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The Group Travel Leader Going on Faith Select Traveler

Coastal Destinations for Meetings

If the saying is true, and everyone is a product of their environment, then more people should live at the beach. Or at least meet there.

Having meetings at coastal destinations “changes the dynamic of the meeting because you’re in a more relaxed atmosphere,” which pumps up both the creativity and the camaraderie, said Joan LaRosa, director of sales for the Long Island Convention and Visitors Bureau and Sports Commission.


Long Island, New York

When people think Long Island, they think New York City. And when they think New York City, they think expensive.

But neither is true of the nation’s longest island, which is encircled with pristine beaches and dotted with hotels and resorts that offer group clam bakes, lobster bakes, bonfires and yoga on the beach.

Long Island stretches 118 miles east from New York City to Montauk Point, which means planners can have their events as close to — or as far from — the city as they want. Just 15 minutes from JFK International Airport is the 143-room oceanfront Allegria Hotel. The hotel’s 3,200-square-foot Grand Ballroom has a wall of windows overlooking the water and three meeting suites on the third floor. The rooftop bar and pool deliver views of both the Atlantic and the New York City skyline.

On the other end of the island is Gurney’s Montauk Resort and Seawater Spa, with nearly 7,000 square feet of flexible meeting space in seven conference room configurations. At nearly 2,900 square feet, the Great Hall is the largest room, although it can be divided into two or three smaller spaces.

The Montauk Yacht Club Resort and Marina has nearly 10,000 square feet of meeting and event space, including the recently renovated 2,100-square-foot Farmhouse Ballroom and the Pilot Room, a circular boardroom housed in the resort’s replica lighthouse.


Emerald Coast, Florida

With its emerald-green water and white-sand beaches, it’s not difficult to understand why Florida’s Emerald Coast is a popular destination for both business and fun.

“It’s just like being in the Caribbean, but without your passport and a lot less expensive,” said Sherry Rushing, travel industry sales director for the Emerald Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The coastal stretch, which includes Destin, Fort Walton and Okaloosa Island, also delivers fishing charters (Destin claims to be the “world’s luckiest fishing village”), sightseeing tours on glass-bottom or pirate-themed boats, and dolphin tours on Sea Doos, Rushing said.

The area’s newest hotel is the 152-room Holiday Inn Resort Fort Walton Beach Hotel, which opened in May across the street from the Emerald Coast Convention Center. The beachfront hotel has 2,500 square feet of meeting space and can accommodate 175 people for dinner.

Also across the street from the convention center is the Four Points by Sheraton Destin-Fort Walton Beach. Its largest space is the 2,350-square-foot Queen Palm room, which can be halved. Down the street but still within walking distance is the Ramada Plaza Beach Resort at Destin West, with 15,000 square feet of flexible meeting space and a pool with a swim-through grotto.

The convention center opened in 2003 with 30,000 square feet of event space; the dozen rooms range from a 425-square-foot boardroom to a 21,000-square-foot exhibit hall. In June, the convention center unveiled an additional 30,000 square feet: Bayview Plaza. The concrete slab overlooks the Choctawhatchee Bay, so it’s perfect for outdoor concerts, farmers markets, and RV and boat shows, Rushing said.