Wednesday, August 15, 2012
- by Ann N. Yungmeyer
Northwest Florida’s Gulf coast is renowned for its emerald green waters and glistening white sand beaches – the main draw at popular resort towns that stretch from Panama City to Pensacola. Lesser known along the route are a handful of upscale communities that redefine coastal living, among them, the neo-traditional Rosemary Beach. So named for the rosemary herb that grows wild in the area and which frames the walkways of this pedestrian-friendly town, Rosemary Beach effectively blends a charming urban ambience with first-rate recreational amenities, making it a unique retreat for all ages.
Rosemary residents and vacationers alike are attracted by the village-like character and understated charm, as much as the area’s natural beauty and family-friendly activities. Established in 1995 and built by the same architect of nearby Seaside, Rosemary offers a similar community feel, but with an entirely different look. Luxury marries nostalgia in a tantalizing blend of architectural styles that incorporate green-living concepts and align with the natural habitat. A network of boardwalks and pathways connect Rosemary’s town center and surrounding neighborhoods to green spaces, pools, tennis, playgrounds, a fitness center and the beach, all within a short walk or bike ride. Cars are better left parked, except for excursions down the scenic coastal Route 30-A.
Rental accommodations include studios, lofts, cottages and carriage houses nestled among tightly landscaped native flora. Guests may also choose the Pensione Inn, a contemporary European-style inn above the Italian-style Onano Cafe.
“Our residential designs vary greatly, but all adhere to strict covenants which keep the integrity of the community and protect the homeowners’ investment,” says Ken Gifford, president and COO of Rosemary Beach Holdings, Inc. “You have to like people and appreciate rules to live happily here.”
In addition to a congenial atmosphere, Rosemary offers plenty of year-round activities. Try morning yoga or spin class; stroll through the community herb garden and the butterfly park or jog on the 2.3-mile fitness trail with exercise stations. Hop on a cruiser from Bamboo Bicycle Company and ride the 30-A bike path to Deer Lake State Park, an 8-mile round trip to a rare coastal dune lake. Kayak along the Gulf shores or try stand-up paddling with YOLO (You Only Live Once) board rentals on Western Lake at nearby Watercolor Resort. Enjoy a spa treatment at Vivo Salon, browse a myriad of boutiques, and indulge at Rosemary’s inviting outdoor cafes and choice restaurants.
All rental guests enjoy complimentary privileges including court time at the Racquet Club and access to the Fitness Center, swimming pools and the private beach. Rosemary’s four pools each have a distinct personality. The Coquina Pool is a negative-edge pool meant for lounging and relaxing while the Cabana Pool is a family-friendly pool area in a Mediterranean design with a separate children’s pool and adjoining playground for the kids. The covered Sky Pool includes lap lanes and serves as a year-round pool with roof panels that can be opened in warm weather and closed in cooler weather. The elegant Barbados Pool, in French West Indies architectural style, has unique design features including a dramatic entrance, stucco tower and vestibule fountain.
Dreamy and romantic, Rosemary Beach is also a popular wedding venue and definitely feels like an escape to somewhere far away. No matter how you spend your time in Rosemary, you won’t venture far from the mesmerizing views and alluring blue-green waters that make the Florida Panhandle a favorite destination.
Best picks to grab a bite or savor fine cuisine:
- Start the morning with a mimosa at Summer Kitchen, Rosemary’s very first restaurant. Stay for lunch and try their grilled mahi mahi on quinoa salad and the best key lime pie for dessert.
- Enjoy a latte, pastry and wifi at Amavida Coffee.
- Try Cowgirl Kitchen for a new take on breakfast, southwestern style, and good take-home treats like pimento cheese, bean dips and fresh salsa.
- Stop in at Wild Olives to stock up on freshly prepared take-home deli and salad items. While you’re there, enjoy a fried goat-cheese salad and sweet treat at their corner café.
- Sport a flowing summer dress and ride your cruiser bike to an elegant dinner on the terrace at Edward’s Fine Foods & Wine or the cozy covered porch at Paradis.
- Indulge in chocolate-dipped figs and a special coffee at La Crema Tapas & Chocolate.
- Treat the kids to ice cream or the irresistible assortment of candies at Sugar Shak, and try a real sugar cane stalk for a natural treat.
Getting there: The new Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport in Panama City, 30 minutes from Rosemary Beach, is accessible through connecting flights from Tri-Cities. For more info, visit www.rosemarybeach.com