Tops’l Beach and Racquet Resort
Photography by MARIANNE TODD
Just east of Destin, Florida, hidden from overcrowded condos and public beach accesses, TOPS’L Beach and Racquet Resort encompasses an expansive 52 acres of Miramar Beach. Oaks and pines obscure views of the property from the highway, with Coffeen Nature Preserve and Topsail Hill Preserve State Park bordering the resort to the east. To the south is the Gulf of Mexico, and the Florida Panhandle’s famous emerald green water and sparkling white sand. The resort offers a tranquil and luxurious experience with equal opportunity for recreation and family entertainment.
TOPS’L is known for tennis, with rubico clay courts available to all guests along with access to tennis professionals. There are endless additional amenities, including a recently renovated fitness facility, massage therapy, racquetball, basketball, shuffleboard, putt putt golf, two on-site restaurants, and beachfront access. “Tennis fans come because of our ranking as a top 50 tennis destination,” says Tanya Rauch, northwest Florida marketing manager with ResortQuest. “Other guests enjoy nearby championship golf, luxurious spas, top notch shopping, and arts and entertainment. There’s something for everyone.”
TOPS’L’s construction began in the 1990s, next to the remainder of Four Mile Village, now largely prohibited from further development following land use restrictions, to conserve and protect the natural resources in the area. In addition to these restrictions additional acreage adjacent to Four Mile Village became Topsail Hill State Park, preserving hundreds of acres of wildlife near the resort. The dunes and trees within these acres comprise a significant part of TOPS’L’s views.
From the preserve, great blue herons, egrets, and pelicans fly along the coastline. Live oaks, myrtle oaks, and magnolias grow amidst gently rising and falling dunes while white-tailed deer, raccoon, fox, possum, bobcat, armadillos, alligator, and bear roam the preserve and the property surrounding it. Topsail State Park is also home to the endangered Choctawhatchee dune mouse and gopher tortoise.
“I come for the birds,” says birding enthusiast Martin Schamp, who visits TOPS’L yearly. “Anhingas, cormorants, and pelicans form nests along the shoreline, and you also see a lot of wetlands birds, some of the larger species include herons and egrets, as well as the white ibis.”
Coffeen preserve has a noteworthy history – the land once hosted missile tests during WWII. The military selected the area because of its proximity to Eglin Air Force base, and because the dunes were high. Today, ramps leading to areas where missiles were shot towards the Gulf deteriorate along with three bunkers used during the 1940s. A couple, Susan and Bruce Palidini, live on the property and offer educational tours, with reservations required in advance.
Nearby businesses also offer boat tours for birders as well as fishermen. (The area was originally settled because of the wealth of fish in nearby Destin Harbor). Other charter services offer sailing and snorkeling, as well as pontoon boats, jet skis, canoes, and kayaks available for rent.
The resort itself includes a variety of lodging options for guests and owners. TOPS’L Tides and Beach Manor offer two- and three-bedroom units with Gulf front and coastline views. There’s also The Summit, with two- and three-bedroom units overlooking Coffeen Nature Preserve. Additional properties within the resort include Sierra Dunes, Captiva, and Tennis Village, with two- and three-bedroom units.
“The variety of lodging options means that we have something for every budget,” Rauch says. “And there’s also a complimentary shuttle that runs the entirety of the resort, making it easy to navigate regardless of which property guests choose.”
Tennis courts and a 2,500 square-foot fitness area occupy the center of the resort. The gym is large, and floor-to-ceiling windows along the south-facing wall overlook rows of courts and greenery. For those not interested in personal training, group classes are available daily. The TOPS’L club is also home to the resort’s gift shop, as well as racquetball courts, and an indoor/outdoor pool. It extends from the inside of the building under a plastic flap into the open air outside, allowing unimpeded swimming between the two areas, a favorite activity for every kid in the pool.
Recent renovations to TOPS’L’s Club Fitness Floor include the Life Fitness Integrity PowerMill Climber, six Life Fitness Treadmills, four Cybex Arc Elliptical Trainers, two Integrity Upright Stationary Bicycles, and three Integrity Recumbent Stationary Bicycles. Every cardio machine is equipped with personal audio system and video.
“To us ‘TOPS’L Life’ means that our pristine beaches, pools, massage therapy, restaurants, and the newly renovated fitness facility and tennis courts are on par with amenities expected of a world-class resort,” says general manager Mike Speicher.
The resort also offers both casual and fine dining on site. Blue Dunes Grille sits conveniently beachside near The Tides, and highlights seafood on a casual menu with peel and eat shrimp, smoked snapper dip, and a market fish sandwich among other options. There are also plenty of traditional American entrees, like burgers and wings. West of the Clubhouse, Club Tiki also offers casual dining. Popular options include a pecan crusted chicken salad, Ahi tuna BLT, and a portobello mushroom wrap with fresh greens and a roasted garlic aioli. There is also an expansive cocktail menu featuring several varieties of mules as well as sangria and mojitos.
Near the entrance to the resort, The Ocean Club provides more upscale alternatives. The privately owned restaurant serves dinner nightly and features a new American menu with a focus on local ingredients. There’s also a pond out back with large turtles and fish that add to the ambiance. Young diners take table bread outside to feed the fish while adults can dine on red snapper, grouper, and other fresh catches from the nearby Gulf.
“The resort has so many amenities that are included in your membership or guest amenities package,” says Rauch. “It’s known as a family tennis destination, and with no tennis court fees, people play without worrying about expenses. We also have junior clinics and scheduled kids activities on the pool deck during the summer, so there’s so much to do.”
While guests and owners find plenty to occupy their time at TOPS’L, nearby outlet malls, boutique shopping, art galleries, and gastropubs offer endless additional opportunities for entertainment. The resort offers something for everyone, whether guests are looking for complete relaxation, intense tennis training, or something in between.
Want to go?
Rental inquiries can be made through www.wyndhamvacationrental.com For more information on buying a property in TOPS’L call ResortQuest Real Estate 1-800-837-5120 or visit resortquestRE.com/NWFL