Back and Better than ever!
By Kim Duke-Layden
One of the best bed and breakfast inns that I’ve ever stayed in happens to be in my own backyard—the Henderson Park Inn, in Destin. In 2001, my husband, John, and I spent an über-romantic weekend at the beachside hideaway to commemorate six months of wedded bliss. For many years thereafter, we dined at Henderson Park Inn’s quaint restaurant, The Veranda. Then, Hurricane Ivan pounded ashore in September 2004 and delivered a severe blow, causing extensive damage to the B&B. Sadly, it sat closed for years. In the fall of 2008, under new management, the inn finally re-opened. Recently, John and I were fortunate enough to return for a weekend stay. I’m happy to say, Henderson Park Inn is back and even better than before!
The stately inn sits at the western end of Scenic Highway 98 on a secluded, pristine stretch of beachfront bordering bucolic Henderson State Park. I’ve always admired its New England-style architecture and weathered, cedar-shingle siding, which are more reminiscent of coastal Maine than Destin. Comprised within the inn’s three-storied main house and three-storied annex next door are 35 sublime suites with balconies overlooking the emerald-green waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
On a Friday afternoon in May, after a grueling work week—and a lingering cold that I couldn’t seem to shake—John and I checked in to Henderson Park Inn for a much-anticipated weekend getaway. We were enthusiastically welcomed by the concierge. With a brief tour, she highlighted an endless list of complimentary amenities, which extended well beyond those of our previous stay. En route to the observation deck, we passed a 24-hour snack station complete with snacks and non-alcoholic beverages. But, luckily, we arrived just in time for the tiki bar’s daily happy hour, where we proceeded to slowly unwind to the soothing cadence of the emerald surf and a glass of crisp chardonnay.
Our second-floor executive suite was located in the annex of the inn. It featured European-style furnishings, a mini-kitchenette, a small seating area, and a roomy bathroom with Jacuzzi tub. Besides chocolate truffles on our pillows, atop our king-size sleigh bed sat a welcome tray with a bottle of cabernet, fresh roses, and grapes—compliments of the new innkeeper, Ryan Olin. How nice! But the pièce de résistance was the private, oceanfront balcony. The balcony was the perfect spot to enjoy sea breezes, sunset toasts and, after that perfect night’s sleep, the day’s first cup of fresh-brewed Wolfgang Puck coffee (an in-room perk—pun intended).
Henderson Park Inn’s natural surroundings presented an abundance of options for outdoor activities. The close proximity of the pristine Henderson State Park beckoned us for an intimate morning stroll along one of Destin’s beaches, where we encountered only a handful of fellow beachcombers. The complimentary bikes and kayaks might tempt the athletic adventurer; however, we were perfectly content soaking up fresh air and sunshine from our complimentary beach chairs and umbrella. Ahhh—we couldn’t seem to soak up the sun, sand, and sea fast enough—it was just what the doctor ordered.
Later, the inn presented a wine tasting hosted by Chan’s Wine World in Destin (check website for dates of tastings). Before dinner, we joined fellow guests on the deck to swirl and sip as dynamic duo John and Moe both entertained and enlightened us about the featured selections, several of which were award winners from a recent Sandestin Wine Festival. The stunning seaside setting and friendly crowd made for a delightful experience. Ask the inn about upcoming dates for future wine tasting that may coincide with your stay—they are complimentary.
In the morning, we headed to Beach Walk (www.beachwalkcafe.com) for a gourmet breakfast buffet. From the brilliant, sunny dining room, the wraparound windows afforded us spectacular views of the beach and Gulf. Our made-to-order omelets, homemade biscuits, and fresh fruit were delicious. The grits were some of the best I’d ever tasted.
Another unexpected amenity we received during our stay was complimentary lunch at Beach Walk. We had our choice of four select entrees or a 25 percent discount on remaining menu items. In bathing suits, we sat on the breezy veranda and dined on gourmet croissant sandwiches served with sweet potato fries.
Candles flickered in Beach Walk’s cozy dining room as jovial diners splurged on multiple courses of superb cuisine. The venison, pan-sautéed in a rich, garlicky Shiraz sauce, melted in my mouth. John enjoyed his oven-roasted sea bass with a mushroom and red wine butter, but the hot-molten chocolate cake with vanilla-bean ice cream and golden raspberries left him scraping his plate.
Henderson Park Inn gave us a wonderful weekend escape to recharge our batteries. Though we hated for our stay to end, we loved that the commute back home was only fifteen minutes.
Fall and winter discounted rates make a special occasion or weekend splurge more affordable. Friday and Saturday rates through October start at $249 per night. Beginning November 2010 through February 2011 (excluding holidays), weekend rates are even more enticing, starting at $179 per night. For a complete listing of room rates and availability, go on-line (www.hendersonparkinn.com) or call (866) 5-RESORT.
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