Home Destinations Our easiest, most luxurious beach vacation was at this Florida resort

Our easiest, most luxurious beach vacation was at this Florida resort

by Jan Schroder
exterior of Camp Creek Inn

It was the easiest and most luxurious beach vacation my husband and I ever had. All we needed to pack were our clothes and we never had to leave the Camp Creek Inn property during our four-night stay.

We ate every meal at the resort and enjoyed relaxing at the beach, golf, exercise classes, bike riding and lounging at four different pools.

aerial view of Camp Creek Inn in Florida
An aerial view of the property shows how large the pool and Wellness Center are. You’ll never have a problem finding a chair. (Photo by Kurt Lischka)

Camp Creek Inn is near the 20+-mile stretch of the Florida Panhandle referred to as 30A. While it’s not on the beach, guests have access to all amenities of The Watersound Beach Club on the Gulf of Mexico.

Here are 5 reasons we loved our four-night stay at Camp Creek Inn.

We loved our spacious, luxurious room

room at Camp Creek Inn
I loved the decor of our room, especially the color palette.

The 75-room hotel doesn’t have beach views, but you can opt for golf views. Our king room had a large balcony with two chairs overlooking  Central Park, the large grassy area where a row of newly planted trees will one day provide an even prettier view.

I loved the décor of our room, with hardwood floors and soft shades of blue, grey and green. The large bathroom was equally gorgeous, with gray and white subway tile and L’Occitane toiletries.

The hallways are wide and filled with light. In our ongoing quest to try to stay fit, we usually take the stairs in a hotel, but that often involves dark, scary stairways where you’re never quite sure you’ll be able to exit at the bottom. We were on the third floor at Camp Creek Inn and appreciated the open light-filled staircase.

The bathrooms feature subway tile in the oversized showers. (Photo by Kurt Lischka)

The staff is friendly, always opening the entrance doors for you and greeting you as you come and go. We were welcomed at check in with a glass of prosecco, a greeting that always warms my heart.

We became members of The Watersound Club

The Watersound Club
The Watersound Beach Club. Guests at Camp Creek Inn have access to its amenities.

I remember traveling when my kids were little and realizing that I wasn’t really on a vacation. I was still doing just about all the work I did at home, just in a different location with more child hazards, fewer playmates to distract my kids and cooking every meal.

While I loved our chaotic, boisterous family beach vacations, there were a few not-so-great moments. Once we were packing to leave and my 9-year-old son said, “Who has the pink toothbrush?”

“That’s mine,” I said.

“Oh. I used it to squash a bug a few days ago.”

Since that, I count leaving a vacation with an unsullied toothbrush as a win. But I’ve grown to want more than that. I want to be waited on and enjoy luxuries, big and small, that I don’t get at home.

beach chairs at The Watersound club
Our view at the beach. I think the beaches on the Florida Panhandle are some of the most gorgeous in the world.

We found plenty of luxuries at Camp Creek Inn.  During our stay we enjoyed membership in The Watersound Club, an exclusive club that includes two pools, two dining venues and complimentary chairs and umbrellas on a pristine white-sand beach.

The club is gorgeous, but one thing that really elevated the experience for me was the service, especially the ease of enjoying a day at the beach.

After a 10-minute drive to The Watersound Club, we grabbed our towels and walked down the long boardwalk that took us over the dunes to the beach where a helpful staff member took us to some available chairs. At times there was even a golf cart at the top of the boardwalk that would have taken us all the way to the sand if we were feeling particularly lazy.

signs at The Watersound Club
Signs at The Watersound Club point out the property’s amenities.

No dragging beach chairs and unwieldy umbrellas and coolers, followed by the arduous process of trying to get the umbrella to stand up straight in the sand with the added stress that it may blow away and impale an innocent bystander. And if we were feeling thirsty, there was a bar right on the boardwalk. Don’t you just love easy access to a strawberry daiquiri?

Camp Creek Inn also has a teen lounge and two pools – an adults-only pool in addition to a resort-style pool with a lazy river and tons of beach chairs.  We could also enjoy drink and food service while sitting by the pool. On the afternoon Chris was playing golf, I lounged by the pool, cool glass of rosé in hand. Blissful.

jan schroder at Camp Creek Inn with glass of rose
I know people love playing golf, but me? Give me a glass of rose, a comfortable lounge chair and a water view.

Our only disappointment was that the lazy river wasn’t working temporarily. Oh, how I love a good lazy river, combining two of my favorite things – water and sloth. But the pool got struck by lightning and the part that makes the lazy river go had to be replaced. I consoled myself with floating on my own in one of the large pink inner tubes.

We enjoyed fantastic food at several restaurants

ahi tuna bowl at Bark n Brine
It may be a bit wacky to order the poke bowl at a place that specializes in smoked meats, but we’d had a lot of barbecue before our stay. I’m so glad we ordered this fantastic ahi tuna bowl – delicious.

After arriving early on the first day, we had lunch by the pool at Bark ‘n Brine, opting for a table outside. We enjoyed the house salad and a tuna poke bowl that may be the best I’ve ever had. It was so delicious we ordered it again another time. Bark ‘n Brine is open until 8:00 so is a good dinner option as well.

Another day we enjoyed a wonderful lunch at 30°86° on the upper level of The Watersound Club where Chris got to indulge in one of his favorites, fresh oysters. “They even brought the horseradish, just the way I like it,” he said with a huge smile on his face. I had a fabulous shrimp salad with loads of walnuts and strawberries.

Chris Schroder eating oysters at The Watersound Club
Photo #1087 of Chris Schroder eating oysters. He can devour a dozen in about 60 seconds. It’s possible one of the reasons he loves them so much is he never has to share them with me.

On Monday night we ate at the restaurant in the bar/lobby area at Camp Creek Inn, 1936, named after the year the St. Joe Company was founded. (If you aren’t familiar with the St. Joe Company, it’s a real estate development company based in Panama City that owns Camp Creek Inn and The Watersound Club in addition to many other properties.)

The bar area was packed with dozens of club members and we later learned why – everything is half price on Monday nights. We grabbed a table with no problem. The servers were lovely during both our dinners here and we indulged in wonderful meals in the lively atmosphere. Dishes we enjoyed included fried green tomatoes, seafood gumbo, jambalaya pasta, steak frites, hamburger and panzanella salad.

The bar at Camp Creek Inn
The bar at Camp Creek Inn is also a hangout for members of The Watersound Club, so you never have to drink alone.

One night we headed to ANR for dinner, located just off 1936. The large area has full-length windows on two sides for golf course views and to let in the natural light. The restaurant is named for the Apalachicola Northern Railroad, which ran through this part of Florida from 1903 to 2002. The menu includes items like heirloom tomato and burrata salad, seared sea scallops, crab crusted red snapper and Berkshire pork chop.

Neither Chris or I can eat chocolate for dessert – the caffeine keeps us both awake – but if I could I would have devoured the pecan praline bowl. Vanilla ice cream is served with salted caramel, chocolate sauce and fresh berries.

We aren’t big breakfast eaters but on our last day we enjoyed breakfast at ANR before we hit the road for our 5.5- hour drive back home to Atlanta. The power breakfast came with sweet potatoes, asparagus, eggs and a yummy square biscuit.

We could burn off some calories at the recreational facilities

hole at Shark's Tooth Golf Course at Camp Creek Inn
One of the holes at Shark’s Tooth Golf Course. (Photo by Kurt Lischka)

Pack your racquet if you love tennis or pickleball. The sports complex has a basketball court, sports field, eight lighted clay tennis courts and eight lighted pickleball courts. Sign up for clinics and classes for children and adults with the pro staff.

Golf is big here and guests can play on two different courses. Camp Creek Golf Course is on the property  and Shark’s Tooth Golf Course is a short drive away. A third golf course, cleverly named The Third Golf Course, is opening soon.

I’m not a golfer, but Chris played one day. “The course was beautifully laid out with good pacing,” he said. “The grass looked great.”

Olga teaching Zumba at Camp Creek Inn
Our Aqua Zumba instructor, Olga, was full of energy and enthusiasm. (Photo by Chris Schroder)

While I didn’t hit the links, I made a few trips to the massive Wellness Center, where I could use the elliptical and treadmill machines that overlooked the pool. The locker rooms have steam rooms and saunas for a bit of extra pampering.

Guests can also pay a small fee to join one of the dozens of exercise classes each week. On my last morning, I took an Aqua Zumba class, a first for me.

Our exuberant instructor, Olga, led our small all-women group in jumping, twisting and running in the water to her lively play list. It was a blast and really did get my heart rate up.

Jan Schroder riding bike on 30A
Camp Creek Inn has complimentary bikes for guests. I suggest heading out on the bike trails on 30A. (Photo by Chris Schroder)

Complimentary bikes are available for exploring the area and the bike trails of 30A. We headed out one morning to 30A, first taking a left towards Rosemary Beach. That area has become so popular the paths were full of pedestrians, so we turned around to head west where it was a bit easier to ride, enjoying views of the creeks and marshes along the way.

We could indulge our sweet tooth in the Treat Suite

Treat Suite at Camp Creek Inn
It was a test of my willpower not to stop more often at the Treat Suite at Camp Creek Inn.

I’ve seen stations for coffee and sparkling water on hotel floors, and sometimes even a bowl of apples. But I’ve never experienced the sweet delight of the Treat Suite on our floor at the Camp Creek Inn. This small space is filled with fruit, soft drinks, nuts, granola, and a fancy coffee machine to make tea, coffee and hot chocolate.

But the best part was the ice cream treats in the small fridge where we discovered the best ice cream cone ever, putting the small Nutty Buddy cones of our childhood to shame. I limited myself to just two of these cones of delight during our stay but think of them often.

I had trouble remembering the brand, but lucky for me, during a recent grocery store run I spotted a familiar package and brought home some Blue Bunny ice cream treats, miniature cones of the same variety we had there.

Chris and I devoured a delicious cone, reminiscing about our wonderful stay at Camp Creek Inn.

Jan Schroder, Editor-in-chief

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