Sandestin Resort is nestled between the Gulf of Mexico and the Choctawhatchee Bay in Northwest Florida with 2,400 acres of lodgings, championship golf courses, restaurants, pools, and family fun. There are multiple resorts/hotels within Sandestin, so it’s best to think of it as more of a whole community rather than a resort itself. You're probably wondering...What is there to do in Sandestin besides the ocean? What kid activities are there? How do people get around? What kind of places are there to stay? Let’s find out.
Where to Stay
Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort boasts waterfront access to two types of water: the Bay side and the Gulf side. Both have benefits, so you can’t make a bad choice here. Both the Bay side and the Gulf side (and everywhere in between) have hotels, houses, condos, and vacation rentals. LOTS of vacation rentals.
We opted to stay at the Hilton Sandestin Beach Resort which is beachfont on the Gulf. This way we could get the best of both worlds with an ocean view and beach, but still have access to the activities located on the Bay side. If you’d like more info on our grand time at the Hilton Sandestin, read my review here.
If you would like to book a vacation rental, I recommend beginning your lodging search at: https://www.sandestin.com/accommodations
What to Do
The beach! Miramar Beach is an amazing white sand beach that is nearly pure quartz crystal. The Hilton and a few other places have a private access. Most other guests just travel the few yards to the right to use the public access. What made Sandestin stand out in my research of potential destinations in Florida’s Emerald Coast was its family-friendly activities in addition to the ocean.
Baytowne is a well-planned, high-fun area that has everything. It’s about 2.5 miles from the Gulf side. Officially known as the Village of Baytowne Wharf, it’s full of charm, beauty, and entertainment! There are bars, dining, shopping, candy stores, and live music. The vibe of this area was a great fit for our family.
But what about the kids? Baytowne Adventure Zone is built just for them. It’s right in the heart of Baytowne and offers a trampoline jump, playground, carousel, and zip line. For $15 your kid can be harnessed into a contraption and scale the obstacles on a sky ropes course right in the middle of Baytowne. Our son could not get enough!
One evening in Baytowne, I was relaxing on a bench near the water, feeling the breeze on my face, and listening to our son tell a story (he’s always telling a story) when I see a couple with a small stroller. Too small for a human baby. Must be a puppy! I love all canines and will gladly make it weird if it means I get to pet your dog. I leaned over for a closer look and when I peaked inside the stroller window—It. Was. A. Rabbit. They brought their pet rabbit in a stroller. I am still hoppy that I got to see this treasure.
A long time before rabbits roamed in strollers, Sandestin as we know it now was founded in 1973. Prior to this, the land was used for raising crops and livestock and, later, as a testing place for the first military rocket. Purportedly, Walt Disney even considered the land for the future home of Disney World. It was turned into a master-planned beach community in the 1970’s, hosted the Beach Boys in the 1980’s, and added Golf to its name in 1999.
How to Get Around
There were no rideshare apps operating on the island when we were there, so you MUST have alternate transportation arranged. Airport shuttles can be scheduled easily.
TRAM: There is a free shuttle/tram that takes you around the Sandestin area and picked us up right at the hotel side entrance. You’ll need to have proof of being a guest in order to use the free transportation. With no rideshare services available the tram is a popular option. But, not as popular as…
GOLF CARTS: These bad boys are everywhere. And, I mean everywhere. There’s golf cart paths connecting the two sides. There’s even special golf cart parking in some locations.
BICYCLES: It became apparent on our second day, that despite the usefulness of the tram, we like to go at our own pace and not be beholden to a shuttle schedule. We looked for a golf cart rental, but didn’t turn up any leads. That is how on the third day we ended up at the Marina. Obviously. Where else would you go to rent bicycles? Now, it turns out that most visitors rent these bicycles for 4-hour increments. We, however, wanted them as a mode of transportation. They happily provided us with a discounted 24-hour rate and were very generous in the return time for the 24 hours. These bicycles were clutch. The freedom we felt riding away was like a teenager getting their first car.
Where to Shop
The first stop on our newly rented bicycles was lunch and dessert at Grand Boulevard. It’s important to note that this was out of reach of the trams. We were going where no tram had gone before. This is a nice shopping/dining area like in many other cities. Worth a visit if you have time, otherwise it’s probably not anything you haven’t seen before.
SIDE STORY: Although my husband thought it was unlikely that anyone could ride the rented tandem bicycle away, we did use the nifty lock they gave us at the fish shop. After a wonderful lunch on a patio and visit to a chocolate shop, we returned to our bikes to find a handwritten note letting us know we had locked our bikes to a parking blockade NOT a bike rack. Could’ve happened to anyone.
Food & Drink
Sandestin has the food situation covered which is a relief if, like me, you want to ensure your vacation meals are as delicious as possible. Restaurants at the Hilton Sandestin are reviewed here so I’ll stick with a few from Baytowne. Slick Lips Seafood & Oyster House is a great option for Cajun-style seafood. We ate here twice during our trip. Rum Runners is also a fun option. The google reviews/ratings of all the restaurants were very helpful for us. An honorable mention should go to the chain restaurants at Grand Boulevard. If you have a golf cart, car, or bicycles, then there are several more restaurants there.
Want to go fishing? Marina. Want to eat lunch in a casual outdoor atmosphere? Marina. Want to rent bicycles? Marina. Want to see a colorful bird with no enclosure? Marina.
The marina at Baytown Wharf is walkable from the village via a beautiful path. It’s a hub of activity for people coming and going and fishing and eating and drinking and sightseeing. A colorful bird name Mary Ann lives at the marina. According to the locals, she bites.
Sandestin is home to world-class golf offerings and has been ranked in the “Top 20 Florida Golf Resorts.” It is home to Raven Golf Club, Burnt Pine Golf Club, Baytowne Golf Club, and The Links Golf Club. More info on these can be found at: https://www.hiltonsandestinbeach.com/destin-golf
Although, we didn’t get a chance to golf. We did get a chance to play miniature golf at Dunes Family Putting Course which was near our hotel. While this is not an over-the-top putt-putt course with windmills and fake monsters, it was a fun activity for an hour. Plus, they sold popsicles.
Florida Sand. Sun. Salt. Literally everything you need within walking/biking distance. What’s not to love?! We used our feet to pedal us around like we were 12 year olds in a 1950’s sitcom. I saw a bunny in stroller. We couldn’t have asked for a better time as a family to hang out with each other.
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