Traveler's USA Notebook
This is the most
beautiful beach Ive ever seen, the visitor to Rosemary Beach
admitted and Ive been to Tahiti
Quartz, whispered a
resident. The sand is made of quartz.
Beach is a luxurious, walkable haven with spectacular views of the
Gulf of Mexico. Perfectly positioned on the rapidly booming Florida Panhandle (please dont say
Redneck Riviera") and just a few minutes drive from Panama City, RBs awesome
beach is a heavenly helping of white powdery sand and soft shuffling
boardwalks and pathways connect a town center, shops, hotels and homes
to that beautiful beach. Strategically spaced green spaces invite romping
Plenty of thought went into planting and cultivating local flora throughout.
Each walk is an amiable encounter with native plants, including the wild
rosemary for which the community was named.
Wayfaring loners, couples, large families
and assorted groups can find a wide selection of comfortable accommodations, from B&B rooms and studio flats to
the many McMansions with five bedrooms or more, referred to as cottages and carriage
houses. And if youd like, you can check into your digs, and never put your
car keys into the ignition until your departure. To rent or for more
Rosemary Beach Rentals
or call 888.855.1551
Can you buy here? Can you ever.
In fact, Rosemary Beach is not just any new place to holiday. Many houses
available for vacation rental are actually owned by private individuals. There
is a small but growing year-round residential community; and the whiff of
pioneering in the fresh air.
Attaining the Sustainable
Rosemary Beach vigorously promotes its official status as a
sustainable town, similar in intent to the more well-known town of Seaside
(Fla.), less than 10 miles away.
Sustainable communities, part of
the new urbanism movement, are a reaction to and against suburban sprawl
ticky-tacky houses, Tweedle-dee, Tweedle-dum mazes and the arid anomie created
by reliance on the automobile (a/k/a drive-by boredom). The big idea is to
recreate the perhaps mythic small town or city neighborhood where you could walk
to the barber shop or newsstand or restaurant or church, and a sense of
Seaside, now over 30
years old, grew from the vision and will of iconoclastic architect
Robert Davis. This town would not be ruled by automobiles.
It became a talking
point for visitors from all round the world, especially after Prince Charles
brought the publics attention to planners of sustainable towns in a
British TV documentary. Seaside inspired the Prince of
Wales to create a new town, Poundbury,
in the North of England.
Historic Seaside deserves a long look. Its great open-air market sells everything from casual chic beach clothes to crispy pickles and
lemonade, and youll see a lovely jumble of pastel colored houses,
cobble-stoned walks, craft and
art studios and vendors. You saw this town in the movie The Truman
Show, starring Jim Carrey. Remember?
If Seaside sprang from the brain chemistry of one determined individual, Rosemary
Beach owes its origins to the PowerPoint presentations of one determined
corporation. In the past, it was lucky and lucrative for investors:
when house prices rocketed; those who bought vacation
homes they themselves enjoy enjoy them still, regardless of straitened financial
times. The housing bubble was a game-changer, but remember: RB is part of an
upscale collection of 15 beach communities; still
another community is in the works a few miles down the road in the other
direction from Seaside. This does not mean Rosemary Beach is not on its way to
taking its rightful place among the community of sustainable communities, but
people are here to make (or try to hang on to their) moolah. You're not likely
to run into an edgy art, music, or literary community to rock the world here.No
Dylan or Sedaris or Alain De Boton. If you don't like talking about fishing,
money or real estate, better pack your Who Stole Einstein's Office? book. Just
saying. Some folks who worked on fulfilling and yes, sustaining the Seaside
dream are on board with Rosemary Beach. After all, money should be fun. And
people with money like it here very much. In November 2002, Karl Rove
bought an empty lot, with his wife, Darby, from
the Rosemary Beach Land Company for $!65,000 (this according to public records).
A couple of years later, they built the house in Dill Lane, a
2,578-square-foot cedar and white stucco home with 4 bedrooms, 3 baths, and
outdoor shower. There's also a two-story carriage house off the main house, in
a walled courtyard,, which is the only bit you can see from the beach. This
discreet compound was recently valued at around a million bucks, give or take.,
a little touch of Malibu right here in Panama City.
Rosemary Beach has a fitness center, tennis courts, and
swimming pools. The Cabana Pool (with
cabana-style dressing rooms) attracts families thanks to its separate
childrens pool and playground park. The open-all-year-round Sky
Pool has a
metal roof with
It can be opened or
closed depending on the weather. Jolly good, but it looks like a Podunk
military base airplane hangar, and not a place to float prettily and backstroke
your cares away. The Barbados Pool has
a trendy no
edge pool surface, but here not much thought seemed to be given to shade from
the harsh Florida sun. And there is the Coquina Pool. Dont worry, baby, well just frolic in it at night
and stay pale and interesting. The spanking clean Rosemary Beach Fitness Center
(850.278.2200) is dreary, drab and, again, underdecorated for what we imagine to be RBs
affluent demographic, but it is crammed and chockablock with new
a Racquet Club (850.278.2061)
and eight tennis
courts (six illuminated for nocturnal volleys) and a pro instructor.
To bike or not to bike. That's not much of a question. But there is a
18-mile long South Walton bike path that runs along the coastline; and
should biking beckon, you'll find a wheel friend at
Beach & Bicycle Co.
You can rent bikes for adults and
children, baby joggers, scooters, burleys, wagons and bicycles built for two.
A lagniappe for activity aficionados: Rosemary Beach is something
of a year-round town and is home to a variety of events for
locals. These include movies, concerts, yoga, exercise, and picnics,
and not much else. All part of the charm..
Naturally, all the
classic water sports - sailing, kayaking, snorkeling, Hobie Cats and swimming
are available. And of course
there is the mighty beach itself. White sand, the waves, beach towels, sun, a plentiful
supply of foot-dangling and stargazing opportunities. To rent sun
umbrellas, hammocks and beach chairs, drop in on
It's on the beach near the Eastern Green walkover. For more information,
call 877.207.0460 or email
Another Rosemary Beach perk
is choosing and then settling into an accommodation that pleases you. The homes
and their interiors are all highly individual
And the houses are all spanking new squeaky-new and spotless. Not a nick or crack anywhere. Even on the darkest moonless night,
these houses are too new to have ghosts. Sleeping is a dream. In the morning the
crisp blue sky and bracing winds from
the Gulf remarkably revive
the Travelers spirit. Give yourself a house tour. Some are for
sale, some for rent.
All are exceptional in their own luxurious, satisfying and
sometimes quirky ways.
But you cant beat the thrill of houses this new. If
you are thinking of buying, the local realtor might take you behind closed
Its not fair, really. Traveler
is sitting in the Nageotte Cottage in Rosemary Beach. Cottage is what the
Rosemary Beach Development Corporation and the homes owner call this
structure. Hansel and Gretel probably would quibble. It has five massive
bedrooms, four full and two half baths, Family
Room w/ Queen Sofa Sleeper & Large Bar Area, a fully-equipped, modern
kitchen and, oh yes, a price tag of approximately $800/night or
$5000-8,000/week. Private porches
on the second and third floors offer Gulf
The interior of our getaway hideaway is
mysteriously calming. When an architect and designer work in tandem, the result
is tasteful, proportioned and balanced. Everything is the right shape and right
If you do take a tour, the homes
of the nouveax riches offer much in the way of amusement: the new rich
kids on the block are
historically famed for handing off the décor and design of their getaways to
sadistic decorators with a penchant for kicky kitchy looks or themed interiors.
Theres the $5.5 mil carriage
house, lovely to the max, filled with garish gee-gaws and overstuffed upholstery
that would be gloomy even for a castle in Ireland. Theres the charming little
casita with enough arches along the hallway and muted stonework on the floor to
evoke a monastery near the Escorial. And suddenly
youll find a cheerful little house on the outer edges with cherry floors and
friendly open spacescon a son gout, to each his own, but weve a quibble. The exteriors of the houses
must conform to a planner-approved, strict-bordering-on-severe
Colors include chocolate,
dune gray, Spanish moss, sage green, moss olive, pus, pecan, fall straw,
mustard, Atlantic spray, summer glow, ca-ca and terra cotta. Navy. Khaki.
Plum,. Offwhite, black. Texans, we are told, like beiges and browns; Georgians
like woodsy greens. No primary colors and please, no pastels.
Thats another distinction between Seaside and Rosemary Beach. Seasides buildings look like a
pretty spray of Necco wafers. Rosemary Beach's planners prefer a "more classic, coastal
designs reflect the original owners tastes and dreams, with guidelines
for 12 basic building types: Arcade,
Flats, Live/Work, Courtyard, Townhouse, Sideyard House, Small House, Large
House, Park House, Beach House, Beach Cottage and Large Courtyard House And,there are stipulated materials for exteriors. For example, structures
that face pedestrian boardwalks make use of wood siding, cedar shingle or stucco
(true masonry) with metal or shingle shake roofing.
Even though you are left alone, you never need fear that you are on your own.
The Rosemary Beach Cottage Rental Company offers concierge service. If you need something
call the office. The service can begin before you even set dainty foot on
the polished hardwood floor. The concierge will have
The beach is lovely; the surf
steals your heart; houses offer grace, comfort and luxury.
In other words, dont come here for the food. Exceptions to this
observation do exist. For example, we had a lovely breakfast at
(850.231.2436), located in La Pensione
yogurt, applesauce, fresh fruit, toasted pannetone, strong coffee and
cappuccino. Dinner, however, disappointed. Then, theres the big question. Is
it not a bit ironic to have such a wonderful walkable getaway without including
a wonderful takeaway or even sit-you-down?
Courtyard Wine and Cheese (850.231.1219) is a friend to the inn crowd. Along
with the wines, it serves cheeses in its tasting room which spills nicely into
its outdoor Gourd Garden Courtyard. The shops stock is kept at the proper temperatures in
environmentally controlled storage.
Main Street Market (850.685.1882) is a tiny market in the town. It boasts limited, small
quantities of fresh produce, baked goods, specialty items and salty snacks. We
found its supplies to be scarily skimpy not even a yogurt. And lets not
dwell too much on
The Summer Kitchen Café (850.231.6264), which proudly lives up to the spirit of
beach shacks all along the Florida Panhandle, serving sandwiches, salads,
burgers and rollups. Breakfast scared your Traveler. You want scrambled eggs, do
you? Plop! Down comes the big white plastic bait bucket from over the stove.
They ladle the already cooked scrambled eggs outa the plastic bucket. None of
this break eggs open stuff. You want boiled eggs? Forget it! The only egg source
is that bait bucket. And the eggs are cold. We understand the restaurant is also
open for dinner as Blue by Night, but wed seen enough.
Don't forget Karl Rove's local hangout when he's in town
Bud & Alley's, a casual
spot that has been feeding locals since the town of Seaside's beginnings 1986.
Okay, what do we eat? No Chinese.
No deliveries. Were panicking.. Were so tired. We cant move. Pillow,
chaise longue. Balcony. Sea view. Navy sea. Aqua sea. Hey- were on vacation.
. What about Mickey Ds? Oh, none of that, now. This is a planned
community and theyll have none of that crass, commercial,
corporate caper here. Why not? Were starving.
Psst. Some people hire a private chef. Not a live-in, tell cookie to stop
messing with the butler kind of chef. But basically a caterer who makes house
calls. We met one such saint of the sauces and hes rather a wizard. Even
cooks vegetarian. And thats a bloody miracle on the Redneck Riv
Then theres the
cook-it-yourself option, not unknown to travelers who stay in a home away from
home. The kitchens weve seen in Rosemary Beach are wonderful. Thank heavens
for the new Publix that opened just a few miles away. Make one little dash onto
the highway, procure a trunk full of groceries (why not include a few frozens
and prepared meals) and then hunker down. Better: Bring suitcases stuffed with
Whole Foods back home. None of that stuff around here either.
could call the caterers. Locals and visitors seem to like
Phone 850-267-1267. The
dishes have a bit of a Caribbean accent. Chef/owner Johnny Earles (who has worked with
Georges Vongerichten, Charlie Palmer and Tom Colicchio) was a pioneer in these
Earles,when we first came here, we couldnt even
get onions delivered.
Rosemary Beach is a mélange of
hopeful dreams floating on the minds of investors, residents, renters and
travelers. We happen to be travelers. We dont mess our pretty little heads
with wondering if the place where we spend the night gives good ROI to the
people who own it. We dont look behind the curtain to see just what the
Wizard is really doing back there. We prefer the sleight of hand, and yes, the
Magic, thank you very much. So we can report Rosemary Beach offers profound
natural pleasures to the traveler catch some Zs in a multimillion-dollar
mansion; walk to the essentials the shops, a wine bar and the sea.
Just passing through? For lovely views and a whooshy bit of luxe, you might also
the WaterColor Inn & Resort, 34 Goldenrod Circle , 850.534.5000,
For more Rosemary Beach information. click
Traveler's USA Notebook
14 October 2004