Squish the sand between your toes, enjoy a game of tennis or take a family bike ride. There’s lots to do in this quiet beach community.
A young girl and her little brother ran past the fragrant trellis cascading with tiny, white, star-shaped flowers. “Look mommy! They’re here. They’re still here!”
The mother lifted the kid-sized bikes from the curb at the edge of the butterfly park. “Yep. Right where we left them.”
The comfortable feeling that it’s OK to leave bikes and belongings unattended, the relaxed pace of a small town, and the beauty of charming streetscapes in a fairy-tale setting make Rosemary Beach a perfect place for families. Established in 1995, Rosemary Beach is located on Florida’s panhandle and is about a 12-hour drive from Cincinnati, or a convenient flight through the two-year-old Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport located in Panama City Beach.
Rental units include anything from hotel rooms, to condos that comfortably sleep six, to houses for extended family and friends. Beach-front and gulf-view places come at a premium price, but the community’s old world appeal assures beautiful views of flowers, trees, parks, and picturesque buildings no matter where you are in Rosemary Beach.
And distance isn’t really a problem. Residents and visitors seldom need their cars in this small town. Most people bring bikes or rent them at the Bamboo Bicycle Company, that offers adult and kid-sized bikes, along with kid trailers and more. It’s also pleasant to walk through the area, enjoying the fitness trail that winds along boardwalks throughout the community, or strolling along the cobblestone streets, past shops, restaurants, fountains, and gardens on the way to the beach.
And the beach is worth the walk or ride. Accessed with a passcode, the private beach is uncrowded. Chairs, sidetables and spacious umbrellas are available for a fee, but you’re welcome to bring your own, or to spread out blankets or towels. Adventurous souls can also rent catamarans, kayaks and surfboards, and even sign up for “Sea School” and learn to surf, sail, kayak and skim board. But I loved just relaxing on the sparkling white sand, and watching the gulf’s waves roll, collapse on themselves, and spread their gentle fingers of white foam.
I also took advantage of complimentary court time at the racquet club, and even signed up for a group tennis lesson. Since I hadn’t really played since my youngest child was born, I felt a little nervous, but it was a great experience. I joined three others for the lesson, and the pro, Mike, was able to pinpoint and improve each of our weaknesses, praise our strengths, and help us move at our own pace. The club features eight fast-dry, clay tennis courts and even offers a “match” making service.
After tennis, I was ready for a dip in one of the resort’s four pools. I relaxed at “The Cabana Pool,” named for its cabana-style dressing rooms. It welcomes families with its separate children’s pool, and adjoining playground. There’s also the heated indoor/outdoor “Sky Pool,” with motorized panels that can open or close, depending on the weather; “The Barbados Pool,” designed in a French West Indies architectural style; and the “The Coquina Pool,” located beach-side, with a negative-edge.
Tennis and swimming work up an appetite, and Rosemary Beach has plenty of restaurants. Choose from fine dining choices, like Edwards, to the relaxed, yet gourmet, Summer Kitchen, to the ultra-simple hot dog stands. You can also save money by stocking up at Publix, about a five-minute drive away.
Many other attractions are also a short drive away, including bike trails, bays and beaches, and several parks. At Eden Gardens State Park, I toured the beautiful Wesley Mansion, a southern gem, reminiscent of “Gone With the Wind.” It showcases a collection of Louis XVI furniture that is the second largest in the United States. After the tour, I strolled through the meandering gardens, relaxed on a bench overlooking Tucker Bayou, and witnessed a wedding with the mansion, reflective pond, and fountain as a backdrop: the perfect ending to my vacation at Rosemary Beach, and its fairytale-like setting.
Barbara Littner David is a local writer and mother of five. She is also the author of Cincinnati Trips for Kids, a collection of more than 40 great Cincinnati-area attractions.
Rosemary Beach, Florida
Bamboo Bicycle Company
50 North Barrett Square, Rosemary Beach
Eden Gardens State Park
181 Eden Gardens Road
Santa Rose Beach, Florida