Charming Florida Beach TownsWords by Courtney Kellar
A Florida native or insider knows the intricacies of the state’s seemingly countless beach towns. But, for outsiders, navigating the Sunshine State’s sandy options can feel overwhelming. It’s tempting to opt for a well-known big hitter like Daytona Beach or Miami, but you would be cutting yourself and your destination wedding guests short by not exploring some of the more off-the-beaten-path options. Enter South Walton County.
South Walton is comprised of a 26-mile stretch of sandy beach in Northwest Florida. More specifically, South Walton includes 16 beach “neighborhoods” from which to choose for your charming destination wedding or honeymoon. As an added bonus, St. Joe Club & Resorts has taken root throughout South Walton and brings to the table a collection of high-end hotels and vacation rentals. This area of Florida is famous for its state parks, coastal forests and rare coastal dune lakes. Read on to discover our top picks from this piece of Floridian paradise.
This beach town epitomizes the “new urbanist” aesthetic that characterizes South Walton. Buildings boasting Dutch Colonial architecture surround a central square, creating an intimate, pedestrian-friendly hub of activity.
The Pearl Hotel: A St. Joe Club and Resorts boutique property with just 55 rooms, The Pearl Hotel is at the epicenter of action in Rosemary Beach. The hotel’s restaurant, Havana Beach Bar and Grill, is one of the area’s only AAA Four-Diamond restaurants.
Weddings at The Pearl Hotel are stylish, intimate affairs. Our favorite venue was the Havana Beach Rooftop Lounge. Its rooftop, poolside location is ideal for smaller, trendy weddings with ocean views.
Adjacent to Rosemary Beach is the sparkling gem of South Walton – Alys Beach. While each town has its own architectural style, Alys Beach is by far the most recognizable. It’s the Bermudan-inspired architecture with stunning white stucco that sets this chic town apart.
Alys Beach is comprised of privately owned homes available for rent. Each of the high-end abodes features a private courtyard and water feature. To host your wedding here, you must rent a home with a minimum of three bedrooms for a minimum of four nights.
This high-end enclave is ideal for discerning, modern couples. The well-vetted resources are strictly enforced with mandatory vendors for florals, rentals and catering. Weddings can be hosted on the semi-private beach or in one of the many green spaces.
Visiting this South Walton beach town will feel like stepping back in time. It was the original community built around the “modern urbanist” concept. Seaside features homes with white picket fences, wide front porches and metal roofs – most of which are available for rent. The town’s claim to fame is that it was the setting of the movie “The Truman Show.” David Demarest, Director of Communications for Visit South Walton, describes Seaside as “a little slice of 1950s Americana.”
Seaside’s town center features great shopping, Airstream Row for local food trucks and several beach access points. This is one pit stop along the famous Highway 30A you’ll definitely want to take.
Santa Rosa Beach/WaterColor:
Santa Rosa Beach was founded in 1910 and has a longstanding tradition of excellence in the area. Located in the heart of it all is WaterColor, which boasts stunning parks, breathtaking rental homes and walkways for strolling.
WaterColor Inn: St. Joe Club and Resorts’ WaterColor Inn has a reputation of distinction. The chic, coastal style and sumptuous rooms would play amazing host for your destination wedding or honeymoon. It’s also home to Fish Out Of Water, the second AAA Four-Diamond restaurant in the area.
Eden Gardens State Park is an affordable, breathtaking setting for weddings. You can exchange vows beneath the “wedding tree” – a 600-year-old Spanish moss-draped Oak – and in front of the historic 1895 mansion. Back at WaterColor Inn, there are a plethora of green parks and sophisticated spaces for your nuptials. Our favorite combination would be a ceremony in Cerulaan Park and reception at the WaterColor LakeHouse.
Hop on a complimentary bike courtesy of WaterColor Inn and pedal to see the coastal dune lakes up close in Point Washington State Forest. The area’s many bridges and waterways provide a scenic backdrop. You can also swing by WaterColor Inn’s BoatHouse for stand up paddleboarding, kayaking or fishing.
Photos courtesy of (in the order of appearance): Courtney Cox: 1st & 7th, Lauren Kinsey: 2nd, St. Joe Club & Resorts: 3rd, 4th, 5th & 6th
This article first appeared in Destination I Do's Spring/Summer 2018 issue. You can order a copy here.
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