Where To Spend Your Memorial Day Weekend: The Emerald Coast’s Hotel Effie

Hotel EffiePhoto Credit: Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort.

I’m going to let you in on an insider secret, and you must be careful who you share it with: Florida’s Gulf Coast is absolutely magical. Think: fine, white sand beaches, and an ocean so sparkling and green it looks to be something you’d only see in the movies. But it’s real, and it’s incredible, and (strangely) it’s an off-the-beaten-path location, with Floridian visitors flocking instead to Miami, the Keys, Amelia Island, and more. But if you want beauty, relaxation, and that sense of satisfaction that comes after “discovering,” this is the holiday hot spot for you. And should you visit the area, a stay at the trendy new Hotel Effie, located at the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort between the emerald green waters of the Gulf of Mexico and the Choctawhatchee, is a must, and not just because it serves up the only rooftop pool on the Emerald Coast. Being on the bay side of Destin, it also is an essential win that this stunning escape also has its own private beach. The hotel provides private Mercedes Coach shuttle every 30 minutes, which guides guests to the private location and their bounty: beach chairs, umbrellas, beach towel, water, and a pre-packed cooler with snacks and beverages are all available. Light bites and cocktails from a dedicated beach concierge, beach games and non-motorized sports are also available upon request. There’s also homemade chocolate chip cookies daily at reception, and if that isn’t a win, I don’t know what is.

Hotel EffiePhoto Credit: Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort.

Hotel Effie gives back to its guests, who have full access to all the amenities of its parent resort — thee Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort — with seven miles of pristine beaches and bayfront, four championship golf courses, 15 world-class tennis courts, a 123-slip marina, and an
additional 65,000 square feet of meeting space. Additionally, the Village of Baytowne Wharf, a charming pedestrian village with events, shopping, dining and nightlife, is located within walking distance, just 10 minutes away.

Hotel EffiePhoto Credit: Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort.

Effie is the new kind on the block, but in summer, this 250-room hotel is nearly always sold out. That means booking the most spacious suite — the 1,280 square foot Presidential Suite — in advance is essential. This room offers coastal elegance with breathtaking views. The 3-room suite includes a king bedroom, spacious living room, and hospitality kitchen, a full bank of windows overlooking the bay, and a private balcony. And just look at that tub!
Hotel EffiePhoto Credit: Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort

The hotel also has a distinctive pedigree in that it’s restaurant, Ovide, is the first in Florida from James Beard Award-winning chef, Hugh
Acheson, who many might recognize from BRAVO’s Top Chef; he also owns and operates Five & Ten and The National, located in Athens,
Georgia, as well as Empire State South and Spiller Park Coffee in Atlanta. Here, expect a menu comprised of coastal cuisine — breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner — with a sophisticated French influence: oysters and fresh seafood galore, and items such as 63C farm egg, served on a bed of crispy rice, collard stem kimchi, peas spring onion, and oyster mushrooms; pan-roasted red snapper with a Thai emulsion, pigeon peace, rice, and charred escarole; and a grilled prime USDA beef filet served with whipped potato, shiitake mushroom jus, maitre d’hotel butter. Effie’s housemade biscuits are also a must.

The bar at Ovide is a beautiful place to sit and relax if you’re dining on your own or if you simply wish for a less formal meal. It’s a gorgeous space, with extensive millwork, a large, antiqued mirror, and brass accents. Black and tan upholstery with brass details and beautifully
finished wood seating only enhance the space, which serves up a craft cocktail program of extremely diverse drinks across all spirit categories. 

Hotel EffiePhoto Credit: Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort

It’s the Ara Rooftop Pool & Lounge that really sets Effie apart though. Being that it’s the only rooftop pool on the Emerald Coast, this place is always packed and often rowdy, with a slew of imbibers and beach goers ready to have a good time. The drinks are great and the vibe is elevated, stylish, and beachy. The amazing views of the resort, Choctawhatchee Bay, and the Gulf of Mexico don’t hurt. Although you might not expect to find a poolside DJ or bottle service on the Gulf, it’s here — as are luxury cabanas for that extra-exclusive feel.

Hotel EffiePhoto Credit: Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort

Spa Lilliana is also a highlight of the hotel; one of the better spas you’ll find in the area, with 10 spacious and well-appointed treatment rooms including a couples room; a coed relaxation lounge; private men’s and women’s locker rooms and relaxation areas; a hair and nail salon; and a retail boutique. Upon arrival at this calming and ocean-inspired oasis, find floor-to-ceiling, mother-of-pearl walls bathed in warm candlelight; a beautiful retail boutique showcasing products from conscious skin and hair care brands including Supergoop!’s mineral and ocean reef-safe SPF products, plant-derived, sustainable hair care from Davines, and vegan skin and body care from Osea, whose seaweed and cold pressed essential oil formulas are used in Spa Lilliana’s facial and body treatments (innovative facial treatments from Paris-based Biologique
Recherche are also offered). Spa Lilliana treatments are also available as in-room services.

The wellness continues at the fitness center, which features Peloton bikes and treadmills; Life Fitness machines; kettlebells; TRX Suspension Training; free weights and machine circuit; pop up fitness classes; and weekly rooftop yoga classes (season and weather permitting).

While You’re Here…

Marina CafePhoto Credit: Marina Cafe

There are some incredible culinary experiences in the area, inclusive of Destin’s most awarded restaurant, Marina Café. This is a special occasion eatery — bachelorettes, birthdays, or (in my case) just a plain old happiness at being alive. The menu is meat and seafood-heavy, with standouts being filet mignon wontons with caramelized onion, crispy wonton, and gorgonzola garlic cream; fried green tomatoes; tempura redfish; blackened grouper cheeks; Floridian grouper, prepared with a chipotle lime glaze, papaya mango salsa, purple potatoes, and citrus beurre blanc; and coriander-crusted seared yellowfin tuna with baby bok choy, whole grain coconut brown rice, pickled plum jam, and cilantro mint pesto. Cocktails and a 100-bottle strong wine list are enjoyed in a lofty setting with breathtaking harbor views from a candlelit dining room that envelopes you in soft color.

Other standout eateries in the area include Emeril Lagasse’s Emeril’s Coastal; the low-key yet intimate Marina Bar & Grill at Sandestin, which has some of the most breathtaking sunset views you’ll ever see in your life (you’re welcome); Seagar’s Prime Steaks & Seafood; and the seafood bacchanalia, the Ocean Club Restaurant.