Destinations, Hotels & Spas

October 2, 2015 | By | Reply More

Judy’s Florida Destinations

The Third Coast: Rosemary Beach
By Judy Kirkwood

Rosemary Beach is more than squeaky clean fluffy white sand that dusts off like baby powder and the brighter blue of the Gulf waters compared to the Atlantic Ocean side of Florida. But that’s a good start.

When the sun gets so hot on the Atlantic Coast that you get blisters walking on it even in your flip flops, head to Rosemary Beach on scenic 30A, Florida’s “third coast,” between Panama City and Destin. The sand in northwest Florida remains cool as temperatures rise in South Florida. Summer, South Florida’s off-season is their high season. And the high season in South Florida is the off-season on the Third Coast, where you can find great values.

Ditch the Car
It’s a 10-hour drive, or you can hop a plane and land at the relatively new Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport, a 20-minute drive. Take the airport shuttle to Rosemary Beach. Who needs a car? Everywhere you want to go is less than a 10- minute walk. Rent a bike for your stay if you want to go further west on 30A to some of the other beach towns, like Seagrove, Seaside, or Watercolor.

But once there you won’t want to leave. Here’s why. You don’t have to do anything but move slowly through a dreamy setting of Pan-Caribbean architecture past tree-lined public parks and feathery pink- topped grass, listening to your footsteps on boardwalks, watching the ocean from a grassy square or beach lounge chair. It’s small town USA crossed with the West Indies, plus sophisticated and casual dining, whimsical gift shops, and dolphins practically jumping over your kayak. Now that is friendly.

Where to Stay
Rosemary Beach’s design is based on the principles of New Urbanism, which most notably cropped up in this area on the Panhandle with the creation of Seaside by Robert Davis over 30 years ago. The concept was simple: a small town where all paths lead to the sea, no traffic, strong community ties, and everything you need for relaxation at hand. Developed 15 years after Seaside, with a town plan based on the same designers – Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk – Rosemary Beach has replicated the success of Seaside as a self-contained beach town, but it has a slightly different feel.

Whereas Seaside is all pastels Rosemary Beach is more sophisticated, with an earth-tone palette of pecan, Spanish moss, fall straw, and terra cotta. The basic building types are small house/large house, beach or park house, courtyard or sideyard house, flats, arcade, and live/work units. More than 600 units have been completed and about 200 of those – from cozy studios to gorgeous 4,500 square-foot homes — are available for rent. In additon, The Pensione Inn will reopen in March after a remodel, and a hotel will be opening in 2013. The challenge is not to fall so deeply in love with RB that you want to buy your own place or build.RS6152_IMG_0361-lpr

One of the real estate agents, Steve Stevens, was living in Atlanta when he became captivated by Rosemary Beach’s charms. He is now on his third RB home and feels the location and ambience rival anything in The Bahamas (“these properties sell themselves”). The owners are from as far north as Wisconsin and west to Oregon; but most are from Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia. The town has become a draw for the country music industry, especially as direct flights have opened up from Nashville, and has hosted Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, as well as Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood. It’s also a getaway for Orlando actors and I found references to the Massey brothers, Kyle and Christopher, who starred in Disney TV shows, playing soccer on the Rosemary Beach greens.

What to Do
-The beach is the number one attraction here and sea kayaks, catamarans, surfboards – and lessons – are available through Sea Oats Beach Service, as well as beach chairs, umbrellas, cabanas, and hammocks. YOLO (You Only Live Once) paddle board drop-offs are available through (call 850-419-6188 for rental locations). Stop off at Bombora Sun and Surf downtown for everything “beachy” – goggles, floats, sunglasses, swimsuits and t-shirts.RS5973_The Pearl Pool 1-lpr

-Renting at Rosemary Beach entitles you to use of any of the four pools on premises and court time at the RB Racquet Club as well as admission to the RB Fitness Center, which also offers Pilates and yoga classes.

-Do rent a bike for your whole stay at Bamboo Bicycle company (850-231-0770) in downtown RB. Kids’ bikes, baby joggers and scooters can be rented as well as helmets. Ride to a nearby state park as well as to other towns and beaches to shop, picnic and explore.

-Shop the downtown. For a souvenir, visit Rosemary Beach Trading Company, Gigi’s Fabulous Kids’ Fashions and Toys, Pish Posh Patchoulis (where you can blend a special scent that reminds you of Rosemary Beach), or the Savvy Seahorse for home and lifestyle gifts. The Hidden Lantern bookstore is a must, with its beautiful sitting room and carefully curated selections; and Roadie, the resident black lab, who has his own following.

Food Glorious Food
The pursuit of food is a major activity in Rosemary Beach. You can buy picnic supplies and fixings for home meals at Wild Olives Market, Deli, and Bakery on the square, which also serves breakfast, lunch, tapas, and dinner. Wild Olives specials might include that such standouts as pan-seared red snapper topped with lump crab meat and a fresh pear salsa served with saffron cream pasta or grilled pheasant cognac sausage served with pumpkin risotto. The elegant Restaurant Paradis is RB’s other upscale dining experience that must be experienced. Onano Neighborhood Café in The Pensione Inn offers classic Italian fare near the shore.RS2403_DSC01217-lpr

For breakfast, lunch, and casual dinner Summer Kitchen Cafe is an RB institution, starting out as the town’s first restaurant – a little walk-up window in a red shack. Now it is where the community meets for a frittata, Kobe burger or grilled fish du jour. Cowgirl Kitchen is another choice, with a Southwestern edge.

Don’t miss La Crema for tapas and chocolate, with music. You can follow grilled lamb lollipops with rosemary and crispy paprika potatoes with chocolate fondue (or even chocolate dipped bacon).

As long as you are walking, take advantage of the fine wines offeredat dining establishments, or take some home for a nightcap on the balcony or patio. There will be twinkling stars and, if you are close enough, the rustle of sea grapes and the rush of waves. It will be hard to leave without looking at property for sale.RS241_Rosemary Reflect. Pool_01_-lpr

Sidebar: Choose your rental
Go to the Vacation Rentals area of to view the possibilities for a girlfriend getaway, couples retreat, or family vacation: cottage, studio, carriage house, loft, flat – each is individually decorated by owners and all have kitchens and balconies or porches. For questions call 866-348-8952 or email As with all real estate, the closer to the 2,500 feet of Gulf the more expensive the rates. Figure out what is most important to you (and remember it’s no more than a 5-minute walk or bike ride to get to the beach).

For more information on rentals, shopping and dining, tennis and fitness, reservations and special offers, visit

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