The 19-mile strip of Highway 30A along the Florida Panhandle from Inlet Beach to Miramar Beach has become one of the most popular vacation destinations in the South, thanks to pristine beaches along the Gulf of Mexico. Of the many resort choices along 30A, WaterColor Inn stands out for several reasons. As the only waterfront hotel in the area, WaterColor Inn offers guests access to 1,400 feet of the soft white sand that characterizes 30A beaches. Here are 10 more reasons WaterColor Inn should be at the top of your list as you’re planning your next beach vacation.
1. Unmatched Convenience
If you want to start an argument among a group of long-time Southerners, just ask them the best way to drive to 30A. Whichever of the multiple routes you choose, WaterColor, FL, is easy to find. Basically, just drive south until you smell the sea breeze and hang a left.
If you prefer flying over driving, WaterColor is easily accessible through airports in the Panama City and Destin/Fort Walton areas. Both airports are large enough to handle multiple flights per day but also small enough to be extremely efficient when it comes to picking up your luggage and a rental car. From either option, you can be dipping your toes in the water within an hour or so.
Once you arrive at WaterColor, you can pretty much park that rental and leave the keys with the complimentary valet. The community is centrally located along 30A, and just about anywhere you’d want to go is easily accessible on foot or on one of the Inn’s complimentary bicycles.
2. Sense of Community
The developers of WaterColor are extremely conscious about how the resort fits in with the environment, and they have preserved natural areas across the 500-acre property. Rather than attempt to maximize the number of homes and hotel rooms they can fit onto the valuable plot, WaterColor maintains open spaces with parks and stunning landscaping.
Planned events throughout the year bring both homeowners and guests together for movie nights, holiday celebrations, games on the beach, concerts, and scavenger hunts. More than just entertainment, these festivities offer the chance to meet your fellow guests and make new friends. Families often plan to meet up again during the same week every year, and life-long friendships are common among guests.
3. Coastal Accommodations
WaterColor Inn is the center of most activities at the resort, and the beautiful property stands out with its “Southern coastal style” of architecture and decor. All guest rooms face the Gulf, offering either a direct waterfront or dune view, and one block of special Rotunda suites features panoramic views of the water through huge curved windows. New two-bedroom family suites will be available in spring 2022 to allow even more space for those traveling with their family.
Rooms feature first-class amenities such as Egyptian cotton linens, cozy robes, and a convenient beach bag to use during your stay.
Opened in 2002, WaterColor Inn has earned prestigious recognition as a Forbes four-star and AAA four-diamond property for providing an equally perfect locale for intimate romantic getaways and family vacations alike.
4. Southern Hospitality
WaterColor Inn’s award-winning hospitality begins as soon as you check-in at the desk in the attractive lobby. Smiling staff happily introduce new guests to all the amenities and activities the property offers and welcome returning guests back like old friends.
A concierge can assist with dining reservations and make suggestions for activities on and off the property. Nightly turndown service is a special treat, with something sweet awaiting you as you return from dinner. Later, enjoy a little nightcap on the Adirondack chairs on your private balcony while listening to the sounds of the surf.
Helpful staff provide guidance and advice for WaterColor’s amenities outside the Inn, including WaterColor Beach Club and Camp WaterColor. WaterColor staff also occasionally lead nature hikes and paddling excursions for guests, so be sure to check the daily calendar to see what’s going on during your stay.
5. Family Friendliness
If you’re looking for a place to encourage the kids to unplug from their screens, WaterColor Inn is full of opportunities. In addition to kids’ activities planned throughout the week, Camp WaterColor is an aquatic paradise for children and adults. The multi-pool complex features an exhilarating waterslide plus a tamer one for younger thrill-seekers. The zero-entry Caterpillar Pool allows for easy entry and exit for shorter legs, and a lazy river does the work for you as a gentle current carries you around the circuit.
Plenty of comfortable seating makes it easy to keep an eye on the kids, and trained lifeguards ensure safe play around the pools. Camp WaterColor also features a playground and basketball court where the kids can make new friends, and late afternoon happy hours feature outdoor games for the whole family.
The staff at WaterColor Inn can also organize evening beach bonfires for your family. You’ll arrive at your fire pit with chairs already arranged and the fire lit, complete with the makings for s’mores.
6. Upscale Shopping
Leave a little extra space in your luggage because WaterColor offers myriad shopping opportunities. The WaterColor Town Center offers quaint shops and boutiques like Old Florida Outfitters that can supply clothing and gear for a fishing trip on the Gulf or nearby lake. And don’t miss the WaterColor Store, your one-stop shop for WaterColor apparel and merchandise — the WaterColor Store features upscale resort wear from favorite brands like Peter Millar and Lululemon. For hard-to-find bottles of wine and liquor, make sure to stop by the FOOW Package Store during your visit.
7. Top-Notch Dining
FOOW is WaterColor Inn’s destination dining spot. Formerly known as “Fish out of Water,” the restaurant now goes by just its initials and continues to impress. With views overlooking the Gulf, FOOW emphasizes unpretentious coastal cuisine. Much of the menu revolves around the freshest seafood available from local vendors, from apps like a seafood tower or crab cakes to buckets of oysters and shrimp. Entrées range from pasta to swordfish or a fantastic surf and turf of filet and a lobster tail.
WaterColor Grill serves fine food in a casual atmosphere. Salads and sandwiches at lunch give way to rustic Italian fare in the evening, including pizzas from their wood-fired oven. A full bar and quick-service items to take back to your beach chair are also available.
Those who venture a little bit deeper into the WaterColor community will find additional casual dining options at The Canteen, located at Camp WaterColor. The Canteen offers a summer-camp vibe and kids’ favorite foods like grilled cheese sandwiches and ice cream treats, but there are frozen drinks and cocktails for grownups as well at The Canteen Bar.
Costa Chica at the Beach Club offers inventive takes on classic Latin dishes like BBQ nachos and blackened grouper tacos. They also make killer margaritas and offer a collection of premium tequilas. Beach Cow is the spot for a simple menu of delicious burgers and shakes.
8. Clear Waters
Of course, any trip to the Gulf Coast should revolve around the water. The long stretch of beach in front of the resort is lined with soft, white sand, and the inviting Gulf waters. This stretch of beach is perfect for trying new hobbies like paddleboarding and kayaking, and rentals are available from the resort. Guests can also rent boogie boards and surfboards to ride the waves.
Beach setups are easy to reserve at the Inn, including canvas loungers and umbrellas. Just show up at your assigned spot with your beach bag packed for a day of fun in the sun. Beach setups are available daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
You can also set up camp at WaterColor Beach Club, an expansive 45,000-square-foot facility with multiple pool decks and unobstructed views of the Gulf. A convenient private boardwalk carries guests to the sugar sands. Guests can book one of five poolside cabanas, each holding up to six people in privacy and outfitted with two chairs, couches, and a television.
WaterColor takes advantage of another body of water adjacent to the property, Western Lake, a coastal dune lake surrounded by picturesque pines. WaterColor operates the BoatHouse Paddle Club, which is the only spot for flatwater paddleboard rentals and instruction along 30A. Your stay at WaterColor Inn includes two complimentary one-hour canoe or kayak rentals per day!
9. Outdoor Activities
There are plenty of ways to get out in the fresh air, even if you’re not at the pool or the beach at WaterColor. Guests of WaterColor Inn are granted access to two nearby private golf courses, Camp Creek Golf Course and Shark’s Tooth Golf Course, designed by Tom Fazio and PGA legend Greg Norman, respectively. Shark’s Tooth and Camp Creek both incorporate their beautiful natural settings to offer a challenge, and each plays about 7,200 yards from the tips, but easier tee locations are available for less ambitious golfers. The Origins Golf Course is another attractive option that guests will definitely enjoy, designed by Davis Love’s firm and nestled in the Watersound Origins neighborhood.
Origins is a unique track, playing as a six-hole course or 10 holes of par 3s depending on where you choose to tee off. Later in the day, Origins opens up to footgolf, a combination of golf and soccer that just about anyone can play.
The WaterColor tennis facility features five state-of-the-art hard courts complete with lighting for night play. A fully equipped pro shop can provide any clothing or equipment you might need for a few sets on the courts.
Cycling is also a popular activity at WaterColor. Paved lanes lead between most facilities, and it’s not too long of a trip to visit nearby communities and developments. Other trails lead through an extensive woodland trail system. Pick up your complimentary bike rental at the Inn, and be sure to ask the hotel staff for directions for hiking or biking.
For cardio or strength training, WaterColor Inn guests have 24/7 access to a wellness facility featuring full locker rooms, group training rooms, a cardio theater, and free weights. Personal training and private yoga classes are also available.
After a day of outdoor fun or indoor fitness, take a trip down 30A to Rosemary Beach to Spa Pearl, which offers access to WaterColor Inn guests for pampering like facials, massages, and signature body treatments. Private poolside treatment rooms are available at Spa Pearl for the ultimate indulgence.
10. Special Events
In addition to serving as a fantastic vacation destination, WaterColor Inn is also a wonderful venue for special events like weddings and reunions. The same facilities that make leisure stays so memorable are also ideal for hosting ceremonies and receptions. Group rates are available for wedding parties, so call (850) 231-7773 to inquire.
WaterColor Inn isn’t done improving. From now until next spring, the resort will undergo another renovation to add a new pool, an indoor/outdoor bar area, additional dining options, and new family-friendly multi-room accommodations that offer multiple bedrooms and bunk beds.
This article is sponsored by St. Joe Hospitality. All photography provided by St. Joe Hospitality.