Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Sandestin Beach Resort has something for everyone

Sandestin Beach Resort has something for everyone!
By Leigh Bratina Kids Life Magazine, Tuscaloosa

Summer is just around the corner. It’s time to plan time together with the family, a vacation away from the monotonous. You may find yourself longing for a quiet day on the beach, yet your husband’s idea of a vacation is a golf trip and the kids want something more adventurous. Where can you go to have it all? Where can you go to please everyone’s taste? Why, Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort, of course! Sandestin is a popular vacation spot for families located in northwest Florida. The resort caters to family activities, offering a multitude of programs for children and adults alike. “Sandestin understands that the family the plays together stays together,” says Mike Stange, vice president and general manager of the resort. Sandestin is a 2400-acre community of 30 “neighborhoods”. There is a price range for every family budget, offering many different types of accommodations, from hotel rooms to condominiums, villas, and Townhomes.
Recently my family and I visited Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort. I was curious about any storm damage from hurricane Ivan. Sandestin area was largely spared. There were no visible signs of Ivan, and what was damaged (a pier and beach walk) have long since been repaired. We stayed at The Grand Sandestin. The accommodations are very tastefully decorated and very comfortable. At the Grand, you have a feeling of checking into a grand southern hotel, complete with white columns and swaying palms. The lobby even had a piano whose keys moved by themselves, playing a lovely melody. My children were convinced a ghost was playing the piano. They were quite captivated by watching the piano keys move by themselves.
After checking in to our room at the Grand, we strolled down to the village of Baytowne, easily within walking distance of most all of the accommodations. That is the wonderful thing about Sandestin, you need not ever leave the resort, everything is within walking distance or a complimentary tram or ferry will come and take you to where you need to go, anywhere within the resort. As we strolled through the village of Baytowne, the sights and smells were captivating. I felt as if I were strolling along a street in Charleston, which may have coincided with one in New Orleans and looped through St. Augustine. The architecture of the buildings, the cobbled streets, and ocean breeze all gave me a feeling of another time and place. It also gave me a new attitude, feeling de-stressed and carefree. The town is very well planned and laid out, giving much attention to even the smallest of details. Many breakfast eateries face the east to take advantage of the sunrises, while a majority of the bar and grills face the west to capture the breathtaking sunsets. It is a wonderful end to a day.
Baytowne has over 31 shops and restaurants. There is also The Market Shops of Sandestin, located beachside, with an additional 30 or so shops and restaurants there to discover. While shopping in the village, we discovered a terrific playground, designed by children of Sandestin. The playground resembles a castle and has bridges, slides, and swings, even an arbor where a spray of water will refresh children that run underneath. There are actually three playgrounds on the resort grounds. Of course, we made certain to visit all of them!

What is also wonderful about Sandestin is all of the complimentary extras that you have access to while you are a guest. Bikes, kayaks, canoes, boogie boards, tram service and water shuttle to the village, children’s activities, one hour of tennis court time daily and access to the state of the art fitness center and is free to all guest.
My family spent an entire day bicycling around the resort, which loops around through family homes and the resort guest accommodations. This was a terrific way to see and really experience Sandestin. Biking a wonderful way to get out and see the resort, see the wildlife and get plenty of exercise! We rode to Jolee Island, which is other is a five acre undeveloped island. On Jolee Island, you will find a pirate ship playground, a playhouse, nature trails that branch off to a hidden spots where “porch” swings face out into the beautiful ChoctawhatcheeBay Bay.
If you are lucky, you will catch a glimpse of dolphin playing, a bald eagle or as I saw, the large osprey that are native to the region. Jolee Island will be a favorite among nature lovers. My mistake was that I did not bring along my binoculars for an up-close view of the osprey. My youngest son, who is four, certainly loved the pirate ship on Jolee Island. He tells everyone that he is a pirate and this certainly allowed his imagination to fun wild. The playground really fed into his imagination of sailing the high seas in search of treasure. After Jolee Island, we hopped back onto our bikes and rode to Gordon Davidson Nature Walk, where we discovered yet another playground. This one was smaller, a fort with swings and slides, but still lots of fun.
After a long day of biking, we again went back to the village, which is the heart of Sandestin. We ate at Acme Seafood. This was a great place for the family to dine. Our meal was wonderful, and the casual atmosphere allowed us to relax easily-even with three kids in tow! The kids meals were served on Frisbees that later came in handy on the beach. After dinner, we got dessert at Penguin’s Ice Cream. This was a real treat. As we sat outside and savored out dessert, I realized that darkness had settled in and the village began to take on a new life, a new attitude. It felt very festive as bands began to crank up and I noticed folks relaxing over a drink and listening to Jimmy Buffet cover tunes. It was a wonderful end to the day.

Sandestin offers many exciting vacation packages from spa and pampering to sports themed packages, even the Family Deals Package focuses on family fun with significant savings. Destin is known for its fishing and there is a package for true fishing enthusiast. From boating trips to a one on one experience between a parent and child. Sandestin offers complimentary cane poles for youngsters to use on numerous stocked ponds throughout the resort. Parents seeking some quiet time can take advantage of the many sporting programs offered as well as cooking instruction and wine tasting.
For the golf lover, there are four championship golf courses within the resort. World-renowned course architects built all four. In addition to golf, is tennis. Sandestin is the only resort to offer tennis on 15 courts that have natural grass, clay, and hard surfaces.
The tennis instructors are phenomenal.

My oldest son, who is on his school’s tennis team, was eager to take in a lesson. He was very impressed by his instructor, Todd Hanson. Todd and all of the instructors are very knowledgeable about the game and offer great advice and techniques. While my son played, I spoke with another tennis professional, Chris Petty. Chris’ wonderful passion for was clearly evident and contagious. He spoke with such knowledge and yet wanted to share and convey his love of the game. He said that all of the professional try to make lessons fun. The professionals teaching are all playful and fun yet are very in tune to providing you with the proper techniques you need to better your game. The tennis center offers junior camps throughout the year. My son could not have been more enthusiastic about his lesson and all that he learned!

My six-year-old daughter and I got a real treat when we went to Magnolia and Ivy Tearoom, located in the village. This unique tearoom is owned by the sister duo, Kay Snipes and Terri Eager. Both sisters are certified in tea etiquette and teach classes to children and professionals alike. When we stepped inside the doors of Magnolia and Ivy, we immediately channeled our “royal” selves and deemed ourselves Queen and Princess for the day. There are old-fashioned hats and stoles everywhere throughout the tearoom to try on to aide in your teatime experience. After my daughter and I finally picked out our favorite hats and put on our gloves and stoles, we ordered tea. I got autumn apple tea. Our server, Chesed, was very helpful and suggested the pink princess tea for my daughter. We also had lunch. The tea and the food were incredible! On gorgeous china plate was a multitude of delights, such as a cucumber sandwich (cucumber/dill packages), an almond lemon square, a chocolate and coconut encrusted truffle, Irish potato and parsley soup, three cheese and vegetable quiche, fresh fruit, a carrot raisin muffin, and an orange poppy seed scone to make our teatime experience complete. It was one of the most memorable meals I have had. My daughter and I agreed that this was the highlight of our trip. This is necessary experience for any queen, be it the domestic variety or the royal one! Be certain to take your little princess, or royal mum for a truly delightful experience.

If you should decide that, you and your husband need some time to yourselves there are complimentary kids programs designed to give parents some together time. KidZone is Sandestin’s adult-supervised children’s activity program. The program includes complimentary daily events for kid’s ages 3-5 and 6-10 years of age throughout the summer season. There is also a program for teens as well, including sailing adventures, kayak trips, volleyball tournaments and other fun excursions. Also offered is children’s evening out, during March-May on Friday and Saturday nights. The resort hosts a pizza party, games and children only movie. This allows adults free time to enjoy a walk on the beautiful white sandy beaches or a quiet meal at one of the resorts many nice restaurants such as Finz, which overlooks the beach and has some terrific nightly bands.

There is just so much to do at Sandestin Beach resort, we actually ran out of time. My family is planning another trip very soon. We had so much fun and enjoyed our adventures as a family. It is nice to get back to those times when you actually make time to be with the ones you love, undeterred by the rat race of the everyday. For now, it is back to the real world of refereeing arguments and running my own shuttle service for my kids. I am anticipating going back to the world of Sandestin very soon!
Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort is located at 9300 Emerald Coast Parkway West Sandestin, Florida 32550. For reservations or more information call (800)470-7389 or at reserve@sandestin.com

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