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Henderson Beach Resort

by Isabel Burton

henderson beach resort

 florida, usa

Blue-green water and sand that feels like silky heaven create a blissful backdrop for this homey-yet-pampering, grand-but-intimate and oh-so-special resort.

The beach in Destin is white as snow; the sand, fine like flour. It consists of ground, rounded quartz crystals that washed down from the Appalachian Mountains at the end of the last Ice Age. Besides being incredibly soft underfoot, it doesn’t retain heat, so beneath the hot southern sun, your walk from towel to sea is surprisingly cool. The water in that sea is the color of a vibrant blue-green parrot and clear, clear, clear. You can see the fish you swim with. You can see the shells on the ocean floor. The temperature is permanently set to pure pleasure. As they like to say here, it’s the Caribbean without the passport.

This skinny 24-mile peninsula in the Florida Panhandle exists along the Gulf of Mexico on a stretch known as the Emerald Coast. Besides the glorious ocean, there’s more than 200 acres of native, untouched wilderness protected by the Henderson Beach State Park, and a huge bay. And right smack in the middle of this water-sky-flora-fauna landscape is Henderson Beach Resort, a getaway that cleverly mixes coastal charm with modern luxuries. The teal, cerulean, sage and sand color scheme and views from the rooms’ balconies keep you firmly present in this beachy place, while the high-end amenities make sure you’re extremely comfortable there.

There are 170 guestrooms with all the goods—elegant seating area, huge bath, dreamy beds, and those private balconies where you’ll want to sip your morning coffee while watching the sun rise. Beyond that, there’s ample space (and comfy couches) to settle down with a good book or sunny cocktail, either inside the grand main hall or with the Gulf breeze on the wraparound porch. But likely, interspersed with lounging, you’ll also want to partake in the wealth of activities that take advantage of the stunning landscape, including paddleboarding, kayaking, bicycling, beach yoga and more. Two pools (one adult-only) add options to your seaside swimming. And when you’ve worked up an appetite, the Henderson has five eateries to choose from ranging from super casual to upscale, including a seafood restaurant, casual beach grill and an ice cream shop.

For those seeking some restorative pampering, there's The Henderson Spa. With 11 treatment rooms, ephemeral glass mosaic sculpture by local artist Mary Hong, a very Zen salon and hot tub, the facility is comprehensive. Yet, it's the spa’s focus on tailored experiences that makes it memorable. Among the highlights is the Intuitive Wellness Reflection that invites analysis of what your body and mind are craving in the moment and includes exfoliation, warm-stone rubdown and pressure-point scalp massage. There's also the signature Henderson Dreams, a customized mineral salt scrub, full-body massage with warm mineral stones and foot rub. Brands like Zents, Kerstin Florian, Osmosis, HydroPeptide and Hydrafacial are staples, providing a range of luxurious skincare that leans on natural ingredients. No matter your treatment, you won’t want to miss the Himalayan Salt Suite, a well-thought-out addition that complements the spa's holistic approach to wellness, aiding in respiratory and skin health.

Apart from the soothing spa, stunner of a beach, and homey-luxe hotel, the nearby town of Destin has its own pull, should you be in the mood to explore the many events (like Mardi Gras in February and a seafood festival in October); sights, including a harbor boardwalk and crazy views from a helicopter ride; and a thriving culinary scene. 

Even more, the Henderson Beach State Park is right next door, an acquisition under the Save Our Coast land conservation program. Hotel guests get complimentary entry to wander the untouched terrain and look for birds and lizards. Sun, sea, a few wild creatures and a plush get-away-from-it-all retreat makes it clear why this Emerald Coast hotspot is such a jewel. hendersonbeachresort.com

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