INLET BEACH, FL. ON SCENIC HWY. 30A
Hello, this month we're visiting Inlet Beach on the far east end of 30a. Inlet Beach sure is growing. There's even talk of creating an underground pedestrian walkway across Hwy 98, which wouldn't be bad with all the casual bicyclists crossing the busy highway. Right now Inlet Beach still has that sleepy beach community feel, but I'm not sure that will last much longer. Let's check it out.
Inlet Beach has been inspiring artists for many years.
I'm going to reminisce for awhile...
When we first moved to Florida from New Orleans, we were introduced to a wonderful group of people known as The Inlet Beach Artists. This was a group of artists, musicians, writers and unique people who would gather to share ideas, compare notes, play music and enjoy the company of like minded people. If you've been around for awhile you may even remember the gallery on Highway 98. The outside of the gallery had sculptures by Michael Dreikosian filling the yard, paintings stacked around the house, and driftwood furniture dotting the sitting areas. Michael lived here and let artists use his space as a very unique gallery to show and sell their work. ( The home was actually a houseboat that was brought onto land and turned into his house, sadly torn down and replaced by The Crossings at Inlet Beach.)
Michael D, who is gone but never forgotten, created huge white sculptures of undulating forms that resembled water birds, or dolphin (see the amazing fireplace below), and some were nonrepresentational biomorphic shapes. He also used gigantic driftwood to make amazing furniture pieces. His dining room table was a huge tree trunk artfully manipulated for the base and covered with glass. You can see one of his sculptures on display at the NW Florida State College South Walton Center at 109 Greenway Trail in Santa Rosa Beach. It's just off of 331 near the 98 connection.
We always had lots of music when we would gather. Local musicians and dabblers got together in a large drum circle and just jammed.
Frank Faust and Butch Stucker were a couple of regulars. If you enjoy live music, I know you must have seen them both out and about on 30A. Frank plays and sings in Rosemary Beach at Wild Olives 30a and Butch is all over playing drums. Click on this link to see Frank's song Sunny Day Day filmed on Inlet Beach.
Jimmi WZ is a professional flutist. I have seen him around, channeling the Pied Piper with kids gathered around him. You may know him better for his gorgeous, handmade leather bags he sells out here on 30a. (Click his name and check
You may also recognize a few veteran artists of the group.
Emily Ellis is a local artist / photographer. You've probably seen her at the 30a Songwriters Festival, one of her favorite events, not only for the opportunity of photographing the musicians, but also the interesting people in the audiences.
There's much more to Emily's work, as she does amazing nature photography and very beautiful raw canvas works.
Shout out to Emily's husband, Chris Forman. Those two always brought tons of percussion for everyone to play.
Eric Marcus and Chandra Hartman found love in Inlet Beach. Chandra is a local architect who has designed homes throughout 30a, including in Seaside.
Eric is a local photographer, who does stunning close up work of flowers and the like, but you may know him better as a wonderful wedding and architectural photographer. I'm not exactly sure how these two met, but Chandra was a veteran of the Inlet Beach Artists and then she showed up with Eric, and they have been inseparable ever since.
Together they opened Wild Root Coffee and Apothecary, and now have 2 locations. Wild Root has some of The Best! coldbrew I have ever tasted. Chandra has become an extremely knowledgeable apothecary. They carry a large variety of herbs. Just let her know what ails you, and she'll whip up a remedy. I just saw that they have a new Butterfly Matcha that's blue and has all kinds of healing properties. I'm trying that next, for sure!
And, Mary Lou Springstead, the artist who introduced us to the group. She was a local artist, but alas love has taken her to Middlesbrough, England, where she now thrives and creates her own unique, symbolic art. She has a lot of really cool robots, too.
And, of course, you know me, Christine Ramey : Local artist and business owner of Art & Soul 30a.
And that only covers a few of the local artists to come out of the Inlet Beach scene. There are many other artists that you can mention Inlet Beach to, and bring back some great memories to reminisce on. I truly appreciate being a part of their group and am thankful to all of them for welcoming Frank and me with open arms.
So... Let's move on to Inlet Beach in the Present
CAMP HELEN STATE PARK
Inlet Beach is bordered on the east by Lake Powell, the largest coastal dune lake in Florida, so let's head that way. Just before you cross the bridge to Panama City Beach, is Camp Helen State Park. Camp Helen is a great park for an early morning jog or an afternoon picnic, and you can rent kayaks and paddle boards here too at very reasonable prices.
The land has been inhabited since 500 b.c. probably because both fresh and saltwater access was available, and the land is on a bluff for added protection.
In the 1920s there was a hotel here, but it burned down in 1931. In 1932 the Lodge was built that still stands today. In 1945 the land and buildings were purchased by Avondale Textile Mills, a company based in Alabama. The employees,from the top brass to the hourly workers, would come down and vacation together.
It's very peaceful under all the trees and Spanish moss, rocking your conversation away in one of the many chairs spread out on the big porch of the Lodge. It's a great location for a wedding if you're looking for a wedding venue.
We were there recently and were reminded that Camp Helen is part of the Florida Pine Forest, so there is a lot of wildlife here. The ranger mentioned that some joggers had seen a pygmy rattlesnake on the path north of the bridge, and there are markers reminding one to be aware of alligators and even bear. Just be aware, but don't let that stop you from enjoying the scenic beauty of the park, If you're lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of the Lake Powell Sea Monster or the ghost boy on the dock at night. More information on those in the welcome center.
I think the walk to the beach is about 3/4 of a mile round trip. That may not sound bad at all, but I wouldn't want to lug towels, coolers, toys and floats down there through all that soft sand. Save that for the other accesses in Inlet Beach.
PUBLIC BEACH ACCESS
There are two public beach accesses to the Gulf in Inlet Beach. Emerald Cove Lane, (take S. Walton Lakeshore off Hwy 98), has just a parking lot and is a good walk to the sand. S. Orange St. has restrooms (!) and a shower, and is a shorter walk. Both have very nice boardwalks and have great views of the natural dunes. South Walton has provided life guards all along their beaches, so it's very easy to find a safe place to swim.
Co-owner of Art & Soul and photographer, Sandy Gross,
takes much of her inspiration from these beaches. The sky, water and dunes come together to show the ethereal beauty of our Emerald coast. Sandy is also able to catch that perfect time right after sunset, when the water turns golden, or if we're lucky, to that gorgeous salmon color that no one believes is real. My personal favorites are her cloud photography. The cerulean blue reminds me of the perfect skies of Provence. Come by Art & Soul to see those.
If you're at the Orange St. lot please take an extra couple of minutes on your way out to drive down Pompano St. This is my FAVORITE street on all of 30a. It doesn't last long, but it is so cool to drive along and find yourself suddenly at a straight drop down to the beach, The guard rail is the only thing stopping you from Thelma & Louise-ing yourself off into the sky. I think it's so lovely because there is not another place like that around here, and it's just so surprising.
Okay, so you've spent your day getting a morning jog in at Camp Helen, then at the beach all day, and now is the time for some indulgences. Did you know that Charlie, famously of Charlie's Donuts, opened a coffee shop and deli in Inlet Beach? It's called Cafe Aroma and it's a great place for an afternoon coffee, or better yet, for lunch to take to the beach. And, of course, they have plenty of Charlie's Donuts.
BUT, I'm telling you, save your sweet tooth for a trip to The Donut Hole. Okay, so you know they have doughnuts and pies, but for some reason one night I ordered a piece of cake. It was late, I was with friends and as I watched the waitress cut the giant chocolatey goodness, I just started laughing. She brought over what appeared to be 1/4 of the entire cake! Well, it was probably only1/8, but it was still enough to feed 3-4 people. Needless to say, a lot came home with me, but it was soooo delicious, Their frosting has that cool gleam to it, but tastes like heaven. All of them are good, but I'm partial to the coconut. Take some friends over and share a slice.
Inlet Beach has some obvious places you won't want to miss like 30Avenue, Shades Restaurant, and the new hotel, The Pointe. I'll let you discover those on your own. There is a sort of hidden art gallery near Shades. I say "hidden" because it is inside Blue Title. It's called the East End Gallery owned by Lori Drew. They carry a good selection of local, modern art. And What's better than closing on your new beach house and picking up a few pieces of amazing local art to put in it.
Inlet Beach is small but growing. It's so close to Rosemary Beach, that you get all the benefits, but not the parking nightmare. If you are staying in Rosemary, don't forget to bicycle over and check out some of the new places.
Until next time, enjoy the #30aLifeStyle, Christine