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Alys Beach, Florida: A Travel Feast for The Eyes

Alys Beach, Florida is tucked along hip Highway 30A, nestled in Florida’s northwestern Panhandle. Visitors will instantly realize they are being transported from one town to another as two imposing, bleached-white butteries (used to store perishable dairy products), stand proud and tall WELCOMING guests.

alt="Alys Beach Florida welcomes guests with their iconic butteries."
Alys Beach: Welcomes Guests with their iconic “butteries”: Photo Zapala

The iconic butteries and skyscraping palm-lined streets introduce travelers to a resort town like no other. Zen-like luxury is inspired by Bermudian architecture, with a nod to Moorish and Moroccan details, while courtyards and lush green spaces transport resort guests to Antigua Guatemalan. It’s no wonder that Alys Beach won the number three spot on Architectural Digest’s list of top small towns in the United States.

The Ombre Waters of the Emerald Coast 

alt="The beach at Alys Beach, Florida a view from the deck."
Alys Beach, Florida a view from the deck. Photo Courtesy of Alys Beach.

The joie de vivre of Alys Beach is the sublime coastal waters of the Panhandle, which sparked a fashion trend. Deep emerald greens blend seamlessly with vivid turquoise greens and deep blues to give the water a trend-on Ombre effect, which nestles up to white sandy beaches. Guest of Alys Beach will relish a 1,500-foot stretch of beachfront with a rare 30-foot bluff allowing expansive views of the Gulf. Beach-goers can spend hours kayaking and paddleboarding, frolicking with the family or floating the day away on these calm waters.

Getting hungry? No worries, pop on over to Piper’s Kitchen, located beachside next door to The Bike Shop. Guests can grab a quick bite, order a beverage of choice and choose to lunch family style at the outdoor picnic area. If you need to rent boards, kayaks or bicycles, The Bike Shop is the place as it’s the recreational and rental hub of the resort. It’s also a great place to pick up a few sundry items. Families looking for additional activities can participate in tennis classes, summer camps, and nature tours or take pleasure in the simplicity of beach life by building sandcastles. Families with budding architects can try and recreate the welcoming butteries, or one of the properties notable sculptures.

Architecturally Speaking

alt="Alys Beach Florida at the Intersection of Mark Twain Lane and None Such Way."
“Alys Beach Florida at the Intersection of Mark Twain Lane and None Such Way.”

Speaking of architects, Marieanne Khoury-Vogt, of Khoury Vogt Architects, the lead architect group at Alys Beach, shared that it took a village; including the town planners Duany Plater-Zybert & Company, to create this luxurious place. Creativity oozes from every corner of this 100 percent sustainable, Florida certified green, awarded place. The attention to detail is mind-blowing — from the pink shells embedded in the sidewalks to the edible landscapes that define areas such as Mojito Lane, where mint and Myers lemon trees grow freely, or Daiquiri Lane, where banana trees and strawberries coalesce, to plentiful blueberry bushes lining the lakes. It’s fun to watch as children pick these delicious organic fruit treats fresh off the plant. Oh, did I forget to mention that the landscape architect doesn’t believe in pesticides, making the town’s edible landscaping, oh-so-snackable.

alt= "Alys Beach, Florida, at sunset when the glow of the day is reflected on the buildings."
Alys Beach, Florida, at sunset when the glow of the day is reflected on the buildings. Photo Zapala

The architecture is, in itself, progressive art. This would appear to be an overwhelming proposition, but as you get into the groove of Alys Beach, it seems innate. The community caters to the moderate Gulf Coast temperatures and is designed with the idea of an east-to-west configuration allowing breezes to flow. Purposefully imagined, walkable sight corridors lead guests to the shore, while, the sun also plays a part. You’ll see the east-to-west idea in play as the white stucco walls turn pastel pink at sunrise and then take on pastel orange hues in the late afternoon, a precious gift from the setting sun. As you wander through the community, you’ll notice stars are prevalent. The most remarkable star is a handmade wooden door, that when closed forms an impressive entrance. This is just one of many inspiring entries. Artistic entryways are everywhere, delighting guests with hidden surprises; indoor-outdoor peaceful courtyards, that welcome the day or a romantic evening.

Beyond the Beach: Green Spaces

alt= "Alys Beach, Florida, a place that embraces green spaces; pictured is the kids playground."
Alys Beach, Florida, a place that embraces green spaces; pictured is the kids playground. Photo: Zapala

The architecture gets cozy with a variety of designated green spaces, water features, and walking paths, which again align east-to-west mapping out the perfect route to the beach, the fitness center, the clay tennis courts, and sitting areas; or Alys Beach’s take on New York City’s Central Park. The resort’s Central Park opens up to a 20-acre nature preserve and a nature trail. The nature trail is forested with slash pine and cypress trees, scrub and palmetto palms amongst other natural flora and fauna while flowing marsh waters support native herbs and plants. The trail offers guests a finished deck-styled pathway which makes it the perfect place to ride a bike or take a leisurely walk. It’s also the ideal place to escape the summer heat like a blanket of canopy slash pine acts as a natural sunbrella. Also, if you’re wondering why one of the lakes is named Marilyn, it’s because the celebrated-star Marilyn Monroe plays a role. It’s said that an aerial view of Lake Marilyn takes on the star’s curvaceous lines, hence the namesake.

The planners couldn’t help themselves and just had to add another layer of art for guests to ooh and ahh. As you wander the grounds, you’ll see magnificent works of art acting as sophisticated signposts. One of the most Instagramable of them all is, Tanzërin, birthed in Germany and created by Christian Peschke a German sculpture.  Tanzërin is a Rubenesque-women who appears to be in the midst of a joyful dance.  John Aspley, CEO of Antiquities and Interiors, a showroom in Highpoint, North Carolina worked with an artisan in Indonesia to craft these gorgeous teak horse sculptures which signal the starting point for the nature path. As you progress on your nature walk or bike ride, you’ll be greeted by an imposing metal dragon, sculpted by a local artist and metal fabricator Charles Lawson. Another resort sculpture not to miss is Leda; a graceful Buddha-inspired head, sculpted by local artist Steve Wagner. This unassuming statue is placed along one of the walking corridors and is a beautiful place to relax.

The Pools

For those seeking a pool experience, Caliza Pool area is stunning offering guests a 100-foot infinity-edge saltwater pool, a family pool area with dancing water spouts, a 75- foot lap pool and an intimate spa and whirlpool. The perimeter of the pool boasts charming cabanas which overlook the nature preserve, and in signature Alys Beach style; the entrance to Caliza Pool area will stop you in your tracks. Note; a new indoor/outdoor pool was under construction during my visit.

alt="Caliza Pool, Alys Beach, Florida"
Caliza Pool, Alys Beach, Florida (photo credit Nina Zapala)

Wine & Dine

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner is typically a short walk from your vacation rental. Donut lovers will want to head on over to Charlie’s Donuts located across the way from the fountain-feed amphitheater. Get their early as these homemade treats sell out quickly. Fonville Press, the resort’s lunch and breakfast restaurant is the perfect way to start the morning. Enjoy freshly brewed coffee, fruit or a pastry and head on out to the outdoor patio and let the kids run, jump and play at Fonville Park.

Georges’ Restaurant, a recycled coastal cottage which was known by many as Sandor’s Restaurant, a popular hangout in Seagrove Beach, Florida, is the new hotspot on 30A.  The cottage remains intact with a few updates; including a screened patio and deck area. Today this quaint abode still delights as guests dine on fresh-caught, coastal cuisine in a casual environment.

The resorts al fresco restaurant, Caliza’s is open for lunch and dinner and offers a buzzy happy hour overlooking a tranquil pool scene. The menu is a blend of contemporary American and coastal, sustainable cuisine, offering healthy, and indulgent shareable plates. The selection of curated wines will please the most discretionary wine aficionados, while artisan cocktails and craft brews are also a good choice.

alt= "Alys Beach, Florida pictured Neat, the resort's wine store."
Alys Beach, Florida pictured Neat, the resort’s wine store. Photo Zapala

NEAT is an intimate and tasting room and tapas stop.  While in town, I had the pleasure of listening to Chris Alvarado, a local singer/songwriter who blends original songs with soothing melodies.  I learned Alvarado, crafts one-of-a-kind, handmade guitars with hand-tooled inlays that capture the likes of; Johnny Cash, the Fleetwood Mac Band, the Nashville Skyline, and more. It takes Alvarado six months to create one of these beauties. If you’re interested, the wait list for these beauties is a year.

If you feel the need to venture off property, there are dozens of places to choose from along 30A. Some of the more notable are: Great Southern Café, The Red Bar, Bud & Alleys and the Cow Girl Kitchen to name a few.

Staying at Alys Beach

My guess is those who want to call Alys Beach home during the spring, summer and fall months will want to book early because the resort only offers 25 rentals. Condos and residences sleep anywhere from two to 12 guests, each is individually appointed, in a quiet style that exudes luxury.

alt="The Lucian rental, Alys Beach, Florida"
The Lucian, Alys Beach, Florida photo Zapala

What’s Your Travel Personality rating. Alys Beach is ideal for introverts in the late fall and into the Spring. Plenty of places to explore Mother Nature, read a good book or visit the area’s fantastic local art scene. Come summer this place is hopping, and best suited for Extroverts who will want to mingle with travelers from Nashville, Atlanta, Chicago, and all part of Forida. Oh yeah, the music scene is in full throttle with plenty of events and local festivals.

This article first appeared in the Naples Daily News





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