The Beaches of South Walton By Jim and Barbara Twardowski From Inside Northside Magazine Sprinkled along the shores of the Florida Panhandle between Destin on the west and Panama City Beach on the east are the 13 beaches of South Walton: Seascape, Miramar, Sandestin, Dune Allen, Santa Rosa, Blue Mountain, Grayton, Watercolor, Seaside, Seagrove, Seacrest, Rosemary and Inlet. A baker's dozen of enticing treats, all take pride in the famous emerald-green water and snow-white sugar sand-but each neighborhood in the eclectic collection has its own unique flavor. The 1997 motion picture "The Truman Show" was filmed in Seaside Beach. A modern Victorian town with narrow streets, picket fences and homes arranged close together, Seaside was designed to encourage walking and neighborliness. It was the first of its kind, creating the model for towns across America. Lush vegetation covers the dunes of Blue Mountain. The spiky Gulf Coast lupine with fuzzy blue leaves and purplish blue flowers may have contributed to the naming of the beach. Rosemary Beach, established in 1995, is the youngest of the communities. Its architecture is inspired by Dutch and West Indies homes; footpaths and boardwalks lead to large decks over the dunes. Grayton Beach had its beginning at the turn of the century. It is best known for the natural beauty of Grayton Beach State Park, which spans the Gulf and most of Western Lake. Area accommodations include inviting cottages, luxury condominiums, world-class resorts, classic Florida beach homes, Caribbean-style town homes, boutique hotels, and RV parks and camping facilities. Each community has its own charm. Begin your adventure at www.beachesofsouthwalton.com. While it may be tempting to spend all of your time stretched out on these beaches, there is plenty to do beyond the dunes. GOLF Immaculately groomed golf courses attract players from all over the country. Sandestin has 72 holes of golf on four championship courses, including the Raven Golf Club, Burnt Pine Golf Club, The Links Course, and Baytowne Golf Club. All four of Sandestin's courses were designed by world-renowned course architects. In fact, Sandestin is the only resort with courses designed by both Jones brothers: Rees Jones (Burnt Pine) and Robert Trent Jones, Jr. (Raven). Burnt Pine was deemed the "Crown Jewel of Florida Golf" by Golf Magazine and recognized as one of the "Top 30 Courses in Florida" by Golf Digest. South Walton has treasured and preserved the integrity of the area by controlling development and growth. Mixed in amongst the communities are 25,000 acres of untouched property, where native wildlife, such as deer and fox, will forever be protected. Outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy miles of walking and biking trails that wind through the state parks. The Gulf of Mexico, 17 coastal dune lakes, and the Choctawhatchee Bay provide visitors with opportunities for fresh and salt water fishing, boating, sailing, snorkeling, and canoeing. Spend an afternoon in The Village of Baytowne Wharf located in the Sandestin Resort. The recently opened 28-acre pedestrian "village" is a collection of specialty merchants ranging from quaint boutique shops and charming eateries to lively nightclubs. Bark Avenue is an upscale shop for the furry members of your family. The Candymaker is a turn-of-the-century sensory delight-take home the seashell-shaped chocolates! Ladies donned in wide-brimmed hats enjoy afternoon tea at Magnolia & Ivy Tearoom, a Southern tea shop and gift emporium. Shopping Seaside style is a relaxing, unhurried pastime. Stroll along pedestrian-friendly streets and landscaped parks lined with one-of-a-kind stores, an artists' colony, a grocer, and a bookstore. J. Proctor Gallery displays an impressive selection of paintings, sculptures and photographs by more than 20 nationally recognized American artists. If you are looking for a special gift for a child, don't miss Bears at the Beach, which specializes in custom-made stuffed and dressed teddy bears. "Stuff that don't match the couch" can be found at Collaborations in Seagrove. Funky is the term that best describes this 8,000-square-foot shop boasting a collection of folk art, furniture, jewelry, and original works from local and national artists. Across the street, the Gourd Garden & Curiosity Shop has gourd vines twining up rustic arbors, wrens nesting in gourd birdhouses, and visitors strolling through herb and butterfly gardens. At Criolla's in Grayton Beach, Chef-owner Johnny Earles is renowned for Creole/Caribbean cuisine. The Kiss Yo' Mama corn bisque tingles the taste buds. Recently inducted into Florida Trend's "Golden Spoon Hall of Fame," Criolla's received its 14th consecutive award for top-20 restaurants in the state. Try Cafe Sublime's Southern fried green tomatoes and jumbo lump crab or spiced pecan catch of the day. Hailed as one of the great chefs of the south, Richard Grenamyer pampers diners at the Gulf Place location in Santa Rosa Beach. Satisfy a sweet tooth at Miss Lucille's Gossip Parlor along Scenic 30A in Santa Rosa Beach. Reigning rumorist Miss Lucille really knows how to scoop it out. Relax with cappuccino and Nana's Banana Split, Saranell's Strawberry Shortcake or Aunt Delilah's Open-Faced Ice Cream Sandwich.