Looking down at my toes sinking into the sands of South Walton, I was is shock at how soft it was. As a South Florida resident and avid beachgoer, I could hardly believe that I wasn’t standing on a Caribbean shoreline, but instead was on a beach in my very own state.
In promotional materials, South Walton is described as “26 miles of sugar-white sand and turquoise water along Florida’s Gulf Coast,” but that does not do justice to what I saw and experienced there. The sand is softer than sugar, as if someone poured baking flour across the shoreline. The water is bright blue, crystal clear, and typically very calm creating a smooth surface that reflects the sky above and makes it easy to spot the occasional dolphin that makes an appearance.
But the beach is not the only appeal of South Walton. Made up of 16 unique towns and communities, each with its own aesthetic and personality, there is something for everyone in South Walton—from the multigenerational family travelers to the couples looking for a romantic getaway. A stay anywhere in South Walton allows for easy access to visit all of the area’s towns, so I spent my days on Florida’s Gulf Coast simply exploring.
For The Romantics
Rosemary Beach—one of the easternmost communities of South Walton—is a picture-perfect town out of a storybook. Designed by architects inspired by Dutch and Jamaican architecture, Rosemary Beach is a blend of Old World European vibes with splashes of color. It’s a quaint town that’s easy to walk or bike around with its wooden and cobblestone sidewalks that often lead to small pocket parks surrounded by a residential neighborhood. It’s a tranquil place that promotes a sense of community among locals and visitors alike with its new urbanism design that means homes are close to each other and have porches and balconies facing one another, making it easy to strike up a conversation with your neighbor. Rosemary Beach can appeal to all types of travelers, but between its beautiful architecture and relaxing atmosphere, it is especially perfect for a romantic getaway. A day spent lounging on the beach or getting lost wandering the streets of Rosemary Beach is a day well spent. Recommend your clients stay at The Pearl to add a bit of luxury to their visit to Rosemary Beach.
For The Families
Moving west to the near middle of the 26-mile stretch of South Walton, I came to Seaside, a town that is undeniably artsy, charming, and family-oriented. In Seaside, there are no hotels, only rental properties, and this contributes to the homey feel of the town. The motto of Seaside is “new town, old ways,” and proof of that mantra can be seen in the inviting and colorful coastal-style homes with their white picket fences, and in the town center where one of the smallest post offices in the state can be found, as well as several locally owned shops and a row of airstream trailers serving up tasty bites. If it’s art you’re looking for, then Seaside is certainly the place to be. The town has an arts district, several art shops and galleries, and an Escape to Create program that invites artists of all kinds to stay in Seaside homes for free during off season so they can focus on their craft in a beautiful and undoubtedly inspiring location. Even the piers leading to the beach have their own creative flare with each featuring a uniquely designed pavilion. With tons of activities and the gorgeous beach, plus housing options ranging from high-end to budget-friendly, Seaside is especially appealing for those who may need the extra space of a rental home to fit all members of the family.
For The Foodies and Shopaholics
While it’s important to note that shopping opportunities abound in all 16 towns, and not a single meal during my stay in South Walton left me wanting for more, the offerings of Sandestin definitely stand out in this regard. Sandestin—the second most westward community of South Walton—is home to the Village of Baytowne Wharf, which features a variety of boutiques, eateries, galleries, and nightlife. Recommend your clients head to HammerHead’s Bar & Grille for lunch with views of the Choctawatchee Bay. The restaurant’s fried bread pudding bites is absolutely worth leaving room for at the end of the meal. Visitors can also head down to the Silver Sands Premium Outlets for some serious shop-till-you-drop opportunities, and The Grand Boulevard, which is full of shops featuring big name brands as well as boutiques, is also nearby. While at The Grand Boulevard, wine and cheese lovers should head to The Wine Bar for lunch and order one of their delectable charcuterie boards. Your clients will get to choose the types of cheeses and wines they want, but in this humble writer’s opinion, the champagne cheese is an absolute must.
For more information about South Walton, visit visitsouthwalton.com.