Editor's Note: This editorial first appeared in our sister paper, The Northwest Florida Daily News
Twenty-six years ago, Destin residents said goodbye to the Hawaiki Inn’s legendary revolving restaurant.
This week they said goodbye to the rest of the hotel. The “round tower” is being demolished and will be rebuilt as Destin Sands Beach Resort. Drawings show a new tower that looks similar.
But not the same. It can’t be the same, because the old tower was unique.
When it opened in 1971, the Hawaiki was the first high-rise on Destin’s beaches. At its top was a restaurant that spun ever so slowly, treating diners to breathtaking views of the Gulf of Mexico, snow-white sands stretching to infinity, and the lush, green expanse of the Destin peninsula.
Bumper stickers touted “The Exotic, Erotic Hawaiki.” It was exotic, all right. Nothing else came close.
In time, the Hawaiki became a Holiday Inn. The revolving restaurant was closed in 1987, its owners saying it had become too costly to keep up. Brenda Shoffner of the Daily News memorialized the restaurant in a February ’87 column. “It was a reminder of a simpler era,” she wrote, “and of the tourist boom’s beginnings.”
The tourist boom, of course, brought other high-rises that dwarfed the former Hawaiki Inn. Sun and salt air took their toll. And this week, the wrecking ball.
Time trundles on. But, if we’re lucky, our memories will linger for a while on the beach, circa 1971.