SANDESTIN® IS 50: A SNAPSHOT OF THE AWARD-WINNING RESORT’S STORIED PAST
Located in Florida’s panhandle on the peninsula right between Santa Rosa Beach and Destin, it shouldn’t be too hard to guess where the name Sandestin® came from. Today, Sandestin® may sit right in the middle of everything, but not so long ago, it felt more like a tropical outpost or an idyllic settlement at the edge of beachy civilization. The Sandestin® as we know it today wasn’t always “destined” to be a world-class residential golf and beach resort. Let’s look at how we got here!
The land was originally purchased for crops and livestock, but during WWII the military requisitioned a large portion of the gulf side property to research captured “Buzz Bomb” missiles from the Germans. The very first military use of American rockets were also tested and launched over the Gulf from top secret hidden bunkers located on the resort that can still be seen today, if you know where to look.
In the 1950s, the land was sold to Winthrop Rockefeller, who went on to become the Governor of Arkansas, ultimately derailing his plans to develop the land into a coastal neighborhood. A few years later, a man by the name of, Walt Disney, almost bought the land for an idea he was playing around with called “Disney World.” His plans moved forward, but just a bit further south. In ‘70s, the owners of the Indianapolis Speedway attempted to buy the land to create something they dubbed the “Seaside Racetrack.” Eventually, the land fell into the hands of developers with a vision of building a resort community. They borrowed the “San” from the unincorporated area known as Santa Rosa Beach to the east and mashed it together with “Destin” to the west. The rest, as they say, is history.
Sandestin’s first golf course, The Links, was completed in 1974, along with residential neighborhoods and a hotel on the bay which is now known as Bayside at Sandestin®. In the early 80’s the marina, Baytowne Golf Course and a beachside high rise were completed and soon after The Beach Boys performed right out on the sand for some 12,000 lucky attendees.
The 90’s brought immense growth with the completion of restaurants like the popular Marina Bar and Grill- home to Maryann the Macaw, professional Tennis Club, more distinct neighborhoods, as well as the prestigious Burnt Pine Golf Course. A private Burnt Pine gated community within the Sandestin® gates soon followed, both named after a forest fire that had occurred in a portion of the woods a few years prior. The Village of Baytowne Wharf also went into development and is now the town center of Sandestin®, filled with festive restaurants, world-class shopping, activities and annual events.
Today, Sandestin® is home to over seventy distinct neighborhoods, spanning more than 2,400 acres of land between the Choctawhatchee Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. It’s all interconnected by miles of pedestrian, bike and golf cart paths that weave through groves of live oaks, meandering past natural lagoons, fountains, man-made lakes, and meticulously landscaped fairways of four award-winning golf courses, including Raven, Baytowne, The Links and the exclusive private golf course, Burnt Pine. Not to mention thousands of unique vacation rentals throughout the resort, from the beach to the bay. Sandestin® welcomes thousands of families each year to experience the resort and make cherished memories that will last a lifetime.
The resort’s signature hotel, Hotel Effie, which opened February of 2021, exemplifies all the charm and personality of its namesake, owner and developer Tom Becnel’s grandmother. Effie’s portrait is found in the main lobby for an Instagrammable moment, artfully displayed along with her signature rocking chairs. Guests are welcome to have a seat and spend time like Effie herself, taking in the scene while enjoying a slower pace.
Hotel Effie embodies southern elegance and invites you to experience ultra-chic rooms and suites, luxurious face and body treatments at Spa Lilliana, culinary offerings at Ovide (named after Effie’s husband) by James Beard award-winning chef Hugh Acheson and hand-crafted cocktails at the swanky Ara Rooftop Pool and Lounge – notably the only hotel rooftop pool in Northwest Florida. The panoramic views of the resort from here are unmatched.
All of that, and … oh, did I mention there’s a beach? That’s right. After all these years, the beach boys are still here, performing every day, setting up beach chairs and umbrellas for the countless fans who come to see this stunner of a show.
Sandestin is a special place. Deeply rooted in community and values, steeped in a culture of genuine hospitality. The landscape has changed a bit and our story has, and will continue to evolve. While it’s true, this is no Disney World or Seaside Racetrack… that’s perfectly fine with us.
Cheers to 50 years and counting!
1973 – 2023