Escape For A Date: The Henderson Park Inn - Destin, Florida
By: Linda Holloway
Photography by: Larryhollowayphotography.com
Our greatest blessings are our children. They are handed to us helpless, needy, and there is something about that toothless grin that can light up our day. The stages of infancy are amazingly rewarding but exhausting, and then comes the “Merry Go-Round” life of sports, dance, scouts, music and all things enriching but endless. If you find yourself singing “The Wheels on the Bus go Round and Round,” but realize it is your vehicle you are singing about, then it is time for an escape for a date.
The best gift you can pass down to your children is to etch in their memory a canvas of life as a family. Don’t forget to include the part about a loving relationship between you and your spouse. Remind them that your family started with the two of you. If cultivated properly, an annual getaway can be a valuable blueprint to strengthening your bond as a couple and making the family stronger.
Whether it’s Valentine’s Day, a winter vacation where you “own” the beach, or your anniversary, begin planning now. Make a playlist of your favorite date songs for travel time, and talk (uninterrupted) for hours. Rejoice over the daydreams that have become a reality and acknowledge your marriage has made it another year! Once home, you will have a renewed commitment to parenting and to each other.
The Henderson Park Inn - Voted #1 Most Romantic Hotel
To enhance your romantic escape, Henderson Park Inn has an adult only policy. Savor that thought. No need to travel by air to a “couples only” chain hotel. Instead, the world of ultimate romance is an easy drive from Tuscaloosa, Alabama to a boutique hotel created with romance in mind. My husband and I knew from the moment we arrived that we had found the perfect location. The accolades prove it with About.com Reader’s Choice contest naming the Inn the #1 Most Romantic hotel in North America and #2 Most Romantic Hotel in the World. TripAdvisor.com readers also tapped the Inn as #1.
You need everything to be perfect---nothing left to chance. Upon arrival, guests are greeted in their room with romantic music, a bottle of wine, a vase of roses as well as grapes and gourmet chocolates. Our upscale Executive Suite featured views of the gulf, flat-screen TV, and posh bedding. For an over-the-top experience, ask about the Inn’s Presidential Suite. You can choose from 35 suites in either the Main Building or East Building. Forget conversation from your balcony; the nearby sound of water rushing over sand is an instant adult lullaby.
The Inn itself is best described as a modern luxury boutique hotel with a step-back-in-time atmosphere. The charming New England style architecture completes the ambiance. While many properties boast their location as “steps from the beach,” the Inn’s private beach is the shortest distance from room to gulf that we have experienced. Complimentary beach services include chairs, umbrellas, and towels throughout your stay. Here, the Emerald crystal-clear gulf waters cast complimentary bits of dancing, colored layers--shimmering reflections of one of the world’s most beautiful beaches. Yes, Henderson Park Inn has their own slice of private beach. Also, adults only!
When booking, consider the over-the-top complimentary perks that come with your lodging—such as a delicious gourmet breakfast prepared by acclaimed chefs, and at lunchtime, guests are provided with boxed sandwiches and salads from the HoneyBaked Ham Company. Our breakfast favorite was the grillades (a New Orleans specialty) and made to order omelets. We felt like school kids when it was time to pick up our lunch that can be enjoyed right on the beach. One day, we traveled about 30 minutes to Eden Gardens State Park at Point Washington and picnicked under the ancient live oaks surrounding Wesley Mansion—straight out of the cover of a romance novel.
For an invigorating excursion, pedal through the expansive Henderson State Park on the Inn’s complimentary bikes. Cookies, fruit, tea and lemonade will be waiting for you when you return in the Main Building, or check out the community fridge stocked with chocolate (my weakness) candy, bottled water, and soft drinks—free for guests.
Henderson Park Inn can help you find the ultimate water excursions. Try a cruise around Destin Harbor or the Gulf of Mexico. Boat tours offer stunning views of Destin’s beauty including dolphin cruises, or watch the sunset from a sailboat. With no loud motor to spoil the mood, a sailboat provides the perfect peaceful atmosphere for couples to enjoy the water. For nightlife, The Village of Baytowne Wharf is a great option.
Additional Amenities and Exceptional Dining
The Henderson Park Inn guests now have access to a full array of wonderful amenities next door, at their sister property, The Henderson, a Salamander Beach & Spa Resort. Amenities include a full fitness facility, yoga classes and more. For a truly intimate experience, book a couple’s massage or enjoy any of their first-class spa services. After a morning of lounging on the beach, you may want to take a swim next door at one of The Henderson’s two beautiful swimming pools. Couples will enjoy relaxing at the Adults Only Pool, which features a luxury cabana with poolside beverage service.
For an exceptional dinner, make reservations at the Henderson Park Inn’s restaurant, Beach Walk Cafe. Indulge in romantic waterfront dining that has been selected as one of the top 100 most romantic restaurants in the United States by OpenTable. Our waiter, Dustin, was amazing as he explained each dish to perfection. While the Jumbo Lump Crab Cake got my vote as favorite appetizer, the Shrimp Cocktail came in second. I wasn’t disappointed in the fresh Pan Seared Local Snapper, and my husband raved about the Bone-In Pork Chop. For the most romantic dining on the gulf, reserve Beach Walk Cafe’s ‘Toes in the Sand’ dining experience. Enjoy a private table at the water’s edge complete with a dedicated server, and watch the sun set into the gulf.
We had a moment to chat with Dustin since our late meal was the last of the night. I just had to ask why the staff of Henderson Park Inn was so genuinely friendly, welcoming and, well…happy. He explained the Henderson Park Inn’s management, all the way from the top down, was very accompanying and treated the employees like family.
When we were not romping along the water, we spent a lot of time in the swing, on the expansive veranda simply “gulf watching.” Here, we heard couples talking about the multiple times they have visited the Inn. I can see where this spot of paradise could be addictive. While Walt Disney World boasts “The Happiest Place on Earth,” Henderson Park Inn has the market cornered on the adult version of that phrase.
What is contentment? I will tell you…it is walking hand in hand along a white-powered sand beach with the one you love--rested, relaxed, rejuvenated, and taking time to be in the moment to appreciate the harmony between each other and nature. The last hurrah…that would be admiring the swollen sun dropping into infinity in the distance. We watched as the fading streaks of light set the Henderson Park Inn aglow—changing the gray cedar shake shingles to a golden hue for a few moments. This is the “romance zone,” a place and time that is hard to duplicate, but we will try again…next year.
Visit www.HendersonparkInn.com for more information.