I love the ocean. I love the beach. I simply love everything about it-the sand, the water, the smell of the salt air, the way the waves roll up the back of your leg…all of it-well, minus the whole I am part of the food chain once I enter the water part.) If I could figure out a way to pop a tent and call it home for the rest of my life, I would. (With indoor plumbing, of course.) I love the New England coast as much as I do the beautiful beaches of the Florida Panhandle. From what I hear, I think I would say the same thing about the west coast.
Growing up in Mississippi, going to the Florida panhandle is just what folks did. The idea of possibly going to another part of the country to another beach area, just didn’t come up in conversation. Some may call it the “Redneck Riviera”, but I simply see it as the closest thing we have to the Caribbean here in the United States. Over my lifetime, I have visited the coast of Mississippi, Texas, Alabama and even the Atlantic side of Florida, but my heart belongs to that stretch called 30A. Reaching from just outside Panama City and going west to the edges of Destin, it’s paradise. “The Truman Show” was actually filmed in Seaside, which is on 30A. Sandestin has been our “go to” choice now since our oldest was in early high school. Nestled on Miramar Beach, just east of Destin, this resort has grown into almost a small town with the addition of shopping/restaurants, and everything you need to make a vacation comfortable. We have been to the coast in May, June, July and August and this year we added October to that list….and it did not disappoint.
One of the biggest questions you have to answer before you book a trip to Sandestin is “Beach side or Bay side?” We have done both. We have stayed steps away from the beautiful turquoise water and we have stayed steps away from the bay and all the fun the Baytowne Village brings just steps away.
We love the ease of going to the “Village” when we stay on the bay-side in the village and we also love the ease of grabbing out beach gear and making the three minute walk to the beach. One is not better than the other. This year, the condo we enjoyed on the beach-side was undergoing some October construction, so we opted to trek across Highway 98 and stay in the Village on the bay-side. It was a great choice for the October trip! We were able to get to the beach in less than five minutes and in the evening were able to be in the Village after a short two minute walk. The pool for our condo this year is my favorite pool of the entire resort, so that was an added perk! (It’s a zero entry pool that at its deepest point is only four feet deep. It’s a beautiful pool for kiddos, parents and adults who just want to enjoy the tranquility of the water without the cannonballs in the background.) We were directly on the bay as well, so we had the beautiful Choctawhatchee Bay glistening between the tall pine trees that line the bay.
Evenings could be spent walking along the piers by the bay or biking the resort or walking in the soft, white sand of the most beautiful beaches in America. Tennis and golf your thing? More than you can possibly ask for….grass courts, clay courts…..several golf courses….all located in a gated, secure resort. Dining, playing, kid/teen activities…all right there. This is not where college kids go for spring break…..winner, winner, chicken dinner! We are huge Sandestin fans….now…we will be the first to tell you that if you go during high season-expect crowds. That’s just the nature of the coast of Florida in the summer. It’s never been intolerable, but I have to admit…October has been our all-time favorite visit.
The water did not have a speck of sea grass in it. Probably the clearest I have ever seen the water. Just beautiful. Temps were perfect. Warm enough to enjoy the water, the beach, the pools, but cool enough not to worry about heat danger. (Take sunscreen!)
We did have one “rain day”, but even that was a fun day. Two treks over to Seaside were both met with gully-washers and we finally got the message we were not meant to spend the day at Seaside. Back to the Sandestin/Destin area for a little outlet shopping at Silver Sands (hello North Face, Kate Spade and Vera Bradley outlets!) and that was followed by deciding if it was a movie evening or dinner out. (We opted for food, of course!)
It’s funny how you can spend an entire day sitting on a beach and look down and realize it’s six hours later than when you first sat down. Beach life was how we spent our Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and most of Thursday. Toss in some time spent at the Destin Harborwalk to view the weigh-ins for the Destin Fishing Rodeo and food excursions…and that’s pretty much our week. One of the biggest highlights of our visits to the coast each time is that I get to see my beautiful cousin, Jan and her adorable family. Our second trip to Cantina Laredo with another snapshot of us all together. Granny Page would love that we are able to see one another…even if it’s just once a year or so. Jan’s son, James, has to be one of the most gregarious kids I have ever met! Imagine a twenty year old bottled up in the body of a first grader!
It was so wonderful having our Josh come in for a few days (Fall Break) and this Momma heart just overflows with how much I enjoy time with this kid and enjoy feeding him! One of the great things about staying in a condo is that you get a full kitchen and that kitchen made my baby boy his favorite sausage gravy and biscuits! Speaking of our condo, we did have one HUGE issue during our stay……a tree frog. I am so afraid of frogs it’s almost silly. I had picked out my spot for coffee on day one and that spot was my friend…until…the frog spotting. That frog took up residence. Finally, in desperation to have my coffee spot back, I had my hero, Lee, bag the frog and set it free in the lawn area downstairs. (I may have looked daily for the frog after that….afraid he would return.)
As with every trip to Florida, the day the week ends always brings me such sadness. I’m confident I am a walking billboard on that day for “pity party 101” and how not to act when it’s time to go home. Not only do I just enjoy the coastal world and all it offers, but my health does too! I keep wondering if I can get a RX for beach relocation and have it covered by my insurance. Pity party aside, I am so grateful for the time we did have on the coast and am already counting down the days until our next visit. Sometimes, the best vacations are the ones where you go and simply sit and listen and watch….the vacations that restore your joy and force you to stop for a few days. That’s Florida for this coffee girl.
Now to get you up to speed on some of our favorites of the week!
Tradition is that we eat at Pompano Joes for our first meal of the week. It’s directly on the beach and you can sit and enjoy the waves and good food at the same time! Some of our favorites there are the crab claws, fish tacos and fried shrimp and pineapple slaw. (For shrimp folks out there, gulf shrimp simply put every other shrimp in the world to shame! So sweet and wonderful!)
For those night we want to cook in the condo, a trip to Sexton’s is in order. This is our favorite seafood store! Such fresh seafood and so clean and you won’t walk in and be knocked down by the smell of fish. (Ya’ll know what I mean!) We were so fortunate to be able to take Royal Reds home two different nights! Three minutes with some Old Bay and just watch how quickly they disappear! If fish is your thing, expect some of the best grouper and flounder around. Several other options are there too, but I am a shrimp girl and just gravitate directly to those! The folks there are so nice and will answer all your questions! It’s a little bit of a drive from Sandestin as it’s close to the Destin Harbor, but it’s worth the drive! Open until dark!
Dewey Destin is our next go to place to eat. The fried oysters, shrimp and fish (grouper) are the best we have found. Hushpuppies are tasty too, as is the slaw! This is not “fine dining” and they don’t pretend to be. It’s just well cooked seafood that is fresh off the boats. The key lime pie-oh my. Don’t share….you won’t want to! Harbor side seating is available.
Louisiana Lagniappe is the place to go for sure. It’s pricey, but oh my goodness. Make this your “special” meal of the week. Yes, you will think you are lost when you pull into a residential area on the bay, but you are not! They don’t take reservations and there will be a wait during high season.
Another Broken Egg in Sandestin at the Village. We try to eat breakfast there once or twice during our stay. Most mornings we eat in the condo before we trek to the beach. (Huge money saver there and bring a cooler and pack your lunch!) Some personal favorites are the Grits with gouda, bacon, tomato and green onions, the French Toast with bananas foster topping, any of the scrambles and just a word of warning-portions are HUGE! The steel cut oatmeal is tasty too and comes with real Tupelo Honey.
Those are our “go to” places near Sandestin to eat, but as long as you stay away from the super touristy spots, good food is not hard to find. (If you like seafood!) Chains are chains and we typically stay away from any chain that isn’t a local chain. (I can get that food anywhere!)
When planning the trip to Sandestin you also have to decide if you want to rent via Sandestin (pricey) or an outside management company or owner. We have found VRBO to be a great rental resource and My Vacation Haven has wonderful properties and quiet often has a coupon code.
So, pack your bags, grab the sunscreen, and leave your cares in the driveway and head on down to the beautiful Florida gulf-coast.
Dreaming of Florida……