Florida’s Watercolor Inn is Music to my ears
By Laurette M. Veres
Photography by Kathleen Axtell
Grab your favorite gal-pal and head to Beaches of South Walton, a collection of 15 eclectic beach communities on the Florida coast. The weekend H Texas visited, the 30A Songwriters Festival is in progress. Imagine: emerald green water set to music. We bee-bop from event to event along beautiful Hwy 30A, officially designated Scenic Highway.
The Florida coastline is ecologically significant and home to the largest concentration of rare coastal dune lakes in the world. The 15 lakes have been identified as globally extraordinary with similar ecosystems found only in Madagascar, Australia, New Zealand and the Northwest Pacific Coast of the United States. Unlike sand dunes in Texas, you cannot walk in the brushy beach-lining areas. Except at Grayton Beach State Park. This is one of the few places you are allowed to explore a dune and study its structure. Murray Balkcom of Walco Eco Tours leads an informative tour and explains the area’s bio-diverse ecological communities. When you see brush at the top of a sand dune, many times, that is really the top of a tree!
Along Scenic 30A there are many lodging options. We check into the WaterColor Inn & Resort. This award winning 60 room boutique hotel sits on the beach and allows you to take in all the beauty with panoramic views of the water, large balconies and our favorite feature: ocean views from the shower. Save your shower for the morning; you must enjoy this luxury by the light of day. Comfortable conversations flow in WaterColor’s intimate lobby and bar; a unique setting reminiscent of your best friend’s living room. Off the lobby, the library offers a relaxing spot to enjoy movies, books, magazines, today’s paper and more. And, each evening you are greeted with homemade cookies. Complimentary bicycles make it easy to explore 30A and the many beach communities. We grab a bike and head East.
If you recall the tranquil town in the, “The Truman Show,” you’ll recognize the colorful, cozy cottages used to create the movie’s setting at the Victorian community of Seaside. We nosh at Great Southern Café. Chef Jim Shirley blends international cuisine with Southern flavors. Fresh produce from nearby farms and fresh fish from the Gulf of Mexico are combined with flavors from around the world. Don’t miss Grits à Ya Ya, his version of shrimp and grits. Next door, iconic bookstore Sundog Books is an interesting venue for Chely Wright while she performs an acoustic set for a packed house. We then mosey to a wine bar where we find Tim Nichols the author of “Live Like You Were Dying,” and many other No. 1 hits relaxing at the next table.
Continuing the course on 30A, we meet Allison Wickey, 2011 Artist of the Year, at World Six Gallery in Rosemary Beach. She offers a unique craft – Venetian plaster on large slabs of wood. We met her on a monumental day – reproductions of her work are now being shipped to specialty stores nationwide.
We spend each evening at Fish Out of Water, the fine dining establishment at WaterColor. Performances from Vienna Teng, Mat Kearney, Rodney Crowell, Chuck Cannon, Shawn Mullins, Gretchen Peters and many more fill our evenings. We find ourselves purchasing CD’s and vowing to learn to play guitar.