Holly V. Kapherr
Holly V. Kapherr

For the first time in 12 years, there will be construction on the grounds of the Sandestin Golf & Beach Resort. The 45-year-old resort has long been a mainstay along the Florida Panhandle on what's known as the Emerald Coast; it's the only full-service resort in the area. But up until now, the resort has only been home to 1,300 vacation rental properties. With the announcement of the new 250-guestroom Hotel Effie (named for the grandmother of developer Tom Becnel of Sandestin Investments), the Sandestin Golf & Beach Resort will target luxury clientele looking for the full-service, starred-hotel experience.

"Our property sits on 2,400 acres of the Emerald Coast," said April Sarver, sales and marketing director for the resort. "We've always been known for our wide swath of amenities from four golf courses to our 15 tennis courts, to entertainment and retail shopping. Now, we are looking to expand and offer our guests the full-service experience that other upscale hotels feature."

The Sandestin Golf & Beach Resort sits between the town of Destin and the Florida highway 30A along the South Walton coastline. The resort is anchored by the 65,000 square feet of the Baytown Conference Center, which is connected to the shopping, dining and entertainment district, Baytown Wharf. The 123-slip marina, which can house fishing boats and yachts up to 100 feet long, is within a five-minute walk of the hotel. The marina is home to the annual Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic fishing tournament, which brings thousands of avid anglers to the area each year.

The Hotel Effie, which is slated to open in May, will feature 13 different room types with views that overlook the bay, marina, village and other resort amenities. "We want our guests to feel like everything they need is at their fingertips when it comes to amenities," said Sarver. "They shouldn't feel like they need to get into a golf cart or walk 15 minutes to get what they need."

It will also offer in-room dining, a craft cocktail lobby bar, a luxury spa, a fitness center and the only rooftop pool on the Emerald Coast. The hotel will also add 15,000 square feet of meetings and event space.

Sarver said she hopes that guests feel the true spirit of Southern hospitality when they stay at the Effie.

"With the design of the hotel, we wanted to bring the beautiful natural materials and colors around us into the decor and styling," she said. "From the turquoise waters outside to the white quartz sand, it was all inspiration for what guests will see in the hotel. Our aim was a coastal feel without being too obvious about it."

Sarver touted the thoughtful designs within the guestrooms, including lighting all of the mirrors in the rooms and offering plenty of places to plug in electronics. "It was important to include all of the comforts of home in the design of the rooms -- and then some," she said.

Guestroom decor and accent materials are all drawn from coastal maritime theming as well as natural textures.
The floors are limestone colored (inspired by the quartz sand outside), grey wood is utilized throughout (giving it a driftwood look), and the lighting fixtures are inspired by naval lamps.

Celebrity chef Hugh Acheson, best known for the restaurants Five & Ten and and the National in Athens, Ga., and Empire State South in Atlanta, will lead the development of menus at the signature restaurant, coffee shop and pool bar as well as for in-room dining. The James Beard Foundation Award winner has appeared as a judge on "Top Chef" and competed on the sister show "Top Chef: Masters." He's famous for his upscale Southern cuisine, which is the direction he'll go in for the food and beverage development at each outlet.

"He was the right fit," said Sarver. "Between his strengths in Southern cuisine and the vibe we are aiming for, this is going to be a perfect partnership for elevating our food and beverage concepts."

Sandestin is now taking bookings for the Hotel Effie. Off-season pricing starts in the $180s, and on-season pricing will start in the mid-$400s.
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