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The hidden pocket of Florida that beckons - New York Post article

Discussion in 'All About SoWal' started by Teresa, Jul 16, 2014.

  1. Teresa

    Teresa SoWal Guide Staff Member

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    alrighty then, a new way to describe our beaches??? :lol::lolabove::rolling:

    You’ll know you’re in the right place if you can’t look directly at the beach they line without sunglasses. Seriously, don’t. It’s so glaringly, eyeball-meltingly white, it’s as if one of those cartel narco-subs beached itself, then leaked its snortable contents up and down SoWal’s 26-mile slice of Gulf Coast. This is also known as the Emerald Coast, surely named because its seawater drifts by like long, flowing blue locks with green highlights where it’s shallower.

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    here's the whole thing...

    The hidden pocket of Florida that beckons


    There’s only one thing Southerners are better at than being nice and courteous — and that’s reminding you just how nice and courteous they are, every chance they get (especially if they get a whiff of Yankee stank on your person).

    Oh, wait — they also have an incredible knack for developing stunning, carefully planned beach communities, something both sides of the Mason-Dixon are cool with incessantly be reminded of.

    To wit: Fly into Panama City, Fla. (don’t be afraid, you won’t be staying long), rent some wheels and find your way an hour south to Florida State Road 30A, which hugs the beachy shoreline of the Gulf of Mexico and runs through (or near) 16 meticulously kempt beach ‘hoods, collectively known as South Walton.

    Name-wise, you’re likelier to remember every country in Africa before locking down these guys, but here goes, anyway — there’s Miramar Beach, Seascape, Sandestin, Dune Allen, Gulf Place, Santa Rosa Beach, Blue Mountain, Grayton Beach, WaterColor, Seaside, Seagrove, WaterSound, Seacrest, Alys Beach, Rosemary Beach and, and, and … Inlet Beach! Phew!

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    You’ll know you’re in the right place if you can’t look directly at the beach they line without sunglasses. Seriously, don’t. It’s so glaringly, eyeball-meltingly white, it’s as if one of those cartel narco-subs beached itself, then leaked its snortable contents up and down SoWal’s 26-mile slice of Gulf Coast. This is also known as the Emerald Coast, surely named because its seawater drifts by like long, flowing blue locks with green highlights where it’s shallower. (SoWal’s buildings — with a few rogue exceptions — can’t be higher than 50 feet lest they obstruct views of it.)

    Each town in the collective very much has its own distinct personality, but Seaside is the star of the show. The brainchild of a man named Robert S. Davis, Seaside is a pure Gen-Xer, born in 1979 as a New Urbanism test-tube baby, raised in the ’80s — it became more or less the template for many of the surrounding communities that didn’t already exist as feral, organic beach towns.

    Seaside’s lust of white picket fences (they’re mandatory and no two on the same street can be the same) and other symptoms of almost-too-perfectness led to a degree of stardom, as it was cast as the backdrop for 1998′s “The Truman Show.” But these days, Seasiders prefer to play up the hipper aspects of their home, like food truck row.

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    A grilled cheese sandwich at The Meltdown.

    What do the All-American Rejects, Mike Huckabee and Sheryl Crow have in common? They’ve all stuffed their faces at The Meltdown (850-231-0952), one of the row’s more popular hashslinging Airstreams, specializing in all kinds of grilled cheese sandwiches (caprese mozzarella? Yessir!).

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    Central Square Records

    Then there’s Central Square Records, which sells those weird musical glass frisbee thingies. Coveting that new Seether album? You’ve come to the right place, throw-back friend. It enjoys squatting on the even hipsterier and erudite Sundog Books, family-owned and riot grrl-staffed.
    Likewise trying to up the area’s cool factor is Jeff Archer, who co-founded zeitgeistily named Yolo Board in Santa Rosa Beach, selling surf/stand-up paddle boards, shirts and various other gear. Don’t be fooled by his surfer dude persona — he’s been explored all corners of the planet and he’s enterprisingly bringing home everything cool he’s gleaned from it to the many in the area who haven’t.

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    Go stand-up paddleboarding with Yolo Boards gear then reward your efforts at quirky Red Bar, in Grayton.

    Stand-up paddleboarding, for starters — the Gulf Coast is rather late to the party that West and East Coasters have taken for granted for years now. He’s soon to add a smoothie/organic juice/coffee bar to his main shop, and has already opened up a second outfit in SoWal.
    Flying Florida’s flag, SoWal’s dining scene will always live in the daunting shadow of Miami. But you can find a very nice, quasi-celebuchefed resto over in Santa Rosa Beach called Vue on 30a. Its menu is equally surfed and turfed, thanks to “Hell’s Kitchen” season five’s Giovanni Filipponi.

    The waiters are especially hilarious, and no one does over-water sunsets better. After dinner, while SoWal can be as sleepy as anywhere you’ll find in the South, there are exceptions. Grayton Beach’s The Red Bar, for one, which is aptly named, ambiance-wise, hosts live bands (shout out, Dread Clampitt, every Sunday) and looks every bit like a grenade filled with random kitsch, street signs and R. Crumb comics exploded and coated its walls — permanently. It competes with other live-act Grayton venues Shorty’s and Pandora’s to piss off uptight noise-hating neighbors.

    While there are certainly wealthier and more exclusive parts of SoWal (gated-and-then-some, WaterSound, e.g., is one of alpha-developer St. Joe Company’s prized babies), the collective is far from being a you-have-to-own-this-many-companies-to-ride-this-ride communities like, say, Windsor, Fla. Funk and artistry are still coveted virtues here. Just drive a few towns east into nearby Alys Beach, e.g., and all of the sudden the buildings become purely white and pyramidal — forget “Truman,” here it’s more like something out of some surreal “Zardoz” sequel. Weirder still, those white walls moonlight as artistic digital graffiti canvases from time to time.

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    Grayton Beach State Park

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    Red Bar

    Speaking of art, SoWal’s “Artist of the Year” program, of which is extremely proud to say the least, has been going strong since its inception in 2003. I visited last year’s gifted winner, Andy Saczynski, in Grayton Beach and his work space was half junkyard, half gallery. Er, make that 90 percent junk yard. As an “assemblage” artist (and, in that same hoarding vein, the father of five, thanks to his doting wife), he’s all about collecting the discarded and turning it into something someone will once again want (and pay for) — and people do. Broken violins, metal scrap, whatever jetsam he finds hanging about. And he gladly accepts donations.

    At its heart, though, this panhandled portion of Florida is simply “the country” — more specifically, SEC football country, something you’re reminded of by the constant parade of trucks tattooed with either LSU (five hours west), ‘Bama (4½ hours north) or U of F (four hours east) decals that goes by.

    And the best way to experience said country is to head to 1,640-acre Topsail Hill Preserve State Park, home to giant 25-foot sand dunes, a slew of tent, RV and cabin sites and loads of leatherback and loggerhead turtle babies who park specialists like Jeff Talbert will fight to the death to protect. (Don’t mess with the bearded gentle giant either — he was an assistant football coach at Florida State).

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    The Pearl Hotel

    So Northerners, just beware: you will be charmed by Florida’s deep south, no matter how hard you fight it — they know it, everybody knows it. But maybe leave the Rutgers and ‘Cuse jerseys at home in the fall, just to keep everybody nice and courteous.

    more...

    New York Post
    7/14/14


     
  2. Audrey J

    Audrey J SoWal Guide Staff Member

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    Sign says: Do not snort the sand!:lol:
     
  3. Beach Runner

    Beach Runner beats on hood

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    Pretty awesome. The "secret" has been out for quite some time. How do we squelch it?

    Love SoWal!
     
  4. tsutcli

    tsutcli Beach Fanatic

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    Do away with the TDC. As this adequately shows, we do not need any further promotion, it is a total waste of dollars. How about we use the ad budget to further improve our educational needs. Probably would ned a change in the law but worth it.
     

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