Emerald Grande in Destin Florida is my destination for this vacation, and I am excited. I love Florida, and I enjoy every minute I can have fun in the Florida Sunshine whenever I can. This trip should be amazing since the resort is one that offers amazing rooms, views and amenities.
Video by Officially Misty
Day One Travel Day and Arrival
As I often do, I chose to drive down to Destin today from my home in Virginia Beach Virginia. Since Destin is West of Panama City Beach, the drive will be about as long as if I was driving to Miami. The exception being that once you hit Jacksonville Florida instead of continuing South, you make a turn to the West.
I do not get to the West coast of Florida much on my trips so I was excited to see the sunsets which I often enjoy as much if not a little more than the sunrise. One of the reasons the sunset is a nicer experience is the time of day. To enjoy a sunset, all you have to do is slow down a bit and take it in. For the sunrise, you have to get moving early in the morning on your vacation. Worth it, but not something I would do everyday like you can with the sunsets on the West coast.
The drive down seemed faster than normal to Jacksonville. I did not time it, but it felt like an easy drive. I ending up stopping in Jacksonville and stayed at an older Airport Exit hotel just to get some rest and not force myself to drive it all in one go. I woke up the next morning with only a few hours left to reach Destin, and that made it a nicer trip. You could certainly also stop in South Carolina on the way down Interstate 95 if you wanted to as well.
When I entered Destin Florida, I did not want to head to the resort right away because I would have been very early for check-in. Instead, I headed for a spot for either breakfast or an early lunch.
Close to the resort (just across the street) I found McGuire’s Irish Pub. Man, this place was great and one of the largest Irish Pubs I have been to. Most are wonderful but small hole in the wall establishments. It was Friday and the lunch special today was Fish and Chips so that was a no brainer. I added an Onion Soup which was basically French Onion soup, but it was very good.
The waitress recommended a house special drink to help me recover from the drive. It was called an Irish Wake; it was tasty and served in a mason jar. The restaurant says they make many of their drinks with 3 oz of alcohol, so be aware. They may limit you to 3 of these but you have no business even driving across the roadway after 3 or them. For me, one hit the spot.
So now I was destressed and full of good food, but I still had time before checking in. I chose to drive around the area a little and check things out.
On this trip, I had not exactly packed well. I think I was off my game because of work things when I was getting ready to get on the road. This gave me the ideal to check the local factory outlet shopping center while I was here. I am not a huge shopper. These days I shop more online than I spend time going to stores. But there were a few of the stores I liked that I had not been to in a while. Even a couple that might have a big and tall section, which is where I fit these days.
I went in to Lacoste, Levis, J. Crew, Hagar, and Converse. Lacoste and Hagar had some things that fit and I also grabbed a new pair of Converse. Now with a few pairs of shorts, slacks, and a couple of shirts as well as a new pair of kicks, I was ready to go.
Here is hoping that my unit has a washer and dryer in it. It may be silly, but I like to always wash my new cloths from the store. It makes them feel more comfortable.
Well, with my first bit of in person shopping in a while done, I headed for the resort.
The resort is located at 10 Harbor Boulevard Destin, FL 32541, which is right on the water, and on a great boardwalk.
Checking in the resort was a breeze and while I was still early, they already had a room ready. Which is a nice surprise. I was going to be staying in a 1-bedroom unit, but the resort also has 2,3,4 bedrooms available. It is rare to see a resort with a 4-bedroom available, so that is something to keep in mind for larger families.
The 1 bedroom was a great size at 836 square feet. It also has a solid list of amenities in most units.
- Cable TV
- Coffee Maker
- Ceiling Fan
- Ice Maker
- In-Room Safe
- Iron/Ironing Board
- DVD Player
Then the resort itself offers all of these options.
- Activities Center
- Activities Desk
- Babysitting Services
- Business Center
- BBQ Area
- Beach (On-Site)
- Beach Access
- Hot Tub
- Indoor Pool
- Internet Access
- Kid’s Activities
- Boat Dock
- Boat Slips (Free)
- Concierge Services
- Kid’s Pool Indoor/Outdoor
- Casual Dinning
- On-Site Security
- Outdoor Pool
- Convenience Store
Score one for the home team. My unit had the washer and dryer as I brought in my bag and my new clothing from the stores and started the washing machine with them right away. I was going to settle in and look around the resort while it ran, then come back and change into something new for dinner time.
The room was a long, thin strait unit. When you come in the door ahead of you, there is a master bed and bath, then turning left you move past another bathroom to the kitchen, living room, and then the balcony. The kitchen was a nice size and even had a breakfast counter with bar stool seating for 4, which was a very nice option.
There was also plenty of counter space. Which sometimes is not the case at all resorts. Here you have a great set up if you want to cook one or more meals a day in the unit. Stainless steel appliances and a nice double sink were all laid out very well for making a meal. I was impressed with the thought of the design here. I will have to see if I can get a look for you at one of the 4-bedroom units while I am here. I bet their kitchen is impressive too.
I walked out and sat on the balcony for a few minutes and the setting here is great. My 1-bedroom deluxe unit has a great view of the water, which is something I was hoping for.
Now it was time to view the larger resort itself and look around while my new clothing finished its wash.
The look of the resort is top notch. Outside, the architecture is a very appealing mix of modern and something that feels very authentic on the water. There is even a fairly large lighthouse built into the design that adds a cool feeling to the resort itself. Even the lobby here is over the top in its design, layout, and function.
I checked out the fitness center and while I do not work out enough these days, this was as nice as my gym at home (by that I mean my health club). They had many bikes, treadmills, and even free weights. You can see in the photos online there are even a number of TVs for those who like to watch the news, or the favorite program while they work out.
If I was going to get a workout on this trip through, it would likely be from swimming in the amazing pool. The outdoor space here is perfect and I know I am going to take advantage of that. When I come to Florida, it often is because I am getting away from the cold, or poor weather at home. So, spending time outside in the sun is certainly high on my list of things to do.
The resort has several bars including a pool bar, and a spa area with massage services, a steam room, hot tubs and more.
The next thing to check out is the boardwalk. This amazing resort sits right on a boardwalk by that I mean you step out a door and you are there. That makes this a great location to have safe fun in and just walk back to the resort.
Here in Destin if you can do it on the water, you can do it here. Fishing, floating, Sailing, Boating, and more. I could not help it, dear reader that rhyme just hit me. The boardwalk itself was completed in 2012, and every year since more and more quality service providers have joined forces to provide amazing experiences for visitors.
Since I am very comfortable on the water and grew up on boats, I see a boat rental in my near future.
I do not know how, but I was hungry again. Certainly not starving after my early lunch but finally hungry again so I headed to the resort’s own Grande Vista Bar & Grill. It was nice to be able to just walk everywhere after all the driving I did yesterday. First, I chose some items from the happy hour menu including a modified pina colada, with a few tweaks of my own to the drink.
After that, it was time for dinner and crab cakes were my choice. These were well prepared. I am picky about all things crab because I grew up with fresh crab every summer. Since my Grandparents retirement home was on the water and back in those days, you could throw a crab pot in and in 30 minutes have all you could eat.
So when you are used to that fresh, it is hard for restaurants to measure up. But I could tell this was fresh made and local, which gave it a great taste.
Day Two at Emerald Grande
Waking up today, I was moving slow. The bed was very comfortable and had called my name last night not long after dinner. It was very nice to be able to pop out on the balcony and drink some fresh OJ, read the paper (although on my Kindle) and start the day slow and easy.
The air smelled fresh, and it was about 67 when I work up and headed out on the balcony. Perfect morning weather in a pair of shorts and a t-shirt like those I slept in. After reading the news that I found interesting, including some local area news around Destin, I jumped in the shower and decided to find a spot for breakfast before they stopped serving it.
I like a good breakfast, and while I can cook, it always feels like a treat when someone cooks breakfast for you (even at a restaurant).
Looking quickly online I did not see a buffet nearby, so I headed towards the Pancakery instead. Guess what I ordered? Yes, since they named the places after them, I had to try their pancakes. My choice was the Blueberry Hill, which was blueberry pancakes topped with more blueberries and the optional whipped cream. The breakfast menu here is great and they have specialty options as well as just about anything and everything available as a side item too.
If you come to the area, I encourage you to give it a try. Great food and service, and a wonderful way to start the day.
After breakfast I wanted to see more of Destin and also do something active to burn some of breakfast off. I was sure I had 4,000 calories.
While you have access to a great beach right by the resort, I wanted to go check out Henderson Beach which is a state park and one that I have been to several times before. Including one in my youth. For me, being able to go back and see things from my childhood connect me with family that are no longer with us, and great memories.
The beach here is one of the best state-maintained beaches in all of Florida, and that is saying something. You only have to pay a small state park fee for $6 for access and it is worth it to support this beach.
Here there are RV and Tent sites as well, and if I was not so spoiled at the resort it would be cool to stay my night here sometime.
On the state website, there was a message from the manager I wanted to share.
Henderson Beach State Park is a place where you can experience blue-green, sparkling waters and magnificent white beaches, creating memories for years to come. You can find tranquility on this pristine undeveloped shoreline, which is a reminder of “the real Florida.” People make the place, and our team strives to make your stay memorable.
Henderson Beach State Park is a popular camping location, so make your reservations early.
Beach wheelchairs are available free of charge for those who have a need for these wonderful mobility devices. Please stop by the ranger station for assistance in acquiring the use of a beach wheelchair.
One of my ways to enjoy the park is to walk our Nature Trail early in the morning, then spend the day on the beach waiting for a sunset that will be remembered for a lifetime.
We look forward to your visit and thank you for visiting the real Florida at Henderson Beach State Park!
OK, seeing the undeveloped was truly fun, just like the walk down memory lane. But now I headed back to the boardwalk and the resort for a while.
Once I had spent some time on the boardwalk, I had the idea to spoil myself. This resort has a serious spa, and they have male and female spa rooms and access areas. Which is kind of old school and neat these days. So, I booked a massage. Next thing you know, I am headed for a deep tissue hour long massage. While not cheap, the quality of the massage and the environment made the experience a great one.
In every resort town you can always find a place to get a massage, but you never know what you are walking into. With this spa I had no concerns and everything was high quality. There are places I have been that felt sketchy from the get go. Which may be OK if it is just me, but if I am going to send someone I know, or worse, don’t know I would never want to send them to some of the places in resort towns. Here you could take a spouse, or send your Mother and feel great about the choice.
The entire resort here just has a safe and well-designed feeling.
Day Three Boat Rental and Crab Island
Today I had reserved a small boat and was going to check out the very popular crab island. Then I wanted to take the boat out into the surrounding waterway and look around some. Now the boats here are not some you should take out into the ocean. Pontoon boats are great for up to 12 people when properly equipped (weather permitting) but you can not take them into rough water, or even deep-water situations.
After all, you are moving on a low-lying platform above two pontoons not a regular V hull boat. These are fun however, and work well with the shallow area that is crab island.
Crab island is a large sand bar and not an island as the name implies. But with the bright blue waters, and the pure white sand, the look and feeling of the area is amazing. I mean right out of a magazine amazing. If there had been a camera following me, I would have thought I was on one of those travel shows where the attractive girl is followed around to amazing locations that most people will never get to see, or visit.
For lunch I went to Harry T’s it is right at the boardwalk and has a great little menu. For my meal I chose the seafood platter, and I also had some cream of snow crab soup to start. It is a good little spot where after bringing the boat back I did not have to drive anywhere, and the food was good.
After the lunch I went to the Harbor Walk Theater and to a stage hypnosis show. I have trained in hypnosis and even have taught it in the past by writing a book on the topic. This interest also leads me to enjoy seeing other people perform hypnosis, especially great stage hypnotists. Stage hypnosis is a very different set of skills than therapeutic, or guided hypnosis. But it is funny to watch, and even more engaging to experience should you choose to go on stage.
After the show, I stopped by the pool bar before it closed and then headed to my room to get some sleep. In the morning I would be headed to another resort. So, I had to get rest so I could hit the ground running for checkout in the morning.
You can follow the rest of my vacation here.