Romance on the Beach
By Cheré Coen | Photography courtesy of Henderson Park Inn
Quaint Henderson Park Inn offers a unique romantic getaway in the heart of Destin.
Hayden Hritz had just been hired as hospitality coordinator of Henderson Park Inn in Destin when the COVID-19 crisis shut down operations in March. Ironically, social distancing didn’t change what the charming beachside inn offered in regards to weddings. Henderson Park’s wedding package only allows a group of 10, plus the bride and groom.
Henderson Park Inn, not to be confused with its mammoth neighbor Henderson Beach Resort & Spa, offers visitors a quieter, more natural experience in the heart of Destin. The Inn stands in contrast to most of Destin’s high-rise and chain hotel accommodations, providing a three-story, 37-room hotel that would be more at home in New England than Florida. Even though Destin Commons with its shops, entertainment and restaurants is only a short drive away and the elaborate Henderson Beach Resort is right across the street, visitors receive a more peaceful experience at the Inn. Henderson Beach State Park offers a mile of natural beach on one side and the more residential Miramar Beach stretches eastward on the other. Directly in front of the Inn lies a private stretch of Emerald Coast beach.
Henderson Park Inn is reserved for adults, so the quiet ambiance extends inside the accommodation’s Beach Walk Café, lobby, and suites, many of which include Gulf views. Amenities are extensive, and include access to the Henderson Beach Resort next door.
“At Henderson Park Inn, we provide everything except dinner, so room nights include a welcome amenity (usually a baked good from our in-house restaurant Beach Walk Café and a bottle of wine), a chef-prepared and buffet-style breakfast, a picnic lunch, happy hour on the deck, beach chairs, bicycles and access to all the amenities of The Henderson Beach Resort and Spa, which includes a resort-style pool and state-of-the-art spa,” says Jamie Schmidt, marketing director.
Because of its romantic amenities and quiet location, Henderson Park Inn was named the “Best Place to Pop the Question” in 2017 by Destin VIP Magazine.
“We have been named one of the most romantic inns in the U.S. by TripAdvisor,” Schmidt says. “I believe that’s due to our incredible beachfront location in addition to all the amenities included with a stay.”
For those who prefer a small beach wedding, Henderson Park Inn offers a half-hour ceremony package for the bride and groom and 10 guests. White folding chairs, a choice of one of four arbors for the lawn or beach, plus up to four bottles of champagne are included.
“It’s very intimate and very unique,” Hritz says.
All wedding inquiries and reservations go through the neighboring Henderson Beach Resort, a Salamander property. Although the two accommodations aren’t owned by the same company, the Henderson Beach Resort can handle large weddings on its property, which includes several sites for ceremonies. The larger resort also reserves the right to use the Inn’s beach at sunset, so Henderson Park Inn weddings must conclude at 2 p.m.
“Our little package has to be done by 2 p.m.,” Hritz explains. “Nine out of 10 times the Henderson Beach Resort reserves the sunset time.”
Large resort weddings that occur on the Henderson Park Inn beach maintain a distance from the Inn’s customers, Hritz adds.
Since the Henderson Park Inn packages are small, Hritz serves more as a consultant than a wedding planner. The bride and groom plan their own ceremonies, including obtaining a mandatory marriage license from the state of Florida. Hritz offers a handy list of vendors for those needing advice on cake designers, photographers, florists, and other wedding suppliers.
“We’re a liaison really,” she says.
Plans are in the works for additional packages, Hritz says, including a meal option for receptions. Currently, Beach Walk Café doesn’t offer catering, but Hritz believes the Inn may soon be able to accommodate a group of 12.
“Usually, we don’t do catering but we’re trying to be flexible,” she says.
Two suites are available at the Inn for wedding guests, the Serenity/Bridal Suite and the Honeymoon Suite. Each contains several windows in a semi-circle space, a king-sized bed, and a seating area, among other amenities.
One thing Hritz didn’t anticipate in her new job was a demand for couples wishing to tie the knot without an audience.
“We didn’t realize there was such a demand,” she explains of couples wanting a solitary wedding or elopement. “Later on, I think we’ll have a package just for the bride and groom.”
Whether a wedding destination or a romantic getaway, Henderson Park Inn remains one of the most romantic sites on the Emerald Coast. Another future plan is to develop a special incentive package for honeymoons and other special occasions, Schmidt says.
“We have couples around the world join us to celebrate their honeymoons and anniversaries,” she says. “We are working on a special package for this, but we don’t have all the specifics worked out yet.”