Visit the Beaches of South Walton
A Short Drive from Tallahassee Beaches of South WaltonCelebrate the Sounds of Fall
Scattered along the sugar white sands of Florida’s panhandle are the 14 distinctive communities of Beaches of South Walton. Only a short two-hour drive from Tallahassee, each of these eclectic communities embraces its own timeless charm, natural beauty and tranquil environment, offering a perfect opportunity for a romantic getaway or just a long weekend.
Fall is a quieter, more sophisticated season for adults, where those in the know have discovered that cooler temperatures, warm water, fewer children, shorter lines, and the natural fall beauty of the area provide a greater sense of tranquility than is typically experienced during the spring and summer months.
Accommodations in Beaches of South Walton offer great values this time of year, sometimes up to 60 percent off peak-season rates. Whether staying at the luxury WaterColor Inn, a quaint cottage in Seaside, Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort’s enchanting Village of Baytowne Wharf or a peaceful beach rental in Blue Mountain, comfortable, elegantly appointed accommodations are plentiful and provide the perfect home base to rest after exploring the area. New developments are dotting the shoreline, adding lots of options for finding the perfect place in paradise.
The idyllic community of WaterSound is now a full-fledged beach community in Beaches of South Walton, the 14th official community along the 26 miles of Gulf coast. WaterSound’s master plan will include 499 residences as well as a village center, landscaped parks and recreational buildings.
Two new Marriott-branded hotels have recently opened at one of Sandestin’s off-resort locations. The Residence Inn Sandestin and Courtyard Sandestin, both at Grand Boulevard, will add more than 300 rooms to the resort’s room inventory. The two hotels, both the first of their kind in the area, have upgraded features and finishes and reflect the elegantly casual ambiance of the development’s Mediterranean/South Florida design. The Residence Inn Sandestin at Grand Boulevard includes all the comforts and conveniences of home including separate living and sleeping areas, a kitchenette and a pet-friendly policy so even the pooch can vacation in the lap of luxury – or maybe just your own lap. Both properties are a part of Grand Boulevard, an upscale specialty lifestyle center with full access to all the amenities of the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort.
The newest development on U.S. Highway 30-A is Alys Beach, a 158-acre site on the Gulf coast. This community is inspired by Antiguan patio houses, Bermuda compounds, and Mediterranean courtyard apartments. What sets Alys Beach apart are the environmentally conscious building practices and systems, including geothermal heating and cooling systems, natural storm drainage and soy-based spray-foam insulation. Homes also will be certified as “Fortified,” or disaster-resistant, by the Institute for Business and Home Safety, making Alys Beach the first “Fortified” community in the United States.
The fall season comes alive with signature events honoring Beaches of South Walton’s unique communities, people and life. Weekends are filled with outdoor concerts, film festivals and local art shows. Start the season off by enjoying Fall Sounds, where music fills Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort every Saturday throughout the season.
The first Sunday in September, October and November, head out for the Sunday Brunch and Jazz Cruise on SunQuest Cruises’ Solaris. You’ll support musicians displaced by Hurricane Katrina while enjoying the beautiful scenery of the Choctawhatchee Bay. On Oct. 7, a new Autumn Tides event will make its debut – appropriately named Baytowne Pops. Sinfonia, led by Demetrius Fuller and accompanied by local celebrity vocalists Phyllis Hasty and David Serring, will perform favorite tunes at The Village of Baytowne Wharf in Sandestin.
In addition, The Philharmonic Orchestra of Northwest Florida has added two concerts led by David Ott to this year’s Autumn Tides celebration – Ports o’Call on Oct. 20, featuring The Philharmonic Chorus on Borodin’s “Polovetsian Dances” and Horns Unlimited on Nov. 10, featuring Schumann’s “Concertstucke for Four Horns.”
The U-shaped street in the famous town of Seaside turns into an artist’s canvas of street paintings during Via Colori, Oct. 7-8. This unique art festival is an opportunity to watch local artisans work while enjoying a different, but familiar type of medium. This year’s event will feature a group of selected artists painting on canvas for a silent auction with proceeds benefiting the Seaside Neighborhood School. The Telluride MountainFilm on Tour, Nov. 3-4, is an opportunity to relax under the stars and view a variety of independent films with an emphasis on community involvement, adventure, culture and environmental preservation. From educational works about cultures and environments on the edge, to portraits of remarkable people and adrenaline-pitched adventure and exploration, MountainFilm on Tour is a don’t-miss event.
Nature and the environment have always been an essential part of experiencing Beaches of South Walton. Fresh and saltwater lakes, native vegetation and endangered and threatened animals and plants reside in all five South Walton state parks. These state parks have long been havens for recreation and relaxation away from the beach. Whether on a bike or out for a hike, miles of nature trails play host to both visitors and natives. Approximately 40 percent of the land in Beaches of South Walton is state-owned and therefore preserved in its natural state.
The annual Back to Nature Festival, Oct. 20-22, showcases the area’s exquisite landscape and rich history with two days of activities, including hiking, biking, kayaking, area tours, nature walks and boat tours.
In Rosemary Beach for its third consecutive year, the Southern Breeze Coastal Wine Tour, Oct. 20-22, blends premium wines with Gulf Coast food and culture. This year will feature the unique “Walkabout Brunch,” with several local restaurants serving their specialties and diners sampling champagnes and sparkling wines. This gourmet affair is the perfect end to a wonderful weekend.
Whether it’s enjoying live music, dining on delicious local cuisine, experiencing the natural wonder and beauty of the destination or watching a theatrical production, Autumn Tides revitalizes the soul, excites the mind and relaxes the body.
Activities Beyond the Beach
Many Tallahasseans come back to the beach for its host of amenities. Sandestin’s Baytowne Golf Club reopened in December 2005 after undergoing an “extreme makeover.” The course, twice hailed by Golf Digest’s “Places to Play,” was renovated by original course architect Tom Jackson. Among the changes: a fifth set of junior tee boxes, specifically designed to promote the game for children under 12; reconstructed greens with new Bermuda grass to make for better playing conditions and putting surfaces; and holes that have been redesigned and relocated.
If golf isn’t your game of choice, take a moment to reflect on the enlightening work of the 2006 Beaches of South Walton “Artist of the Year,” Phil Kiser. Kiser has dedicated his life to dimensional mosaics and creates works of art incorporating a variety of colors and textures using recycled materials. From antique plates, mason jars and recycled mirrors to tiny pieces of vintage glass, hundreds of hand-cut pieces of glass are carefully laid together to catch the light and create breathtaking images. Kiser’s work is on display at Big Mama Hula Girl Gallery in Grayton Beach, one of the many art galleries that call Beaches of South Walton home.
Whether you’re looking for a one-of-a-kind piece of art to that special gift for yourself, shopping remains a “must do” for many visitors to the destination. From quaint antique shops to the largest designer factory outlet center in the nation, Beaches of South Walton has tremendous shopper appeal. Several new shops have opened this year, making Beaches of South Walton a place to shop till you drop. The Market On The Square in Rosemary Beach offers the casual, Old World feel of a European market and features grocery items, prepared food, gourmet items such as specialty chocolates and olive oils, plus fresh flowers and newspapers. Silver Sands Factory Stores celebrates the season in style as they present Autumn Tides Month this October. Visitors who present $300 in same day receipts will receive a limited edition “Autumn Tides” print by renowned local artist Donna Burgess. Burgess will be on hand for a special “meet the artist” signing, Oct. 14 and 28.
Much like the eclectic destination itself, the many restaurants that hug the coastline of Beaches of South Walton celebrate a diverse palette of tastes, mixing local coastal treats with southern favorites and elegant presentations, creating a truly unique dining experience. Many of the nation’s top restaurants call Beaches of South Walton home, and six restaurants were listed in Florida Trend Magazine’s “Top 500 Restaurants in Florida.” New restaurants like Amoré: A Pizzeria recently opened to rave reviews. Located at Gulf Place in Santa Rosa Beach, the menu includes well-thought-out specialty pizzas, salads and sandwiches. Guests can dine inside or out on the patio, which overlooks the amphitheater and the Artists at Gulf Place colony creating a perfect place to fall in love again. Further east on Scenic 30A in Seaside, Great Southern Café recently opened in the former location of Shades and serves new fashioned Southern cuisine with fresh vegetables and seafood.
The Village of Baytowne Wharf in Sandestin is quickly expanding its dining options. The hip full-service sushi bar, Osaka Sushi Rocks, offers authentic Japanese cuisine and a range of Japanese beer, sake and sake cocktails. Guests can enjoy their outdoor deck that extends over the lagoon for great views during lunch or dinner. Also, overlooking the lagoon is Mangos Paradise Grille, which invites guests to enjoy bay breezes, island music and fresh food in a covered outdoor seating area cooled by misting fans. Featured selections include fresh fish tacos, char-grilled burgers and sandwiches, plus a complete “little mangos menu.” Popular local restaurateurs Chuck and Carmen Stiles, owners of Graffiti’s in Destin and Cafe Tango in Blue Mountain Beach, will bring Graffiti’s & The Funky Blues Shack restaurant and live blues club venue to Baytowne this fall.
Wild Olive restaurant, which recently opened in Rosemary Beach, satisfies those craving casual and gourmet foods, including domestic and imported meats and cheeses, an olive bar, salads, dairy products, breads and pastries. Dine-in during lunch with sandwiches, pizzas, salads and a daily hot meal, or head over from 4-6 p.m. on Friday for the weekly wine tasting.
The crisp refreshing breezes of the fall season will soon whisk their way through Tallahassee, enticing you to follow them to Beaches of South Walton. Where the monarch butterflies fill the air, sunsets are blazing enough to rekindle romance and fewer crowds and lower rates create the perfect place for a weekend getaway and a world-class experience.
For more information visit www.beachesofsouthwalton.com or call (800) 822-6877.