By Kara Franker
With 26 miles of white, sugary sand and gorgeous turquoise waters, it’s no wonder why couples looking for a romantic Florida escape pick idyllic South Walton and Santa Rosa Beach hotels.
Located in northern Florida, South Walton encompasses 16 distinct waterfront neighborhoods — Miramar Beach, Seascape, Sandestin, Dune Allen, Gulf Place, Santa Rosa Beach, Blue Mountain, Grayton Beach, WaterColor, Seaside, Seagrove, WaterSound, Seacrest, Alys Beach, Rosemary Beach and Inlet Beach — each featuring its own natural scenic beauty and charm.
You can wander down streets with uniquely different influences, including the white-washed Mediterranean feel of Alys Beach, the French Quarter style of Rosemary Beach or the eclectic and creative village of Seaside, and more.
All the neighborhoods are dripping with romance, but couples looking for an especially enchanting getaway may need to look no further than Santa Rosa Beach hotels.
South Walton’s Santa Rosa Beach was recently named to Travel + Leisure’s America’s Favorite Towns 2014 list, based on data collected from its America’s Favorite Places survey.
Santa Rosa Beach topped popular resort towns such as Sonoma, CA and Park City, UT. The list showcases towns that received the overall highest rankings in several categories, including friendly locals, a happening art scene, and — you probably guessed it — romance.
Santa Rosa Beach serves as the geographical and historical heart of South Walton. Founded in 1910 as the center of a vibrant turpentine industry, the area’s original beach neighborhood now touts luxury beach houses, upscale dining and a Cultural Arts Alliance.
Insider Tip: Visit Point Washington State Forest, a 15,000-acre park featuring more than 10 miles of trails for hikers and bikers, and miles of sugar-white sand and turquoise waters that remain the main draw of this eclectic beach destination.
Two Santa Rosa Beach hotels, The Pearl at Rosemary Beach and WaterColor Inn & Resort, have been voted No. 1 “Best Hotel in Florida” and No. 1 “Best Resort in Florida (Gulf & Central),” respectively, by Condé Nast Traveler’s Readers’ Choice Awards. And you won’t have to go far to find these romantic places to stay in South Walton: the Pearl and WaterColor are located less than 10 miles apart on Scenic Highway 30A.
The Pearl at Rosemary Beach
Opened in late 2013, and nestled beachside in the picturesque town of Rosemary Beach, The Pearl is a 55-room luxury boutique resort, intimate in ambiance and elegant in style. The hotel offers an app that enables guests to book room service, request concierge assistance and book dinner reservations. The hotel is also the first in the U.S. to offer in-room Apple TVs.
Insider Tip: Dine at the Havana Beach Bar & Grill, serving Gulf Coast Americana cuisine procured from local farmers and fisherman.
When you go… The Pearl at Rosemary Beach is located at 63 Main Street, Rosemary Beach, FL 32461. For reservations call 888-656-6463 or visit ThePearlRB.com.
WaterColor Inn & Resort
The WaterColor Inn & Resort features 60 luxurious rooms overlooking the Gulf of Mexico and 160 one- to six-bedroom vacation homes on its property of nearly 500 acres. Amenities include several pools, a beach club, spa, Camp WaterColor with supervised children’s activities, tennis center, three golf courses and free use of bikes, canoes and kayaks. Also notable, the WaterColor Inn is Northwest Florida’s only AAA Four Diamond hotel.
Insider Tip: Up for an adventure? Traverse the resort’s woodland trail system, ride into the neighboring town of Seaside, and explore Western Lake, a rare coastal dune lake on the premises.
When you go… WaterColor Inn & Resort is located at 34 Goldenrod Circle, Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459. For reservations call 850-534-5000 or visit WaterColorResort.com.
An upscale, yet casual place to unwind, South Walton is the place to rejuvenate and build lasting memories.