Where To Go: Destin, Florida

Sandestin—Love Among the Dunes

by Kathie Farnell

The Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort—2400 acres of Panhandle luxe getaway—lies in northwest Florida, between the sugar-white Gulf beaches and Choctawhatchee Bay. In addition to its seven miles of beaches and bayfront, the resort offers four championship golf courses, a marina, tennis, shopping, a fitness center, and spa. This time of year, the emphasis is on romance, and Sandestin rose to the challenge with its annual “Extreme to Affordable” Valentine packages.

Crazy about technology? Check out the iLOVE MY iPAD package—which, along with two nights in a penthouse suite, dinner and champagne, provided lovebirds with their own iPads and a 60-inch LED HDTV to take home. Cost? $4800 (yes, that includes tax).

Elation Building. Photo credit: Jack Purser

Our experience was a little more down to earth (and besides, a 60” television won’t fit in our car). Romance headquarters for us was Elation, the newest building in the resort’s Grand Sandestin complex. From the balcony of our corner suite, we overlooked piney woods and, just beyond, the tranquil waters of the Bay, an ideal setup for bird- or sunset-watching.

View over Choctawhatchee Bay. Photo credit: Jack Purser

We gave in to the occasional urge to explore our surroundings with a walk to the nearby Village of Baytowne Wharf, a pedestrian village offering shops, dining and nightlife. Just down the boardwalk from the Village is the resort’s marina, home to the Marina Bar and Grill and its resident parrots. Sandestin boasts more than twenty restaurants; we enjoyed a Valentine dinner at the Village’s romantic Bistro Bijoux, which offers a sophisticated wine list along with ultrafresh local seafood. Be sure to sample the French Onion Soup.

Bistro Bijoux. Photo credit: Jack Purser

We had a choice of activities—guests get free bicycle rental along with Fitness Center access and even kayaking in season—but opted to hit the beach. The Panhandle’s snowy-white beaches, backed by pale-green Gulf waters, draw strollers and shell-seekers—and, in summer, sun-worshipers. During the mild winters, the beaches are ideal for slow, contemplative walks in the sand.

Beach. Photo credit: Jack Purser

Looking past Valentines’ Day, Sandestin moves into high gear with spring festivities. The resort has always been popular with Spring Breakers, and this year is offering packages which include a free night with purchase of four, and 25% off weekly rates, along with golf packages and an expanded children’s program. In late April, the Sandestin Wine Festival, known as “the Kentucky Derby of wine festivals” bursts upon the Village scene. No, they don’t have horses. The Derby aspect is provided by the passing parade of ladies in stunning hats, sipping (or in some cases quaffing) the abundant assortment of more than 100 wines, amid an ambiance that includes gourmet Mediterranean food and live music.

Sandestin is a wedding destination year-round. Brides may choose from options ranging from a traditional ballroom ceremony and reception, to a beach wedding, to a ceremony and reception aboard the luxury yacht Solaris.

Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort is a member of Beaches of South Walton, 26 miles of beachfront communities in northwest Florida. The resort is located on US. Highway 98, eight miles east of the town of Destin. The area is served by the Fort Walton Beach Airport, the Pensacola Regional Airport, and the Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport. For more information about Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort, telephone 1-866-668-1948 or check the website at

Top photo credit: Allison Yii for Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort.

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