Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Sanibel Harbour Marriott Resort & Spa

I didn’t intend to neglect this blog, but other than traveling for the Christmas holidays, it’s been too cold to do much sightseeing in the Grand Strand. I ventured south recently to one unforgettable location, however, and I am delighted to tell you all about it.

I climbed out of the rental car and walked into the hotel lobby. I have just stepped into paradise! Who wouldn’t feel as though they had died and reached the heavenly portals after arriving at the Sanibel Harbour Marriott Resort & Spa in southwest Florida in March, 2014?

I have no right to complain. I live in coastal South Carolina, but I have to say it’s been an unusually cold winter there. Okay, I know. At least I didn’t have to shovel snow, but do two ice storms count for something? At any rate, I was so happy to shed the winter clothing--black, brown and gray--and wear something coral or yellow or turquoise!

This resort is praiseworthy regardless of what level of ugliness one has experienced in the winter. Located at the last exit before entering the Sanibel Causeway, it is a tucked away oasis that dramatically pleases the senses.

With easy access from Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers, we arrived at our hotel at lunchtime. Unfortunately, we were rather on the early side, and our room was not yet ready. No problem, we retreated to the Tarpon House Restaurant for a bite to eat while the bellman temporarily stored our luggage.

My Cobb salad was attractive and delicious, and the view of the pool area and extending out into San Carlos Bay was spectacular. On a gloriously sunny day, the resort was buzzing with outdoor activity.

In our room on the 11th floor, I could barely tear myself away from our balcony and its amazing view, but I knew I had to unpack and settle in. Chores complete, I began to explore the property, discovering a resort-owned yacht that offers a sunset dinner cruise. Add that to the To Do list.

My stroll also led to the spa and fitness center and I took note of a restaurant, Courtside Steakhouse, that is  open for dinner.

Chatting with other guests in the elevator, I met several people who were dreading their return from the lovely resort back into the misery of snow and the seemingly never-ending winter. I almost felt guilty that at the end of my visit, I’ll only be returning to the Myrtle Beach area. Well, not really THAT guilty.

What does one do at the Sanibel Harbour Marriott Resort & Spa? Once one recovers from being spellbound by the exquisite views, one can survey the on-property activity options. There were docks offering boat rentals, water sports equipment such as kayaks, wave runners, paddle boards and fishing.

As far as my eyes could see, there was a huge expanse of water which was dotted with tiny islands. Zipping back and forth across the waterway, it resembled the Indy 500 with a constant motion of sailboats, speedboats, fishing boats, tour boats dashing to and from Sanibel Island.

Lounge chairs adorned with plush green towels surrounded the two pools. An inviting Jacuzzi was strategically positioned to enjoy the panoramic views. There is also a small, private beach for guests who love to feel the grains of sand between their toes. The Cove pool bar is open for lunch and is handy for remaining hydrated. Service is available if one raises the little flag on the lounge chair. Not so bad at all!

Pelicans soared by and perched on the piers, taking off to swoop down into the water to enjoy some fishing of their own. People seemed to be happy just basking in the warmth of the sunshine. Some probably haven’t worn a pair of sunglasses in months! Also, it’s easy to forget about everything stressful in life when surrounded by such natural, peaceful beauty.

My next posts will cover the sunset dinner cruise on the Sanibel Harbour Princess, a day trip to Key West on the Key West Express that departs from Fort Myers, and a few other choice highlights from this trip.

Stay tuned for more fun!
Mary Anne Benedetto

Author of Eyelash, 7 Easy Steps to Memoir Writing: Build a Priceless Legacy One Story at a Time!, Never Say Perfect, From Italy with Love & Limoncello and Write Your Pet's Life Story in 7 Easy Steps!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Huntington Beach State Park, SC


One could easily cruise by the entrance to Huntington Beach State Park on Highway 17 between Murrells Inlet and Pawleys Island, South Carolina and never have a clue that they have missed a little piece of paradise. Just south of Myrtle Beach lies a hidden gem where the locals love to spend time.
The actual address is 16148 Ocean Highway (17) Murrells Inlet, SC 29576.
As you enter the park (after stopping at the booth to either pay or display your park pass), you will venture across a causeway that is worthy of an incredibly slow drive for the purpose of viewing amazing birds and possibly alligators sunning themselves on a small sandbar.
A left turn after the causeway will take you to the campground area, but a right leads the visitor to a large parking lot and two buildings that house restrooms. The structure on the right also offers a gift shop and information on the park’s programs and activities.
The gigantic, colorful Adirondack chairs located just outside the gift shop building are a busy photo op venue for tourists and locals alike. Youngsters are frequently seen climbing into the large chairs while Mom or Dad snap a souvenir photo.

A stroll through the picnic grove deposits you onto a short, narrow boardwalk that leads to the most spectacular ocean view imaginable. Every time I step into the sand on that beach, I feel as though I have come into possession of my own private island, particularly when the busy summer season is behind us and the sunny fall days provide us with an outstretch of endless beach that is breathtaking. And it is right in our own back yards if we live along the Grand Strand of the South Carolina coast. How blessed are we?

Located on the grounds is Atalaya, the remains of the winter home of Archer and Anna Hyatt Huntington. There are bike trails, hiking trails, scheduled programs and events at Huntington; however, the very best activity is a simple, extended beach walk--guaranteed to diminish miles of stress from your shoulders.
Visit http://www.southcarolinaparks.com/huntingtonbeach for more information, history and a list of upcoming events.
I'll be back soon with another Grand Strand, South Carolina favorite location!
Best travels,
Mary Anne

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Marsh Walk of Murrells Inlet, SC

Just a short drive south on Highway 17 from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina is a peaceful fishing village called Murrells Inlet. Folks who visited this location many years ago probably remember it as a quiet little town. In the past few years, however, new neighborhoods have developed and generated tons of activity, and Highway 17 Bypass is a busy, major thoroughfare between Myrtle Beach and Charleston.

Turning off from the Bypass and venturing over to Highway Business 17 in Murrells Inlet will transport you to the small village existing in the memories of multitudes of past visitors. This short stretch of land featuring multiple restaurants and a fabulous gift shop, The Lazy Gator, is one hopping place during the busiest season running from June through August.

September is the perfect time to explore Murrells Inlet because the days are summertime warm, and the crowds of vacationers have significantly diminished.

Beside the Crazy Sister Marina and Wicked Tuna restaurant, the sightseer can walk along an outstretched pier and also stroll on the Marsh Walk, a walkway that is conveniently situated behind the restaurants. This area offers a lovely view of the marsh, waterways, wild life, boats, high rise hotels in the distance to the north, spacious beach homes of Garden City to the east and goats and peacocks coexisting on a small island behind Drunken Jack’s Restaurant.

During the tourist season, this part of town is packed with families seeking dining, music, kayaking, jet skiing, dolphin tours, bike rentals, private charters, pirate boat adventures, and the list goes on. Mid-September brings a quieter Marsh Walk with spectacular sunny views and a sense of serenity that the kids are back in school, and now the adults can finally take that relaxing saunter along the Marsh Walk.

I found the Marsh Walk to be so charming, I featured it in one of my inspirational novels, Never Say Perfect. (See http://www.awriterspresence.com)

And to think that we actually live in Murrells Inlet, where vacationers clamor to enjoy everything we love about it…an enormous blessing! Since I live in vacation land, my next few travel blog posts will introduce a variety of locations and attractions in the Grand Strand area of South Carolina, where the ocean meets the mysterious marshland.

See you soon with much more fun from the coast of South Carolina!

Mary Anne Benedetto

Author of Eyelash, 7 Easy Steps to Memoir Writing: Build a Priceless Legacy One Story at a Time!, Never Say Perfect and From Italy with Love & Limoncello