It’s Easy to Discover a Whole New World That’s Close to Home
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It’s wonderful to be adventurous and head out for places unknown. But most of us don’t have the spare time of Marco Polo, the royal bankroll of Christopher Columbus or the fortitude of Lewis and Clark.
Instead, we’d rather enjoy a long weekend someplace that’s away (but not too far away) and a different experience from the everyday with all the comforts — and maybe even more — of home.
This year, we’re striking out toward all four points on the compass — North, to the beauty of Georgia’s Callaway Gardens, South to St. Petersburg’s luxurious Vinoy Renaissance Resort, East to the family-friendly Hammock Beach Resort in Palm Coast and West to Historic Pensacola — to find the best kind of adventures that are not too far from home.
Kick Back and Relax at Hammock Beach
A Resort Celebrating Florida’s Wild Natural Beauty on the Atlantic Coast
By Rosanne Dunkelberger
When we think of a visit to “the beach,” visions of sun, sand and surf come to mind. But with nearly 1,200 miles of coastline — from Jacksonville to tropical Miami and around the bend from Tampa Bay and across the Panhandle — the reality can be many different things. I’ve lived in the Sunshine State for more than 40 years, and this year found another different and enjoyable experience at Hammock Beach Resort, located on the Atlantic in Palm Coast, about 30 miles south of St. Augustine.
For starters, those used to visiting Panama City and Destin are going to be pleasantly surprised to find that while driving along the coast on A1A, you are pretty much driving “on the coast.” For long stretches, hotels and houses are on the landward side of the street — with nothing but palmettos and sand dunes between you and the Atlantic waves. Because of a little user error while inputting our destination, we ended up overshooting the resort and had to backtrack about 20 miles up A1A to get to Hammock Beach. I’ve never had such an enjoyable detour.
And the Hammock Beach Resort was definitely worth the extra miles, an oasis of luxury surrounded by Florida’s natural beauty. While it might be nice to while away an afternoon napping on a bed slung between two trees, the “hammock” referred to in the resort’s name refers to a different kind — an ecological phenomenon particular to Florida, slightly raised areas near water that are home to mini-forests of trees and other vegetation.
There is, of course, the beach. Not the snowy white version found along Northwest Florida, but more of a cinnamon color and full of coquina and other shells, where the eagle-eyed might just find sharks’ teeth, too. The beach is very undeveloped as far as the eye can see in both directions, so you can easily enjoy the natural beauty of the coast. With more wave action than you’ll find on the Gulf coast, it’s great for body surfing and other surf sports.
And then there’s the property itself, featuring 329 guest rooms in 11-story towers and the full complement of amenities you’d expect from a AAA Four-Diamond-rated resort. The rooms range from traditional hotel rooms to fully equipped four-bedroom condos, making it the perfect spot for any sized family’s vacation. There are oodles of activities going on around the property — everything from fitness classes to yacht cruises — and Hammock Beach Resort prints a comprehensive weekly guide to all the resort has to offer each day. There are also supervised recreational activities for youngsters at the Kids Crew.
The recreational amenities are superb, particularly the Fantasy Pool Complex, with two levels of outdoor fun. On the first is a kid-friendly shallow pool with a water slide and a lazy river. The upper level has a pool geared toward the grownups. As one attendant said, “You don’t have to be an adult, you just have to act like one” to enjoy it. Nearby is a whacking big 32-person whirlpool spa. Yet another pool features a “beach” as well as a sand volleyball court. And another full-size pool can be found indoors for cold and rainy days. You’ll never have to leave your lounge with poolside food and beverage service from Ocean Bar & Café.
Hammock Beach Resort is home to two golf courses. The Ocean Course, designed by Jack Nicklaus, is the more player-friendly of the two, with six holes offering breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean. The Tom Watson-designed Conservatory Course is a British links-style course with challenging water hazards and more than 140 bunkers. Tennis is also available on lighted courts.
For those who seek to take it very slow, The Spa offers a full complement of relaxation and beautification services, including facials, massages, mani/pedis, body therapies, waxing and hair design. Can’t decide what service to enjoy? No worries: Sign up for a spa package such as the $479 Relaxation as Far as the Eye Can Sea, which includes a Green Tea and Ginger body wrap, custom facial, Warm Coconut Stone Massage and 75-minute Hammock Beach Pedicure.
The Hammock community prides itself on keeping its hometown, nestled between the ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway, as natural and inviting as possible. There are miles of bike paths and trails, and the immediate area around the resort includes several state parks and nature preserves that can be explored by foot, bike, kayak and boat.
Just a few miles north on A1A is Marineland, which offers dolphin encounters and eco-tours, and a 30-mile drive will take you to all of St. Augustine’s history and tourist attractions.