As much as I love the beach anytime of year, it is fall when the weather is just like paradise, the water looks as if you are in the Caribbean, and the Monarch butterflies make their way across the ocean. The South Walton area of Florida is paradise in our backyard. An incredibly quick flight or an easy drive and you will find your feet on those white sand beaches overlooking crystal blue water. Another great characteristic of the area, it is very family friendly. In the Sandestin area you not only have beautiful resorts but also a plethora of dining options, plenty of activities for children, and endless outdoor experiences. Sandestin makes it easy to enjoy these activities with bicycle vouchers for every guest, free kayak rentals, 15 tennis courts, running trails throughout the property, Jolee Island Nature Park, and regular events for all guests to enjoy.
Where To Stay
For lodging our beachside condo at Westwinds at Sandestin with a full kitchen, laundry, beautiful ocean view, and a pristine pool area was perfect for the family. But the options do not stop there, for larger groups there are houses throughout Sandestin for rent, for just two people the Luau offer studios (you will see the most majestic rooftop views of the sunset from this building), and for those wanting to stay more the action The Village of Baytowne Wharf is the place to stay. It is nice to stay in a place that feels like home where you can cook meals together and just relax.
What To Do
We love vacations that are more than just sitting on the beach, making your trip an ‘experience’ instead of just a vacation leaves your soul satisfied and creates memories you will never forget.
Kayaking – Every guest of Sandestin receives an hour complimentary kayak rental. The kayaks can be reserved weather permitting at any of the beach service huts. On a clear day with calm water kayaking is a must. One day we spotted a pod of dolphins, kayaked out to them and soon found ourselves amidst 8 or 9 dolphins swimming and cooing so close we could have reache dout and touched them. It was a magical experience.
Paddleboarding – A great activity for adults, paddleboarding is perfect in calm waters. The trick is learning how to turn but once you master that you will yearn to do this relaxing, muscle building activity. Rentals available to guests of Sandestin.
Fishing – The waters of our Gulf of Mexico are speckled with the most incredible marine life. From scalloping to deep sea fishing, these crystal blue waters can bring out the adventurer in all of us. Fishing is excellent in the Destin and South Walton areas. Sandestin hosts The Blue Marlin Classic each summer with last year’s winning catch weighing in at over 780 lbs.
This year we chose to adventure to the more low key Port St. Joe to take our little one on her first fishing expedition. The trip made for an all around unforgettable experience with her catching her first fish, snorkeling for sand dollars, swimming with sting rays, sighting 3 manatees, and also seeing sharks. After a day of fishing we nestled up to a sandbar to snorkel. We found sand dollars as big as my hand and also saw horsecrabs, sea horses, sting rays, and sea urchins. That night we sauteed our fresh catch in olive oil, fresh lemon, salt, pepper, and fresh cilantro- it was among the best fish we’ve ever had.
With a 5 year old, activities for our child are one of the most important features in planning our vacation. We can keep her captivated at the beach most of the day but it is also nice to have fun things to do outside of the beach.
Adventure Landing at The Village of Baytowne Wharf – A community inspired building program to envision, design and build a playground beyond your child’s wildest dreams has been completed at The Village of Baytown Wharf at Sandestin. Adventure landing features swings that reach the clouds, winding paths and mazes that lead to unknown places, bridges and slides with water to splash in.
Jolee Island Nature Park – Plan a picnic or cookout with family and friends on beautiful Jolee Island. This five-acre nature park is lush with Florida scrub and pine. Just a hop-skip-and-a-jump from Baytowne Marina, enter by strolling along a wooden footbridge over a scenic salt marsh.
Gordon Davidson Nature Trail – Check out the Gordon Davidson Nature Trail, the cool fort-style playground tucked away across from Jolee Island. Learn about plants and animals, then swing to the sky and take over the fort all nestled under a canopy of trees.
Where To Eat
We love good food and good food at the beach abounds. It is always hard to choose my favorites because there are so many I love. Here are some of my favorites in the area some located right in the heart of Sandestin others just a short drive.
Grin-Gos – This Mexican restaurant is a MUST. Salsas are made fresh every morning – you have to try the verde. We tried the fish tacos which were so fresh and served in corn tortillas which I love.
Fire – A short drive to Dune Allen Beach off 30a you will discover Fire. For brunch we enjoyed BBQ Pork Biscuits, Veggie Benedict, and Jumbo Lump Crab Cake Sandwich and bottomless mimosas- it was so delicious and so fun. By far one of my favorite places to eat at the beach ever.
The Pickle Factory – Thai style pizzas served with pickles – what?! Oh yes, owner Jeff once lived in Bangcock and discovered that no one had pickles to serve with Bloody Marys, so he began making his own. He then began supplying to various restaurants including baked goods to Starbucks. Upon moving back to be close to family in the Grayton Beach area he opened up The Pickle Factory where you can snack on fried pickles, fried garlic, and fried onions and then dine on a thin crust Thai style pizza with ground beef and spices – trust me it will be one of the best pizzas you have ever eaten.
Camille’s – The best sushi on the Gulf tucked in a retro motel in Crystal Beach. Once you have Camille’s you can never go back. Stack your rolls high by adding fresh shredded crab meat – the flavor and freshness will have you coming back each trip.
The Marlin Grill – Looking for a couples’ night out- The Marlin Grill is serves up craft cocktails, fresh seafood, and a romantic atmosphere right in the heart of The Village at Baytowne Wharf.
Elephant Walk – Family friendly, beachside, and great service – check, check, and check. Just a short walk from the beachside of Sandestin, Elephant Walk is a favorite serving up the best view along side great food and friendly, knowledgable service.
Where To Shop
Nicole Paloma – A local designer with a shop just a short drive away in Grayton Beach, Paloma’s designs are ethereal and just so cool. And starting at $58, you will be in awe that this uniquely original fashion line is also affordable.
Ophelia Swimwear – The best swimwear store in the Southeast, you will fall in love with Ophelia Swimwear with locations in Grayton Beach and Seacrest. Owner Tori does an amazing job picking out not just swimsuits, but accessories, and coverups that will make you excited about swimsuit shopping.
Coconut Kids – The cutest children’s clothes nestled right in the heart of The Village at Baytowne Wharf. Stop by and find your little ones something chic.
Grand Boulevard – Shopping, movies, and dining all located together at Grand Boulevard. Find lcoal artist Donna Burgess’ gallery along with stores like Tommy Bahama, Wine World, and The Zoo Gallery.