If renting a house at the beach is your family vacation tradition, chances are good you are on your way, at, or planning a trip soon to the Florida Panhandle. As Candy Evans noted in an earlier report this month, the region encompassing Destin, Panama City Beach, and South Walton is the second largest vacation rental ownership market in the country, and for good reason.
Snow white sand beaches, sea oat-covered dunes, pine forests, wetlands, and coastal dune lakes along the Scenic Coastal Highway 30A corridor of the “Emerald Coast,” as it’s known, make for a wonderland of outdoor recreational activities in stunning natural beauty. But, especially if you are a regular, the problem with staying in touristy housing is that, well, everyone there is a tourist.
Not so three miles inland of South Walton Beach at the residential development Watersound Origins, which has just announced the opening of its second phase. Short-term rentals are banned here — it’s a community dedicated to those with a permanent commitment in mind. And what does it have to offer? Jump to see …
Amenities here are many. Watersound Origins is a project of the St. Joe Company, a key land developer which also owns and operates top -tier hotels and resorts under the St. Joe Club & Resort umbrella (including the family-friendly Watercolor Inn & Resort and the boutique Pearl Hotel, both rated Forbes Travel Guide Four Star and AAA Four Diamond properties) plus a large portfolio of upscale vacation rental homes. St. Joe holdings are built around preservation efforts of the natural resources which provide the region’s great charm and beauty.
Set 3 miles north of the Winston Lane South Walton public beach access, the Watersound Origins community centers around the Village Commons, an activity center offering a pool, fitness center, playground and restaurant. Hiking and biking trails wind through the neighborhood and parks, including a 5 mile nature trail that connects the property to the Panama City Beach Conservation Park to the east. A private dock provides residents access to swimming, fishing, kayaking and canoeing Lake Powell, a publicly navigable coastal dune lake. Adjacent to the west is the Origins Golf Club, a six-hole regulation course designed by Davis Love. Nearby are public beach access to surfing and swimming in the Gulf; freshwater and saltwater fishing, hiking and biking in the unique ecosystems of Camp Helen State Park and Deer Lake State Park; and numerous championship golf courses.
About 220 homes have been built in Phase 1 of Watersound Origins thus far. The company just announced Phase 2 of construction. A total of 107 will be available in summer 2017, with lot and house packages built by Huff Homes and Romair Homes starting in the mid $400s.
H0me owner membership includes access to the fitness center, heated pool at the Village Commons, dock access at Lake Powell, unlimited golf with no green fees at the Origins Golf Course, and special events. Additionally, tiered upgrade memberships are available providing access to the Watersound Beach Club with private beach access and pool, multiple golf courses, and more.
And now, most importantly, an example that illustrates the charm of housing in this coastal enclave: the Weatherly model built by Romair Homes starts at $792,000 for this 3,134-square-foot, four-bedroom, four-and-a-half-bath, Cape Cod-style structure. This plan features an open kitchen and living area, first-floor master suite, three bedrooms upstairs with a bunk room, and second floor den. Optional upgrades include a back porch cabana with a fireplace and outdoor kitchen.
How fun would this cozy bunk room be for kids?
Room for guests is a must here. With a setup like this, you’re not likely to hurt for lack of visitors. Whether for a vacation retreat or year-round abode, this might be the perfect time to look into becoming a local.