September 22, 2018
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Near and Far

10 Takes on Travel
View the full feature in the July/August 2013 issue of Evansville Living.

Summer’s just begun. Even if you thought your summer was packed and planned, July and August will be much more fun with at least one more getaway. Here are 10 fantastic trips — all easily organized on a moment’s notice.

It’s always the right time to visit Florida’s sandy beaches, and no beach is prettier than Rosemary Beach. Consider visiting a state you might not be all that familiar with, like Arkansas with its deep southern roots and modern new museums, or Wisconsin’s amiable Fox Cities. If you are visiting St. Louis, Indianapolis, Louisville, or Nashville this summer, you’ll be pleased to see our suggestions for specific new must-sees in these cities. Best of all, these spots all will help you make the most of summer.

Rosemary Beach, FL

Florida Panhandle community offers unhurried relaxation  By Todd A. Tucker

“It just doesn’t get any better than this.” That’s what I found myself thinking on day one of a recent trip to one of the prettiest seaside communities in the United States (or anywhere): Rosemary Beach, Fla.

After arriving at the beautiful new Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport (we’ve driven to Florida’s panhandle dozens of times), I was being escorted 30 miles to Rosemary Beach when I told the driver to exit US-98 and drive down scenic Highway 30-A. The highway is home to many other beautiful beachside communities, an area I have been quite familiar with for the past 25 years. I told my fellow travelers, “If you think this is beautiful, wait until we get to Rosemary Beach.”

Once we arrived, it didn’t take long for me to end up on a fat-tire bike provided to me by the fine folks at Bamboo Bicycle. In this community of bike paths, this is the best mode of transportation. After a pre-dinner beverage, I parked my bike at the beautiful Gulfside Eastern Green and found myself surrounded by spectacular architecture as the sun set. I paused for a moment to take it all in before dinner at Edward’s Fine Food and Wine on Main Street.

Edward’s is a true chef-run, fine-dining restaurant and wine bar. It tends to be a little more upscale than some coastal restaurants, but it’s very comfortable, with soft lighting, exposed brick, and a guitarist playing in the background. The menu offers a litany of the Gulf’s finest seafood and local produce and, as we raised our glasses to our host, it was an excellent way to kick off the first day.

But for me, the evening was not complete without a bike ride around Rosemary Beach. I love being able to see how the community has changed, its new homes, and the many shops and markets. The ride quickly reminded me of why I love this community so much.

After taking in the Gulf breeze on my bike, I retired to my cottage — a carriage house with soaring ceilings, tons of glass, and beautiful hardwood and granite in the bathroom and kitchens. It also had spectacular tile work. It is sufficient to say that I’d be very comfortable living there, even if it pales in comparison to the 10,000-plus-square-foot homes that are available for lease in that area.

The next morning, I spent not enough time at the beautiful Rosemary Beach Fitness Center, which is adjacent to The Sky Pool. The club has it all: treadmills, recumbents, ellipticals, steppers, and more, next door to a beautiful enclosed pool, with training available. That allowed me to be able to indulge at what has become a regionally famous group of restaurants called Cowgirl Kitchen that now has four locations.

Two Cowgirl Kitchens are along 30-A and are open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, seven days a week. The owner, Nikki Nickerson, was very personable and engaging. There are so many good things on the menu, it is very difficult to even decide what to order. The restaurant is small but very cozy and manageable.

After breakfast, our group took a walking tour of Rosemary Beach, where we experienced why it is often referred to as a walking community. The town was designed so visitors can park their car for the entire duration of a stay and either walk or cycle around town.

On this particular after-breakfast walk, our host on the trip, Ken Gifford, president and COO of Rosemary Beach Holdings LLC, explained that Rosemary Beach is such a great community because “everyone who is here wants to be here.”

Lunch was at The Summer Kitchen Cafe, the very first restaurant to open in Rosemary Beach, with a very eclectic menu of wraps, salads, and seafood. Any lunch that consists of a Kobe burger with blue cheese and bacon, washed down with an Abita Turbo Dog beer while sitting on a beautiful patio, can be called a good lunch.

With the afternoon free, my options appeared limitless: the fitness center (not again!), the Vivo Spa Salon, or the beautiful boutiques. My personal choice was to get on my bicycle with my pant pockets overflowing with Hoegaarden beer, and to sit around one of the stunning pools. I have been to other resort communities that offer spectacular pools, but in Rosemary Beach, each pool is more beautiful than the next.

Soon enough, I found myself talking to a couple of ladies poolside from Atlanta. One already had purchased a Rosemary Beach property; the other was searching for a property to purchase on that visit. She said she was a CFO, and I found it humorous that she compared every property she visited to Rosemary Beach before finally realizing she should purchase property there.

All too soon, the afternoon came and went. As you can imagine, with all that lying around, doing nothing in the sun and drinking beer (my specialty), I had worked up a healthy appetite. That evening’s dinner was at Onano Neighborhood Café.

Onano specializes in fine Northern Italian cuisine with a host of very exciting foods from the Tuscan region: exceptionally good crab cakes, asparagus soup, and a pork Milanese. It’s killing me not to remember the name of the wonderful medium-bodied red wine that was toasty with an incredible finish — of all the things to forget!

The final morning started with a wonderfully relaxed breakfast at Amavida Coffee, a small family-owned coffee shop with wonderful teas, pastries, and desserts. We sat at a large joiner-type of table and lingered over good coffee longer than usual.

Another highlight was an afternoon visit to La Crema Tapas & Chocolate. The owner, who also operates Aqua Coastal Sushi in the town, told us how he had always dreamed of owning a restaurant, so he left behind his very good mortgage-banking career and opened his restaurants.

The restaurant had a special vibe and was relaxed, elegant, and very comfortable. The Spanish tapas, including the absolutely amazing desserts, made for a truly unique visit. It was so memorable, in fact, that when I was in the vicinity just four weeks later, my family and I made a determined trip to the restaurant. This was so my sons could experience what they had heard me rave about and seen in pictures I had shown them. Eleven- and 14-year-olds can sometimes be jaded, but not here.

The final dinner with the group was at Restaurant Paradis, a newer addition to Rosemary Beach’s fast-growing dining scene with wonderful seafood and exceptional steaks. Paradis also offers an impressive wine list that, for me, was truly a highlight of the trip.

As I recall my time spent in Rosemary Beach, it would be fun, as I love architecture and design, to write about the spectacular homes, landscapes, and common areas of Rosemary Beach, but words literally would not do it justice.

Rosemary Beach has been lauded over and over, and showcased in dozens of travel magazines, architectural magazines, garden magazines, food magazines, and so much more. As I revisit the Gulf community again, and reminisce about my time spent there, I find myself wondering why more people have not discovered Rosemary Beach. Then again, maybe that still is a good thing when I visit.

When You Go:

•  Rosemary Beach event, merchant, and town information, 850-278-2017, rosemarybeach.com
•  Bamboo Bicycle Company, 850-231-0770, bamboobicyclecompany.com
•  The Sea Oats Beach Service, 850-951-3632, seaoatsbeachservice.com
•  Rosemary Beach Fitness Center, 850-278-2061
•  Vivo Spa Salon, 850-231-6801, vivospasalon.com
•  Amavida Coffee, 850-231-1077, amavida.com
•  Aqua Coastal Sushi, 850-764-AQUA (2082), aquacoastalsushi.com
•  Cowgirl Kitchen, 850-303-0708, cowgirlkitchen.net
•  Edward’s Fine Food & Wine, 850-231-0550
•  La Crema Tapas & Chocolate, 850-624-4121, lacrematapas.com
•  Onano Neighborhood Café, 850-231-2436, onanocafe.com
•  Restaurant Paradis, 850-534-0400, restaurantparadis.com
•  Summer Kitchen Café, 850-231-6264, theskcafe.com

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