Nestled between Panama City Beach and Destin, Rosemary Beach has its own character and flair that sets it apart from other Panhandle beach cities. Established in 1995 as a new urbanism town, it was designed to offer a sense of community and neighborhood conveniences. A lot of planning went into the pedestrian lanes, boardwalks and green spaces that make this town unique. Commerce is centered in the town square and on Main Street. The town hall and post office are often a gathering place where residents visit with their neighbors. There are no big box or chain retailers in this seaside retreat, everything is locally owned. From boutiques offering quality merchandise to great restaurants offering everything from casual fare to four-star dining, this Gulf Coast beach community has something for everyone.
Most of the shops in Rosemary Beach are located around Barrett Square, the hub of the community. While there are many shops to choose from, here are a favorite few.
More boutique than surf shop, Bombora Sun and Surf Shop tries to find things that are outside of the “normal wave”. Head here to pick up stylish beachwear, beach toys, sunglasses and flips flops.
In business since 2004, the Rosemary Beach Trading Company features unique home items, souvenirs and gifts. This is also the only place in town to get Rosemary Beach logo wear such as t-shirts and hats. The store has a great selection of picture frames, decorative signs and candles all with a “beachy” feel.
A kids clothing and toy store for kids of all ages, Gigi’s Clothing and Toys offers puppets, art supplies and other creative toys. Owner Geri Golding also helps kids discover the benefits of volunteering and raising money. She recruits kids to volunteer at a lemonade stand held in front of the store on Saturday afternoons during the summer. Patrons are asked to donate a dollar and the donations then go to the Alaqua Animal Refuge, a non-profit, no-kill animal shelter in nearby Freeport, Florida.
Labeled as a “fine apothecary boutique”, Pish Posh Patchouli’s has been in business for seventeen years with four of those years at Rosemary Beach. Owner Lynn Dugas designed the shop herself (she is also an architect) and they specialize in hard to find bath and beauty products from all over the world. Visitors can make their own custom perfume at the Custom Scent Bar and soaps come from a local soap maker. It’s also one of the few stores in the area that carries Bond Number Nine New York perfume, a trendy and popular fragrance.
A shoe boutique is a must stop on every woman’s shopping expedition and Moonpize doesn’t disappoint. In addition to cute shoes, they offer apparel, pajamas and purses. Jewelry is offered from local designers as well as unique shell art and signature candles.
See the Sites
Along with sunbathing and swimming in the ocean, the Rosemary Beach area offers plenty of activities to keep you busy. In the community alone, there is a racquet club, where all guests receive complimentary court time and a fitness center, which offers state of the art equipment and exercise classes.
The best way to get around once you arrive in Rosemary Beach is to rent a bike. Bamboo Bicycle Company is located on the square in downtown Rosemary Beach and offers classic Beach Cruisers for rent by the day or by the week. There are boardwalks, sidewalks and bicycle paths everywhere.
Head West on Highway 98 a few miles and you will come to Eden State Gardens and the Wesley House. This antebellum home was built in 1897 by a wealthy Florida timber family and at one time had 3 timber farms with 21 mill houses on the 161 acre property. The mills burnt down during the fifty years that the family was in the lumber business and the family eventually stopped timbering. When the last Wesley family member living in the home passed away in 1953, none of the children wanted to keep the house so they sold it to a local developer. The developer never did anything with the house and so it was vacant for many years and even had goats living inside it for a while until Lois Maxon bought it in 1963. A publisher from New York, Lois bought and renovated the house after retiring and moving to Florida from New York. The house serves as a showcase for her collection of Louis XVI antiques which is valued over a million dollars and is the second largest collection in the U.S.
Located on County Road 30A in Santa Rosa Beach, Deer Lake State Park offers a chance to see a rare coastal dune lake. It’s considered one of the rarest dune lakes in that it periodically blows into the gulf, mixing fresh water and the salty gulf ocean water. This mixing of the waters provides eleven distinct natural habitats within Deer Lake State Park; swamp, marsh, estuarine tidal creek, depression marsh, basin swamp, beach dune, scrub, sandhill, coastal dune lake, blackwater stream and estuarine tidal creek. The ecosystem created by this meshing of the waters also provides a delicate habitat for migratory birds, butterflies and loggerhead turtles and is home to rare plants such as spoonflowers and curtis sand grass.
In 2004, the State of Florida Department of Environmental Protection constructed a mile long boardwalk over the dunes that lead to the ocean at Gulf Coast Beach. This boardwalk offers great views of the dunes themselves and of the dune lake. Animal tracks from coyotes, bobcats, fox and raccoons are visible in the sand indicating the plentitude of wildlife that exists within the park. The park boasts over 1920 protected acres and offers beach access, picnic area and fishing. There are no facilities so be sure to bring food and drinks. The park is open from 8:00 a.m. until sundown every day of the year. Admission is via an honor box and is $3.00 per vehicle and $2.00 for pedestrians and bicyclists.
When all of the shopping and sightseeing starts to make you hungry, venture into one of these great restaurants:
Start off the day with breakfast at Amavida Coffee. This family owned coffee house’s second location (the first is in Seagrove Beach) in Rosemary Beach produces locally roasted Fair Trade Certified coffee and tea. They have a collection of specialty coffees and teas from around the world. Pastries and desserts are fresh and made daily. Free Wi-Fi is also available.
The Cowgirl Kitchen is another great breakfast (or lunch) option. This restaurants’ slogan is where “beach meets west” and puts a southwestern spin on all of their food. Seating is somewhat limited but the food is tasty. Try some veggie breakfast tacos or a Chipotle Bacon Sandwich.
Wild Olives is a market, deli and bakery and serves up some tasty sandwiches for lunch. They feature domestic and imported meats and cheeses as well as an olive bar. Ample outdoor seating makes this a great place to grab a bite to eat and bask in the sun.
Owner James Dillon offers casual, family-style fare at the Summer Kitchen Cafe. This restaurant is located right next to the bike rental shop and offers plenty of outdoor seating. The menu changes seasonally and features salads, sandwiches and pasta.
For dinner, head to the four-star steak and seafood restaurant, Paradis. This fine dining establishment offers fresh seasonal fare, fresh Gulf seafood and steak. It also has a full service bar and lounge with an extensive wine collection.
For great Italian food, head over to Onano. This restaurant specializes in Tuscany region cuisine and is open daily for dinner only. With dishes such as Lobster Ravioli and Chicken Cacciatore, there is something for everyone. Indoor and Outdoor seating is available.
A Place to Stay
Rosemary Beach offers condos and cottages for rent. Each cottage has its own personality and theme and is equipped with fully stocked kitchens, Aveda soaps and lotions in the baths and luxurious linens. Some cottages have their own private pools, sleeping porches and ocean views. Rates begin at $172 a night in the winter and depend on season, number of bedrooms and cottage amenities. All rentals can be made at www.rosemarybeach.com.
For a truly unique Florida getaway, head down to Rosemary Beach and experience this charming seaside retreat for yourself.