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Southern Hospitality at the Beach

The Henderson

They had me at “experiential shower.”

The warm staff at The Henderson Beach Resort in Destin welcomed us with a handshake and a suggested itinerary for our 30th wedding anniversary weekend that included a couple’s massage in a suite at their 10,000 square foot Salamander Spa.  “Be sure to stick around after your massage and enjoy Himalayan sea salt room, steam room, whirlpool, sun-lit relaxation lounge and experiential shower,” said our cheery concierge. More on that later. 

After our easy five hour drive from Atlanta listening to podcasts (“Heavyweight” from Gimlet Media), we checked into our room and threw open the drapes to reveal a balcony overlooking the lush 200- acre Henderson State Park next door and the emerald green of the gulf, just a stone’s throw away. The spacious room and mountain-high pile of pillows made my husband smile. The bright bathroom with separate loo (more smiles) had a soaking tub and glass-enclosed shower both decked out with huge soft towels and bath products.

We stopped in for a light lunch at Horizons, the resort’s octagon-shaped bar offered a panorama of the Gulf Coast and beyond and we fell in love with the crispy sesame cauliflower, a delicate tempura with a sesame orange glaze and sticky rice.  My cobb salad topped with fresh caught gulf shrimp and his smoked turkey and fig jam sandwich set us up nicely for an afternoon of doing…nothing.

The Henderson is a stunning 170-room beach resort that offers up southern hospitality in a bright, traditional and elegant setting. The property captures the romance of traditional coastal architecture with striking shingles and steep gable rooflines that give reverence to Florida’s deep nautical history with guest rooms and suites, as well as luxurious villa-style accommodations called The Lofts which opened earlier this year.

A large quiet pool (perfect for naps and frozen drinks) is on its own terrace, with a more rollicking family area boasting a  zero-entry pool and lazy river for endless loops sits down a few steps with a broad green for yard games and the Sea Level Poolside Bar & Grill adjoining. There’s even an old-timey ice cream parlor, Sprinkles, which opens its doors on the weekends.

Down at the private access beach, find waitress service, reserved chairs and umbrellas and two smiling attendants to help with stand-up paddle boards (my favorite), kayaks, masks and snorkels and fluffy towels. Stay active or not, with the blindingly beautiful crystal clear waters of the gulf to stare at for hours. 

Dinner at the hotel’s premiere dining room, Primrose was memorable, with a Florida gulf shrimp cocktail, an 18 oz boneless rib eye served with caramelized onion, asparagus, truffle potato puree for him and  Blackened snapper with corn puree, field pea succotash and gnocchi for the bride. The service was big-city slick with down south warmth.

We asked Executive Chef Gary Palm what he is looking forward to cooking this month, for his autumn menu. “I’ll use seasonal ingredients like sweet potatoes, root vegetables, scallops, sea urchin and make duck confit flat bread  and seafood stew with opal basil pesto. We believe in great quality products at their seasonal peak, prepared with global culinary influence that will surprise intrigue and delight our guests.” 

We have no doubt he will succeed.

The Henderson


200 Henderson Resort Way, Destin, FL 32541