The Village of Baytown Wharf is reminiscent of an old fishing town and offers a variety of unique shops and restaurants

Whether seeking a quiet getaway or a vacation with new adventures at every turn, Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort can deliver. Located on 2,400 beautiful acres on Northwest Florida's Emerald Coast in the panhandle, this vacationers' haven seems to have slipped under the radar of Houstonians. Golf, tennis, kayaking, fine dining, casual dining, beach combing, hiking, cycling, snorkeling, fishing, shopping, wine tasting and a host of other activities are all available without ever getting into the car. Use of the resort's bicycles are complimentary to guests and trams that run from 6 a.m. to 3 a.m. are ready to shuttle guests at the touch of a button, or make that two buttons, *2.

Sandestin offers visitors a variety of rental choices including condominiums, villas, town homes and several hotels. Luau, a two-tower condominium with a Polynesian flair (top notch service!) houses 243 suites and is the newest addition to the 1,800 accommodations that guests can call home while taking advantage of the white-sugar sand beaches, emerald-green waters, warm breezes and picturesque views. Marriott offers The Courtyard Sandestin, with 174 guest rooms designed to cater to those who mix business with pleasure. Each room features complimentary high-speed Internet and all beds are dressed with Marriott's new luxurious bedding. Marriott's Residence Inn Sandestin offers one- and two-bedroom suites with separate living areas, full kitchens and a complimentary hot breakfast every morning. The Grand Sandestin stands, in all its southern majesty, before the beautiful backdrop of the Choctawhatchee Bay.

Nearby Scenic 30-A is home to 14 charming beach communities all with their own architectural style, shops and restaurants

Visitors can also choose from rentals in the charming Village of Baytowne Wharf or from many others amid the resort's inviting village neighborhoods.

Sandestin tempts the taste buds of its guests with more than 20 restaurants located within the resort, ranging from casual dining at places such as Jim 'N Nick's Bar-B-Q, breakfasts to remember at Another Broken Egg Cafe (the blackberry-topped grits are amazing), fine dining at Finz (wow!), recently remodeled and reopened and giving diners a magnificent Gulf view, and numerous other eating establishments. Graffiti & The Funky Blues Shack boasts “food, fun and firewater” and they are not kidding. It is a must-try.

Children are sure to stay entertained at Sandestin with activities including golf, tennis and sailing instructional programs, as well as KidZone, which provides daily planned activities supervised by adults and including swimming and Jello slurping during the summer season.

Pools are located throughout the resort and little, wet footprints dot the sidewalks when it's warm enough to swim, which is most of the time.

Teens will enjoy the freedom to hop on bicycles and take advantage of all that Sandestin has to offer, including music and game rooms.

Jolee Island is also filled with fun for kids and is located within the resort.

Sandestin boasts “one of the best combinations of quality and variety among golf resorts in the Southeast.”

The resort features 72 holes of golf on four championship courses. The Raven Golf Club, Burnt Pine Golf Club, Baytowne Golf Club and The Links Course offer something for golfers of all skill levels. Professional instruction is also available for individuals and groups.

Craig Falanga is the director of resort activities and said that Sandestin stands out from other golf resorts for several reasons.

Beautiful white-sugar sand and emerald-green waters invite families for a day at the beach

“A couple of things set Sandestin apart ... everything is within the gates of the resort, you're never more than two minutes away from a golf course. The variety of the courses offers a different style and texture at each course,” said Falanga.

He added that the acclaimed architectural style of Robert Trent Jones Jr., who designed the Raven, home of the 2006 PGA Championship at Sandestin, makes it one of the best courses that Florida has to offer.

Rees Jones designed Burnt Pine, boasted to be unrivaled in Florida's northwest coast.

Renowned architect Tom Jackson designed the Links, which meanders before the Baytowne Marina and the Choctawhatchee Bay. It is considered a “shotmaker's course” and offers the golfer a different experience from day to day, depending upon the direction of the wind.

Baytowne Golf Club recently underwent extensive renovations under the guidance of Jackson and is described as “as forgiving from the forward tees as it is challenging from the championship ones.”

It is a certified U.S. Kids Golf Family Course and is the perfect place to introduce the game of golf to future golf enthusiasts.

Golfers also have the convenience of being able to go for dinner or drinks after the game without having to drive, they can walk or take the shuttle.

In addition to the bicycles and free tram service, the resort offers one-hour of canoe, kayak and tennis court use each day. And, of course, beach and pool access is free.

If shopping is a passion, Sandestin can satiate even the most aggressive shopper's appetite.

The Village of Baytowne Wharf is a pedestrian-friendly array of specialty shops and restaurants, while the Market Shops at Sandestin offer an assortment of conveniences and unique shops, as well as some great restaurants. There are also two golf shops, two gift shops and a tennis shop within the resort. Just a few minutes down the road (outside the resort) are the Silver Sands Factory Stores, the largest (trust me, they're big) designer outlet center in the country, visit for information on promotions and savings.

Scenic 30-A, a county road, is just minutes from Sandestin, still in Walton County, and is home to 14 master-planned, charming and enticing beach communities. Just off the beaten path, the area offers homes for rent from small, quaint carriage houses to expansive and luxurious beach homes.

Each community has its own shops and restaurants and all are pedestrian friendly. Topsail Hill Preserve State Park is also located off Scenic 30-A and offers hiking, biking, RV camping, fishing, swimming and picnicking. Regular nature hikes and educational programs are scheduled. Tram service is provided within the park and very reasonable weekly rates on cabins also make it a great find for families on a budget.

For park information, call 800-326-3521.

Getting to Sandestin will take about nine hours from the Humble/Kingwood area. Travelers can fly out of Bush Intercontinental Airport and arrive at the Okaloosa Regional Airport in Valparaiso in less than two hours (from about an hour and 15 minutes to an hour and 50 minutes). From the airport, it's about 40 to 45 minutes to the resort by rental car, cab or shuttle. Renting a car is not necessary to enjoy the resort.

Good to know
* Sandestin has 15 tennis courts, including hydrogrid clay (10), natural grass (2) and hard surface courts (3). * More than 200 miles of hike and bike trails are available in Walton County. * More than 40 percent of Walton County's acreage is dedicated to preservation. * Sandestin offers fabulous salon and spa services. * The Beaches of South Walton hold the largest concentration of coastal dune lakes in the world. * Beaches are meticulously maintained and “nourished” to keep them environmentally sound. * The area offers six unique bed and breakfasts. * The area has a rich artistic community. * Special group and family packages are offered in Sandestin. * October is one of the best months to enjoy Sandestin, with off-peak rates, warm temperatures and easy access to shops and restaurants. * Accommodation rates range from $99 (off-peak room) to $1,140 (4-bedroom penthouse) daily and around $700 to $8,000 weekly, depending on location and season.

For reservations and more information about Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort, call 800-470-7389 or visit .