Jewel of the Emerald Coast

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Arriving as early as possible on Friday evening in Destin, there’s no reason to wander far from your accommodations. Instead, grab a drink and find a comfortable place to enjoy the night ocean air and the sound of water moving onshore. You’ll want a good night’s sleep before an active weekend around the Emerald Coast, the beautiful coastal region of the Florida panhandle.

Saturday morning after breakfast at your hotel, it’s time to enjoy the main attraction – the beach and seaside. You have options as to how best to enjoy your surroundings. The pristine, sugar-white sand beaches of Henderson Beach State Park are a good place to start. In addition to 6,000 feet of natural scenic shoreline abutting blue-green waters of the Gulf of Mexico, there are nature trails, a playground and picnicking areas. Crystal Sands Beach is another popular and very beautiful waterfront site for swimming or sunbathing. Given the ubiquitous nature of the waterfront in Destin, though, you will have your choice of scenic beach locales. Somewhere in there, you will need a break for lunch, which can be as easy as a simple eatery near the beach or something more memorable. Consider Vin’tij Wine Boutique and its revolving wine selections and light, eclectic bistro menu. Sarah K’s Gourmet is also likely to be memorable. After lunch, return to the beach or consider enjoying the environment in another fashion. Check out the wildlife at Gator Beach or fly high over the surf with Flyhigh Parasail (where you can also enjoy a powerboat ride or balloon excursion). As evening sets in, stroll HarborWalk Marina or Destin Harbor Boardwalk. Consider dinner near either of those sites, or perhaps at Cuvee Bistro for French and Italian with an emphasis on good seafood; McGuire’s Irish Pub for a more festive environment (and great steaks); or romantic Louisiana Lagniappe. A brief stroll after dinner is a great way to end your evening.

Sunday presents plenty of opportunities to expand your experience in Destin – or to return to the beach and just relax. As alternatives, there is deep-sea fishing from out of Destin Harbor, plenty of golf options, Go Karts, bumper rides and mini-golf at The Track Family Recreation Center, or Big Kahuna’s Water and Adventure Park. The Destin History & Fishing Museum offers insight into a locale of which by now you are probably fond. In the late afternoon, revisit your preferred location for sightseeing and relaxation before dinner near your accommodations or at the restaurant that had come in as second choice when making plans on the previous evening. The sun and surf will likely prompt a relaxing later evening looking out over the beach and enjoying the view one last time before bed, and the inevitable return to the real world in the morning.

Stay In Style

Henderson Park Inn offers true hospitality in a scenic setting far enough from Destin’s “strip” but also still within easy range of fine dining and attractions. The bed and breakfast welcomes guests with a bottle of wine and flowers on arrival and the pampering continues throughout one’s entire stay. Personalized service accentuates the pampering, as does a charming terrace overlooking the white-sand beaches of the Emerald Coast. All-inclusive and adults only helps keep the focus on quiet reflection and romance. www.hendersonparkinn.com

The Wingate by Wyndham has a broader array of amenities than many of its peers, including a business center, free wifi and fitness center for those seeking to maintain work or personal routines. It is off the water, but beaches are just minutes away and the courteous staff tends nicely to visitors. Big Kahunas Water Park is nearby, as is Henderson Beach State Park. www.wingatehotels.com

Hidden Dunes Beach & Tennis Resort elevates a visit to the Emerald Coast with its lush 27-acre setting, fitness center, swimming pool and, of course, tennis courts. The onsite tennis center features six Rubico, clay courts, USPTA trained professionals and great activities and events. From well-manicured grounds and water features to tram service to the beach just minutes away, virtually every detail here has been well thought-out. www.hiddendunes.com
 

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