The “Redneck Rviera” has been a southern secret for years. Families from the deep south have vacationed in the area from Panama City to Destin for decades. The area is officially known as “the beaches of South Walton.” There are 19 beaches stretching along 26 miles of the Gulf of Mexico on Florida’s northwest coast, also known as the Panhandle.
In my opinion, the most beautiful beaches and best locations are along County Road 30A. Lined with great restaurants and quaint shops, 30A is loaded with recreational opportunities such as golf, tennis, swimming, superior fishing, and especially walking. The beaches here are fabulous. Unspoiled, sugar-white sand and pristine nature trails will please all level of hiker/walker.
My travel preference is to go to places in the off or shoulder season. Lower rates and uncrowded appeals to me!
Recently I discovered a place called Rosemary Beach. I stayed directly on the Gulf in a fabulous cottage and walked every day on a deserted beach. Twice in four days I saw only two local fishermen on the beach.
The food was great. My two favorite restaurants were 83 Central Square in Seaside (for lunch) and Picolo & the Red Bar. (wait ‘til you see the decor!) Both are moderately priced with terrific local fish and recipes. Of special note, in the expensive/sophisticated category, are Criolla’s and Cafe 30A (yes, named after the highway!).
Back to Rosemary Beach. Rosemary Beach, believe it or not, is growing its own town! 74 homes now line the streets of this “new town development” (17 of which are completed and 57 others in various stages of construction). The homes are examples of coastal architecture from the southern US to the Caribbean. Completed homes and cottages have front porches, courtyards and even sleeping porches to take advantage of the mild climate. Homes, carriage houses and cottages are available to accommodate up to ten people.
There is a beautiful heated pool that is fabulous. A recently opened playground has swings, slides and bridges for the younger kids. Eventually, at the center of town, a Pensione will offer eight rooms for rent, as well as an intimate, full service Italian restaurant. Along Merchant’s Row, an eclectic mix of shops in live/work buildings will provide services to residents and guests. Home & Garden Cable TV (HGTV) recently featured Rosemary Beach and the area. So, although Rosemary Beach is not completely built, it is still worth a visit.
For home and cottage rental information, contact Rosemary Beach at 800-736-0877 or visit online at www.rosemarybeach.com. You can also contact the South Walton Tourist Development Council at 800-822-6877 or online at www.beachesofsouthwalton.com. Air service from major cities connect through Atlanta with commuter flights into Ft. Walton Beach or Panama City flying regular schedules throughout the day.
Speaking of air travel, I have a few suggestions for your carry-on. I always pack my own headset. I enjoy listening to music while I read, but now that the some airlines charge $5 for the use of theirs, it is a good way to save a couple of bucks (not to mention sanitation issues). My carry-on also contains earplugs to block out the noise. It is the only defense against crying kids and loud talkers! If you are really adventurous, pack an eye shade. It is possible to nap on planes. Finally, don’t forget a travel sized antibacterial gel. I haven’t had a cold in two years and I am convinced it is due to my use of this product. Every health magazine touts it. Germs spread on door knobs, wash basins, and especially when you shake hands. It is no fun to get sick on a vacation or business trip.