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.