By Regina Lynch-Hudson
Blissful destination: There are those extraordinary havens that are a big fish in a small pond, or the crown jewel of the surrounding destination. Henderson Park Inn, Destin’s only all-adult resort bed and breakfast, is touted as the chicest digs along the Gulf of Mexico.
I can vouch for the top ranking. My husband and I are veritable ‘poster children’ for the oceanside resort, having returned more than five times in the last 15 years. Like so many honeymooners, lovers, and seclusion seekers, we love to hideaway in the “just-the-two-of-us” setting that, quite frankly, feels like it belongs in Cape Cod or Carmel.
Swaddled in sugary white beaches, along Florida’s Emerald Coast, the Henderson Park Inn offers an intimate layout of 35 rooms, gracing a mile of isolated shoreline. www.hendersonparkinn.com
Beach Bums: Henderson Park Inn bestowed us with everything we’d need to hunker down. Within our waterside suite, the customary bottle of wine, chocolates and fragrant roses were waiting on a tray by the bed. Mornings commenced with an enticing breakfast at Beach Walk Café, Henderson Park’s exclusive on-site eatery, dubbed the only fine dining in Destin. We were not surprised when the waiters remembered us from years past, and picked up where our last conversation left off. We inhaled the sea air as we found our old familiar spot on Beach Walk’s veranda, and exhaled at the sight of glistening water. Days were spent lazing on loungers, underneath mammoth umbrellas, and embracing the nostalgia of bygone anniversaries spent at Henderson Park Inn. At lunchtime, we reveled in another of Henderson Park Inn’s traditions, the yummy boxed picnic lunch that the inn whips up for guests. As I savored scrumptious chicken salad, a bird landed on my big brim hat, then sashayed over to my husband, nabbing the last few crumbs of his sandwich and chocolate chip cookies.
Toes in the Sand: Beach Walk’s gulf-front vista and award-winning menu make it an experience to relive again and again. Toes-in-the-Sand is a private dining ritual that delights, from the moment you remove your sandals and sink your toes into the powdery earth, to the finale — watching the sunset from a table cast mere feet from the water’s edge. There’s something about the melody of the ocean and the perfume of salt air that heightens the appetite. In the company of sea turtles and an occasional blue heron, our meal began with appetizers — Kung Pao Shrimp, crispy fried with a soy and hot pepper Kung Pao glaze, diced red onions and alfalfa sprouts. Jumbo Lump Crab Cake was flawlessly pan roasted, atop corn and scallion griddle cakes with bright lemon aioli and organic baby arugula. My entrée, Pepper Crusted Yellowfin Tuna, (seared rare) with braised baby spinach, and soy ginger sauce. Meanwhile, my hubby dove into his catch of the day — succulent Grilled Main Lobster Tail, served with saffron jasmine rice and sautéed spinach.
Daily reservations at Beach Walk never get old. From Toes-in-the Sand dining that’s popular for couples to Sky View Deck Dining, the food and the view are unparalleled.
Footloose and Fancy Free: For those freewheeling moments, enjoy the obvious — a jaunt along the beach at sun-up. Never one to meet a stranger, I made fast friends with nature as I jogged the serene sweep of coast along the Inn. Hospitable starfish and sea gulls greeted me along the way, and I couldn’t help but pause to admire their glory. Right next door to Henderson Park Inn is Henderson Beach State Park, another place to bask in the great outdoors. You’ll encounter birds and butterflies galore, amid 6,000 feet of stunning coastline. If you’re a fisherman, the waters are bursting with flounder, catfish, redfish, pompano and other species just waiting to jump on your hook.
You can’t leave Henderson Park Inn without grabbing one of the bikes the inn makes available to guests, and taking a spin around the area. The Mayberryish excursion is a memorable treat — no traffic, balmy ocean breezes and picturesque pathways sandwiched in between iridescent waters.
A hop and a skip away are pontoon boat rentals, dolphin cruises and parasailing.