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The beach.

The perfect place? Rosemary Beach, Florida. I visited the ocean side resort earlier this spring after a five-year interlude and I returned to find the casual and elegant vacation spot even better than before.

Rosemary Beach is a master-planned seaside community where the warm Gulf breeze caresses guests and turquoise water nestles long stretches of pristine sugar sand. When guests arrive, they are embraced by the Caribbean architecture, crafted carefully into a variety of home styles. Streets are sandy walkways framed with lush landscaping. Uniformity reigns, but in a West Indies way.

Accommodations

Onano is a fave!

Lucky are the homeowners, for they have a perfect place to call (a second) home. There are a handful of properties for sale – completely furnished and a fractional ownership condominium. Renters – and most of Rosemary Beach's visitors rent – find quaint carriage houses and spacious multi-bedroom cottages, all individually designed and charming as heck! Carriage houses and cottages, nearly 200, are classified as Gulf-front, Gulf-side, Gulf-view or park-view, depending on where they are situated. Each one has all you need – washers and dryers, granite countertops and sea themed decorations. Some have wrap around porches, private pools or Jacuzzis. Housekeeping is included! The website has detailed photos and descriptions of each property available and the enthusiastic staff is ready to answer questions. Check the website for seasonal rates. The Pensione Inn, a contemporary European hotel, features 11 guest rooms, each with a Gulf view. A new luxury hotel, Hotel Saba, is set to open soon. Guess I will have to go back again (!) to check this out.

Activities

Just enjoying walking the property is an activity. The first time I went, I neglected to rent a bicycle – a mistake I did not repeat this time. Get a bike! It's lovely to see the resort this way. Lots of bike racks are provided. Each turn of the path leads to common green spaces, little pocket parks or greater expanses where families gather to watch the kids and dogs run, play and roll in the grass. Weddings, cocktail parties and picnics are frequently taking place. Guests may also rent surfboards, kayaks, Hobie Cats and Yolo Boards (ask!). There is a 2.3-mile fitness trail with exercise stations, but it is all so lovely so you won't feel like you are exercising. All sorts of niceties are available for rent: beach chairs and umbrellas, hammocks and Catamarans. Use of the tennis courts is complimentary, as is borrowing DVDs from the reception office. The resort offers a fitness club with lots of machines and classes for yoga enthusiasts and more.

One of the fabulous pools.

You are no more than five minutes from the Town Center where shops, restaurants, the post office and the spa are located. And, may I say a special 'wow' to the spa? What service? The staff read my mind and offered to fetch wine from the restaurant next door to enjoy with my pedicure. I was bemused to watch a young boy, a Spring Breaker, get a needed haircut with roller skates still on his feet. And did I mention the beach? There are nine handsome dune walkovers for beach access, each containing showers and restrooms. Two are wheelchair accessible. Build a sand castle, get a tan or check out the sea school which offers surf, sail, kayak and skim board classes for children eight and up.

Food

Don't think you are merely getting different 'faces' with one hotel-styled cooking operation. Each restaurant is privately owned and there is a lovely variety from which to choose. Restaurant Paradis - My favorite! Diners will find a cozy, elegant setting where steaks, fresh seafood and delectable desserts make for a memorable evening. Check out the half-price entrees each evening from 5 to 5:45 p.m. Cowgirl Kitchen - A cute way to start your day is this fun and eclectic environment offering a wide selection of snacks and appetizers, salads, pizzas and homemade meals. The Summer Kitchen Café – The first restaurant to open at Rosemary Beach, serves breakfast and lunch daily; dinner is served daily during “season.” This casual restaurant features tasty sandwiches, pasta, salads, roll-ups and other satisfying options. Onano - Also my favorite. Italian fare with an emphasis on seafood. Pastas are homemade and we enjoyed a wine-filled dinner outside. Wild Olives - This is your everything - a wine shop, bakery, deli and market. They serve great sandwiches and salads and feature an olive bar. Amavida Coffee - Where the regulars congregate; sip the owners' unique coffee and 'people watch'. La Crema Tapas & Chocolate – Absolutely my favorite! You must go here. Every single thing on the menu is wonderful, fresh, beautiful and scrumptious. La Crema has a charming, Spanish feel. In fact, the owners spent time in Spain, loving all the tapas restaurants they found. So much so, they decided to open a tapas restaurant here.

Shopping

Bombora Sun & Surf may be the best place ever to buy a surfboard but I loved their jewelry. The earrings I bought here have won compliments from numerous admirers. Rosemary Beach Trading Company. – I have

A view from the beach.

spent some money here! I love everything in the Trading Company which offers great kids' items, gifts and Rosemary Beach mementos. Willow - My absolute favorite (I know...I have a lot of favorites.) I bought a bracelet that I have worn so often, I can't believe I lived without it my whole life. They offer a vintage-yet-cool selection of womens' clothing and shoes. You will feel 'cool' buying something here. Rosemary Beach is located on northwest Florida’s Gulf coast, between Panama City and Destin, at the eastern end of Scenic Route 30-A., just 585 miles from Houston. The 107-acre property, established in 1995, features 2,500-feet of Gulf-front beach surrounded by a master-planned community featuring an artful structure of lanes, footpaths, boardwalks and secret pathways that lead to the town square, the beach and accommodations. Rosemary Beach was named for the rosemary herb that grows wild in the area; guests can see it everywhere. Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport is 30 minutes away, Northwest Florida Regional Airport (approximately one hour away, and Pensacola Regional Airport is approximately two hours away.)

For complete information, visit rosemarybeach.com, and be sure to check for last-minute specials. Also, the staff is amazing. Special requests and arrangements are encouraged.