Hey everyone! It's 2021 and things are already looking up as far as travel goes. I'm excited to see what the year brings and hopefully we can all get back to living a somewhat "normal" life again. I've pretty much come to terms with things never being our old normal again, but I still remain hopeful & optimistic!
That said- I just ended a fabulous week on vacation in the sunshine state. It was a much needed and well deserved vacation. My business has been keeping me extremely busy lately and if you know me, travel is my therapy and relaxation remedy. 2020 took a lot away from a lot of people. However- I'm grateful to still be alive, healthy and of sound mind so I can't complain. In fact, I won't complain. I'll just continue making the best of whatever situation I end up in. After all, life is what you make it!
For my vacation I went to an absolutely beautiful city called Miramar Beach; it's a small beach town located in South Walton County, Fl. right in the Gulf of Mexico. It's a census designated place situated about 8 miles from the city of Destin. Honestly, before visiting the city I'd never even heard of it! However I'm glad I found it as it has quickly become one of my new favorite beach cities in the world... and that's saying a lot considering I've been to some of the most gorgeous beaches the world has to offer.
Aerial footage of Miramar Beach, Fl. shot by me (@ashawnalane)
Being that I'm originally from California I absolutely love the beach; but since my recent move to Georgia, I've had to give up that beach bum lifestyle. In exchange for the beach I've become more acquainted with nature. I went from beaches and dolphins to trees and deer. Oh and did I mention coyotes? Yea- it's been a big challenge for me as I didn't realize how different things would be once I moved. I also didn't realize how vital the beach was to my mental wellness.
Just listening to the sound of waves crashing against the shore, birds flying overhead and the indistinctive chatter of people lounging around in the sand was my therapy. I guess it's true what they say "you don't miss a good thing until it's gone." The smell of the ocean, the warmth from the sun and the teeny, tiny bikinis are what I lived for while in California! Between my move to Atlanta and Cov19- I've not been able to get to a beach in a little more than a year. Which sucks because where else am I supposed to wear a bikini and get sun burned shoulders in the Spring time? Lol...
Unfortunately for all of the great things that the wonderful state of Georgia has to offer, beautiful beaches aren't one of them. Luckily Miramar Beach was only a "short" 5 hour drive from the city of Atlanta. I woke up one morning and said to myself "I want to go to the beach today!" Not knowing where, when or how I would find one close to me- I asked the Google assistant on my phone to "find a beach near me" and Miramar Beach is what popped up. Like I said before, I'd never heard of it but that didn't stop me from finding it. I packed a small bag with a few days worth of clothes (bikinis mainly), gassed up my car and hit the road. It was about 9am when I left Atlanta!! Can we say ROAD TRIP?!
I drove straight through the open state of Georgia until I crossed the border into Alabama. While driving through both states I saw lots of wide open fields with livestock right on the side of the highway. I'm still getting acquainted with the Southern states and their rural scenery, so most things are still quite eye opening to me. Seeing acres of land with lakes and farm animals isn't something you typically come across in Los Angeles. I doubt I'll ever get used to seeing it.
Other than stopping for food and gas in Alabama, I drove right through the state. Surprisingly enough it only cost me about $30 to drive from Atlanta to Destin. My car was already at 3/4 of a tank before I left home so I only needed to top off what I already had- that cost around $7. I drive a small crossover SUV from Honda and the gas efficiency is amazing. While in Alabama I refueled for about $23 in order to finish my trip and I arrived in Florida with half a tank of gas left. In total it was a 320 mile drive from my location in Atlanta to Destin.
When I decided to take this trip I didn't even book a hotel room. I just got up and hit the road. I told myself that I would figure it out once I got there- and that's exactly what I did. As an experienced traveler I don't worry about the little things because they typically work themselves out. I knew that finding a hotel would be the least of my concerns when arriving in Florida. Especially since it was a Sunday and most people are usually checking out of hotels headed back home for the week.
Once I made it into the state and pass the toll roads (which by the way cost me $4.00 to cross AND to make matters worse- they only accepted cash *insert eye roll here*) Of course I didn't have cash and haven't needed to carry it since the start of the pandemic when businesses started enforcing the no cash rule. Anyways- to make a long story short, I now owe the quirky state of Florida four whole dollars! That's right- 16 quarters, 80 nickles, 400 pennies... how will I ever come up with that type of money? (*insert another eye roll here*) See the insufficient funds notice I received below? This is serious and they mean business!! LOL!
But back to the story-- once I made it into Florida I could feel the saltiness of the ocean in the air. My beach senses started tingling and I instantly became excited and anxious. While crossing the bridge into Destin I was overjoyed at the sight of the water; It went on for as far as the eye could see. It was like pulling into the parking lot at Disneyland and seeing the rides again for the first time. Although it wasn't home (California), it sure felt like it was because of the ocean. Honestly I was just happy to see some water. I've been in Atlanta for coming up on 8 months with short visits to California every other month. Being that the state [CA] is still partially closed, the beaches there have become dull and life lacking.
It was shortly after 2pm when I arrived in Destin. I pulled into a shopping center off of highway 98 and stretched my legs. It was a long ride, but it wasn't terrible. I had my windows down blasting my favorite music and the traffic was seemingly non existent. It was a road trip that was meant to be. After stretching and composing myself, finding a place to stay was next on the list. Expedia.com is my go to website when it comes to finding hotels, booking flights and securing my vacations. I even have the app installed on my phone just to make things a bit easier when booking while on the go. While searching for a hotel I made sure to filter my results to only show places that were on the beach- because why else would I have driven 5 hours to stay anywhere else?
*Travel hack- by creating an account with Expedia you'll earn reward points whenever you book a trip. That includes flights, rental cars, cruises and hotel rooms. You can then redeem those points and use them as a credit towards your next booking! This is just one of the ways you can save money when traveling. If you didn't know this before- now you do*
I originally booked a 2 night stay at the Hilton Garden Inn, Destin-Miramar Beach. If you know me you know that Hilton and Hilton owned properties have always been my favorite chain of hotels to stay at. From the level of customer service to the quality of the hotel rooms- the Hilton always makes my stay comfortable and enjoyable to say the least. What initially started off as a short 2 day vacation, quickly turned into an entire week- and to tell you the truth, I have absolutely no regrets. The breath taking views of the ocean and the intoxicating energy of the city held me captive and I just couldn't break free. 2 days simply wasn't good enough for me.
After securing my hotel room online, I put the hotel's location into my phones navigation and drove over. To my surprise, my hotel was only about 7 minutes from where I'd stopped to stretch my legs. The best part though was its proximity to the beach- it was less than 4 minutes walking distance to one of the most beautiful beaches I've ever seen in my life! I couldn't check in fast enough! I immediately dropped my bags off in my room, changed into a bikini and hit the beach.
Known for its sugary white sand beaches and turquoise blue waters, Miramar Beach is definitely a place everyone should know about! It's also accessible by plane since the city of Destin has its own airport. DSI is located about 10.6 miles from Miramar Beach. You can also fly into neighboring airports like Valparaiso (VPS- 13.9 miles) or Panama City (ECP- 33.7 miles) to access the city.
With so much to see and do- here are the top 10 reasons why you need to book your next vacation to Miramar Beach, Florida!
10- Small City Vibes! With a population of roughly 8,500 residents- it's a small, quaint beach city where the locals treat you like friends instead of strangers. It doesn't have that touristy feel to it as it sits in what feels like a community. With a mixture of condos, resorts and rental properties lined all along the beach, it makes the perfect destination for singles, couples and families alike looking for a nice, relaxed place to visit. Just 4.7 square miles, the strip of beach known as Miramar is one of the most fascinating in the world.
9- Stay at the beach! Ocean front properties were definitely not hard to find here. Enjoy your vacation by staying right on the beach. I know some beach cities boast about having ocean front properties, but when you get there you realize that the beach is actually half a mile away and require a car to get to. Not this beach- it was the exact opposite. I saw rental condos so close to the sand that the occupants had to use leaf blowers to get the sand out of their driveways. That's how close you are the beach. The hotels are phenomenal and each one was more unique than the next. Even if staying directly on the beach isn't for you, with so many fantastic options to choose from- there definitely isn't a shortage of places to stay either on or off the beach.
8- The Weather! I mean, it is Florida right? Known for its year round sunshine (with the exception of a few gloomy days) the weather was absolutely amazing. During my stay I didn't encounter 1 cloud in the sky. With Miramar Beach conveniently located in the Gulf of Mexico, the weather was warm and sunny during the day with cool, brisk air at night time. Even though it wasn't cool enough to need a jacket or long pants, might I suggest a light windbreaker or hoodie if you plan on being out after dark. Also, do yourself a favor and don't forget to bring sunscreen and sunglasses! You'll need both unless you want to look like a barbecued hot dog after a day at the beach.
7- Did somebody say food? With so many ocean front dining options to choose from, you won't have any problems finding good food in Miramar Beach. Imagine sitting at an open air restaurant drinking a cocktail while the ocean breeze gently kisses your face as you indulge in freshly caught seafood. Yes- it's that awesome! Wide open spaces and views as far as the eye can see. The outdoor dining options are more than enough reasons for you to visit this wonderful beach town. But no worries- if you're looking for a more upscale or intimate setting for dining they also have several well known restaurants like Fleming's Prime Steakhouse, Emeril Lagasse's Italian restaurant, Ruth's Chris, Joe's Crab Shack and so much more. Finding some place to eat will be the absolute least of your worries, trust me! You can even head into the harbor in Destin for even more authentic seafood dining options.
6- Shop 'til you drop! Don't even get me started on the shopping options! There were antique stores, furniture stores, farmer's markets, premium outlets and so much more! With so many different shopping options to choose from, Miramar Beach is certainly a shoppers paradise. The town offers outdoor shopping in their outlets that include stores like Kate Spade, Nike, Brooks Brothers, Michael Kors, Tommy Hilfiger and a whole host of other high end boutiques that even the most pickiest shopper will enjoy. All of which are conveniently located right off of Emerald Coast Highway, the main vessel that connects Destin to Miramar Beach and Sandestin.
5- Bored? I think not! Surrounded by historical parks, golf courses, trails, bike paths, tennis courts and the ocean- there is just too much to do. They offer helicopter rides over the beach, fishing and dolphin tours, snorkeling, parasailing, jet skiing and so much more that being bored should be a crime while there! Visit one of their upscale spas, cigar lounges or pop into an Alvin's Island retail store for all of your beach essentials and souvenirs. It's so much more than just a "beach town." Although you're at the beach, you're definitely not limited to just that. Grab a brochure from your hotel or ask one of the locals about things to do in the area. You'll be pleasantly surprised at the unlimited options of outdoor fun to be had.
4- Sight Seeing! Sight seeing is a must when traveling to South Walton County. Nearby cities include Niceville, Panama City, Ozark and Pensacola just to name a few. All within 65 miles of Miramar Beach, you can visit any of the locations with just a short drive. Check out what the other cities have to offer or visit the harbor where you'll find all sorts of things. Rent a scooter, a scootcar or a golf cart for getting around on the small side streets. They're easy to park and don't take up a lot of space. (Just don't try to drive them on highway 98 or you risk getting a ticket.) I can promise that you will not run out of things to do or see while there.
*I rented this small "scootcar" from Fantasea Scooters for 2 hours! These things go up to 60 miles per hour and were surprisingly nimble. It was the perfect way to get around on the small side streets in the city. It might look funny, but you'll fit right in with everyone else driving these*
3- For the love of money! The prices at many of the hotels were down right reasonable. As far as beach cities go the prices weren't drastically high at the resorts. While scrolling through Expedia looking for my hotel, I saw prices starting as low as $90 a night for some places. I also have to point out that I arrived on a Sunday and stayed during the week, so that could be one of the contributing factors as to why the prices were so low. In fact, my most expensive night at my hotel was Friday night. That one night alone cost me twice as much as the rates during the week.
*Travel Tip: It's usually less expensive to travel during the week than it is on weekends. Weekend rates are higher because of the demand for rooms. Most people travel on the weekend when they're off work and out of school, thus increasing the prices. Supply and demand. Week day travel offers a bit of a savings vs. traveling on the weekend.*
2- Vacation property! If you're looking to buy some property on a fantastic beach, might I suggest getting over to Miramar Beach today! Depending on what your budget is and how much home you can afford, you're looking at panoramic views of the Gulf of Mexico right from your balcony or high rise condo. The best part is that you can rent it out to travelers during the summer months and let it pay for itself. The median home price in Miramar Beach is about $461,136- which for a beach city is actually pretty reasonable. (I'm from California where home prices start at $300k for a 1 bedroom condo) So relatively speaking- I found the home prices to be a bit more affordable here. Not to say they don't have homes worth over a million dollars- but it doesn't seem like home prices are out of reach if this is where you want to live.
1- Easy to find! Ease of access is one of the most important elements of traveling. While some people enjoy traveling to remote islands that are only accessible by boats or planes, I found Miramar Beach to be a fairly easy place to get to. Did I mention that it's one of the best kept secrets in Florida (in my opinion.) A hidden gem that hasn't become overly saturated with tourist. It's a clean, safe place to live and vacation and it offers the ultimate getaway for travelers of all ages. If that isn't enough for you to book your next vacation here, I don't know what is! Miramar Beach has definitely shot up the list of my most favorite places to visit.
While on vacation I was able to get some awesome footage of my experience. Check out some videos I shot during my stay:
Footage of Miramar Beach in Walton County, FL shot with DJI Mavic Mini Drone
Flythebeach.com plane ride over the Gulf of Mexico (Be sure to ask for Ryan) He was my pilot!
Hilton Garden Inn Miramar Beach/Destin, Fl. Safety Interview with General Manager Jeff Welch
Sunset Dolphin Tour with Flipper's Adventures in Destin Harbor
*The highlight of my vacation*
During my vacation I was also able to do a bit of shopping and wine tasting at a local boutique/wine cellar called Emerald Coast Wine Cellars. It was one of the best experiences of my entire trip and I highly recommend you visit them if you ever travel to Miramar Beach. Tell them I sent you and be sure to try the "Carlos" wine during the tasting. It was one of the sweetest, most tastiest wines I've ever tried. I even bought a few bottles to take home with me.
A wine cellar with actual wine tasting AND a boutique with very stylish clothing combined! What more can a woman ask for? Sip, shop and savor the moment at Emerald Coast Wine Cellars. It was the perfect way to spend an afternoon and the staff were amazing. Photos:
Wine tasting and boutique shopping at Emerald Coast Wine Cellars!
Click here for navigation directions from Atlanta, GA to Miramar Beach, FL
I can't end this blog without thanking all of the wonderful businesses that accommodated me and allowed me to capture footage while visiting.
A very special thank you goes out to Jeff Welch & Brenda Gray for making my stay at the Hilton Garden Inn Miramar Beach one I definitely won't forget. Also a very big thank you to Melissa and the wonderful women at Emerald Coast Wine Cellars for the complimentary wine and clothing. You ladies were the icing on the cake during my visit! I can't thank you all enough!!
Be sure to put Miramar Beach on your bucket list! Coming from a world traveler, I have to rate it one of the top 5 most beautiful beaches I've ever been to! I will without a doubt be back sooner rather than later to experience more of what the city has to offer. A few of the main attractions I wanted to do were closed for the off season. Which means I have an excuse to return (as if I really needed one- wink, wink)
In closing and as always- thanks for reading and visiting my travel blog. Be sure to share it with your family, friends and social media followers if you enjoyed it. Take care and until my next post- be safe and happy travels!
[Quick Mentions] Where I ate:
Royal Palm Grill- 1096 Scenic Gulf Dr, Miramar Beach, FL 32550
The Surf Hut- 551 Scenic Gulf Dr, Destin, FL 32550
Lucy Buffet's Lulu's- 4607 Legendary Marina Dr, Destin, FL 32541
Pompano Joe's- 2237 Scenic Gulf Dr, Destin, FL 32550