Dear Wanderlust Friends,
My heart’s been craving uncharted destinations lately, which is why I opted for a trip to the Florida Panhandle – instead of the obvious Miami route — when venturing to the sunshine state. I want to let you in on a hidden gem that I so happily fell upon during my travels called Santa Rosa Beach. Spread along a 26-mile stretch of Scenic Highway 30A and throughout Northwest Florida’s Emerald Coast, this haven is an outdoorsy traveler’s dream. Look to one side, and you’ll see the Gulf of Mexico donning its vibrant blue-green waters and pristine sugar-white sands. To the other side, you’ll find another stunning body of water, The Western Lake, Florida’s second-largest naturally occurring coastal dune lake surrounded by lush coastal forests that cover nearly half the region. With an abundance of scenic beauty around me, I hungered for the chance to spend every moment of my time immersed in Santa Rosa’s landscape, catching whiffs of pine from the forest and sea breeze from the Gulf.
Luckily, I found a place to stay that empowered me to do just that. This place transformed a bed to rest my head on into an unforgettable experience. Perched right on the beautiful Santa Rosa Beach, overlooking the blue-green waters of Northwest Florida’s Emerald Coast, WaterColor Inn showcases the best of the region through its accommodations, location, and activities.
WaterColor Inn’s energy reflects that of its 30A region: cool, casual, and cultivated. The property flawlessly merges modern sophistication with authentic Southern hospitality and the relaxed, playful style of a classic beach house. In addition to endless hospitality, this intimate 60-room Inn is right in the heart the regions picturesque tranquility, nestled on nearly 500 acres of the Gulf’s sugar-white sand beach and surrounded by 1,400 linear feet of beachfront and pine forests alongside Western Lake.
Now on to another one of my favorite aspects of this resort, the guest rooms. For me, rooms set the tone for a hotel’s disposition, and WaterColor Inn knocked it out of park. The property offers deluxe accommodations designed by David Rockwell, each overlooking the Gulf of Mexico and donning a pair of Adirondack chairs on the patio – and if you’re on the first floor, a private outdoor cabana shower. Pinch me! From the freshly redecorated beachfront rooms that placed me mere footsteps from the sand to the soft linens and spa-inspired toiletries, WaterColor Inn perfectly encapsulated the spirit of an intimate beach getaway, while providing the functionality necessary for a much needed sumptuous vacation.
Now to my other personal favorite, food. When it comes time to dine, the resort has four on-site restaurants that speak to all the region has to offer, including the marvelous and recently renovated FOOW- Fish Out of Water. FOOW is the property’s flagship restaurant, and with locally sourced Southern Coastal cuisine amplified by expansive Gulf of Mexico views there’s no question why. Approachable coastal sophistication flows throughout the space and the menus, and every seat in the house boasts Gulf views. Pinch me, again!
Typically, I leave my hotel to explore the city’s authentic flavors. Not this time. If only I could take FOOW’s Executive Sous Chef Preetam Pardeshi and Chef de Cuisine Cristopher Mayhue back home to Los Angeles with me. Their fresh, flaky Day Boat Line-Caught Grouper– adorned with field peas, kale, brown butter citrus sauce, green tomato, and a lively corn chow-chow– had my taste buds dancing along to the restaurant’s live music coming from the patio. I never skip dessert and if you get the chance to try FOOW’s Nola Beignets, I encourage you to follow suit. I’m still dreaming about those fluffy clouds of joy with Southern banana pudding, torched plantain bites, brandied blackberry compote, and crumbled vanilla wafers. I can now say I’ve finally had a true taste of The South.
One of the best perks? Since WaterColor Inn is owned and operated by St. Joe Club & Resorts, I had access to a bevy of their private membership club’s amenities—making it easy to explore the compelling scenery around me. With this private access, I was able to cruise along the Western Lake with bike, kayak, and discounted stand-up paddleboard rentals; soak in Florida’s sun with private beach access; practice my back swing at Shark’s Tooth and Camp Creek, two 18-hole champion golf courses; I was even able to take a stab at FootGolf, a combination of golf and soccer at Origins, the six-hole executive golf course in the area.
Thank you, WaterColor Inn. I can’t imagine grasping the aura Santa Rosa Beach in its entirety without your casual sophistication, Southern hospitality, and one-of-a-kind regional offerings.