One of my favorite aspects about Rosemary Beach is that there are no chain retail stores or restaurants-another nod to the town founders who desired to create a truly unique environment infused with local flavor and flair. Everywhere you look there are distinctive, one-of-a-kind shopping and dining entities that speak volumes about those who have chosen to move and work here.

Adventures in Retail “Therapy”

Before getting too far into this, I have to confess that…well…I really don’t like to shop. Without guilt or shame, I freely admit that I’m like most men: I go to the store only when I need something, and I want to get it and get out! However, I was so relaxed after a few days here and so enchanted by the ambiance, architecture and the people that I decided to step out of my self-imposed “shop-a-phobia” and check it out.

Boy, did I love it! Everything had its own panache and charm, and the proprietors openly expressed their personal stories of why they came to Rosemary Beach and what they love about it. The shared sense of community was mentioned by all.

Boutique shops here include Tracery for home and lifestyle designs, furnishings and gifts; World Six Gallery and Tommy Crow Collections for a wide range of artistic expression, including apparel; Fitz & Emme and GiGi’s Fabulous Kids’ Fashion & Toys for the little ones; Bombora Sun & Surf, a one-stop shop for vacation and recreation wear, including beach toys and games, sandals, sunglasses, etc.; Rosemary Beach Trading Company for logo-wear, gifts and beach items; Willow, Hissyfits Boutique and Moonpize for contemporary designer clothing, handbags, shoes and accessories for women; and Pish Posh Patchoulis for skin, body and hair products, among others.

I visited a number of these stores and just really took the time to soak in their flavors, hues and offerings whether or not there was something I wanted to purchase. The best part is that after you shop ’til you’re ready to drop, it’s only a five-minute walk or bike back “home” to drop off your packages! Moreover, for those who desire a little pampering after all of that shopping (and bike riding, walking, workouts and beach time), there’s Solace Day Spa, a destination spa experience designed with “a genuine passion for helping people improve their inner and outer well-being, while using nature-based products that have minimal impact on the environment.”

Good Eats

Yahoo! My favorite part of all of my trips: the food! From petite early a.m. or midday nibbles, to relaxed, leisurely lunch fare, to creative, upscale culinary dishes for dinner, Rosemary Beach offers something to suit everyone’s particular tastes and gastronomic lifestyle. The places here are so good, in fact, that patrons come from all around the area to enjoy their culinary fare.

This is one of those places in my travel writing features where I hate to leave anybody out, as they are all so good, but alas, there just isn’t room to detail them all. Among the delicious spots here are Courtyard Wine and Cheese, the Sugar Shack, Dog Man Du (a hot dog stand, open seasonally), Sno-Balls (New Orleans-style snow cones, open seasonally), La Crema Tapas & Chocolate and Sugga Pies Cupcake Shoppe & Bakery.

I did, however, really enjoy myself at a handful of scrumptious spots in town, which each receive their own honorable mention. To start off your day, pep it up somewhere in the middle or wind down in casual style, be sure to visit Amavida Coffee-the name an amalgamation of the Spanish words “amar” (to love) and “vida” (life). The ambiance here is relaxed, welcoming and like spending time in a friend’s living room with comfortable sofas, chairs, tables, bookshelves, art and, of course, delicious coffees, teas, pastries, wines and more.

Breakfast was a blast at Cowgirl Kitchen, a fun, Texas-style, “Beach meets West”-themed restaurant for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Start with “Eggs N Stuff” for choices including chorizo sausage, grits, portabella mushrooms and other options, a grilled veggie bagel or organic farm girl health start. Enjoy overstuffed sandwiches, wraps, tacos, salads, soups, pizzas and specialties for lunch or dinner. The interior is quaint, but the patio is where its at-right in the middle of the action along Main Street.

Another great outdoor option (with a fun and funky interior as well) is Summer Kitchen Cafe for fresh breakfast, lunch and dinner, including the spinach, portabella and grilled chicken salad, Kobe burger, grilled chicken and black bean roll-up, saffron lobster ravioli and Gulf shrimp saute.

Wild Olives is a market, bakery and deli offering fresh, gourmet foods for the road or to enjoy inside the restaurant or on their expansive outdoor patio-are you getting the al fresco theme here? The offerings are diverse, the portions are huge and the taste is delicious. A special nod goes to their gourmet flatbread pizzas-11-inch rounds of individual bites of heaven!

I said “oh yes, yes” at Onano Neighborhood Cafe, a wonderful beach town escape for upscale dining (dinner only). The shrimp and white beans were amazing, as was the lobster ravioli with mushrooms, pecorino and pinot grigio. Pork Milanese, chilled melon soup, filet mignon, pureed spring asparagus soup, and seared and braised grouper were among the other fabulous offerings.

Our last night in town, we dined royally at Restaurant Paradis. The “understated wine country elegance” is the perfect backdrop for the outstanding culinary creations, extensive wine offerings and earth-friendly sparkling and still waters here. Open for dinner only, the menu features a wide variety of excellent global flavors, including beef and blue cheese tortellini (yee ow!), coriander tuna, Oysters Rockefeller, curried filet and wild mushroom soup, a grilled romaine Caesar, veal marsala and stuffed shrimp paradis. For dessert, the mango cheesecake was amazing, as was the key lime crpe and chocolate mousse cake.

The topper for all of these fabulous meals was the opportunity to saunter around town on foot or bicycle and infuse it with the delightful Rosemary Beach vibe.

Until Next Time…

A unique, neo-traditional vacation town nestled between Panama City and Destin near the eastern end of Scenic Route 30-A, Rosemary Beach is a truly unbelievable experience!

Lysa Allman-Baldwin writes for numerous online and print publications, including as the cultural travel writer for www.Examiner.com and as a senior travel writer for SoulOfAmerica.com, an Afrocentric travel website. Lysa can be reached at lallmanbaldwin@kc.rr.com.

Resource List

  • Rosemary Beach: (866) 348-8952, www.rosemarybeach.com
  • Amavida Coffee: (850) 231-1077, www.amavida.com
  • Bombora Sun & Surf: (850) 278-2092
  • Cowgirl Kitchen: (850) 303-0708, www.cowgirlkitchen.net
  • Fitz & Emme: (850) 231-3200
  • GiGi’s Fabulous Kids’ Fashion & Toys: (850) 231-0110, www.gigisfabkids.com
  • Hissyfits Boutique: (850) 231-0311, hissyfitsboutique.blogspot.com
  • Moonpize: (850) 231-1930, www.moonpize.com
  • Onano Neighborhood Cafe: (850) 231-2436, www.onanocafe.com
  • Pish Posh Patchoulis: (888) 862-3461, www.patchoulis.com
  • Restaurant Paradis: (850) 534-0400, www.restaurantparadis.com
  • Rosemary Beach Trading Company: (850) 231-2410, rbtradingcompany.com
  • Solace Day Spa: (850) 231-6801, www.solacesalonspa.com
  • Summer Kitchen Cafe: (850) 231-6264, www.theskcafe.com
  • Tommy Crow Collections: (851) 231-1300, www.tommycrow.com
  • Tracery: (851) 231-6755, www.traceryinteriors.com
  • Wild Olives: (850) 231-0065, www.wildolivesmarket.com
  • Willow World Six Gallery: (214) 641-1048