Norm Lane/Alamy Stock Photo

Miramar Beach

The Florida Panhandle​

The Gulf Coast communities of Miramar Beach and Rosemary Beach, both currently trending high on VRBO, also have short-term rentals aplenty, plus white-sand beaches made of pure quartz crystals. But Jamie Jackson, a travel adviser with Charleston-based Wanderlust Travel Boutique, is seeing an increased interest in these communities for yet another reason: “Everybody who wanted to go to the Caribbean and didn’t want to take a COVID-19 test now wants to go to Florida.”

Indeed, COVID concerns prompted Prya Vin, 50, to visit Rosemary Beach for the first time in spring 2020, along with her husband and their two children, then 17 and 19. The family typically travels internationally, but the pandemic prompted them to instead vacation in a destination drivable from their Plano, Texas, home. The Florida Panhandle community so charmed them that they have already returned twice, and Vin now dreams of owning a home there someday. “You feel like you’re in another world, like you’re in the Caribbean, with the style of houses. Everything just feels homey and safe,” she says.

Pedestrian-friendly Rosemary Beach feels so homey because it’s a New Urbanist planned community with cobblestone streets, upscale homes and cozy cottages just a short stroll from a private beach open only to homeowners and guests. Buildings are no more than 50 feet tall, and it offers many green spaces for community gatherings, as well as restaurants and small boutiques you can walk or bike to. The bucolic setting attracts affluent travelers looking for a laid-back beach getaway.

“It’s retro in a way, but with modern-day amenities,” says Lou Flowers, 60, a Memphis resident who has been making regular visits with family and friends since 1997. “People ride bikes, walk their dogs and walk to restaurants, the beach, to church. We park our car when we get there and never get back in it.”

Just 24 miles west, Miramar Beach, which is larger and more spread out (and therefore not as walkable), appeals to a different market: travelers wanting to kick back on the beach but also be active some of the time. It delivers on the latter with a bevy of water adventures not available in Rosemary Beach — Jet Skiing, paragliding, water-skiing and more — and two large shopping centers, one an outlet mall with more than 100 stores.

Another difference: Because Miramar Beach is not a planned community, and thus not as upscale as Rosemary Beach, its short-term vacation rentals (including some high-rises) and chain hotels have typically come with lower price points. But rates are rising. “In 2019, three-bedroom weekly rentals in Miramar Beach were available from $1,800,” Greene says. “Today prices start around $3,300 and are expected to continue to increase in the lead up to the summer months.”


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