By Susan Vallee
Rosemary Beach is younger than Seaside, its New Urbanist cousin, but feels like it has an older soul. Think of it as the beach destination your more refined sister-in-law would choose. You know, the sister-in-law with grown children who doesn’t worry about securing a 5:30 dinner reservation, is particular about her wine and has a penchant for fine art, but still likes to let her hair down and have a little fun every once in awhile.
Located at the tail-end of 30A’s east side, Rosemary Beach greets visitors with a tunnel of shade created by rows of tall, stately scrub oaks planted on either side of 30A. You’ll catch glimpses of large beach homes built with a St. Augustine/New Orleans/West Indies aesthetic before pulling into the cobblestone streets of downtown.
The pace feels decidedly slower here and the town is meant to be explored on foot, or by bike.
Rosemary Beach is divided by 30A into a north and south side. The north side is comprised of a long, grass park encircled by scrub oaks.
At the far end is a bubbling fountain that every child seems immediately attracted to.
Around this park is a U-shape of boutiques, restaurants, a salon, bookstore, the town rental agency and real estate office. Beyond this commercial area are large homes, smaller carriage houses, pocket parks, community pools and the Homeowners’ clubhouse.
To the south of 30A is a similar arrangement. A grass park, encircled by scrub oak, is surrounded by a wobbly U-shape of boutiques and restaurants that ends at a bright green lawn and beach walkover (beach access is reserved for homeowners and overnight guests of Rosemary Beach only). Beyond this area are rental homes, pocket parks and beach walkovers that inspire with their simplistic beauty.
The majority of homes in Rosemary Beach are designed with courtyards and smaller carriage houses. Deep, shaded porches are a staple on the homes here. Pebble walkways zig and zag throughout the community, meeting up at times with a fitness trail, raised boardwalk and parks.
It’s easy to walk to everything in town because it was designed to be walkable. Locally owned shops like Stellar, Gigi’s Fabulous Kids’ Fashion & Toys, Patchouli’s, Tracery Interiors and the Hidden Lantern Bookstore are all fun shops to explore and get lost in.
An uplifting new outdoor sculpture exhibit is displayed each year, all around town. A free audio tour is available for download (Otocast), as are printed maps. It’s wonderful to stumble upon these works unexpectedly, but also fun to create your own version of an art scavenger hunt and then compare notes on which sculpture was your favorite. Most will recognize the iconic “Blue Dog” sculpture that is now permanently displayed on the north side of Rosemary Beach in the narrow park bordering 30A.
Eating is a priority here, as seen by the many options available in town.
Pescado offers a roof-top lounge/bar and indoor dining. A delectable pizzeria, it has views of Rosemary Beach rooftops, courtyards and the Gulf beyond. It’s a relaxing place to catch sunset (and is open to ages 18 and up).
The Pearl hotel’s Havana Beach Bar & Grill and the Havana Beach Rooftop Lounge both have views of the Gulf as well.
Across from The Pearl is The Summer Kitchen, located in The Rosemary Beach Inn. The Summer Kitchen was the first restaurant to open in Rosemary Beach and used to be housed in a little beach shack. As the town began to grow, the beach shack became a permanent restaurant, but the menu still features much-loved specials from its early days.
If you’re craving something decadent, stop by La Crema Tapas & Chocolate and treat yourself to dessert. Next door to La Crema is family-friendly Cowgirl Kitchen, where sports are usually playing on the TV, locals are drinking at the bar and families are chowing down.
Speaking of families, across the way is The Sugar Shak, the busiest spot in town (other than Amavida Coffee in the morning). It’s common to see lines of kids form outside this popular candy and ice cream shop in the summer. Just down from The Sugar Shak is Restaurant Paradis, a fine dining restaurant and bar.
Across the 30A Store is local favorite Wild Olives, Amavida Coffee and The Daughter’s Kitchen. The rest of the commercial area here is dedicated to clothing boutiques, art galleries, Vivo Salon & Spa, the bookstore and the Trading company.
Rosemary Beach is a relaxing place to vacation and visit. Grab a bike or a pair of walking shoes and explore, shop and eat your heart out. This is a town dedicated to appreciating the finer things in life.