First Time Visitors to 30A – Your Trip Guide From Start to Finish
May 27, 2022
So, you’ve arrived in 30A for the very first time. Can you feel that? The slowed-down way of life. Can you smell the citrusy slash-pines dancing on the briny breeze with sweet, salty gusts from the ocean? Can you hear the clinking beach cruisers and squawking seagulls and gleefully-screaming children coalescing into a symphonic hum of beach activity? Now set your gaze to the ocean: can you see water so clear and pristine and aquamarine and sands so sugar-white that human imaginations are stretched to their absolute limits to believe the reality of it all?
That’s the magic of 30A. Falling for it is both immediate and everlasting. Because without a hint of hyperbole, your first trip to the Emerald Coast ranks up there with life’s biggest firsts: your first kiss, your first time driving a car, your first time leaving the country. There’s just something about first encounters with 30A.
So, if this is your first trip to 30A, here’s how to ensure it will be far from your last.
A Breakdown of 30A
Stretching 26-miles along the Gulf Coast through Northwest Florida’s Walton County, Scenic Highway 30A is the ultimate artery of adventure and relaxation in Northwest Florida. Hugging the coastline from Rosemary Beach to Mirimar Beach, this scenic corridor is home to sugar-white sands, emerald green waters, towering longleaf pines, rare coastal dune lakes, and stunning beach homes and condos.
30A is also home to an eclectic mix of 16 distinct (and distinctly visit-worthy) beach communities, each bursting with small-town charm, immaculate architecture, and coastal congeniality.
From Rosemary Beach to Grayton Beach, Seaside to Seacrest, WaterColor to WaterSound, the character in each of these townships is at once one-of-a-kind yet one-of-its-kin. In other words, each town possesses the same down-to-earth vibe and refined disposition that collectively make 30A so special. But individually, each town also has its own unique personality.
For first-timers, discovering these subtle differences first-hand is one of the best parts of visiting 30A. For lifelong visitors, it’s part of what keeps people coming back to 30A year after year to experience something new each time.
The Must-Experience 30A Staples to Check Out
Just as no trip to 30A is complete without visiting the beach, so too is your first trip to 30A incomplete without hitting a few of its most iconic bucket list experiences—of which there’s a veritable smorgasbord of various musts! Here are a few of our favorites.
Take to the 30A Art Gallery Trail
Sprinkled along Scenic Highway 30A is a delightfully robust lineup of curated art collections and eclectic galleries. (With a natural backdrop as beautiful as the Emerald Coast, it’s easy to see why creatives would be inspired!) From fine art to folk art, contemporary to classic, each of the roughly 40+ art galleries offers something unique and differentiating. The best way for a first-time visitor to experience 30A’s art scene? By checking out the First Friday Art Walk—where, on the first Friday of every month, several South Walton art galleries stay open late and welcome visitors with refreshments, live music, and a chance to meet and mingle with the artists while taking in all the new artwork.
Hit a Local Microbrewery (or Two)
The craft beer scene along Scenic Highway 30A has taken off in recent years. And it’s easy to see why. Nothing beats rolling into a local microbrewery, with sand still on your ankles and salt in your hair, and cheers’ing to a great vacation with a couple of super refreshing session IPAs or crisp, light lagers. In Santa Rosa Beach, Idyll Hounds Brewing Company is one of the top-rated taprooms in the Florida Panhandle. Just down the road, Grayton Beer Company is a dimly-lit, down-to-earth, downright awesome taproom that lives and breathes (and imbibes!) the salt life. Beach & Brew is a Rosemary Beach staple, featuring dozens of regional brews on tap and a rustic-meets-modern taproom dripping with laidback charm. And the Growler Garage is the 2022 Gold Award Winner for Best Craft Beer Selection. No matter where you grab your first pint in 30A, you’re guaranteed to have a good time.
Cruise the Timpoochee Trail
The 19-mile Timpoochee Trail that extends between Dune Allen and Rosemary Beach is the lifeblood of 30A. Every day, thousands of locals and visitors take to this gently undulating paved path along the beautiful Emerald Coast. From joggers to walkers to beach cruisers, this paved path that parallels Scenic Highway 30A is the ultimate way to get around in the area.
Visit the Beach (Obviously!)
If you’re visiting 30A, chances are you’re visiting for the beach. And for good reason! The beaches along the Emerald Coast are showstoppers of the highest order. With snow-white sands, impossibly clear waters, gently sashaying dune grasses, and life-affirming sunsets each and every day, the beaches along Scenic Highway 30A are easily some of the best in the entire country. First-time visitors will immediately recognize the 30A difference.
A Few Hidden Gems in 30A
So, you’re ready to branch out into the lesser-known 30A adventures? You’re in luck. There are a number of great ways to get off the beaten path.
Dive in an Artificial Reef
It doesn’t get much better for snorkelers and scuba divers than exploring one of the 16 artificial reef sites that pepper the 30A coastline from Miramar Beach to Inlet Beach. Composed of steel, concrete, and Florida limestone and installed by the South Walton Artificial Reef Association, these artfully designed reefs (as in, they’re actually arranged into various sea creature shapes) are wonderful ways to get underwater and off the beaten path. For a real treat, check out the Underwater Museum of Art.
Rent a SUP and Go Paddle Boarding
If there’s one thing that beats being beachside looking at the water, it’s being on the water. Luckily, 30A is home to a comprehensive lineup of watersport rental shops where visitors can rent stand-up paddleboards for the ultimate day on the water.
Do As the Locals Do
For first-time visitors hoping to immediately ditch their ‘newbie’ status card in favor of donning local street cred, there’s an easy fix: do as the locals do.
At the end of the day, 30A sees a lot of first-time visitors, and almost none of them turn out to be one-time visitors. Because this place is truly special. We look forward to your first trip to the Emerald Coast!