Rosemary Beach, Florida: luxury lasts in stylish retreat
A US resort, completely planned by architects, offers stylish, yet stress-free relaxation - and the best way to get around is by bicycle
From the minute your feet hit the sand-dusted streets of Rosemary Beach, Florida, a sense of “Ahh, that’s the spot” embraces you. It’s like slipping on your favourite old shirt, the one that always makes you feel good about yourself. It may be a tad casual, but it’s always in style. And the style in Rosemary Beach is decidedly upscale, but relaxed.
You may arrive by car, but once you have parked and checked in to your tin-roofed, earth-toned rental property (there are no “hotels”), the urge to drive simply vanishes. It’s not just that the 107-acre community is infinitely walkable, but the flat streets lined with willowy coastal oaks fairly cry out for a big comfy bicycle. With golf carts outlawed in town, bicycling is by far the preferred mode of local transport.
After a few days, I found myself dreading car trips and looking forward to the air in my hair, the smell of the sea, and the crunch of sand under tyre as I explored this upscale resort, and its highly praised ability to relax its residents.
Hopping on our bicycles at Bamboo Bikes, the first thing we notice are generous green spaces, cooling shade trees, and that the shopping and dining in this upper part of downtown is tucked under a shaded arcade. The other side of the upper plaza is fronted with an array of boutique shops, and kerbside cafes.
Following the breeze down toward the sea, we pedal around another shaded greenspace, and find ourselves in another world.
With its narrow brick-lined streets and two and three-story wooden balcony-fronted buildings in soft coastal hues, Main Street has the feel of New Orleans without the madness. Here again, shaded sidewalk cafes and upscale shopping and dining are de rigueur.
Seated beneath one of the Cowgirl Kitchen’s signature red umbrella sidewalk tables, a “beach meets west” breakfast is the ideal way to kickstart a busy day of ambling, pottering about, and shedding the workaday stress. Imagine a plate filled with veggie tacos, organic granola, or a sublime breakfast burrito. While cowgirls on the beach may seem out of place, “unconventional” is nothing new for this stretch of the Gulf Coast.
Established in 1995, just eight miles east of Seaside, (it’s older “sister” city), Rosemary Beach was seen as the refined, new expression of New Urbanism for the 1990s. This, at times controversial, architectural and urban planning philosophy favours walkable, compact neighbourhoods that integrate a variety of housing styles, as well as retail and office spaces with natural environment buffers. In Seaside and Rosemary Beach, smaller, community-friendly neighbourhoods and planned gathering spaces are given priority over population density.
Similarities between Seaside and Rosemary Beach are no accident. Rosemary Beach was conceived by architects Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, the don and doyenne of New Urbanism who had planned Seaside 14 years earlier.