WaterColor Inn & Resort, 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.
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 sofabed. 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.
Beach chairs and umbrellas are available to rent at daily and weekly rates. Reserve in advance during peak season — you can request to be in the front row if you prefer to be as close to the water as possible. There are also four 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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Michael, the Guest Experience Manager, was super helpful during our stay, offering to arrange a family beach bonfire, 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 two private and one public golf course all close by.
Fish Out of Water, the award-winning fine dining venue 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. Fish Out of Water has spectacular views and is one of the few restaurants on all of 30-A with outdoor dining overlooking the beach.
The Gathering Spot, which specializes in sushi, 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 Beach Club Grille is the Rita Bar, 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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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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