A Secluded Surprise in Florida



The Obama family is expected to take a vacation on the Gulf Coast of Florida this summer, and we think they should pick Rosemary Beach.

This family-friendly, quiet vacation spot on Florida’s Gulf Coast is safe, even in light of the recent oil spill. Plenty of activities for kids and adults alike means that Rosemary Beach is a great Florida vacation spot for families.


You probably think that we’ve lost our minds, recommending Rosemary Beach, a community on the Gulf Coast of Florida, for a family vacation, particularly in light of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. After all, isn’t the entire southern coast of the country covered in oil?  Isn’t recommending taking the family to a crude-strewn beach the height of bad calls?

While we can’t discount the serious impact the oil spill has had on communities on the Gulf of Mexico, we can report that, as of press time, the Gulf Coast of Florida has had only minor incidents—and Rosemary Beach hasn’t been closed for a single day. And with Southwest now offering direct flights from BWI to the brand-new Panama City airport, now one of the most beautiful beaches in the country is an easy destination for Maryland families.

While Rosemary Beach does have permanent residents, many of the homeowners rent our their property to visitors.  The rentals available include everything from studio apartments (maybe not the best choice for families) to eight-bedroom mansions right on the waterfront. For my trip, I stayed in a two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo-style house a ten-minute walk from the beach and a five-minute walk from the center of town. The master bedroom had a king-sized bed; the other bedroom had two twins. There was also a full kitchen, a dining area, a washer and dryer and dishwasher, a living room and a small porch. Essentially, staying there was like staying at a friend’s house, but a friend that has much nicer stuff than you do. But while luxurious, the house was still comfortable and completely un-fussy. Larger homes would make a perfect setting for a family reunion.

You will never hear the whine of “I’m bored” when you’re there. Besides the beach, there are four pools, a racquet club and plenty of biking and walking. On the beach, you can rent kayaks, surfboards, or sailboats. I’m an inexperienced sailor to say the least, but I managed to sail a Hobie Cat without killing myself or anyone else. One of the most fun activities is a short drive down the road at YOLO Board.  Group lessons are $35/hour, and the stand-up paddleboard is a cinch for nearly any age. YOLO Boards (the acronym stands for You Only Live Once) look like oversized surfboards; you propel yourself with a kayak-style paddle. It’s easy to maintain your balance (I flipped over once, but only because someone ran into me) and the standing position gives you a great look at the wildlife in the area. Tours can either stick to the unique dune lakes or go into the Gulf itself, where you can ride the waves. Be warned: Your abs will hurt the next day — but you won’t mind. (Go to yoloboard.com for details.)

If you’re looking for a vacation destination for next summer (rather than a last-minute getaway), plan on going when Camp Rosemary is in session. The daycamp for kids five to 12 gives you a break in the morning—they can play, meet new friends and do crafts while you hang out on the beach (or just sleep.) There’s also an afternoon session if you want to extend your parent-only time a little bit longer, as well as family activities in the afternoon. There are also some nighttime sessions available.

Dining ranges from the very casual Cowgirl Kitchen, with an excellent mix of Tex-Mex cuisine, to the  more formal. My favorite visit (and possibly one of the most kid-friendly places, at least when it comes to dessert) was La Crema Tapas, a tapas and dessert restaurant. The small plates are great to share and the desserts (which include chocolate and peanut butter fondue and chocolate-covered bacon. Yes, you read that right. Try it. It’s good.) are sure to be a hit with little ones.

While Rosemary Beach may feel like a resort, it is, in fact, a town. So while the rental price includes the  property, access to the fitness club, beaches and pools, and tennis (as well as unlimited DVD rentals), be aware that you need to build in room for extra costs. So if you want to rent a bicycle or a beach cabana, budget for that. There’s a small, high-end grocery store in town, but there’s a larger one on the way from the airport, so I’d stop there to stock up.

Is Rosemary Beach a budget destination? No. Prices for three-bedroom houses in the summer range from just over $2,000 to $4,000 a week. But you certainly get what you pay for—beautiful properties in a beautiful place, where it’s easy to relax and enjoy your family.

Currently, Rosemary Beach is offering a vacation guarantee that refunds money for any portion of their vacation affected by a beach closure; you can see updates both on RosemaryBeach.com, as well as get daily updates for the area at BSWupdatecom. You can also price rentals and see photos at RosemaryBeach.com.