By David and Kay Scott
The Valdosta Daily Times
ROSEMARY BEACH, Fla. —
So you’ve been searching for a modern and upscale community where you can enjoy some leisure time at the beach. You want a small, unhurried place where you can park your vehicle and walk to restaurants, stores, and the beach from your living quarters. You want a fitness center to stay in shape, a pool to swim some laps, and tennis courts to practice your backhand. And you want them within walking distance so you don’t have to play dodge ‘em with teenage and elderly drivers. Most of all, you want a white, sandy beach that stretches for miles so you can enjoy extended morning and evening strolls while the surf rolls over your feet and calms your soul. Read on, friends, because we have just the place.
The Community of Rosemary Beach
Rosemary Beach, a small community tucked away in the Florida Panhandle between Fort Walton Beach and Panama City, is a relatively new planned development that offers a comfortable, upscale, hassle-free beach experience. With 2,500 feet of pristine white-sand beachfront, Rosemary Beach has been designed with neighborhoods and parks connected by green spaces, footpaths, and boardwalks. The compactness and design result in nearly everything being a leisurely walk or quick bicycle ride away.
The development includes approximately 600 homes on 107 acres bordering the Gulf. There are around 100 permanent residents, many of whom are employees or owners of the community’s small businesses. The majority of houses are not the homeowners’ main residences, resulting in nearly half being offered on the rental market. Rentals range in size from studio cottages with one bathroom to a six-bedroom, seven-bath house that will sleep up to 16 people. The community includes a small Pensione with room rentals. Unlike many European pensiones, breakfast is not included. A hotel currently under construction is expected to be completed in summer 2013.
The town center is reminiscent of a small European village with living quarters above ground-floor shops and restaurants. The limited number of unique small shops offer products including food items, wine, candy and ice cream, children and women’s clothing and accessories, skin-care products, gift items, toys, and, of course, everything needed for the beach. There are also galleries, a bookstore, an interior design shop, a day spa, and a bicycle rental. An attractive town hall is available for private gatherings such as weddings and receptions.
A half-dozen restaurants clustered in the town center offer food selections that range from breakfast tacos, thick deli-sandwiches, pizza, chicken and pasta, to upscale fare of tapas, sushi, steaks, seafood, and fancy desserts. A stay of several days allows a sampling of each.
Rosemary Beach boasts a fitness facility, tennis courts, and multiple swimming pools. The former includes workout equipment; locker rooms with showers; and classes in Pilates, yoga, and aerobics. A 2.3-mile fitness trail with four exercise stations winds through the town’s parks and green spaces. The Racquet Club includes eight clay courts and a pro shop. Four swimming pools are scattered about the community, one of which has a retractable roof. The pool is covered and heated when temperatures are cool, while the roof retracts to offer an open pool area during warmer weather.
Living quarters and amenities are important, but it is the pristine beach that attracts homeowners and guests to Rosemary Beach. Fragile sand dunes border the beach that is accessed via nine dune walkovers, two of which are wheelchair accessible. A rental service offers chairs, hammocks, umbrellas, cabanas, paddle and surf boards, kayaks, and sailboats.
Rosemary Beach, with few exceptions, is a self-contained community. You may need a vehicle to visit one of the two nearby grocery stores. Depending on the length of stay, plan ahead and pick up what you need on the way. Golfers will want to drive to one of over a half-dozen courses within a 20-mile radius. Otherwise, walk or ride a bike to the beach, the shops, or restaurants.
Life is good.
If You Go
Getting there: Rosemary Beach is at the east end of Highway 30A, just off US Hwy 98, 23 miles west of Panama City and 40 miles east of Fort Walton Beach. The trip from Valdosta, primarily using I-10, is slightly over 200 miles. A more leisurely and scenic route through Apalachicola and Port St. Joe follows U.S. 98 and adds a couple of hours to the trip.
Rental information: Rates vary by season and some dates require a seven-night minimum stay. The least expensive rentals during the high season (including spring vacation and summer) is $218 per day. Larger units rent at up to $2,650 per day, but can be rented for about half this amount during winter months. Weekly rentals are approximately the cost of six days.
All cottages have fully equipped kitchens, washers, dryers, televisions, DVD player, stereo systems, and towels. Rentals also include complimentary access to four pools, the fitness center, court time at the Racquet Club, and unlimited DVD rentals. Pets are allowed in some of the units with a deposit. Additional rental information is available from Rosemary Beach Cottage Rentals, 866-348-8952; or visit www.rosemarybeach.com, and click on “vacation rentals.”
Stores and Restaurants: Descriptions of stores and restaurants in the town center can be found at www.rosemarybeach.com. Click on “merchants.”
Special Events: Special events are scheduled throughout the year. These include special programs, concerts, Children‘s Theatre, Moonlight & Movies, BOCCE Ball tournaments, and more. Discover events on tap during your planned stay by visiting www.rosemarybeach.com, click on “events” under the “Our Town” drop-down menu.
David and Kay Scott reside in Valdosta, Ga., and are authors of “Complete Guide to the National Park Lodges” (Globe Pequot).