Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort Celebrates 50 Years

March 20, 2023 by SoWal Staff

Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort is celebrating its 50th anniversary all year as South Walton's most popular resort destination for couples, families, vacationers, groups and business travelers.

In recognition of five decades of experiences, progress, innovations and memories, the year-long celebration includes fresh new experiences, delightful surprises for resort guests, social media throwbacks and trips down memory lane.

When asked about the success of this journey, Sara Becnel, Asset Manager and Vice President of Development shared, “The secret of the Sandestin experience is in the intentional details, smiles, commitment to service, memories passed down from generation to generation, dedication, and a lot of hard work.” Becnel continued, “We have not simply remained relevant, but have led the tourism experience for guests through a balance of tradition and innovation.”

Guests have already begun to capture their #sandestin50 memories by participating in instagramable photobooth pop-ups, regularly updated and themed for each season of the year. Additionally, a special edition refillable cup is available now at Sandestin retail and food & beverage outlets for $25. After the one-time purchase, soft drink refills are free for the rest of the year at participating Sandestin food and beverage outlets.

Sandestin is home to 70 individual neighborhoods with full-time residents and thousands of lodging options spanning the 2,400 acres between the Choctawhatchee Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. It is all interconnected by miles of pedestrian, bike and golf cart paths weaving through groves of live oaks, past natural lagoons, fountains, lakes, an underground tunnel making beachside and bayside amenities safely accessible to all guests, and the meticulously landscaped fairways of four award-winning golf courses, including The Raven, Baytowne, The Links and the exclusive Burnt Pine private golf course.

Sandestin Historical Highlights

    The land was originally purchased for crops and livestock, but during WWII the military requisitioned a large portion of the Gulf side property to research captured “Buzz Bomb” missiles from the Germans. The very first military use of American rockets were also tested and launched over the Gulf from top secret hidden bunkers located on the resort that can still be seen today, if you know where to look.

    In the 1950s, the land was sold to Winthrop Rockefeller, who went on to become the Governor of Arkansas, ultimately derailing his plans to develop the land into a coastal neighborhood.

    A few years later, a man named Walt Disney, almost bought the land for an idea he was playing around with called “Disney World.” His plans moved forward, but just a bit further south.

    In the ‘70s, owners of the Indianapolis Speedway attempted to buy the land to create something they dubbed the “Seaside Racetrack” but the deal fell through.

    Eventually, the land fell into the hands of developers with a vision of building a resort community. They borrowed the “San” from the unincorporated area known as Santa Rosa Beach to the east and mashed it together with “Destin” to the west. In 1973 Sandestin was formed.

    Sandestin’s first golf course, The Links, was completed in 1974 along with residential neighborhoods and a hotel on the bay, now known as Bayside at Sandestin.

    In the early 80’s the marina, Baytowne Golf Course and a beachside high rise were completed and soon after The Beach Boys performed right out on the sand for some 12,000 lucky attendees.

    The 90’s brought immense growth with the completion of restaurants like the popular Marina Bar and Grill- home to Maryann the Macaw, professional Tennis Club, more distinct neighborhoods, as well as the prestigious Burnt Pine Golf Course.

        A private Burnt Pine gated community within the Sandestin gates soon followed, both named after a forest fire that had occurred in a portion of the woods a few years prior.

        The Village of Baytowne Wharf also went into development and is now the town center of Sandestin, filled with festive restaurants, world-class shopping, activities and annual events.

    The Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic launched in 2003 with awards totaling $371,000, when a group from Galati Yacht Sales and Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort decided it was time to bring a big money tournament back to the Destin area. Total cash and awards totaled nearly $2 million in 2022.

    The Sandestin Foundation for Kids was founded in 2011 by the owners of Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort, the Becnel Family. The structure of the organization allows for funds to be gifted to children and families quickly in the event of a tragedy. The goal is to provide support immediately, when it is needed most to children throughout the community and abroad.

    Osprey Pointe 2-, 3- and 4-bedroom luxury condominiums welcomed its first guests in 2020. The furnishings and intentional design elements flow throughout each guest room, providing that sense of comfort and consistency that hotel rooms traditionally offer plus the privacy and extra space that only a vacation rental can provide. These unique features of this pet-friendly property provide the perfect environment for multi-generational vacationers, golf groups, reunions, and retreats of all kinds.

    In 2021, the resort’s 250-room  Hotel Effie Sandestin opened its doors. The signature hotel embodies southern elegance, inviting guests to experience the ultra-chic rooms and suites, luxurious face and body treatments at Spa Lilliana, culinary offerings at Ovide by James Beard award-winning chef Hugh Acheson and hand-crafted cocktails at the swanky Ara Rooftop Pool and Lounge. The hotel exemplifies all the charm and personality of its namesake, owner and developer Tom Becnel’s grandmother.


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