The Perfect Family Beach? Found!
Slow down at eco-friendly Rosemary Beach, Florida and enjoy a relaxing family vacation among the sand dunes, fields of wild rosemary, cafes and boutiques.
With the salty air from the Gulf of Mexico breezing over me, I pedaled to the Amavida Coffee, a family-owned café that featured locally roasted, Fair Trade coffee and shelves of books lining the sunny walls. Parking my bike, I admired the cobblestone streets, free of cars, breathed in the wild rosemary-scented air and thought: Rosemary Beach is special. It really is unlike any other town in the state.
Founded in 1995 on the northwest coast of Florida, Rosemary Beach is a 105-acre beach community that promotes green community living. That translates into lots of walking and biking, uncrowded beaches and pools, small businesses that make use of natural topography and the perfect family getaway.
For accommodation, I found a charming two-story carriage house with a balcony and winding staircase and the first thing I did after arrival was rent a bike and go exploring. I cycled to the boutiques and through the parks, including a vivid butterfly garden that was bursting with bold flowers and flitting butterflies. When I got to the sand dunes, I ditched my bike and strolled along the dramatic dune walkovers, which protect the dune systems and provide beach access.
Rosemary Beach has a winding, 4-kilometre trail made of sand paths and boardwalks. With the Florida sun blazing down, it’s a scenic walk and a great workout. After walking the length of the trail, I was ready to enjoy the pristine, silvery beach and turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico. You can simply swim or rent kayaks and surf boards right on the beach.
I kayaked out to the second sand bar in search of dolphins and enjoyed watching brave families try yolo boarding — which requires stand-up padding and the kind of balance and coordination that I do not have. After the beach, a stop at New Orleans Sno Balls is a requirement. The tiny storefront serves up icy treats in the traditional New Orleans style, which means a fluffy ice texture that absorbs the flavored syrups. They offer more than 20 flavors; my favorite was dreamcicle.
At night, sampling the distinctive local restaurants is a Rosemary Beach must. I went to Cowgirl Kitchen, a kitschy eatery with the motto, “where beach meets west,” and ate a veggie pizza slathered with feta, roasted garlic and fresh spinach. Onano Neighborhood Café charmed me as well, dishing up lobster ravioli and a salted caramel cake you have to taste to believe.
There’s no traffic, crowds, nightclubs or even tall buildings in Rosemary Beach. It offers a kind of relaxing, eco-friendly experience that makes you slow down and smell the coffee. And the rosemary.