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A Golfer’s Paradise: Vacationing on Amelia Island

Written on June 3, 2014 at 11:24 am , by

Written by Nichole D’Auria, art director

Nothing gives me greater hope than stepping onto a golf course and driving a ball 200 yards off the tee. Could this be the year I actually break 100? After suffering through what seemed to be the coldest winter on record, I was beginning to think I would never have the opportunity. Then, as luck would have it, the universe intervened and I was invited to spend three magnificent, sun-filled days at the Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort on the north coast of Florida.

From the moment I walked through the expansive lobby doors and past the two infinity pools, my eyes were set on the sand…the sand trap, that is. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. A golf course on the beach? Was this heaven? After I made my way to my oceanfront room (all accommodations provide a view of the Atlantic), I knew I was in for a treat.

If you like adventure like I do, the Omni has a number of excellent options. With more than 1,350 acres, three world-class championship golf courses (which are so good that the Golf Channel’s popular Big Break reality TV series is filmed there), and an impressive tennis facility, guests can enjoy a wide variety of leisure activities, including kayaking, paddle boarding, horseback riding, sailing and swimming. I should know—I tried almost all of them. The resort also offers seven miles of oak-lined canopy trails to tempt joggers, hikers and cyclists alike. I tackled the trails on a Segway, which was both fun and hilarious.

I left Amelia Island happy, relaxed and reenergized, but wishing I could stay longer. There was still another golf game to play, a kayak to paddle, a restaurant to sample. I vowed to go back. Honestly, how many vacation spots can motivate and inspire you to look better, feel better and be better, all while enveloping you in a spa-like atmosphere? And hey, I still need another day—or three or four—on the golf course to finally break 100!

More from FITNESS: 

 Florida’s Best Kept Secret: Port Saint Joe

Panama: Where You Can Play Hard, Day and Night

The Fit Girl’s Guide to Exploring Aruba

Florida’s Best Kept Secret: Port Saint Joe

Written on May 30, 2014 at 3:23 pm , by

Written by Karina Dearwood, associate photo editor 

Out on the Florida Panhandle, about an hour east of Panama City, lies Port Saint Joe. The quaint Gulf County beach town offers a boatload of fun all in one spot—perfect for a fit gal! Earlier this month, I was fortunate enough to visit the hidden gem for a few days and naturally fell in love with the laid-back vibe, active lifestyle and finger-licking good food. Here’s why you should add Port Saint Joe to your “To Travel” list:

To start, Gulf County has the charm and flair of the south—in the best possible way. The food is fantastic (po’ boys, hush puppies, sweet tea, the works!) and the people are beyond friendly (Now I forget this, being a New Yorker and all, but people outside of the concrete jungle actually wave and say hello to strangers). The fact that residents are also deeply rooted to the area, whether they are recent transplants or have been fishing there for generations, makes you feel all the more welcome.

To kick off my trip, I headed out on a pontoon boat through Saint Joseph’s Bay, up to the Intercoastal, where my fellow travelers and I learned about how the area is the world’s foremost supplier of Tupelo honey. We got a tour of a Donnie’s Bees, a small honey producing facility—did you know that even in this day and age, honey can only be cultivated by humans and not machines? Crazy! Donnie put us to work feeding the honeycomb through the machine, but we were rewarded with our own jar. I’ve been swirling mine into my tea ever since!

We then hopped back on our boat for an excursion through the Dead Lakes, which were formed years ago when sandbars blocked the Chipola River. A resulting flood killed thousands of trees, leaving eerie-looking stumps popping out across the lake. Add some fog to that scene because of some rainy weather? A perfect, tranquil spot. We had a fantastic guide, Matt Godwin from Off the Map Expeditions, who navigated the strangely beautiful maze with ease. 

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An Affordable, Accessible, and Awesome Getaway Destination

Written on December 22, 2011 at 8:30 am , by

My Christmas cards finally went out, complete with a list of 11 things I learned in 2011. Among the lessons? “Sometimes you have to peel shrimp before you eat them. —Dewey Destin’s, Emerald Coast, Florida”

(I also learned Yoloboarding in Florida, but I wanted to keep my destinations diversified!)

My point: As the year wraps up, we can’t help but think about the memories we made in the past twelve months and the trips we took. Our Fit Stop readers have heard about staff adventures like Karla’s in Colorado  and Marla’s in Mexico, and I’m going to throw another log on the inspiration fire: When you’re thinking about your affordable options in 2012 and looking to get a little sand in your soul and in between your toes, I’d head toward the “Emerald Coast” (Destin area) in Florida. Because I like lists, here’s why:

*The sand is like perfect, white flour and the water is a pretty, jewel-green. It doesn’t feel like other American beaches. My sun salutations were extra peaceful!
christie griffin warrior 1 sun salutation at inn at crystal beach on emerald coast in florida

*It’s where YOLO/paddle boarding really took off! You can rent a board for $20 from lifeguards and don’t need any special lessons. I scored mine right outside  the Inn at Crystal Beach, which is where I was lucky enough to stay.christie griffin paddleboarding on yolo board in destin, florida

*Locals call it the “World’s Luckiest Fishing Village.” I had absolutely no idea what I was doing and just look!christie griffin and red snapper catch deep sea fishing

*There are a lot of family-friendly things to do, like parasailing, jet-skiing, the “Gulfarium” (sooo fun!), dolphin watching, and more!
women interacting with dolphin at Gulfarium in Emerald Coast Florida

*There are grown-up things to do, too: golfing, wine and cheese cruises, and even the top level of AJ’s Seafood & Oyster Bar turns into quite the party later at night!AJs seafood and oyster bar

*Lastly, the people are so nice and you’re treated like a new friend, rather than a tourist…Which can be a huge sigh of relief when you have no idea how to eat their local cuisine.emerald coast florida zimmerman agency destin locals

For more on the Emerald Coast, visit emeraldcoastfl.com or check out this cool video.