Exploring Northwest Florida
Exploring Northwest Florida
The Village of Baytowne Wharf in Sandestin is the answer to the question what to do in Florida when you’re not at the beach. This “has it all” entertainment venue features a ropes course and a climbing wall, as well as the only zip line attraction between Destin and Panama City Beach. It also has fun kids’ activities, and great restaurants and shopping.
Overlooking the Choctawhatchee Bay in South Walton on the 2400-acre Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort, the Village is a magnet for both resort guests and locals in search of fun. With a pedestrian-only design (you can park your car in the free parking garage or leave it with the valet) and a New Orleans flavor, this walkable village surrounds a lagoon where kids can feed the fish and operate remote control boats while adventure-seekers soar overhead.
It’s also a great place to grab an ice cream and stroll along the streets for some window shopping. A variety of unique shops can be found here offering everything from fine jewelry to nautical gifts. At the east end of the Village is the event plaza where live performances and festivals take place throughout the year. At the west end you’ll find waterfront restaurants with views of the harbor where boats of all shapes and sizes are docked. You can actually stay in the Village as well, with condos and hotel rooms available over looking the activities and shops.
It started out with the zip line and grew from there. Now the Baytowne Adventure Zone is a collection of high adventure activities that are fun for the whole family. Linked to two towers on either side of the lagoon, the zip Line gives fliers a birds-eye view of the Village. Climbers can also look down from the lofty heights of the east tower by scaling the wall of the Tower Climb.
If bouncing is more your thrill, try the Euro Bungy, a cross between bungee jumping and a trampoline. The Sky Trail Ropes Course offers the ultimate climbing experience as you follow the ropes trail to the prize and ring the bell. For those not so daring, or for younger kids, the Mini Ropes gives you a sampling of the thrill of climbing.
Other kids’ activities include a carousel filled with colorful and whimsical creatures, a three-station mini golf course, a giant checkerboard, and the Adventure Landing Playground with slides and castle turrets to stir little imaginations. Kids (and grown-ups) can also captain their own ships as they operate remote control tugboats in the lagoon.
Want to experience a hurricane without the hassle of actually being in one? You’ll find Hurricane Simulators throughout the Village that will blow you away. For me, I like to sit on the deck of Rum Runners with a glass of wine and watch people zip lining overhead. For more information and Baytowne Adventure Zone hours and activity pricing call 850-428-2736.
Since eating is one of my favorite past times, I always look for unusual places to grab a snack or enjoy a meal. Baytowne has a diverse selection of eateries, snack shops, and watering holes offering just about anything you could be in the mood for.
For snacking, sample the authentic Southern candy flavors of The Candymaker and watch them create delicious treats on site. Hartell’s Village Diner features old fashioned ice cream floats and sundaes, shakes, malts, cookies and fresh baked pies. Sweeties Gelato & Dessert features ice cream, gelato, snow cones, and slushy beverages, conveniently located next to the Adventure Landing Playground. For a cool taste of New Orleans stop in at Tony Larue's New Orleans' Style Snowcones.
In the mood for seafood? Try Poppy's Seafood Factory or Hammerhead's Bar & Grille. Steaks, pasta or Tex-Mex? Head for Graffiti & The Funky Blues Shack or Grin-Go's Taco Bar. Acme Oyster House brings New Orleans to Sandestin serving po boys, crawfish, and jambalaya, and Another Broken Egg Café serves breakfast all day. For more upscale dining, indulge yourself at Bistro Bijoux or the Marlin Grill.
Slake your thirst at any of the pubs and bars of Baytowne. Rum Runners features drinks, live music and the Village’s only sports bar. Lumpy's Wine Bar offers over 200 wines and beers from around the world, and Fat Tuesday Daiquiri Bar has New Orleans-style frozen drinks.
Shopping in the Destin – South Walton area is a matter of so many shops, so little time, but the Village of Baytowne has some really unique boutiques and gift shops that are definitely worth browsing. Barefoot Princess, a Lilly Pulitzer Signature Store, Coco & Company, Island Clothiers, and Mermaids all offer upscale ladies’ and men’s apparel and resort wear.
The Trading Company at Baytowne Wharf features Sandestin resort logo apparel and Aloha Surf Company is a beach and surf shop for the whole family. For the kids there’s Toys and Treasures and Coconut Kids featuring children’s clothing and specialty toy lines. For fun and shopping visit Rick Moore's Magic Shop where you can see a live magic show with world famous magician Rick Moore and come away with tricks to amaze your friends. Call 850-351-1600 show times and reservations.
Follow the boardwalk that leads to the marina out over the marsh for some kid-friendly surprises and great views of the bay. You can also rent bicycles at the marina if you want to do some exploring on the many shaded bike paths that meander through Sandestin.
A short walk or ride south of the Village is where you’ll find Jolee Island, a five-acre nature park complete with marked trails that take you over bridges, along the water, and through a Florida scrub and pine forest. There are also swings and benches that are perfect for picnics or quiet reflection. Don’t be surprised, however, to find pirates have been there and left their hideouts for you to explore.
In the winter, the Village becomes a winter wonderland of lights and holiday trees, with one of the few ice skating rinks in Northwest Florida. Some of the annual events held here include the Sandestin Gumbo Cook-off in February, the Sandestin Wine Festival in April and the Baytowne Art Walk in September.
So if you’re looking for attractions, events, dining, accommodations and shopping all in one location, the Village of Baytowne Wharf is a great Northwest Florida destination.