Northwest Florida is emerging as the state's hot new destination, with burgeoning waterside communities set along its famed Emerald Coast. The new crown jewel in the region is the WaterColor Inn, a casually elegant luxury boutique hotel in Seagrove Beach designed by architect David Rockwell that opened in February 2002. Set along Scenic Highway 30A, on a sweep of Gulf Coast between Grayton Beach State Park and the trendy resort community of Seaside, the inn brings a touch of sophisticated style to this unassuming stretch of Florida’s South Walton County.
Less than an hour from Okaloosa Regional Airport and a half hour from Bay County International Airport, the 60-room inn is ideal for small incentive groups. A playful salute to a beach house, the inn has some eye-popping touches, including wooden-slatted siding, oversized shutters, exposed rafters, and a central tower with a sea grass grille embedded in its windowpanes. A cozy lobby with low-slung ceilings and Georgia brick floors flows out to the pool and patio area and to the sand dunes beyond.
All 60 rooms look out on that stunning vista. The hotel’s most spacious quarters are the 700-square-foot rotunda rooms with wrap-around terraces in the central tower. But at 500 square feet, the smaller rooms can hardly be considered skimpy. Those on the first floor are sheltered by the dunes and feature individual cabanas and outdoor showers encased in brightly striped tents. All other rooms have balconies stocked with Adirondack chairs. Among standard appointments are giant walk-in showers with high inset windows for savoring the seascape, Egyptian cotton sheets, and freshly baked cookies placed near the feather pillows every night at turndown.
The inn’s 4,000-square-foot meeting space can accommodate 200. The lawn can be used for al fresco functions, and there’s also a 450-person outdoor amphitheater overlooking Western Lake, a rare 220-acre coastal dune lake that can be explored on a private nature cruise led by WaterColor naturalist Jim Moyers.
Small incentive groups can enjoy casual lakeside dining at the Gulf-front Bait House Grill or have an elegant evening event at WaterColor’s gourmet restaurant, Fish Out of Water, with its dramatic sea views. For post-meeting R&R, the inn has free bikes for tooling along its many woodland trails or visiting Seaside and nearby towns. Other amenities include canoes, kayaks and sailboats for rent, five Har-Tru tennis courts, and, for golfers who like a challenge, the Tom Fazio–designed Camp Creek Golf Club, an 18-hole, par-72 championship course six miles east that’s accessible via WaterColor’s shuttle. Many dining and late-night options can be found in the surrounding community. www.watercolorflorida.com. —Margery Stein