When it comes to beaches, I love to find an area I haven’t been to before, fill up the car with gas, grab a camera and be off. That is exactly what I suggest you do if you are visiting the Emerald Coast. As a matter of fact, set aside at least a half day, if not more, and venture down Florida’s scenic highway 30A. This is one of the best kept secrets in the U.S. You must promise not to share this article with anyone, just keep it between us 😊
Known as the Crown Jewel of the Southern Riviera, 30A is a county road that stretches for nearly 20 miles from Topsail Hill Reserve State Park to Inlet Beach. This section of Florida is not populated with high-rise condos or palatial resorts, but several laid-back beach communities with individually and locally owned shops and restaurants, live music, community events, beach activities, biking/hiking trails, fishing, parks, state forests, dune preserves and more.
The pace along 30A is slow as well as the speed-limit. Do not get in a hurry. Watch for pedestrians and sightseers. It’s best not to have an agenda. Just sit back, take in the beauty and enjoy the ride.
Communities Along 30A
Many of the beaches along 30A have received world-class accolades and rewards. Dune Allen Beach, Santa Rosa Beach, Blue Mountain Beach, Grayton Beach (recently voted #1 Best Beach in the U.S.), Watercolor, Seaside, Seagrove Beach, WaterSound Beach, Seacrest Beach, Alys Beach, Rosemary Beach and Inlet Beach are some of the beach communities you’ll find along Hwy 30A.
A secluded paradise along the western end of 30A at Santa Rosa Beach is Dune Allen. This slice of heaven is home to unique coastal dune lakes including Lake Allen and Oyster Lake. It is a mostly residential area. However, Gulf Place is located nearby, with local restaurants serving mouthwatering cuisine and laid-back shops for that one-of-a-kind souvenir.
Recently voted Best Beach in the U.S., Grayton looks a bit more old-style Florida than most of its more modern neighbors. It’s close to the middle of the route, and has a lot of weathered old beachy homes and cottages that remind you of a bygone era when it was the only settlement along a lonely coast. If you want to start your day with breakfast in Grayton, one of our fans highly rated places in Crackings.
Seaside was the backdrop for the Jim Carey movie, “The Truman Show.” All of the white washed homes with white picket fences in the movie are real. If you like taking “Wish You Were Here” pics and send home to your friends, you will find plenty of opportunities in Seaside.
The community centers around a beautiful Palm Tree lined park with shops, restaurants, and a post office. Since parking is not as plentiful as needed, you’ll find several people on bikes.
There is a rooftop restaurant across the street from the town center called Bud and Alley’s. The view is spectacular and well worth the wait during the busy season.
Another unique feature of Seaside is the vendor trailers parked along the sidewalk that offer every kind of delicious food or snack you can imagine.
Alys Beach is another picturesque community on 30A. It was fashioned in “Moorish and Mediterranean flairs, with architectural styles founded in the beauty of Bermuda, and with courtyards inspired by homes in Antigua, Guatemala.” The area is filled with white-washed buildings and palm trees lining each side of the road. You will feel immediately transported to another world.
Going east, scenic Hwy 30A winds its way to Rosemary Beach, another planned community reminiscent of the Southwest with white stucco, bell towers, and upscale restaurants and shops.
At the east end of 30A, Inlet Beach offers high end shopping, upscale restaurants, Camp Helen State Park, and world-class public beaches. It has an “old Florida” laid-back feel as weel as upscale neighborhoods you might find in New York. It’s stylish, yet relaxed; you can rent bikes and cruise around without a problem.
October is a favorite time of you for many travelers along 30A for the festivals and weather. The summer months will bring many more visitors to the area so be prepared to take it easy.
How to Get Here
From Destin travel east on Hwy 98. Just past Topsail Hill State Preserve, turn right on 30A and continue east for 20 miles of beautiful coastal communities, world-class beaches, and idyllic lifestyle.