WaterColor Inn: A Hidden Gem on Florida’s Emerald Coast

WaterColor Inn, set right on the sugar-white sands of the Florida Panhandle, is truly a special find for families. The resort is located in the town of WaterColor, one of 16 wonderful beachside neighborhoods along Scenic Highway 30-A, each with its own personality. Parents and kids alike will love the relaxed vibe and friendly service at WaterColor; even better, it offers older children a chance for some independence, as they can explore on their own in this safe community.

WaterColor Inn Review
Spacious rooms with views over the ocean are decorated in coastal hues. Photo by St. Joe Hospitality

Family-Friendly Review of WaterColor Inn

Accommodations

There are many accommodation options at WaterColor that work for families, from the 60-room inn to beautifully appointed rental homes. We stayed in an ocean view room with a king bed and pull-out sofa bed. The recently renovated rooms marry the laid-back comfort of a classic beach house with the indulgences of a luxury boutique hotel. My favorite design aspect was the windows in the rain shower, which meant I didn’t have to miss the sunset while I showered for dinner.

WaterColor Inn and Resort
This beach chair is calling your name!

Beach and Pools

Beach chairs and umbrellas are available to rent at daily and weekly rates. Reserve in advance during peak season — you can request the front row if you prefer to be as close to the water as possible. There are six pools located throughout the resort; the adults-only pool and the Beach Club have food and beverage service and towel service. We practically had the pool at the Boat House all to ourselves on a busy holiday weekend.

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Amenities

Michael, the Guest Experience Manager, was super helpful during our stay, offering to arrange a family beach bonfire (complete with s’mores), suggesting a favorite local spot for the best grits and helping with anything else we needed. Exercise classes, from yoga to glute camp, are offered at the fitness center. Guests also can play tennis and have access to one public and two private golf courses, all close by. A full menu of parents-only pampering and relaxation awaits at the WaterColor InnSpa.

Dining

FOOW, the award-winning restaurant on the property, serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. It is known for its Gulf-to-table culture; the seafood you order on any given night was most likely swimming that morning. FOOW has spectacular views and is among a handful of restaurants on all of 30-A with outdoor dining overlooking the beach.

The Gathering Spot, a lobby bar and lounge with craft cocktails and small-plate fare, has outdoor seating by the adults-only pool. The inspiration for the name is obvious — it is a great place for families to hang out by the fire pits in the evening. On top of the casual WaterColor Grill venue at the Beach Club is Costa Chica, one of the best spots for watching the sunset. It also overlooks the Beach Club pool so Mom and Dad can keep an eye on the kids while enjoying a margarita as the sun sinks. And new for spring 2021, Beach Cow is the place for a quick burger, hot dog or milkshake.

WaterColor Inn and Resort
The boardwalk and trails are perfect for a bike ride or a stroll

Activities

Resort guests enjoy complimentary use of two bicycles per room from the bell stand. Additional rental bikes, trailers and anything else you might need are a short walk away at the bike barn. A wonderful bike path passes through several of the charming beachside towns. It’s just a 5-minute ride from WaterColor to the town of Seaside, made famous by the movie The Truman Show.

For serious bikers and hikers, there are more than 200 miles of trails featuring rare coastal dune lakes and animal sightings in the nearby state parks.

WaterColor Inn and Resort
Kids can go along for the ride on a paddleboard

The Boathouse, located on beautiful West Lake, is a short bike ride or 10-minute walk from the inn. Guests receive a complimentary hour of kayaks and canoes daily while stand-up paddleboards and lessons are offered at a discounted rate. If you have never tried paddleboarding, the friendly staff is eager to give a lesson or come to your rescue if necessary. Heed the instructors when they tell you not to go out past the buoy, or you may have to call for help.

New kids’ venue Camp WaterColor will keep the little ones busy and happy. They can splash in the main Butterfly Pool with Monarch Slide; the zero-entry Caterpillar Pool, which has a small play area; or the Lazy Lizard Pool, featuring a zero-entry lazy river. When they’re ready to dry off, children can burn off steam on the playground or shoot a few hoops at the basketball court. Nibbles, drinks and frozen treats are available from the Canteen Restaurant & Bar onsite.

WaterColor Inn and Resort
The food trucks in Seaside are perfect for a casual alfresco meal

Near the Resort

Seaside has a great town square anchored by an outdoor amphitheater that hosts concerts and theater performances. Food trucks line the adjacent street and feature everything from healthy raw foods to “The Great Meltdown,” the best grilled cheese ever (according to my daughter, a self-proclaimed grilled cheese connoisseur).

There is a wonderful farmers’ market on the square on Saturday mornings. We purchased some local honey and learned something in the process. The finest tupelo honey, created by bees that eat the tupelo flower that blooms at a certain time of year, is found in this region. if you like honey, it’s a must-buy!

Getting There

WaterColor is an easy 6-hour drive from Atlanta. There are also many flights into nearby Panama City Beach; the resort is 34 miles from the airport.

Relevant Links:

Browse all ideas for family beach vacations on Ciao Bambino

An insider’s guide to the best family beaches in Florida

Favorite family spring break getaways in the Southeast

10 favorite East Coast family beach vacation destinations

Editor’s Note: Ciao Bambino received a media package in order to review WaterColor Inn & Resort for families. As always, our opinions are our own. Photos by Sandy Pappas except where noted.

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This is a challenging time for our clients given the uncertainty around the spread of coronavirus, particularly for those with near-term travel plans in impacted areas. We’re working with our suppliers on being flexible with their booking conditions, and enabling families to postpone travel to a later date without a penalty, when possible. Likewise, given the unpredictability around destinations that may be impacted in the future, we’re helping clients planning new trips and understand ways that they can protect themselves until the situation improves. We are ready to help our clients work through questions and concerns.

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