For a seaside escape that combines the beauty of the Emerald Coast's sparkling waters and the wind-swept sand dunes and expansive maritime forest adjacent to it, head to Destin, Fla.
While driving across the Choctawhatchee Bay en route to a fam trip at the Henderson, a Salamander Beach & Spa Resort, I was taken aback by this region's diverse landscape.
The Henderson is in prime position to bring in a new demographic of people searching for luxe accommodations in a locale that offers white-sand beaches and epic sunsets as stunning as you'll find at any Florida beach destination.
This sprawling property emphasizes the region's nautical roots in everything from its overall architecture to its room decor. Each of the 170 rooms offers a spacious terrace or balcony overlooking views that include the Gulf of Mexico and over 200 acres of lush nature preserve.
Though built to exude the grandeur of a seaside manor, the Henderson's interior makes you feel right at home. With floor-to-ceiling windows and communal indoor and patio seating, entering the lobby is a welcoming experience where guests can be at ease, enjoy a cocktail from the Horizons bar and make friends while admiring panoramic views.
The resort affords guests awesome perks, my favorite being access to its private beach. While you have the option of renting a cabana or purchasing a beach set with reclining wooden chairs, you can also get active with a variety of watersports rentals from Destin-founded company, YoloBoard, which specializes in stand-up paddleboards. Adventurous guests can opt to go on a nature hike or take a bike to ride around the state park next door.
The Henderson also makes it easy to go off-property with its on-demand transportation to nearby attractions and shopping areas, such as Destin Harbor and Destin Commons.
That said, you can easily spend the day pampering yourself with spa treatments, seafood-centric dining and poolside lounging on the property.
For the ultimate afternoon of relaxation, head over to the 10,000-square-foot Salamander Spa, where the variety of treatments are endless. Renew your spirit with an ayurvedic massage or choose to unwind with a therapeutic lavender-infused treatment.
Feeling sluggish? Get a workout in at the sunlit fitness center or sign up for classes that include rooftop spin and yoga classes, complete with incredible views to keep you motivated.
After a day in the sun, take a seat at Primrose, the resort's signature restaurant that offers an innovative menu of "dock-to-table" fare. Standouts include the seafood paella and the boneless ribeye. Finish off the night by making s'mores around the outdoor fire pit while sipping on indulgent dessert martinis.
For weddings, the property offers the 5,221-square-foot Crystal Ballroom and the smaller Destin ballroom as well as several options for beachside ceremonies.
Rates for guestrooms range from $225 to $450 and from $595 to $1,250 for suites. See www.hendersonbeachresort.com.