What: Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort
Where: Sandestin FL
Cost: Ranges from $149 for a standard hotel room to $689 for a three-bedroom condo (rates are per night before taxes and resort fees) Specials available see Hot Dates and Rates online
Photo: For photos of Sandestin, Visit the Field Trips with Sue Facebook page. While you are there, please “like” the page. Click for additional video of Baytowne Wharf.
There is a reason the Florida panhandle is a hot destination for families. There’s something for everyone here and the setting is just gorgeous. My boys and I spent a long weekend exploring the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort and all three have asked, “when we can go back.”
Our great adventure began with lunch at the beachfront restaurant Finz (formerly Elephant Walk for any of you that have been to Sandestin) where we got our first view of the ocean. Next to Finz is a resort pool and walk-way to the ocean. Everyone loved being able to go back and forth easily between ocean and pool. Although we did not see any signs of oil, we did encounter a natural occurrence, June grass. June grass is a feathery algae that blooms in warm waters and is common in the Gulf of Mexico during summer. It’s totally natural and part of the ocean ecosystem, but it did feel like swimming in pulp. Enterprising youth used it for sand castle decoration and my boys found it balled up nicely as a weapon to throw at an unsuspecting brother. The next day however, it was gone.
Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort is made up of 2400 acres and can be a bit confusing at first. There are four different areas to stay, Beachside (which doesn’t necessarily mean you are “on the beach”), Village of Baytowne Wharf (the New Orleans style downtown), Lakeside Townhomes and Cottages (surrounding the Raven and Baytowne golf courses) and Bayside (the original portion of the resort along the Links golf course.) Where you stay depends on how much you want to spend and what you’d like to do. We stayed Bayside and it was an easy walk or bike ride to Baytowne Wharf or the Marina. We could have easily biked to the beach, but my youngest is a bit slow, so we drove. There is also a resort-wide tram. Accommodations come with extras like a free hour of court time per day on any of the 15 tennis courts, use of a canoe or kayak for one hour each day and unlimited catch and release in any of the resort lakes and ponds.
In addition to the white sand beaches, I loved being able to walk or bike everywhere. Sandestin has six miles of biking and walking trails and lots of destinations. There’s Jolee Island, a pirate’s paradise. In addition to a pirate themed playground, there is a playhouse and look out on the water. Jolee Island is an easy canoe or kayak ride from the marina as well. At the marina, you can rent any type of water craft including Yolo boards, waverunners, pontoon boats, or sailboats. A wipeout style water obstacle course, that my boys were super excited about, is in the works, but due to threat of high winds, they had taken it down during our stay. A pathway between the marina and the wharf sports a very cool tree house.
In the evening, walk or bike to Baytowne Wharf. The Wharf is modeled after Bourbon Street in New Orleans, albeit with a family flair. There are plenty of free options for entertainment, a huge playground, giant checkers, and family programming includes performers and outdoor movies. No doubt your kids will want to partake in some of the “attractions” and there are lots to choose from including: human hamster balls (that’s what my son called them), a zipline, ropes course, bungee jumping and a carousel. By far the best bargain is the ropes course. It was $12 per child and the kids could spend as long as they liked climbing around. Certainly long enough for parents to pop into a few shops or just relax and have a drink.
Sandestin was recently purchased by the Becnel Family of Destin. The new ownership is planning lots of positive developments and the merchants I talked to at the Wharf were very excited about the changes which include the expansion of the Marina beach, the Marina Bar and Grill, enhanced experiences in the Village of Baytowne Wharf and other capital improvements. Seems as great as Sandestin is now, it’s poised to get better.