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Travel Feature - Sandestin Golf & Beach Resort

Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort Florida’s Emerald Coast Gets Even Better

Story and Photos by Ed & Fran Stone

Sandestin® Golf and Beach Resort on the Emerald Coast of Florida continues to grow better with age. Recently opened February 1, 2021, is the beautiful 250-room Hotel Effie, the only upscale hotel opening in 2021 on the Emerald Coast and one of a very few in all of Florida this year. It is located pristinely between the sugar white sand beaches of the Gulf Coast and the charming shores of the Choctawhatchee Bay. The Hotel Effie defines elegant, comfortable and refined. From the thoughtful designed luxury rooms and suites, to the delicious and delightful dining of meals from celebrity Chef Hugh Acheson, along with the offerings of Spa Lilliana, this is what luxury is all about. Here’s where you can enjoy your vacation, weekend getaway or weddings and meetings in spaces designed just for those perfect occasions. This new facility offers 20,000+ square feet of meeting space, including a 13,000 square foot ballroom that can be seamlessly integrated with the existing Baytowne Conference Center. Least we forget to mention the Rooftop Pool, a one-of-a-kind on the Emerald Coast with breathtaking views including the bay to the Gulf of Mexico.


Also, recently renovated with the latest in technology and upscale room accoutrements is Sandestin’s first multi-story structure, known as the Bayside Inn. Bayside Inn is located on the bayside of the Sandestin Resort overlooking the beautiful Choctawhatchee Bay. On a recent visit, we took a tour of this newly renovated and decorated boutique hotel to see what it offers. The management has created a perfect place for those wanting to be pampered and be part of the spa located next door.

Sandestin is all about the outstanding golf, recreation programs, cuisine, accommodations and beautiful beaches. These offerings continue to make Sandestin one of the top resorts in the Southeast. On a recent visit, checked out not only the Bayside Inn, but played four outstanding golf courses. It is difficult to single out any one of the courses as a favorite. The Raven and Baytowne Golf Courses, both were in excellent condition and very challenging, especially the Raven, designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr. Baytowne is a great course for the high handicapper, yet offering the more seasoned golfer a good test of skills. The Links Course being the original course can be a challenging as any you will find. The Burnt Pine Course is private to its members until 1:00 p.m. each day. This is a must play course and has some of the best holes of golf on the Emerald Coast.

Here’s a thumbnail sketch of facilities and programs readers might enjoy knowing about Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort. Situated on 2,400 acres, Sandestin offers 30 charming neighborhoods with 1,300 condominiums, villas, townhomes and private residences.

 More than seven miles of sugar white sand beaches and pristine bay front

 72 holes of golf on four championship courses

 15 world-class tennis courts

 19 swimming pools

 113-slip marina

 One of the top certified children's programs you can find, Club KZ

 Fitness center and spa

 85,000 square feet of meeting space

 The Village of Baytowne Wharf, a notable pedestrian village featuring nightlife venues

Events include the acclaimed Sandestin Wine Festival. This is no ordinary Wine Festival. The events start on Friday and run through Sunday. This annual festivity is usually held the last week of April. Wine novices are able to learn more about wines and sample from a comprehensive selection including the finest from all major producing countries in all varieties, styles and price ranges. Wine aficionados enjoy meeting winemakers, asking detailed questions and acquiring hard-to-get selections.

Sandestin’s Christmas on the Coast Holiday Celebration is held the last Friday and Saturday of November each year. This event takes place at the Village of Baytowne and includes a magical fireworks show over the lagoon as Santa makes his grand entrance around 6 p.m. A choir is on hand to excite your Christmas spirit.


Sandestin offers a variety of accommodations, including the 168-unit Grand Sandestin and the Baytowne Conference Center. This facility features the largest ballroom in Northwest Florida on the Gulf Coast. As already mentioned the opening of the Hotel Effie brings an additional 20,000+ square feet of extraordinary meeting space, including a 13,000 square foot ballroom that can be seamlessly integrated with the existing Baytowne Conference Center.

The resort also offers the 97-unit Lasata, Elation a 100-unit luxury condominium and the 112-unit Bahia, all located in The Village of Baytowne Wharf. In mid-2000, the resort opened the beachside Luau, a truly beautiful mid-rise hotel with views of the Gulf of Mexico. All of these accommodations are perfect places to base your activities. Outside your backdoor is The Village of Baytowne Wharf. Everything for the family is available in this recreated village offering a variety of foods from upscale dining to casual meals. There are always activities taking place for children and adults in this area which features a lake in the center and zip-line, concerts, merry-go-round, and much more.

On the beautiful white sand beach you’ll find West Winds, Beachside One & Two as your perfect Oceanside accommodations. These offer one, two and three bedrooms units.

The Village of Baytowne Wharf, as mentioned, offers shopping, dining, entertainment and play activities. This is a pedestrian village covering some 28 acres and showcasing a collection of specialty merchants, over two-dozen boutique shops, eateries and nightclubs. Most days you can watch or participate in candy-making or such things as lessons in tea etiquette, etc. The best part of this development is the accommodations are only a very short walk to all the activities.

Guests staying at Sandestin are given a wide variety of complimentary activities including:

 Bicycling – Adult and children’s single-speed coaster bicycles are free for four hours a day by showing the Resort Card. Helmets, baskets, child seats, training wheels and locks are also available.

 Tennis – A free hour of tennis court time a day is available with guest stay, based on availability.

 Fishing – Resort guests can land bass and other pan fish from one of the 72 stocked ponds included in Sandestin’s catch and release program.

 Watersports – Cruise around Choctawhatchee Bay and enjoy complimentary use of canoes from Sandestin's Baytowne Marina with a Sandestin Resort Card. For extreme play on the Bay or Gulf of Mexico, check out the complimentary kayaks too.

 Beautiful Beach Walks and Explorations – People of all ages love the sugar- white sand beach at Sandestin for a peaceful rest, building a sandcastle or even nighttime crab hunting. It’s a great way to relax, spend time together and recharge.

 Sandestin offers 72 holes of championship golf on four courses. On a previous visit, we had the opportunity to play the Robert Trent Jones, Jr. Raven Golf Course along with the Rees Jones Burnt Pine Golf Course. We might add this is the only place you will find both brothers golf courses playing alongside each other. The 11th hole of the Raven plays next to the 18th of the Burnt Pine. And, if your ball is hit into either fairway, it is out of bounds. The Links Course is the original course built at Sandestin and continues to offer a challenge with 14 holes playing over or near water. The Baytowne Golf Course is a wonderful course to play and offers vistas of the Gulf of Mexico. For honing your golf skills, Sandestin has its Golf Academy for instruction in private and small group formats…no matter your skill level.

 The tennis player is certainly not forgotten with 15 tennis courts, 12 hydro grid clay and three hard courts. The resort's state-of-the-art tennis facility includes an excellent clubhouse, complete with dressing rooms, lockers, showers and the latest in tennis apparel. Their professional tennis staff keep active players busy year round with daily activities and a variety of special events.

 And not to forget the meeting planner, Sandestin has 65,000 square feet of flexible meeting space to accommodate groups from 10 to 1,600, including 3,000 square feet of Gulf views. The Baytowne Conference Center features the largest ballroom in Northwest Florida. There is also a 12,600 square-foot Linkside Center Exhibit Hall, 24 breakout rooms including four ballrooms and four boardrooms, two business centers, and an oversized pool deck ideal for casual outdoor receptions. Sandestin is also easily accessed from the Panama City-Bay County International Airport and from Northwest Florida Regional Airport.

With golf, tennis, water sports, beaches and activities for the entire family on a year- round basis, you can now see why Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort is one of our favorites. Not only is this a special property to visit, the people who work and make your stay extra special are some of the nicest people in the world. When planning your next vacation, weekend get-away, wedding or conference be sure to consider one of our favorite places.

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