Living in Atlanta, we are only about a 5 hour drive from the gorgeous beaches on the Florida gulf coast. Lately, my husband and I had both been hearing quite the buzz about a small upscale beach near Seaside called Rosemary Beach. (If you’re not familiar with the Gulf coast, Rosemary Beach is about 15 miles from Panama City). Some of my Facebook friends had posted lovely pictures online, and my husband’s co-workers swore to him its heaven on earth. Apparently, even Katie Holmes and Suri had recently taken a trip to Rosemary! With our anniversary coming up, we decided that Rosemary would be the perfect long weekend, so we booked a condo on VRBO and headed south.

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“Rosemary Beach” itself only spans a couple blocks. It’s a small, upscale, planned community. “Downtown Rosemary” is the length of a long city block filled with shops and restaurants. We arrived on Friday and walked around briefly to get our bearings. Since we were starving on the drive down, we ended up eating too much fast food en-route to be hungry for large dinner, so we settled into a small tapas restaurant called La Crema Tapas and Chocolate. Interestingly, the menu is half tapas and half dessert – my kind of place! We indulged in a few tapas (the warm spinach salad being the standout), chocolate fondue and several glasses of wine as we sat on the patio and enjoyed the gorgeous weather.

We figured out quickly that many of the restaurants in Rosemary serve only beer and wine due to the cost of liquor licenses. Some of these establishments serve “wine based” cocktails instead of actual cocktails. If you want the real deal, you’ll be paying a premium for them at the nicest restaurants. Because closing time for the beach bars was rapidly approaching (sometime between 11pm and midnight depending how busy they are), we headed across the street to Paradis for a couple of martinis (made with real liquor), before retiring for the evening.RM2

On Saturday we woke up and headed straight to the beach. As promised, the sand was stark white and as fine as sugar. After we got our fill of sun, we walked in town to Cowgirl Kitchen for a casual lunch. Cowboy Kitchen is one of the establishments that make their “cocktails” with wine based “liquor”. We chose a refreshing drink of “wine based” rum mixed with an array of fruit juices. I’m not sure what the alcohol content of this drink was (i.e. it probably isn’t a wise choice if are trying to “tie one on”), but it was refreshing and delicious. This said, I’m not sure I would feel as confident trying a “wine based margarita”.

Following lunch, we headed to our condo community’s pool before freshening up for dinner. We chose to dine at Edward’s, a cute and intimate upscale restaurant. They had a live musician playing the acoustic guitar and singing while clips of old black and white movies were playing on one of the walls in the small courtyard. My husband had fish and grits and I opted for mushroom risotto and a roasted beet salad. All of our food was cooked perfectly and delicious. Afterwards, we couldn’t resist but head back to La Crema to sample a few more of their delectable chocolate desserts. (You can’t go wrong with the peanut butter chocolate molten lava cake and house-made salted caramel ice cream).

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The next afternoon, we hit the beach again and then decided to rent bicycles and venture outside of Rosemary. Up until this point, we had no reason to get in our car or leave Rosemary since the small downtown area offered all the dining opportunities that we needed. Nonetheless, I was curious what existed further down the beach, so we decided to do some exploring.

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The neighboring beach town is Aly’s Beach, which offers a few upscale dining options. We pulled our bikes in at the ultra hip Caliza for happy hour. Caliza is a rather impressive poolside dining experience, which made me feel like I was in Miami more so than on the Gulf.

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We indulged in a few libations and tried their venison poutine (which was only average, but I’m pretty picky about my poutine) before heading back to Rosemary for dinner. Since it was our last night at the beach, we decided to dine at the ultra trendy, popular Havana Club which is inside the Pearl Hotel (the only hotel in Rosemary beach). If you are planning on dining at Havana Club, make sure that you make reservations plenty of time in advance. The restaurant fills up and people are often waiting just to grab a seat to order $15 cocktails on the restaurant’s patio. We tried to eat at Havana Club the prior evening and they didn’t have a single reservation available all night. Turns out, the wait was worth it. I had a delicious steak and my husband had the cold seafood platter for two. (Yes, it was for two people but he ate it without any help).

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Sadly, the following morning we had to start the drive back to Atlanta, so we had a few more cocktails and said our farewells to Rosemary Beach.

Honestly, I am not “easily impressed” when it comes to beaches since I usually prefer more exotic locations, but I LOVED Rosemary Beach. It’s the perfect quick, romantic and relaxing getaway from the city. Or, for those of you not living in the South, it’s a quick (under 30 minute) drive from Panama City, FL airport.

Is a visit to Rosemary Beach on your travel bucket list?