Get Lost on Florida’s Perdido Key
Lost Key Golf & Beach Club offers lush golf greens, sugar-sand beaches and crystal blue waters
By Noelle Valentine
Conquistadors, buccaneers, native Americans, colonists and sailors once laid claim to the white sugar sand beaches and turquoise waters of Northwest Florida’s Gulf Coast known as Perdido Key.
This snow white beach strip is almost 60 percent occupied by state and federal parks, which makes this beautiful area one of the last unspoiled stretches of coastal wilderness in the United States. Discovered by the Spanish in 1693, Perdido Key means “Lost Key.” For hundreds of years, the area was a well-kept secret of the Gulf Coast Native Americans, who were the first occupants of Perdido Key.
A BIT OF HISTORY
The city of Pensacola, which hosts the closest airport to Perdido Key (only about an hour flight from Houston) actually draws its name from the Panzacola tribe. The Europeans arrived in 1559, but a hurricane destroyed what would have been the first permanent settlement in the New World, a title that now belongs to St. Augustine.
In 1693, a group was dispatched to map the coastline and search for the entrance to a mysterious body of water thought to lie west of Pensacola.
Legend tells that the passage was found near the present-day Alabama-Florida state line only after a local Native American chief led the way. Having found the mysterious bay, the explorers named it and the adjacent barrier island Perdido. It was then — and still is largely now — relatively lost to the outside world.
Inhabitants and visitors to this laid-back coastal paradise enjoy a life where days are counted in sunrises and sunsets, rather than hours kept by a clock. Those in the know point to a place called Flora-Bama Lounge & Package as an authentic reflection of modern day lifestyle on the Lost Key. This iconic beach bar that straddles the state lines offers Americana served up island-style and a history steeped almost as deep in tradition and lore as the Key itself.
FUN THINGS TO DO
The annual calendar of quirky events at Flora-Bama includes the Frank Brown International Songwriters’ Festival in November and the Interstate Mullet Toss in April. The Frank Brown Festival is regarded by both Billboard and American Songwriter magazines as the granddaddy of all songwriter festivals and is listed as one of the Top 20 Events by the Southeast Tourism Society, attracting more than 200 songwriters from around the globe each year. Though much less dignified, the Mullet Toss is equally as fun and interesting, giving a whole new meaning to the phrase “flying fish.”
For fish lovers who don’t prefer theirs “flying,” just across the street The Ole River Bar and Grill serves up some of the country’s best fresh seafood, casual and Southern style, with a pretty amazing Gulf view and even more amazing sunsets.
Those who enjoy five-star dining in flip-flops can find just that at the Flora-Bama Yacht Club. This Cajun-inspired menu with dining room views of the marina also offers guests the option to charter a fishing trip where your fresh catch can be brought straight back to the restaurant and cooked to order. How’s that for fresh?
UNSPOILED BEAUTY CLOSE TO URBAN RENEWAL
Along with the laid-back lifestyle, eccentricity and plentiful seafood, the Key offers a wealth of natural beauty and remains largely pristine. Several species of rare sea turtles nest here during summer months.
The area is also an excellent spot for bird watchers with a large year-round population of ospreys, great blue herons, woodpeckers, shorebirds and songbirds.
And though Perdido Key seems like a world away, it’s only a half-hour’s drive from Downtown Pensacola, a thriving urban seaport in the midst of its very own renaissance. Palafox Street is Pensacola’s main commercial corridor, home to numerous shops, galleries, eateries and more. In 2013, the American Planning Association named it one of 10 “great streets” in America.
FEELING AT HOME ON LOST KEY
For visitors looking for a home away from home, the 413-acre, master-planned communities of Lost Key — the Golf & Beach Club and the Marina & Yacht Club — are equally enticing choices surrounded by more than 300 acres of natural preserves. Each presents the best of Florida living, including an 18-hole championship golf course, a yacht club with wet and dry slip leases, a complimentary beach shuttle and a planned beach club, pool and fitness center.
The Golf & Beach Club presents a community golf course designed by Arnold Palmer that was the first in the world to be certified by the Audubon International Silver Signature Program. Set amid protected wetlands, conservation areas and challenging greens, the course sits on more than 6,800 yards and four sets of tees. The 9,000-square-foot golf club features casual indoor and alfresco dining, a full-service bar, men’s and women’s locker rooms and stunning views of the golf course and preserve. Residents at the Golf & Beach Club may also take advantage of the tennis complex.
Across the bridge, residents of the Marina & Yacht Club enjoy a true boating community with 47 wet slips and 140 dry slips for vessels up to 60 feet. The state-of-the-art facility presents on-site services including fueling, pump-out, electrical, cable, phone and a full-time dockmaster.
Once on-shore, the fun continues at the Community Social Center complete with fitness center, aerobics studio, social room, catering kitchen, resort pool and waterfront veranda.
Lost Key recently began construction of the next phase of development for the resort, which is expected to be completed this year. The new development will include 28 three-story Resort Villas. The four-bedroom, four-bath, townhome-style units will offer more than 2,100 square feet of air-conditioned living area, two-car garages, covered patios and expansive views of the resort’s award-winning golf course and nature preserve.
The Resort Villas will feature open living areas with center-island kitchens and great rooms. Units also will include owners’ suites with walk-in closets and bathrooms with double-sink vanities. Three additional bedrooms with baths and closets will provide privacy for guests.
Additionally, residents will enjoy easy access to a pool and fitness center right next door. This year, too, Lost Key’s expansion continues to include a residents-only beach club. The gulf-front, open-air facility is planned to include private beach access, a restaurant and bar, swimming pool, locker rooms and water-side service.
Lost Keys New Resort Villas
Get Lost on Florida’s Perdido Key