The South’s coolest new hotels
From $299 | 311 miles from Atlanta
Directory: Family-friendly, fitness center, outdoor activities, restaurant, spa
The confectioner’s sugar–like sand of Destin has drawn visitors to the Panhandle since the 1800s. Now they can kick back at the peaceful Henderson, the latest luxury hotel on the Gulf Coast between New Orleans and Jacksonville. Recognize the Henderson name? The owners, the Memphis-based Dunavant family, purchased the quaint Henderson Park Inn in 2005 and opened this nearby plush 120-room property in November. Run by the Salamander Hotels & Resorts group, headed by BET founding partner Sheila C. Johnson, it features a spa, fine dining, and access to a neighboring 200-acre nature preserve.
Art and architecture
Named after a 19th-century Connecticut fishing captain, Destin is known for gray-shingled Cape Cod design, which the Henderson beautifully exemplifies. (Two Atlanta-based firms—Cooper Carry architects and Kent Interior Design—crafted the hotel’s look.) Guest rooms feature balconies or terraces, and turquoise and sand hues bring the outside in—as if the sweeping wall of windows and rustic reclaimed beams and trusses in the lobby weren’t enough. Dozens of works by local artists complement the coastal decor.
Drinks and dining
The Henderson’s restaurants take advantage of its proximity to the Gulf. Watch the sunset from the bar, Horizons, while you sip a jalapeño-tinged spicy mule and nibble on baked oysters packed with andouille, spinach, and Gruyère. For dinner, book a reservation at the Primrose, where the best seat is at the sushi bar watching 20-year veteran sushi chef Heiu Nguyen wrap fresh Florida rolls stuffed with eel and avocado.
The hotel overlooks 200 acres of Henderson Beach State Park and nearly two miles of pristine beach, making it easy to forget you’re right off Highway 98. And you may never have to leave, with amenities ranging from kayaks and paddle boards ($25/hour) to massages in the stone-accented 10,000-square-foot spa (from $140, with a full range of services). Ring for a cocktail from your cushy lounge chair by the pool. Kids can hit up a lazy river and splashpad and grab a treat afterward at the ice cream parlor, Sprinkles. —Tess Malone
This article originally appeared in our May 2017 issue.