Photographs by Marianne Todd
There are rock stars poolside at Fort Walton, Florida’s, Waterscape luxury resort. And no one seems to notice.
On a recent visit, Matt Patton, bassist of the Drive-By Truckers, brought his family and shared a three bedroom unit with Eve and Elliott McPherson (vocalist and guitarist of The Dexateens) for a weekend getaway. Both couples have children, and spent the majority of the time at Waterscape’s numerous pools when they weren’t on the beach. “We love it there and we can’t wait to go back,” says Megan Patton, Matt’s wife. “The pools were amazing, and there’s so much in walking distance. I don’t think we drove anywhere.”
Waterscape sits on ten spacious acres with 500 feet of pristine beach on Okaloosa Island. With a U-shaped design, its units are angled to maximize Gulf views, which range in size from 800-1500 square-feet. A multi-level, interior courtyard hosts three pools, a lazy river, a waterfall and a tiki bar serving drinks, snacks and beach fare. “Waterscape has a great location, varied amenities, a seasonal kids club and unique water features which combine to make it an unrivaled destination for family fun,” says Melissa Matern, ResortQuest marketing manager.
“When we were at Waterscape in July, my daughter Hazel Sue was eight months old,” says Patton. “The pool for babies and toddlers was perfect for her. My husband hates the beach, so he spent time with her at the pool, and then took her up to the room for naps. I would stay on the beach and drink, so that worked out well.”
The resort’s toddler pool features large, painted concrete animals rising from shallow water along with slides and a variety of climbing equipment. Children can wade next to a giant crab and frog, climb up ship wreckage, or stand underneath a mushroom cap that rains. A larger, zero entry pool occupies a lower level, along with a lazy river. The separation between these different areas keeps the resort from feeling crowded as do strategically placed decorative bushes and palm trees shading two large hot tubs.
Units are available with one, two, or three bedrooms and feature floor-to-ceiling glass doors and windows, creating an open atmosphere and allowing for breathtaking ocean views. “Our unit was so spacious; perfect to share with another family,” says Patton. “The décor was modern, a lot like the hotel’s overall design. There were so many restaurants nearby that we didn’t really cook, but the kitchen was great and we could have made anything. There are grills that everyone can use outside, too.”
“There’s so much to do nearby, in terms of shopping, dining, and recreation, but we also have so much on site,” says Keri Pici, manager of guest services. “We offer DVD rental and free beach service to ResortQuest guests, and there’s also our kids club. Activities include making snow cones and tie-dye t-shirts, a bear factory, poolside movie nights, scavenger hunts, water balloon battles and more.”
Other amenities include a fitness center, trellised outdoor tables, picnic tables, a game room and covered parking. There’s also Fud Tiki Bar and Grill, run by Fudpuckers Beachside Bar and Grill. Offerings include hamburgers, pork sliders, hot dogs, nachos and specialty and signature cocktails. Many guests enjoy frozen margaritas and daiquiris with whipped cream and a cherry on top as they lounge poolside.
“There were a lot of good restaurants within walking distance, too,” said Patton. “We always enjoy Old Bay Streamer and Helen Back Café.” Helen Back is known for beer, pizza, sandwiches and stromboli and has several locations in Northwest Florida. Old Bay Steamer specializes in fresh Gulf seafood including crabs, oysters, clams, mussels and shrimp. Like many quality seafood restaurants in the area, they offer Royal Red shrimp, a large, deep water shrimp known for its delicate and sweet flavor.
“The Crab Trap also offers fresh-from-the-Gulf coastal fare on the Boardwalk,” says Matern. “Okaloosa Island has authentic Mexican food and late night margaritas at Rockin’ Tacos (complete with a house DJ) as well as Wild Willy’s Adventure Zone, which is Northwest Florida’s largest outdoor family entertainment center. It’s a 17,000 square-foot air conditioned space, housing a state-of-the-art redemption arcade, a 4D movie theater, a laser maze, Salvati’s Pizza Factory and YogoMogo’s Creamy Cool Creations.”
Of course, for most people, Waterscape’s primary amenity is the beach. Okaloosa Island extends between Fort Walton Beach and Destin and is known for its white, pristine beaches surrounded by Choctawahatchee Bay, the Santa Rosa Sound and the Gulf of Mexico. Guests enjoy direct access to the area’s breathtaking blue-green, temperate water. Nearby businesses offer boat tours, as well as opportunities for fishing, sailing and snorkeling. Pontoon boats, jet skis, canoes and kayaks are also available for rent.
The opportunities for fun in Fort Walton coupled with the many perks available on-site make Waterscape a destination that guests return to year after year. “The resort has an ideal location in the heart of the Emerald Coast, surrounded by shopping, dining and entertainment,” Matern says. “There’s also the 490 feet of pristine beach. Waterscape has every amenity a guest could desire.”
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