Free amenities and break on rates at Sandestin this spring

The list just seems to go on and on – there is no shortage of activities and amenities waiting for you at Sandestin Golf & Beach Resort. If you’re into biking, kayaking, tennis or sweating it out in the fitness center, you’ll have plenty of choices available to you. And there’s even a Wednesday concert series. Simply put: you won’t get bored at this destination on Florida‘s northwest Gulf Coast. Fleeing cold weather? The seven miles of beaches are the cure or the cold that’s been hounding you for months. Well, if you book a three-night stay by May 26, 2010, you’ll get free access to Sandestin’s many amenities – which is reason enough to plan the trip you’ve been putting off.

The resort offers accommodations from studio condos to villas and cottages of up to five bedrooms. They come with fully equipped kitchens, whirlpool spa baths, laundry facilities and views of the beach, bay or golf course – with 1,500 units in all, spanning 30 neighborhoods.

Australia’s Wild West: Eco Beach

Back in August, Gadling’s Scott Carmichael wrote about various eco-friendly resorts in Australia. I have never enjoyed reading a Gadling post more, but that may be because I was reading it by the pool of one of the resorts that he profiled. As I enjoyed a beer at Eco Beach while reading Scott’s piece, I was curious about just what makes a resort truly environmentally friendly. Is it how it utilizes and replenishes resources? Or how it doesn’t damage the land on which it exists? Or is it more than that? During my time at Eco Beach, I kept those questions in mind. And by the end of my stay, I was confident that it kept its promise of being a true “eco resort.”


Eco Beach is a 90 minute drive from Broome and seemingly a world away. The last 10km of the trip are on an unsealed road that requires you to stop several times to open gates that keep livestock belonging to nearby cattle farms from wandering off. Even as you pull into Eco Beach, the area looks more like farmland that beachfront property. To preserve the coastal habitat, guests must park their cars several hundred meters from the resort. The staff will gladly pick you up from the car park, or you can do what I did and enjoy the view as it slowly reveals itself during your walk to the reception desk.

Eco Beach offers two types of accommodations: villas and tents. Both are solar powered (providing both electricity and hot water) with screened windows that are positioned to optimize ocean breezes. I stayed in a tent, but the name belies the level of sophistication that was found inside. I had a king-sized bed, shelves, a bathroom with working toilet, sink and shower and multiple outlets to charge my gear. The ocean breeze kept the tent cool throughout the day despite a cloudless sky and temperatures in the mid-80s.

The villas are larger, permanent structures and are ideal for families or couples looking for a little more space and privacy. They provide a living room area and spectacular views of the Indian Ocean.

In fact, virtually the entire property provides either an elevated view of the ocean or an opportunity to hear the gentle rustling of the water embracing the shore. There is little to know surf at Eco Beach, which allows for safe swimming (when the jellyfish are not in season). The cliff-lined coast provides a wonderful setting for early morning and twilight walks along the beach.

Perhaps the best walk at Eco Beach is the along the nature trail. An interpretive walk, Eco Beach worked with local indigenous peoples and their cattle station neighbors to create a path that takes you through the bush and gives you a sense of how diverse the flora and fauna of the area truly are. The apex of the path offers an exceptional panoramic view of the ocean to one side and to the other, the resort nestled in the bush.

Eco Beach employs a yoga instructor who offers sessions almost everyday, as well as spa facilities. For travelers looking to take advantage of the Indian Ocean’s bevy of wildlife, fishing and whale watching cruises are easily booked at the resort’s front desk. And because of Eco Beach’s remote location, guests take most of their meals at Jack’s Bar, the resort’s poolside restaurant. From traditional English breakfasts to some of the best prawns I’ve ever tasted, the food quality at the resort was commensurate with the expectations that its accommodations create.

By the end of my stay, I’d come to the conclusion that Eco Beach was not just your typical green resort. Yes, the facilities are solar powered and the food is sourced locally. But beyond that, the resort has become an extension of the land on which it sits. The villas and tents mesh seamlessly into the coastline. The proprietors’ respect for the local wildlife is evident in their participation in tracking of turtle migrations in the area. Overall, Eco Beach creates the impression that it is as much a part of the natural landscape of the area as the cliffs and dunes that it neighbors.

For more information on Eco Beach, visit their website.

Mike Barish rode horses, flew in tiny planes and hiked across Western Australia on a trip sponsored by Tourism Western Australia. There were no restrictions on what he could cover or how many hamburgers he could eat. You can read other entries in his Australia’s Wild West series HERE.

Put your “Paws Up” and relax in Montana

The Resort at Paws Up is among the most unique in the country, occupying 60 square miles along the Blackfoot River in Montana. The property boasts 10 villas of more than 3,000 square feet, not to mention smaller houses and canvas suites (i.e., luxury tents). This unusual destination, which offers a variety of outdoor experiences, is offering a few deals to the fall … as if you needed even more reasons to go.

Book a three-night stay by August 31, 2009, and you will receive three meals a day for two people and a $250 credit per room-night toward your choice of wilderness adventure (does not include spa services and some fishing programs). ATV touring, fly fishing, horseback riding and clay shooting are among the activities in which you can participate while enjoying Paws Up, and a stop at the spa, even though it’s not included in the package, isn’t a bad idea.

If you need to put the stress of the city behind you for a bit, Paws Up is the place to do it.

Group vacations – French villas are hot!

Want to make all your friends swoon? Rent out a villa in the south of France for an affordable, peaceful vacation.

Want to make all your friends love you? Take them along!

French villas have become one of the top destinations in the great tradition of group vacations. I love group vacations; it’s like an extended party. Get everyone you like together and watch them interact for a week. It’s fascinating, often scandalous, and makes one feel like they’re in some 17th century comedy of manners, or an old-Hollywood movie.

One villa I recommend is Villa Plantat, near the small town Quissac. Villa Plantat (plantat means “to plant”) is an elegant house set on 400 acres of beautiful grounds with an orangerie and a private spring-fed swimming lake, and is located close to both historic Roman ruins and the Mediterranean sea (just 35 minutes away).

Villa Plantat can provide a private provencal chef for just around $20 per meal, and they also have twice yearly yoga retreats (2 hours of yoga per day plus special events; not yoga boot camp) in May and September. $1380 per person includes accommodations, wine (!), and classes.

Villa Plantat is available year round for $4,200 per week (price drops by $500 for additional weeks) and sleeps thirteen. That’s just $323 per person. Or, for ten people, $420 per week.

Save up your miles and get to the south of France. It’s an idyllic, quaint, and quintessentially lovely experience you won’t forget.