind and rejuvenate. Our sugar-white sands and emerald-green waters allow us to offer some of the most beautiful beaches in the world without ever having to leave the country. In addition, visitors tell us there is something for everyone and every age group. There is always something to do unless doing nothing is why you are here.”

sandestin golf and beach resort Comprised of 30 charming neighborhoods, this 2,400-acre destination resort offers the widest range of accommodations available in the area. Guests can choose from 1,600 condominiums, villas and townhomes, as well as several hotel accommodations.

“At Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort, there are accommodations to fit every size and taste,” says Laurie A. Hobbs, the resort’s director of public relations. “There are four major areas from which to choose: Beachside, Village, Bayside and Lakeside. For example, for the individual traveler, Sandestin offers studio-style accommodations with refrigerators, microwave, dishes and utensils. For couples and families, Sandestin offers expertly designed villas, condos and homes with one, two, three and four bedrooms plus complete kitchens and dining areas.”

The Grand Sandestin, for instance, is Sandestin’s signature hotel and offers 168 fully furnished 1-, 2- and 3-bedroom luxury guestrooms, as well as onsite check-in, a concierge, 2-story verandah, lobby bar and swimming pool.

Meanwhile, the 600-room Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa—also on site—offers four different types of spacious accommodations, including two ultra-luxurious presidential suites complete with kitchen, large sitting area and private balcony. Families can enjoy one of the newly offered jr. suites, which feature family-friendly bunk beds for kids, as well as in-room games and movies.

Travelers looking for some extra space might consider Tivoli, with 2- and 3-bedroom villas situated along the fourth and sixth holes of the resort’s Baytowne Golf Club and just steps away from the beach. These villas have large windows and wraparound porches boasting views of lush fairways. At Grand Harbor, guests can enjoy 3-bedroom Bermuda-style townhouses, located directly on The Links golf course and overlooking Choctawhatchee Bay.

All resort guests can enjoy a variety of complimentary amenities, including use of the fitness center, bicycles, access to children’s activities, and an hour of canoes, kayaks and tennis each day at any of the property’s 15 courts—all accessible with a guestroom key. There’s also an onsite spa, a 98-slip marina and 19 pools throughout the property.

Make sure your client doesn’t leave Sandestin without trying out YOLO boarding, the area’s newest recreational activity. YOLO (an acronym for “You Only Live Once”) involves standing up and paddling on a big, safe, comfortable long-board, offering a whole new point of view. “If surfing the wild surf is a bit too adventurous for you, check out YOLO boarding, a new kind of ‘surfing’ that suits those who love the water, but not the wave action,” says Louthain.