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THE GULF COAST HAS GONE GREEN

 

By Roxane Sebastien-Eskan 

 

REST, RELAX & UNWIND.  Those were my instructions on a welcome card upon arrival to my hotel @ The Watercolor Inn in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida.  In fact, I felt a substantial release from the big city life as I began my drive from the airport to my destination.  There is an immediate relinquishment in the air of the area whether is night or day which in my case, I arrived in the evening.  The transport from the Ft. Walton Airport to Santa Rosa Beach is around one hour.  Arriving at the Watercolor Inn was a most pleasant experience as the façade has a warm, welcoming atmosphere along with an upper scale touch beyond the expectation of what an “ Inn ” may personify.  Of course, the southern hospitality exudes immediately upon entering.  I was particularly anxious about my room and upon entering; I was embraced with modern amenities, beach resort interior mixed w/ elegance.  Opening the balcony door, I was enthralled with the sound of the southern gulf water shoreline in the darkness of the evening –  slowly arousing my senses as the moonlight reflected off the water .

 “Fish out of Water” a restaurant at the Watercolor Inn offers an ocean view with an all organic menu!!   All the vegetables and fruits are certified organic and cultivating from the surrounding area.  The St. Joe Company and their approach to development and life style has an ecological theme which is being spread throughout the State of Florida.  The St. Joe Company is the largest private landowner and developer in Florida.  The specific Gulf Coast area St. Joe Company is developing is called the Emerald Coast known for its emerald blues and greens of the Gulf of Mexico and its sugar white beaches.  Furthermore, the inner most beauty of Walton County’s landscape, timbers, native flowers and animals make it second to none.  What is most unique to this area are the Coastal Dune Lakes .  These lakes were formed between two and ten thousand years ago.  Coastal winds and flowing tides have kept these water havens safe.  They are separated from the gulf with expansive dune systems ranging from ten feet to a majestic 30 feet in height.  However, many of these lakes often create meandering passages of water that find a way to the Gulf.  This unusual phenomenon allows salt water and fresh water to continually exchange and flush out the lakes creating some of the most distance ecosystems in the world. Ft. Walton is the only county to have all their beaches Blue Wave certified by the Clean Beaches Council. 

The following morning, I had breakfast in the gracious Gathering Room right off the entrance.  The overall atmosphere of the Inn represents the South on the beach at its finest – cool, clean, intimate and charming.  I then indulged myself for a massage at Water Color Spa which is just steps from the guest rooms and the beach.  In addition to running resorts, St. Joe Company is involved with commercial and industrial development, land sales and commercial real estate services.  The resort itself has over 1,000 residences with shared community parks, conservations areas, and recreational amenities.  Located in Santa Rosa Beach which is in south Walton County , Water Color encompasses 499 acres with 1,400 linear feet of sugar-white beachfront.  What is so spectacular is the town that has been created with fresh new stores, restaurants, offices and parks all within walking distance for the Inn and/or the residences.  The amenities are endless including boogie boards, kayaks, surfing, volleyball, and snorkel equipment.  There is an adult and large family pool area with many activities for young and old.  For adults, yoga, Pilates and personalized training is offered.  Outdoor activities include sailboats, canoes, kayaks, and fishing.  For cardio exercise, there is tennis, hiking and biking along the extensive woodland trails within Water Color.  Water Color Market is a great stop for gourmet food and wine, delicious breakfasts, lunches and box lunches.  Adjacent to the market are a myriad of shops as well as a photo gallery.  The Inn is designed by renowned architect David Rockwell.  Each room has beach views, private balconies, a king bed with queen sleeper sofa. The Rotunda King suites offer sitting areas with sweeping 180 degree views.  

To complement the calm and peaceful surroundings, there are night time activities available near the hotel.  On this trip I had the opportunity to visit Cerulean’s, a small quaint night club which was walking distance from the Inn.  Cerulean offered a blend of culture from the Gulf Coast area reflected in the local Blue Grass music playing and sophisticated animal print chair décor. Cerulean provides a nice venue for local artists to display their artwork while the club fills the air with indigenous music of the area.  The next morning I was off to see another St. Joe development, Wind Mark, in Wind Mark Beach about an hour east of Water Color.  This is truly an area that feels as though time has stood still.  Having left the South 21 years ago, I would expect some changes and while there are big changes in the way of development, the overall lifestyle remains.  The plans and investment interest is very high with and absorption rate from around eight to ten years.  Port St. Joe will experience a metamorphosis from a historically rich, sleepy coastal community, which has struggled to establish and maintain a solid and sustainable economic model, to a warm and inviting community of homes and office and retail space welcoming home visitors and property owners.  Complete with a 150 room hotel overlooking the bay, the newly crafted Port St. Joe mixed-use community plans to co-mingle residential, retail, and government facilities surrounded by green space.  No detail has been overlooked including a new 50-wet-slip and 300-dry-slip marina, an open plaza on the water, and a farmers’ market.

WindMark Beach is three-and-a-half-mile in length and offers views of the Bay, the St. Joseph Peninsula and the Gulf of Mexico .  A deceptively simple architectural element, the beach walk being designed at WindMark will enhance and define the experience of  WindMark Beach by providing an outdoor healthy hard-surface trail for golf carts, bicycles, and roller blades.  WindMark Beach will be anchored by a Village Center with shops, market, spa and fitness center, meeting hall, ice cream & coffee shop, and the “ School of Fish ” restaurant.  A 28-room boutique hotel, “The Little Inn WindMark Beach” will be available for shorter stays.  The entire project features and focuses on a number of boardwalks which all lead to the beach, eliminating the need for automobiles.  The average home price and living space for a variety of different models (3 and 4 bedroom) is currently around $1,300,000 and 2,800 square feet respectively.  A concern one might have of the Gulf Coast in general are the hurricanes which wrecked havoc in 2005.  However, there doesn’t appear to be a mass exodus happening and the region is deep rooted with a passion for living in the Gulf .  On the other hand, an exciting development is taking place due to enhance the area’s infrastructure – Emerald Coast International Airport.  As the first project of its kind in the State, the St. Joe Company has donated 4,000 acres towards the building of the Airport which will protect the natural environment and conservation of the area.  Rest, relax and unwind is pretty much a guarantee in this lovely Gulf coast region and a highly seductive enticement to touch all one’s senses and feed the soul.

 
© Rich Journey Inc.
287 S. Robertson Blvd., Beverly Hills, California, 90211