I don’t know about y’all, but I’ve got the winter blues something fierce. I’ve been imagining warmer weather, and took a look back at our summer photos from last year, daydreaming about being back at the Henderson Park Inn in Destin, Florida. Then I realized, I never posted pictures of that wonderful vacation! So for everyone who is tired of getting salt on their work pants, and scraping the ice off of their cars, this post is for you.
Russell and I unexpectedly got a few days off of work right before the Labor Day holiday last year, so we planned an impromptu and spontaneous beach getaway to the Gulf Coast. Destin was recommended to us by a friend (thanks, Ben!) and after debating about whether or not we wanted to stay at a condo or hotel, I found the Henderson Park Inn and our decision was made for us.
The inn has all the charm of a New England-style building, with the good manners of the south and crystal white sand and blue waters of the Gulf. Because our trip was so last minute, we had to take the only room they had left, which just happened to be the smallest. I would have loved a mini-fridge, which the other rooms have. Although it got a little too cozy after a few days, we still loved our overall experience.
The inn provides breakfast and a boxed lunch each day, and an actually fun happy hour with free drinks on the deck every afternoon. They also provide free movie rentals, chocolate bars and bottled water/pop, and beach towels/chairs. Pretty much all you need – you just have to show up ready for some romance and to relax. (The Henderson Park Inn is adults only). It was truly one of the nicest places I’ve ever stayed.
Each day, we woke up, ate breakfast, and then headed out to the beach, where our chairs were already set up. At noon, we wandered back up to the inn, grabbed our boxed lunches and ate, then meandered back to the beach. I’m telling you, if you want convenience and a bit of luxury while staying a beautiful beach, the Henderson Park Inn is the right choice for you. Russell and I never sit on a beach for eight hours at a time; we always get bored. We are packed-itinerary vacation people. Not in Destin – we relaxed for our entire trip. Gosh, it was wonderful. We are planning to go back this summer, and I want to book soon so we get a larger room with a bigger balcony.
And I want the bigger balcony so I can see this from my bed every morning:
I just want everyone to know that other than adding a bit of a vignette around the edge of the above photo, it has not been retouched. The water is that blue, that green, and that clear. This was taken on an exceptionally calm day, when the water was like glass. I have been to Cancun and the Bahamas, and after seeing our own Gulf Coast, I won’t go back. There is no reason to! The water here is gorgeous.
Almost every day of our trip, we saw wild dolphins in the water. I took a lot of bad iPhone photos, but managed to capture at least one higher quality one with my camera. And it’s not like you had to wake up early to see them; every day, all day, they were appearing. I also saw a baby shark, and there were plenty of little silver fish that would dart up to your toes in the reef. The wildlife was plentiful, which made for pretty awesome snorkeling. We bought a raft, pool noodle, and goggles at a nearby beach store; we “donated” the water items to other vacationers, but I kept the goggles. The goggles were worth the twenty bucks to see all of the wildlife without having to swim more than ten feet out.
The Henderson Park Inn is located right next to a state park, on the outskirts of Destin, so it’s very private and calm. The sand is very silky to the touch and pure white. I brought home a mason jar of it and occasionally run it through my hands when I’m feeling down. Happy memories.
The weather took a turn one afternoon – one minute, we were sitting on the beach, the next, this rolled in. We ran for it when the first crack of thunder hit, and I was able to take a few amazing pictures from our balcony.
After this storm blew through, the water remained a bit rough and choppy. There were riptide/strong current warnings, so we didn’t go in the water for a few days. What was once glass, smooth and crystalline turned choppy, evil green.
But then this sunset happened, so I guess you really can’t complain. Every storm runs out of rain. Insert pun about silver lining here.
In fact, we had quite a few amazing sunsets, and days full of shine.
We barely left the beach. There also was a heat wave while we there. One day, it reached 118 degrees in our car. Luckily, the cool breeze from the ocean helped a lot.
The above photo of Russell is one that I hope to show the grandkids one day, while exclaiming what a hot fox their grandpa was.
I had to include the last picture. You guys, the food at the Beach Walk Cafe at the inn was to die for. The above was a sample of my last breakfast (I splurged a bit). The recipe for the shrimp and grits tasted like it was someone’s grandma’s secret recipe. I ate them everyday, and I don’t even care for grits. On our first night, we ate out on the deck under the stars. The staff brought me a long-stemmed rose, and the service and food were both impeccable. The Henderson Park Inn has a few additional surprises, but I won’t spill the beans. You’ll just have to go and stay there yourself one day.
And even if you can’t stay at the inn, I would recommend visiting Destin or the Gulf. We can’t wait to go back. I’ve daydreamed about the hush puppies and blackened red snapper at Boshamp’s – which we visited twice, because it was just that good. I’ve been looking up recipes to make my own at home, but I know without the fresh Gulf seafood, it probably won’t be the same.
I just realized that this sounds like an advertisement, or that I was paid to write about the inn and Destin in general, but I wasn’t. I just liked it that much, and am really reminiscing! I may be looking at it through rose tinted glasses a bit, I’ll admit. See, I ended up in the ER on our honeymoon (Russell and I both got sick with the norovirus), so this trip for us was like a second honeymoon. It really made up for the one we lost!
I’m so looking forward to summer, warmer weather, white sand, and the possibility of going back. My favorite part of our vacation was that Russell and I sat together for hours, just talking and spending time together. We weren’t rushing around, we weren’t stressing out. It was something new for both of us, and we found a deeper connection…which after ten years together, certainly came as a surprise. I feel that the atmosphere at Henderson gave us that opportunity and I am incredibly thankful for it. If I could have it again tomorrow, and the promise of turquoise water, I’d be all aboard! Have you ever just taken a vacation that was so great you didn’t want to leave? I’ve never had that before this trip. Now that I know what it’s like, I want another!
Maybe I’ll just watch Beachfront Bargain Hunt on HGTV and continue daydreaming. Or start counting down to July.