By Jae-Ha Kim
Photo by Denton Morris
The WaterColor Inn & Resort, named for the small planned town it fronts on the Panhandle’s charming Route 30A (between Destin and Panama City) is one of those hotels that has had a surprisingly good reputation from the start, for no particular reason. The proof is in the fact that everytime you try to book a stay, the rates are astronomical. That is, if you can even get a room. Hassle! Just to make a visit more difficult, you can no longer fly nonstop to the region. Already, you’re wondering: Why not just go to the Caribbean?
WaterColor is very much worth the hassle. Here’s why. The hotel is fine. Good, in fact. The accommodations are nice. But what’s really amazing? Its positioning on the Gulf, offering a white-sand, blue-water view that’s nothing short of amazing. The other thing: Food that is ridiculously good (especially the fresh, cheap Gulf oysters). Plus, you’re in Florida. It’s warm (though they do have winter, being so far north).
Part of the Route 30A New Urbanism movement, where places like Rosemary Beach and Alys Beach recreate small-town Americana fantasies in a strikingly appealing fashion, WaterColor is both mesmerizing and a little unnerving. Mesmerizing because it’s perfect, and unnerving for the very same reason. Most people who know the area are aware that the film “The Truman Show” was filmed nearby Seaside for a reason: It looked too good to be true. And yet it is true, even if a little Stepford-esque. You’ve probably never seen a village this freaking clean and tidy, or populated by so many perfect-looking people. When I saw a couple pushing a stroller down the sidewalk, I actually looked to make sure there was a baby rather than a robot in it. There was and, of course, he wasn’t crying.
Be sure to make reservations at the resort’s Fish Out of Water and ask if you can have a table in the cozy wine room. The black grouper ceviche and hand harvested scallops are to die for.
And don’t forget to tip your maid every morning rather than at the end of your stay, so that the right cleaning staff member gets the money. Our lovely maid left us a thank you note and threw in a couple extra tubes of the hotel’s signature shampoo and conditioner, which are cleverly disguised to look like tubes of watercolor paint (get it?).
Rooms from $345, prices go down slightly in midweek.
* Please note that prices change often, so contact the hotel prior to finalizing your trip.
** To read more about Florida, check out my article in the New York Post.
© 2012 JAE-HA KIM