It’s barely an exaggeration to say that Marlin Grill is a cornerstone of the Baytowne Wharf community—it occupies a grand, two-story corner space in the sprawling Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort, its curving façade giving out on a patio facing the Events Plaza. As might be expected of a resort restaurant, the menu is broad and accommodating—there’s even a children’s menu with fried lobster and crab cakes among the chicken fingers—but creative preparations add zip to the steakhouse template. Filet mignon (dry-aged certified Angus, like all Marlin’s beef) is wrapped in applewood-smoked bacon and itself grilled over hickory just to show trees who’s boss, and a pair of cold-water lobster tails splash into kiwi-honey mustard sauce and mango chutney. Sides tend toward the impossibly rich, the mashed potatoes mixed with ricotta and the macaroni 'n' cheese studded with Tasso ham.
The drinks program is appropriately ambitious, covering more than 600 wines, a deep list of scotches and their allies, and fruity martinis, including a $10,000 version complete with one-carat diamond. The beer selection is a little more down to earth, centering on regional brews such as Georgia’s Sweet Water 420 Pale Ale and Florida’s Grayton Pale Ale.
Waves crash on the shore. The sun slides lazily toward the world's edge, slowly igniting the sky into a fiery portrait of rouged clouds and canary-yellow streaks that darkens to purple along the horizon. A glass of white wine on the table turns amber in the light, and, across the table, a love interest seems to glow. Such a scene happens nightly at Beach Walk Cafe at Henderson Park Inn, thanks to it being perched directly on the white sand beaches of Destin and, just beyond it, the glittering waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
Rated in the top 100 Most Romantic Hotels in America and a recipient of a Florida Trend Golden Spoon Award, Beach Walk?s menu adds to the upscale ambiance with New Zealand venison and pepper-crusted Yellowfin tuna, plus a wine list that complements any dish. The inimitable atmosphere has helped the hotel earn heaps of praise from the hospitality industry, including inclusion in Southern Living's prestigious Hotel Collection.
Though the sun has set over the tranquil waters of Horseshoe Bayou, guests continue to pour into Hammerhead?s Bar & Grille, their flip-flops clomping against the rustic wooden dock as they make their way to their tables. A musician grabs ahold of his guitar, calling for his bandmates to do the same. Soon the air is filled with lively music and the animated chatter of friends. Strings of Christmas lights cast a colorful glow on the faces of servers, who carry buckets of spicy boiled lobster, platters of crispy fish, and baskets of oyster po-boys out from the kitchen. Bartenders, meanwhile, uncap bottles of rum as orders begin to flow into the bar, nimbly mixing up potent hurricane cocktails with pineapple and lime. Customers recline on their patio chairs and enjoy the restaurant?s bayside setting, which affords them scenic views of boats, seabirds, and rubber duckies fleeing tyrannous toddlers.
Only a thin strip of beach and windswept landscaping stand between the glassy waters of the Gulf and Rick’s Crab Trap, where a trio of chefs steams, grills, and fries freshly harvested fruits of the sea. The culinary team handcrafts crab cakes daily and cooks whatever catch fishermen bring in, whether it’s yellowfin tuna or a net full of flounder. They also take creative liberty with their tropical mixed drinks, which carry such ocean-themed titles as the Crab Apple cocktail and the Pink Docksider––a lemonade named after boats that get sunburned after being moored in one place for too long.
Collaged nautical paraphernalia hangs from the eatery's white walls, and fishing nets tangled with colorful, fake lobsters drape over its windows. Al fresco diners taste the sea air while gazing at clownfish playing hooky from school across the gently undulating horizon.
Chef Quinlan draws upon his inspiration from coastal, Cajun, and Caribbean cuisines as he cooks at Poppy's Seafood Factory. His menu showcases entrees pulled from the Gulf Coast, such as lobster thermidor and fried shrimp, as well as boiled seafood feasts available by the pound?like British money or an absurd amount of American money. There are also plenty of steak and pasta dishes to go around, as well as an ample wine list.
Poppy, the owner, hails from New Orleans?a city known for both its good times and exquisite cooking. He came out of retirement to keep the good times rolling within the laidback, casual fine dining environment of his restaurant.
Captain Larry maneuvers the Sea Blaster??a 73-foot speedboat??on four different cruises in the Gulf, departing from the HarborWalk Village. Dolphin cruises speed through the water during the day, coming up close to dolphins as they leap out of the sea in an effort to distract humans while they steal their sunglasses. With the addition of snorkeling, passengers strap on a simple breathing apparatus and paddle through the crystalline waters. Others spy dolphins during the sunset cruise, as the horizon burns pink and orange, or watch fireworks burst over the water from the Sea Blaster?s deck every Thursday evening.