Travel

DESTIN: Hanging Out at the Sunny Oasis

I am no stranger to Destin, Florida. Truth is, I’ve been there many times. As a young adult (to check out the guys on the beach), as a couple (to enjoy more of the offerings of the Emerald Coast) and, even as a grandmother (dare I say that word) to enjoy this seaside resort from the eyes of a child.

But, until last fall, I had never gone to Destin with a few of my girlfriends — to do what girlfriends do when they get together: Enjoy the sun and surf and chat, dine at great restaurants and chat, shop for new clothes and chat and, of course, treat ourselves to luxurious spa treatments and chat. All of those things showed up on the itinerary my friends and I created for ourselves when we planned a fun-filled getaway to the beach.

Day One 
We flew out of Hobby Airport and into Pensacola, via Southwest Airlines, on a Friday afternoon. Since we planned to pick up the rental car at the airport and depart as quickly as possible, we promised to bring only carry-on luggage. Well, that proved to be impossible.

The list of “essentials” was longer than we thought. There were the tubes of sunscreen, the hats, visors and sunglasses, the flip flops, sandals and sneakers, the beach towels, books and magazines, the iPhones and iPads, the plastic water bottles and snacks! The clothes!

So, by the time we picked up our heavy suitcases at Baggage Claim, loaded up the car and headed east to Destin, we were already more than ready to get to our Sunny Oasis on Crystal Beach.

Working with the experts at Newman-Dailey Resort Properties, we learned a lot about the place beforehand; we couldn’t wait to see and stay in this exquisite, newly renovated home with its stunning decor.

Driving up, we were immediately taken by the home’s bright yellow exterior, blue shutters and charming front porch. The two Adirondack chairs positioned right there welcomed us “home.”

Inside, we found a fully furnished gourmet kitchen with new granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, a center island and eating bar.

The large master (the room I volunteered to take) featured three sets of French doors that opened to the living room below and an outside deck offering amazing gulf views. A second bedroom had a full bath and opened to the pool deck. The third bedroom had a full bath, two sets of bunks and a loft with three additional twins.

Additionally, two more private bedrooms were located in the guest house out back.

The home’s living room and attached dining room were both lovely and spacious. And, the large flat screen TV — for late-night watching — was yet another welcomed sight.

After only a brief respite at the Sunny Oasis, we gave in to the call for another kind of nourishment. Fresh seafood!

A favorite in the area is Camille’s, which features the freshest fish and seafood from Harbor Docks Seafood Market. Getting there from our “base camp” was a quick, two-minute drive on Scenic Hwy 98. The restaurant is located in the heart of Crystal Beach, on the second floor of the Beachside Inn.

Chef Blake VanZant’s menu includes a delicious combination of seafood, steaks and pizzas, which are all made from the freshest local ingredients.

A favorite among the salads at Camille’s is the Wedge, made with grilled napa cabbage, bacon, oven-dried tomatoes and blue cheese dressing. I ordered that, and I’m glad I did. Truly delicious! A nice beginning to any and all of Camille’s amazing entrees.

Day Two
Saturday’s agenda was ambitious. So, after two cups of coffee and not nearly enough leisure time at the Sunny Oasis, we drove over to the Village of Baytowne Wharf, located along the shores of Choctawhatchee Bay and in the heart of the Sandestin Resort.

Serving as “tour guide,” I showed my friends around. The quaint shops were open, so we poked our heads in a few and bought some souvenirs. We considered trying our skills on the zipline (that carries dare-devils from one side of the wharf to the other. We chatted with other tourists and had our picture taken among the pumpkins dotting the landscape.

Next, we headed over to Another Broken Egg Café for brunch. Influenced by the cafés of New Orleans, the eatery features distinctive flavors and fresh, creative dishes.

Since 1996, when the original Broken Egg Café opened in Old Mandeville, La., it has been the owners’ passion to create exceptional dishes for breakfast, brunch and lunch that are “craveably delicious with an artisanal flair.”

Plans for the afternoon called for a visit to the Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation’s 20th Annual Festival of the Arts. The two-day festival is one of the Southeast’s premier art festivals, featuring more than 100 artists from 12 states, showcasing 18 different art mediums — oil paintings and fine photography, mixed media, mosaics, sculpture, clay ceramics, jewelry and more. As a juried art competition, the artists competed for $10,000 in cash prizes.

The Festival of the Arts also featured live music and entertainment throughout the day.

After spending most of day out and about, we returned to the Sunny Oasis for some “beach” time.

Later on, for dinner, we headed over to Destin Harbor to dine at Jackacuda’s Seafood & Sushi, one of Destin’s newest (and now most popular) seafood restaurants.

The odd name? It comes from Captain Beebe’s response to a fishing trip for Amberjack that turned out to be a day of Barracuda. Thus, Jackacudas!

Day Three
We had heard a lot about the European-style breakfasts at Mama Clemenza’s in Miramar Beach. So, on Sunday, we headed over there as soon as we got up and got out acts together.

There, we were greeted by the owner, a beautiful, dark-haired woman who took great pride in telling us about the menu and its unusual dishes (all recipes handed down from her Sicilian grandmother). She told us about the Italian Breakfast Panini with prosciutto, eggs and Gruyere; as well as the Lemon Curd Ricotta Pancakes and the Flourless Expresso Biscuits.

She did not, however, tell us how to select from among these delectables. Those tough decisions were left to us! 

We spent quite awhile at Mama Clemenza’s — eating and chatting and eating more!

Our next stop took us to the Serenity by the Sea Spa, a 4,500-square-foot facility at the Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort. Its luxurious design was inspired by its beautiful seaside setting in South Walton’s Miramar Beach.

As advertised, the spa is an harmonious blend of atmosphere, services and products. 

I opted for the spa’s Hydra-Facial™ treatment, a non-invasive, multi-step procedure that combines resurfacing, purifying, infusion and nourishing treatments.

And, again, as advertised, my visit to the spa and that facial left me completely refreshed, relaxed and rejuvenated!

As of yet, we had not done any serious shopping, so a stop at the Silver Sands Premium Outlets, the largest outlet mall in the country, was in order.

Silver Sands Premium Outlets boasts more than 100 designer and name-brand shops. Finding our favorites among them was easy; overspending was not.

Leila came away with a couple of new handbags; Dana found the perfect dress for a meeting she was attending the following week. Kim shopped early for holiday gifts for some youngsters on her list. Me? I was simply overwhelmed by the options!

When our time in Destin was over, we flew home with only one regret — that we hadn’t planned to stay longer!

There were so many other things we wanted to do and so other places we wanted to explore and experience. We decided there was but one solution. We will go back!

Beverly Denver is the editor and publisher of Houston Woman Magazine. 

Fredericksburg: Wildflowers, Wine and B&Bs

Red poppy fields stretch to our right and bluebonnet fields merge into the sky on our left. Like children, adults run from one flower patch to another. Some sit surrounded by colors and take selfies, others kneel to smell the sweet aromas. Like arching rainbows, corridors of color wind through the Technicolor meadows of Wildseed Farms near Fredericksburg, Texas. 
 
“We always set aside some areas for people to pose with the flowers,” John Thomas, founder of the garden center and seed nursery says. “Sure, they trample a few but everyone gets pictures of a lifetime. Each and every spring, we plant 1,500 acres of flowers and ship seeds and regional mixes to all 50 states.” 
 
The spring wildflowers that emblazon the fields and roadsides around the historic town of Fredericksburg greet visitors like a giant welcome mat. However, when the first German immigrants arrived in 1846, the rugged hills, ancestral home of the Comanches, were more hostile than hospitable. The Germans signed a peace treaty with the Indians, considered the only one never broken, and peacefully farmed and raised cattle and goats in the rolling hills and valleys. 
 
A distinctively German heritage still defines this country town of 10,000 with a relaxed ranching-farming atmosphere, the perfect combination for a weekend or week-long getaway. Original hand-hewn stone storefronts line the broad main street, but now house chic to western clothing boutiques, jewelry stores, art and sculpture galleries, house goods and souvenirs stores, mom-and-pop restaurants, and being German, brewpubs and biergartens. 
 
In the past decade, a new attraction, second only in popularity to shopping, has sprung up alongside the roadside wildflowers. Now, lush vineyards cover the rolling hills. 
“The wine industry in Fredericksburg has really exploded,” Maureen O’Hara at Grape Creek Winery said. “The Texas Wine Trail along Hwy 290 has more than 40 vineyards and wineries, and most have tasting rooms.”
 
The architecture of the newly established wineries reflect the classic Hill Country limestone construction with Italian and French motifs surrounded by vineyards and flowering landscapes. It’s a far step from the barbecue and beer scene once synonymous with the Texas Hill Country.
 
After visiting Grape Creek, Torre di Pietra and Becker wineries, we stop at Four Point Cellars. Each winery produces its own distinct style and taste of wine. Four Point goes one step further and offers a pairing of selections from the three Texas wineries it represents with local raw-milk artisan cheeses. 
 
Carl Hudson, director of wine education, explains the pairing and tells us more about the developing wine scene. 
 
“Fredericksburg is the Number Two wine destination in the nation and in the Top 10 in the world,” he bragged. “The modern growth of the wine industry in Texas is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. We’re watching an industry come to age.”
 
A majority of the 1.5 million annual visitors to Fredericksburg agree, and all need a place to stay. The first German immigrants received a town plot as well as their farmstead. They build a “Sunday house” to stay in when they came to town for supplies and church. Today, many have been preserved and converted into guest houses and B&Bs, a popular way to avoid the generic motels and experience an authentic slice of the area’s history. 
 
In recent years a number of modern cottages have opened to met the demand for quaint lodging. But, none are as unique as Baron’s Creekside Cottages, a reconstructed Swiss village on the edge of town.
 
Nine years ago, Daniel Mayer was touring the U. S. in a rented RV. He had recently sold his food business in Switzerland and was touring the world with an eye for a place to start a new life. 
 
“A lot of places are perfect vacation destinations but would suck as a place to live,” he said  with his Swiss-German accent.
 
For him, Texas definitely was the latter. He was assured he could get out of the state in one day from Fredericksburg.
 
“I saw a sign that said ‘Log Cabin for Rent’ and below it ‘For Sale,’ so I decided to take a break from the highway and spend the night in the log cabin,” he said.
 
He woke up the next morning and looked through the window. He saw rocky hills covered with scrubby mesquite and withered grass and a steep ravine clogged with litter. It was love at first sight. 
 
“I bought the land and had my family log house in Switzerl and disassembled and then shipped here in two containers,” he said.
 
With the lumber and parts, he built 16 chalets scattered around a flowing creek and waterfall that he also added to the property. 
 
“Each cabin is named after a city in Switzerland and decorated to represent the style and history of the town. Everything in the cabins comes from Switzerland, most from my family,” Mayer added.
 
The romantic chalets originally were for couples only, no children allowed.
“But, honeymooners wanted to come back and celebrate their anniversaries, and many already had kids,” he said. “So, now we also have family accommodations.”
 
Like Mayer, who felt right at home in the German culture of Fredericksburg, the enterprising town continually reinvents itself. The road from hard-scrabble farming to cultured rows of grape vines may be long, but it’s lined with wildflowers and a friendly “Welkommen y’all.” 
 
If you go
For more information aboutaccommodations and special events, contact the Fredericksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau at 888-997-3600 or go online and check out www.visitFredericksburgTX.com/.
 
George Oxford Miller is an award-winning travel writer and photographer and frequent contributor to Houston Woman Magazine.
 

Destin: Fantastic and Fun for Families

Destin, Florida, with its white sandy beaches and emerald green waters, became a  favorite getaway spot for me many years ago. Often, I have gone there with other adults and stayed in one of the area’s many luxury hotels or resorts. And, always, I have had a fabulous time! 

But, last summer, was different. My assignment, you might say, was to plan a multi-generation trip to Destin that would include my son, my daughter and her husband, and my two adorable grandchildren (girl six, boy four). Clearly, I had to look at Destin differently, taking into account the interests of the others in my family.
 
The first priority was to find a wonderful place to stay. And, for my group, nothing would do but a beautiful condo on the beach — one with plenty of space, great views of the water, an updated and well-equipped kitchen, etc., and a price that wouldn’t break the bank. 
 
A tall order for me, but not for Newman-Dailey Resort Properties, Inc., which has been warmly welcoming families like ours to Destin since 1985, thanks to Jeanne Dailey, co-founder and current sole owner.
 
After considering several options, Newman-Dailey helped me select a great property — the Jade East Condominiums — and in it, the perfect three-bedroom, three-bath unit.  The minute we arrived on site, we knew we were going to have a wonderful and memorable vacation. Newman-Dailey had turned our dream into a reality! 
 
At check-in on Friday afternoon, we received a welcome basket that included a Newman-Dailey Gift Card for area activities. It was a nice add-on, but also the perfect “tool” for scheduling fun. 
 
We took the kids to Fudpucker’s the first evening. As advertised, it was a blast. The little ones loved the large playgrounds, sprawling buildings and Gator Beach. We all loved the food on the menus (both the one for grown-ups and the one for kids).
Afterwards, we drove one mile west, over to The Track Recreation and Fun Center to take advantage of our newly acquired Newman-Dailey Gift Card. There, we all enjoyed the Surf’ in Safari miniature golf and its featured jungle animals and waterfalls, as well as the Wild Woody, a three-tiered go-cart/roller coaster track. 
 
Next morning, as you might expect, we were eager to hit the beach. As it was just steps away from the back door of the Jade East, the walk was short and sweet! Good thing, as our arms were loaded down with beach bags full of food and drink and enough sun-protecting paraphernalia and beach toys to outfit a childcare center. But, for this reporter, that was okay!
 
For dinner that night, we drove over to Dewey Destin  Harborside Restaurant, voted the best outdoor restaurant on the Emerald Coast. We loved the relaxed, open-air environment (so kid-friendly) and the vast offerings of the seafood menu (though it did make decision making difficult). Finally, I opted for the Grouper Destin, which came smothered with lump crab, lemon juice and a special seasoning. In a word, it was awesome! 
 
You’ve got to be careful when you visit Destin, it’s easy for a trip there to become all about the food. We were reminded of that on Sunday. Twice! First, when we stopped off at Another Broken Egg for breakfast and  that night when we dined at Harbor Docks. Both (for very different reasons, of course) are considered “must-trys” here. 
 
Jade East is situated right across the road from the Big Kahuna’s Water Park, so a stop there to watch the kids slip and slide and swim was a must. So, of course, we made the stop!
 
With more than 40 attractions the water park was, without a doubt, the kids favorite “non-beach” activity. And, admittedly, watching them have so much fun there, was mine. 
 
For more information about renting a vacation home or condo along the Emerald Coast, please visit www.destinvacation.com or call  Newman-Dailey at 800-225-7652 .
 
Beverly Denver is the editor and publisher of Houston Woman Magazine. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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