The Pampered Life

No matter how you like to spend your leisure time, full-service resorts all along the Gulf Coast cater to your every need.

The real world is plenty tough. Often just getting out of bed in the morning is a struggle. And it does not end there.

There are the kids and the home, the boss and the job, the partner and the schedule, the earning and the spending.

OK, enough already. You don’t just need a change of scenery; you need a change of lifestyle. Even a temporary reprieve will do fine, thank you.

Thankfully, your luck is changing because right here in this year-round paradise we call the Gulf Coast, there are full-service, ready-to-pamper, complete-package resorts. Whether you are seeking some healthy activity, such as golf or tennis; or spa treatments and whirlpool therapy; or just want to sit on the beach, soak up a little sun and enjoy some of the most beautiful seaside areas anywhere in the world, you can find it along our scenic stretch where sugar-white sand meets warm turquoise-hued Gulf waters.  

The great joy of visiting these all-encompassing Sybaritic destinations is that they are close. You can easily begin the relaxation after a fairly short drive or even a quick, probably one-stop, airplane ride from anywhere.

Edgewater Beach & Golf Resort. Does it really make good sense to build a grand resort facility just steps from the beautiful Gulf of Mexico and then include in the plans 11 swimming pools; six reflecting ponds; four whirlpool spas; and a Polynesian-style free-form Lagoon Pool, complete with waterfalls and islands? Well, it seems to make perfect sense to those guests who make the big decision every day as to which water area they wish to inhabit. Answer: Don’t choose. Visit all.

Edgewater also provides its golf-crazy guests with an on-site par-3 executive course. For those more ambitious golfers, there is a guest-agreement program with the Hombre Golf Club, a 27-hole PGA Championship course that is renowned as one of the most beautiful courses in the South. Hombre is home to the annual PGA Tour Qualifying School, thanks to its intricate Wes Burnham-designed layout that challenges every aspect of the player’s game.

Back at Edgewater, there are six all-weather Plexicushion lighted tennis courts. Resident tennis pro Donovan September is ready to help you build better skill sets, no matter what your current level of play and skill.

Prefer something more sedate? Check out the entire spa program: It will relax and invigorate you with directed concentrations on particular muscle groups or skin areas.

Of course, as with any complete resort program, after you have enjoyed healthy workouts and relaxing spas, you will want to dine and drink well. Edgewater’s own Ocean’s Bar and Grill features music nightly, the elegant Firefly restaurant is across the street, and there are numerous casual dining and drinking establishments in the area.

Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort. Lying between the waters of Choctawhatchee Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, Sandestin is expansive and inclusive. Just about any water sport or land activity that interests you is here, and they are all done well.

Sandestin includes many neighborhoods, with hotels, apartments, town houses, homes and condominiums available throughout the property and throughout the year.

Four award-winning golf courses, Baytowne, Burnt Pine, Raven and The Links, provide all the diversion any golfing enthusiast or professional could desire. Sandestin was designated among the Top 50 tennis resorts in the nation by Tennis Magazine – and for good reason: Tennis-lovers can take advantage of 15 courts with several surfaces to choose from.

Think a day at the beach ought to be a … day at the beach? No matter where you are “on property,” simply call for a bus to take you to the shore. Sandestin’s famous on-call transportation system will set you down at the best place to enjoy the sun and the sand, complete with chairs, umbrellas and even cabanas. Another phone call, once you’ve had enough, and you are whisked back again. It’s quick, and it means no sand or wet seats in your car. 

You’ll want to leave plenty of time for shopping. The Village at Baytowne Wharf and The Market Shops at Sandestin offer an amazing array of beachwear and casual duds. The newest addition to the shopping-and-dining scene is the lavish Grand Boulevard, right next door to Sandestin. Just up the road, less than a half-mile, is the largest designer outlet mall in the nation, Silver Sands. 

Your Sandestin dining experiences are practically unlimited, with fare for every style and every budget in The Village at Baytowne Wharf, which also has a number of late-night music and drinking establishments. Over on the beach side, you will find a similar group of restaurants – some upscale, others casual, but all offering distinctive décor and special moonlit views of the beach and the Gulf.

Portofino Island. The best resort for you depends on what you’re seeking. Some resorts are located in populated areas, but they may not provide the peaceful, quiet surroundings you desire. Portofino Island is located within the Gulf Islands National Seashore, which makes the resort’s motto, Inspired by Nature, take on extraordinary meaning.
Surrounded by 8 miles of white sand beaches, Portofino sits on a narrow spit of land that separates the Gulf from the Intracoastal Waterway and then on to the mainland. Pensacola is just up the road, but what Portofino Island is really about is a quiet, relaxed, time-slows-down pace, with views that will be embedded in the memory forever. Have you forgotten what sunsets are supposed to look like?

If you call the resort directly, you are automatically registered into the Premier Club. Amenities include daily beach chair setup for two, one round of golf each day of your stay at any Emerald Coast Golf Trail course, one deep-sea fishing excursion per day, full access to the Fitness Center, ferry service to the Portofino Boardwalk and more. There are also tennis and all manner of water sports.

Adventure Cove is a kid-friendly water theme park in the warm waters of Santa Rosa Bay. And this stretch of beautiful beach along uncluttered roadways is just perfect for a family bicycle outing.

Spa Portofino provides excellent services, including massages, peppermint seaweed body wraps and rejuvenating facials.

Terracotta Restaurant serves only the freshest seafood caught right next door in the Gulf, along with great steaks and daily specials. The Terrazzo Grille offers more casual fare. Then there’s The Market, stocked with all manner of gourmet items, just in case that fully equipped kitchen in your unit is tempting. You can also sit back and let room service do all the heavy lifting of preparation while you reap the rewards. 

The Beach Club. If you place any value on the “Southern beach resort experience,” you cannot get more authentic than The Beach Club in Gulf Shores.

The true gentility of a more relaxed, slower pace immediately embraces you, as does the fresh salt air of the setting. Five outdoor pools, an indoor heated pool, numerous hot tubs, sun terraces and the Tiki Bar and Gulfside Grill all combine for year-round activities inviting you to be active – or not.

Did we mention parasailing on the turquoise waters of the Gulf? Oh, yeah, that’s fun. Family Fun Days include sand castle building, nature hikes, deep-sea fishing, music and live entertainment.

Then there are the many services available at Sirena del Sol spa. The Gentlemen’s Stress Relief Experience or the Ultimate Island Breeze Spa Day are two popular ways to get closer to your inner Southern self.

Want to move around a bit? Check out the eight lighted rubico tennis courts, complete with pro services to work with you to improve those rough spots in your game. Located just 10 minutes from The Beach Club are two excellent golf courses, Kiva Dunes and Peninsula Golf and Racquet Club, both in Gulf Shores.

Southbeach Bar & Grill provides classic Southern cuisine incorporating fresh ingredients provided by the Gulf itself – of which you will have incredible views from your table. Also on site are the aforementioned Tiki Bar and Gulfside Grill, Village Coffee & Cones and Village Market & Grill.

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Biloxi. The place just can’t sneak up on you. As you drive along scenic Beach Boulevard, the Hard Rock’s profile draws the eyes. The huge neon sign of a guitar, a symbol of the rock era that the Hard Rock so honors, announces great things to come.

What separates the Hard Rock from other resorts on our list is that within these walls is a major Las Vegas-style casino. All the glitz and glamour that are associated with the Nevada operations are here, too, along the Mississippi coast. The excitement begins at the front door, particularly if you arrive after sunset. The outside and landscape lighting are simply breathtaking.

Inside, as far as the casino goes, it’s all you would expect: very loud, very exciting and very overwhelming at first. It’s adult entertainment on a grand scale.

Yet the personal comforts offered by the accommodations are in keeping with a more intimate setting. Most rooms have wonderful views of the Gulf, and all are appointed for quiet relaxation. For the golfer, the Hard Rock maintains relationships with the best courses along the coast, and the hotel will see to it that you arrive on time for tee time, providing transportation for you and your equipment bag.

The Wet Spot, a quiet hidden pool of significant proportions, is an ideal let-the-mind-relax-and-the-body-will-follow area, open only to hotel guests. The full range of Aveda spa services is available, providing you with the most professional spa experience you will ever enjoy.   

Vibe and Ruth’s Chris Steak House both offer fine dining in elegant settings. Satisfaction! Buffet and, of course, a Hard Rock Café are in-house to provide a more casual dining atmosphere. Keep in mind that this Hard Rock, with music acts appearing nightly and many areas for enjoying live entertainment, also has comfortable spots in which to have an intimate conversation, enjoy a beverage or celebrate your winnings.

One last word about the resorts along the Gulf Coast: The fun and the relaxation do not end with the close of “the season.” These are year-round facilities because our coast is a year-round destination. You can probably achieve lower rates in the winter, but the sheer ecstasy in body and mind you will enjoy during the warmer months may demand that you come here in peak season.

The challenging choice is not when to come but in finding which resort is best for you. Maybe the best path is to try them all. After all, you are trying to relieve stress. Why force yourself to make such a difficult decision?

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