There is, of course, that magnificent shore: 2, 500 feet of unblemished white sand, protected dunes and Gulf-green waters. Been there. Love that! But a return trip to Rosemary Beach — a stay in town this time — revealed even more subtleties. Away from the call of the waves, it’s easier to pay attention to the custom amenities in this relaxed, well-thought-out, northwest Florida community.
Take, for example, the 2.3-mile walking trail that winds through its 107 acres. The wooden boardwalks run north-south, making it easy, no matter where on site, to locate the beach, about five minutes from almost any point. Sandy, east-to-west footpaths meander past pocket parks, four community pools, a butterfly garden, playgrounds and fitness stations. There is something interesting to see or do at every turn. A slow walk offers the chance to admire carriage houses, cottages and lofts, reimagined from the architecture of Charleston, New Orleans, St. Augustine and the West Indies. The more than 600 light-filled living spaces feature wraparound porches, vine-covered verandas, hushed courtyards and balconies with stunning views.
During a stroll it’s hard to look away from the graceful homes. But the native plantings, such as abundant rosemary, beach roses, saw palmetto and live oaks, certainly deserve notice. It’s also worth observing what’s not there: grass lawns (public greens only), sprinkler systems and ugly concrete drainage pipes. The permeable pavers and natural landscaping ensure sustainable beauty.
Interiors mirror the harmony of the outdoors. From original art on the subtle-colored walls to handsome Adirondack chairs on the Creole-style balconies, from Aveda soaps in the well-appointed bathrooms to stylish duvets on the cozy beds — all is simple luxuriousness.
“Will you look at this water bottle?” I ask my travel buddy when we check out the complimentary contents in the fridge in our loft. The clean, artful design of the recyclable bottle seems to exemplify Rosemary Beach. “So perfect, ” she says, holding it admiringly to the light.
Wine and Dine
When effort is made over a thing as common as a water bottle, think what local establishments might do when something exceptional is in order. Each fall, the resort’s eateries pull out the stops for Rosemary Beach Uncorked, a long afternoon to “Eat. Drink. Be Rosemary.” Visitors from all over the country nibble and quaff their way along the town squares and Main Street. Select samplings: dark chocolate with French grey sea salt, pinot noir, Bolivian organic coffee (Amavida Coffee); pulled pork enchiladas with red chili sauce, zinfandel (Cowgirl Kitchen); orange pork with caramelized onion, Shaya Verdojo (La Crema); braised short rib crostini, Chianti (Onano); lump crab-stuffed baked mushrooms with sherry goat cheese, Luna Pinot Grigio (Restaurant Paradis); Kobe sliders with white cheddar and chipotle ketchup, merlot (Summer Kitchen Café); shrimp ceviche, sauvignon blanc (Wild Olives Market-Deli-Bakery).
Everyday offerings are also outstanding. The emphasis is on fresh, local, homemade. Blueberry scones and
just-ground coffee, or a big-as-Texas breakfast, perk up the mornings. At night, a variety of restaurants, more than a half-dozen in an area no bigger than a suburban street, serve entrees such as Northern Italian-style pasta, pan-seared free-range chicken, grass-fed beef, or light coastal fare, like line-caught grouper and tapas. At the end of an evening, diners often pop down the street to La Crema for a chocolate shot, espresso cookie sandwich, or its famous chocolate-dipped bacon. And, since bed is such a short walk away, after-dinner drinks at any of the convivial restaurant bars is a must.
Traditional water sports, such as surfing, kayaking, fishing or sailing, are readily available. Gaining in popularity is paddleboarding at nearby Western Lake, a wind-created dune lake where wildlife is abundant.
Biking, whether a leisurely cruise on an old-fashioned two-wheeler or a fast-paced spin over miles of trail, is a sure hit. Much appealing, too, are the state-of-the-art machines at the fitness center. A self-supervised workout is free for cottage guests. I treated myself to a yoga class and a massage (see after-dinner drinks, previous page), each excellent and moderately priced.
It came as a surprise that the Italian game of bocce is the official sport of this beach town. On reflection, I realize how representative of RB this is. Beach and town have equal weight here. It’s a community as much as a shore.
Someday soon I’d like to return for one of the twice-yearly bocce tournaments. I want to watch the little kids, teens and adults roll the colorful balls on the commons. I want to join them in a toast to the unhurried players and to the good things they all strive to preserve.
“The exceptional democratic spirit of the game of ‘bocce’ is the basis on which its deeply peaceful character is founded, ” the tournament newsletter reads. “It is often the beginning of long friendships.”
For more information: rosemarybeach.com, rosemarybeachuncorked.com