In 2008, former presidential hopeful and Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee was looking for a new home — hopefully with a nice view of water.
Huckabee and a close friend who he describes as a tenacious researcher who had a similar desire began an extensive search that encompassed every beach community from
Following the tenacious research, Huckabee and his friend determined that the sweet spot was going to be somewhere along 30A in South Walton.
When two lots were found side by side that overlooked the Gulf on
"We just looked at each other and said, 'It looks like we just bought an expensive sand pile in
Before the purchase Huckabee had never been to
The men each set out to build their dream home, hiring the same contractors and builders.
To be hands on and keep an eye on the progress, Huckabee moved his family down and leased a house at Sandestin during construction, which took two years.
Now going into his fourth year of residency, Huckabee says he knew this was a magnificent place to vacation, but it is "a really, really special place to live."
Since moving, Huckabee has sought to become part of the community. He has held book signings, made appearances at private events, and has become active in his new church home at
"I usually drive a golf cart and give people a ride from the parking lot to the church," said Huckabee. "Sometimes people will say, 'You know, you look a lot like Mike Huckabee' and I just say, 'Really? I get that a lot.'"
Huckabee says he and his wife enjoy the inter-denominational church with more than 1,000 families, but he has no plans to preach again.
"With any community it's the people you get to know that makes it feel like home," he said. "This area is driven by hospitality; a sense of real hospitality and it is extraordinarily noticeable, which is very important."
As for his choice of communities, Huckabee said he is happy with his choice.
"My wife had been to the area on church trips, and virtually everyone we knew had. The whole area is beautiful, but when you come to individual neighborhoods, they are very different. Where we live is quiet and very peaceful with good neighbors who are kind and friendly," he said.
The former governor still travels frequently, usually flying out of
"It feels like home; it really does," he said.
And when he is not traveling, Huckabee said he enjoys the area's fishing, playing music, and relaxing on his balcony overlooking the Gulf.
"We enjoy having dinner on the balcony. It clears your head," he said. "This area has a natural beauty that's stunning. It's overwhelming to us. We have a friend who owns three islands in the
Huckabee said he also enjoys the area's music, and celebrates the quiet, peace, and anonymity the area offers.
"It's not overwhelmed with development as some places are," he said.
The Huckabees eat out at local restaurants when in town, and they do have their favorites, which Huckabee said they tend to circle back to. They have not made the rounds to all the restaurants, though.
"This is the restaurant center of the world," he said. "I don't think we would ever be able to visit all of them. But the ones we have visited, the same meal would cost twice as much in some other parts of the country. It's refreshing."
Huckabee grew up in
"That's a long time on stage," he said of the tenure. "I knew we needed to be out of the way, to be off stage so other people can have their moment."
As for any future political ambitions, Huckabee said he does not see himself running for governor of
As for another run for president, however, Huckabee said he is leaving that door open.