Rosemary Beach: A Multi-Generational Destination

Originally published in Lake & Sumter STYLE Magazine’s July 2012 issue.

Beachgoers of all ages love Rosemary Beach, a pedestrian-friendly community along State Road 30A on Florida’s Panhandle.

“Build it and they will come” applies to beach communities as much as it does fields of dreams — maybe even more so when visitors get to live like millionaires for a few days in exquisite oceanfront “cottages” Rosemary Beach, located between Destin and Panama City, is just such a place where dream homes are the norm in this relatively new community that draws thousands of visitors each year.

Founded in 1995, Rosemary Beach was designed to encompass New Urbanism, a 20th century movement that promoted walkable and diverse neighborhoods where people could live, work, and play. During my stay, I was able to park my car and forget about it. Fashionable restaurants, casual eateries, boutiques, swimming pools, tennis courts, and, of course, the beach were all within a 10-minute walk from my two-story carriage house.

Although sale prices for the luxury cottages and carriage houses skyrocket into the millions, most are second — or even third — homes for the owners who often rent them through the Rosemary Beach Cottage Rental Company. For less than what a week in a luxury beachfront hotel would cost, families can stay in fully appointed homes and have access to first-class amenities.

Rosemary Beach is a prime destination for family gatherings where grandparents come with their children and grandchildren for a week at the beach and stay in HGTV-worthy rentals homes and cottages. Most of the rental properties have minimum stays of four- or seven-nights, depending on the size. For shorter stays, the newly renovated 11-room Pensione Inn on Rosemary Beach’s south side offers luxury rooms and small suites, with daily rates that begin at $195 (winter) and $295 (summer). The hotel overlooks the Gulf of Mexico and is just a few short steps from the beach.

And it’s the beach that brings most vacationers to the area. The powdery white sand and the sparkling emerald water make the Gulf beaches some of the most beautiful in the world and attract beach lovers of all ages. To me, the uniqueness of Rosemary Beach begins with Barrett Square, the town’s thriving center of activity that lies on the north side of Scenic Route 30A and is filled with boutiques, shops, and eateries. I rented a bicycle from the Bamboo Bicycle Company and pedaled the flat, four-mile bike trail along State Road 30A, known to locals as “the road to paradise,” to Deer Lake State Park. This natural park indeed is a paradise with its serene views overlooking both Deer Lake and the dynamic dune ecosystem along the Gulf.

Later, on the south side of town, I had a treat from Sugga Pies Cupcakes to tide me over until dinner. Restaurants ranged from casual to elegant, and menus were creative and extensive. With all the great Gulf seafood, fresh seasonal fare, steaks, tapas, and more, saving room for dessert was hard. But I was told not to miss the dark chocolate fondue at La Crema Tapas and Chocolate in Rosemary Beach, and I’m glad I listened. After all, calories supposedly don’t count during beach vacations.

And if calories do count, well, Rosemary Beach’s Fitness Center offers a variety of classes and fitness equipment to work them off. An indoor swimming pool is also available just in case it’s raining or if you visit during the cooler months. The Racquet Club is staffed with a tennis professional who gives group or private lessons and provides a game-matching service.

Maybe a brisk walk is all you really want to do. The Rosemary Beach Fitness & Walking Trail meanders throughout the 107-acre community past beautiful homes, gorgeous green spaces, and, of course, the ever-present wild rosemary bushes from which the town got its name.

And, then again, maybe you just want to relax and scan the shore for celebrities who are rumored to visit Rosemary Beach for their own family getaways. Spend your hours in the sunshine however you want, but don’t miss the glorious Panhandle sunsets that are dreams come true.

Rosemary Beach is easily accessible by car or air. The town is a 30-minute drive from the Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport and a one-hour drive from the Fort Walton Beach Okaloosa Airport. For more information, visit rosemarybeach.com.

Photos by Tony & Mary Ann DeSantis


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