Panhandle Bliss

Panhandle Bliss

By Suzanne Ferrara

What was once a sleepy fishing village, with miles of deserted sand dunes on land and some of the best catch available in the waters, has come a long way. Today Destin, Florida is one of the top beach destinations in the world, and is famous for its beautiful clear turquoise waters, sugar-white sand beaches and yes, for fishing.   Once you defrost in this heavenly beach playground, you’ll know why it ranks so high. While you really can’t go wrong when choosing a place to stay on this beach, there are some places that are worth mentioning, including one-of-a-kind experiences that everyone can enjoy!

It’s a refuge which oozes an unmatched setting. Bordering the pristine beach of the Emerald Coast and the breathtaking Henderson Beach State Park Preserve is an oasis unlike any other, The Henderson Beach Resort. This Salamander Beach and Spa Resort in Destin is the newest and one of the most luxurious beach destinations offered between New Orleans and Sarasota Florida. Not all resorts are created equal, a statement that certainly rings true at this irresistible retreat; it’s no wonder, because The Henderson was spawned from the adjacent, award-winning Henderson Park Inn.

This massive replica of a seaside inn is chockfull of enticing amenities and will wow you with its beautiful architectural design. From the wall of windows, to the cedar-exposed beams and tresses, to hundreds of pieces of stunning artwork adorning every corner, you will surely be inspired by this haven.

This quintessential American beach resort has a plethora of special touches like the sunset salutation bell which reminds guests to witness the amazing sight of a Destin sunset. (Tip: Watch the sunset from the rooftop terrace).   While taking in the views, sip complimentary beverages like ice tea, morning coffee and hot teas available in the lobby. Be sure to enjoy the sprawling veranda overlooking the state park and adjoining gulf coast. Right off this gallery is the octagon-shaped Horizons Bar with huge bay windows and a striking Italian marble fireplace. Here you can enjoy house-made snacks, precision mouthwatering cocktails and craft beers.

The balcony of your accommodations can give a vantage point that will instantly melt your cares away. (Tip: Request either the third or fourth floor corner rooms/suites which offer unparalleled views of both the stunning gulf and the unspoiled maritime forest preserve). You can also enjoy Mother Nature’s wonders up close on two wheels; the resort offers complimentary bikes and passes to the state park. (Tip: The resort offers free shuttle service).

After wetting your whistle, head to the Primrose Restaurant which boasts an open-air kitchen and unbeatable sushi bar, courtesy of Chef Hieu and his culinary masterpieces. The cuisine and service here are superb, and the dock-to-table dishes scrumptious. (Must try: the Chef’s Featured Catch of the Day and the Henderson Roll). Be sure to meet chefs Zachary Garza and Chase Gilley, both of whom pour their hearts into every delectable dish. Another dining option is the Beach Walk Restaurant which has sweeping views of the gulf at the resort’s Henderson Park Inn. (Must try: Smoked Tomato Soup with crab and Pepper-Crusted Yellow Fin Tuna).

After a good night’s rest, you’ll be ready to enjoy the zero-entry adults-only pool and cabanas, or take a relaxing float down the lazy river with the kids. For more sun action, take a stroll on the beach and enjoy complimentary beach chairs, umbrellas and free lemonade. Want to get active? The Henderson Beach Resort also offers various water sports and a state of the art fitness center and, for younger guests, a Kids Club.

A stay at The Henderson Beach Resort is not complete without experiencing the world class luxury Salamander Spa. You will not want to leave this tranquil paradise which exudes a healing atmosphere.   A visit here begins with a one-of-a-kind ‘singing bowl’ welcome ritual. Complimentary offerings include wholesome snacks, chocolate-covered berries, and a variety of teas to be relished in their inviting relaxation lounge.   This full-service spa boasts several water features and a lengthy list of services that will surely disconnect you from the cares of the day. (Tip: Two popular services are the Essential Balancing Facial and the Well-Being Swedish Massage).

Now, if you love everything about the beach, this is one thing you don’t want to miss and it’s for all ages: sandcastle lessons. In fact, you can build your dream sandcastle right on the sugar-white sand in front your beach resort.

Beach Sand Sculptures make ‘house calls’ all along the coast on both public and private beaches. Its sand castle experts haul out all the supplies and tools you will need to make your castle (which naturally makes this special activity very convenient), and all you’ve got to do is show up.

It’s a great way to bond with your family, friends or with the love of your life; a truly magical experience. You will learn all the secrets of how to build sand castles, and you’ll be able to take these tips to every beach you visit!   At the end, their experts will snap a picture of you and your family, proudly standing right in front of your sand castles. (Tip: This photo will make for a great Christmas Card)!

Speaking of conveniences, a really neat and refreshing lodging option is staying at the Jade East Towers in Destin. There’s just something about a smaller property that sets the mood for a totally intimate beach experience, not to mention having that wonderful property next to the emerald waters. If want your accommodations to be as close to the water as possible, the Jade East Towers are only 30 steps from the beach! Yes, Jade East has all the amenities you need including a Gulf-front pool, beach service, grills and a lighted tennis court, and the accommodations offer a number of things money can’t buy! For example: In addition to condos with sweeping balcony views of the Gulf, you can also receive a sensory experience, namely, the hypnotic sounds of the ebb and flow of the ocean. (Tip: Unit #0720 is a great option for this sensory experience, and the unit also has little inspiring touches like a desk planted within a floor to ceiling bay-window overlooking the hypnotic gulf or for a more dramatically experience on the higher-level floors reserve #1540 or #1040).

Jade East Towers is one of several diverse Newman-Daily Resort Properties ranging from beach homes, condos to villas and cottages. All Newman-Dailey vacation rentals have special offers to enhance your vacation stay – a “Be Free Bundle” gift card to use toward area activities from the Big Kahuna’s Waterpark, snorkel excursion, a sunset dolphin cruise and much, much more. Go to:

One of those hotspots included on the Newman-Dailey ‘Be Free Bundle’ that will surely put a smile on your face is the Track Family Recreation Center. There aren’t many places in America where you can ride a go-kart on a three-story spiraling wooden track, so be sure to take a spin on the Wild Woody; plus, there are also four other tracks including the ‘Slick Track’ and a great family track with an overpass simply known as ‘The Track’. For the little-ones. The Kiddie and Rookie Karts tracks are a great option, and The Track also offers mini-golf where you will discover jungle animals, right next to a great arcade and bumper cars. Feeling adventurous? The Track has bungee jumping and a Skyflier in which you glide in the air and get a feel for skydiving.

Hungry? You cannot beat the fresh seafood in Destin! Steeped in history and overlooking the marina Dewey Destin’s Restaurant. The Destin family and the community of Destin, Florida have been intertwined since Dewey’s great, great grand-father Leonard Destin founded; the town in 1835. (Tip: sit on the back porch overlooking the beautiful harbor and be sure to order the Jack Scallops appetizer and any fresh fish dish).

Another great option is the newly-owned Brotula’s Seafood House and Steamer. Chef Tommy Lamasters, a local boy, worked his way up the ranks in the restaurant industry and pours his heart into every dish he prepares. Fresh steamed and boiled seafood is a must, as well as locally caught fish. (Tip: Be sure to order the Build Your Own Boil and any Fresh Fish from the Gulf dish).

For breakfast, head to the apply named The Pancakery where you will find the mouthwatering Blueberry Hill, Destinite, and Chocolatier pancakes, to name a few. They also serve scrumptious freshly made omelets and crepes.

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For information on the aforementioned activities and special offers visit:,, and