The Ultimate Guide to the Beaches of 30A
August 10, 2023
Florida’s 30A is home to some of the world’s most beautiful beaches. Full stop. This 26-mile stretch of coast along the Gulf of Mexico comprises 16 beach communities, each oozing unique character and charm. And while each beach varies in terms of location, local hot spots, and general vibe, what all of them possess in sprawling spades is 30A’s iconic sugar-white sands and crystal-clear emerald waters. Listed from west to east, here’s an insider’s guide to the beaches (and beach communities!) of 30A.
Dune Allen Beach
Dune Allen Beach might be underrated, but it’s anything but undeserving of your attention. A few must-hit Dune Allen adventures include: Topsail Hill Preserve State Park—this scenic state park is home to coastal lakes, billowing dunes, maritime forests, and a wondrous 3.2-mile stretch of undeveloped beach. Stinky’s Fish Camp is a great catch for fresh seafood and good times. For daily live music and unrivaled Gulf views—not to mention classic coastal cuisine—Shunk Gulley is a must. Finally, Dune Allen Beach itself is uncrowded and unbelievable.
Santa Rosa Beach
Sandwiched between Choctawhatchee Bay to the north and the Gulf to the south, Santa Rosa is the largest beach community in South Walton by geographic size. Packed into its borders is a veritable smorgasbord of shops, breweries, running routes, fishing spots, pine forests, and pristine beaches. It’s no wonder Santa Rosa is one of Travel + Leisure’s “top five favorite towns in America.”
It’s also home to the most bay access points. Hit up Bay Baits for all your bay fishing excursions. Launch your from Cessna Landing to explore the beautiful waters of Hogtown Bayou. Check out Pilcher Park, underneath the 331 Bridge, for a scenic running route as well as a great spot for fishing. Enjoy a trail run through the meandering pines of 15,000-acre Point Washington State Forest. Take a stroll through Eden Gardens State Park with its gnarled live oaks and dripping Spanish moss. Cap it all off with a trip to one of the two breweries in Santa Rosa: Grayton Beer Company or Idyll Hounds Brewing.
Blue Mountain Beach
The only summertime blues at Blue Mountain Beach are the flowers. Named for the blue lupines peppering the sands here, this 30A community is a sleepy beach neighborhood with a laid-back atmosphere and luxurious natural beauty. The beach itself is quintessential 30A—sand like powdered sugar, water like a turquoise fountain of youth. Big Redfish Lake spills into the Gulf via a small tributary. Kids can splash among these pools while adults spot dolphins off the shore. It’s magical.
One of the best ways to experience Blue Mountain Beach is with a self-guided food crawl. Start with some authentic street tacos from Red Fish Taco. If you’re feeling old-school BBQ, the fine folks at Blue Mabel sling out some of the best smoked meats in the region. For adults, head to Johnny McTighe for a pint at an Irish pub. For kids, head to Blue Mountain Creamery. Bonus points: turn your crawl into a two-wheeled roll by hopping on a rented bike from Big Daddy’s Bike Shop.
“Nice dogs, strange people.” Grayton Beach’s unofficial slogan is surely the best around, but, it only tells part of the story. Founded in 1885, Grayton Beach is actually 30A’s first developed beach community. It has a long history of welcoming visitors to its immaculate sands and waters. Today, it’s a launchpad for coastal adventure. Perhaps the star of the show is Grayton Beach State Park—a labyrinth of lakes, live oaks, magnolias, and hiking trails.
For eating and drinking, you can’t miss the iconic Red Bar. Chiringo serves up laidback vibes and Spanish-style flavors. Hurricane Oyster Bar has funky vibes and full-on legendary foods. Other can’t-miss spots include: Nanbu, Chanticleer, Trattoria Borago, and Beach Camp. Grayton Beach is also lowkey an incredible spot for arts and crafts, featuring an eclectic mix of art galleries and shops and interactive experiences. Check out the Modus shop for elegant art and photography. For families, Rock Paper Scissors is a wonderful place for kids to take part in arts and crafts. If you’re looking for a beach that combines natural beauty with bona fide culture, then Grayton is always a good call.
WaterColor is one of the most captivating beach communities along the Emerald Coast. Renowned for its picturesque landscapes and charming architecture, the community boasts a unique blend of natural beauty and modern amenities. With its white sands and azure waters, visitors can enjoy a range of activities, including swimming, kayaking, and paddleboarding. Western Lake is one of South Walton’s most picturesque coastal dune lakes. You can rent a kayak or stand-up paddleboard from the WaterColor Boathouse. Or simply luxuriate along the Gulf’s sandy shores.
There’s tasteful and pristine… and then there’s Seaside. This place takes idyllic to a whole new level. It’s literally where The Truman Show was filmed. Known as the birthplace of New Urbanism architecture, Seaside was created as a “new old town.” And the perfect blend of nostalgia and modernity is undeniable.
The open-air amphitheater serves as the perfect town square. On Saturdays, there’s a local farmer’s market. On most other days, live music washes over the immaculate grassy lawns as families peruse art galleries, boutiques, and bookstores. Grab breakfast from Modica Market. Grab a beach read from Sundog Books. Snap a photo of the adorable Post Office or Seaside Chapel. After hitting the beach, grab a sunset cocktail at the iconic Bud and Alley’s bar.
Seagrove is a slice of “Old Florida”—a step back in time with a slower pace, an undeveloped feel, and an always-barefoot vibe. While other beach communities might feel sleek and designed, Seagrove is the land of shady nooks, cozy cottages, and sandy bike paths. It conjures images of Pat Conroy’s Lowcountry (even if that was South Carolina) with its twisted oaks, Spanish moss, palmettos, and prehistoric jungle vibes.
Biking via beach cruiser is the mode of travel here. Relaxing is the way of life. Eating at Cafe Thirty-A is a time-honored tradition. So too is scarfing down a shrimp po boy at the legendary Seagrove Village Market. For beachgoers, Seagrove boasts more public beach access points than in any other 30A Florida community. Along its 2-mile span of sands, you’ll find no less than 10 public beach access points.
Nestled between Seacrest Beach and Seagrove Beach, WaterSound is a private 1,400-acre coastal community that beckons visitors with its natural charm and contemporary amenities. WaterSound offers abundant outdoor activities such as fishing, kayaking, and strolling along scenic trails and mazy boardwalks. Its pristine, secluded beaches and warm Gulf waters provide the perfect setting for relaxation and beach fun. Explore the nearby Big Chill 30A for shopping, dining, and live music. The architectural diversity, ranging from Cape Cod-inspired designs to maritime cottages, blends harmoniously with the natural beauty of the area.
Alys Beach is a small slice of Santorini superimposed on the Gulf Coast. With stunning white walls and Mediterranean-inspired architecture, this community is like fresh linen—crisp, clean, and ready for the beach. Flanked by swaying palms and four minaret-style towers, the town boasts an impressive array of courtyards, green spaces, walking paths, and ample culture.
Alys Beach offers a delightful culinary journey. Fonville Press will serve all your breakfast kneads, with delicious pastries and sammies. The Citizen is an upscale tavern known for its mouthwatering coastal southern flare. George’s at Alys Beach is a cottage cafe where you can savor Gulf-inspired cuisine with a Mediterranean twist. Cap off your day at NEAT, a charming cocktail bar and bottle shop, offering an extensive selection of craft spirits and expertly mixed libations.
With Seacrest Beach, what you see is what you get. And what you get is a minimal-frills, maximal-chill, casually upscale beach community. Peddler’s Pavilion is the beating heart of the area, home to shops, restaurants, and bike rentals. Do not miss a trip to La Cocina for upscale Latin-inspired flare and fare. Seacrest Sundries is the spot for a morning coffee.
As for the beach itself, Seacrest offers the perfect encapsulating snapshot of 30A—replete with blindingly white, squeaky clean sands and breathtakingly turquoise waters. The beach access is easy and the beach lounging, breezy. If you’re craving a pool day over beach, the two pools at High Pointe Resort and The Villas at Seacrest are as inviting as it gets.
Where fine dining meets finely-tuned living, it’s no wonder Rosemary Beach was named one of CNN’s “Most Romantic Towns in America.” Boasting a delightful fusion of New Urbanism and timeless architectural charm, what sets Rosemary Beach apart is its enchanting blend of cobblestone streets, brick sidewalks, charming open spaces, and a tight-knit town square bursting at the seams with quaint shops, art galleries, and enticing eateries.
Speaking of which, Rosemary Beach offers myriad dining experiences to indulge in. Cowgirl Kitchen is a beloved local spot. For an elegant dinner affair, head to Edward’s Find Food & Wine. Don’t miss La Crema Tapas & Chocolate, where delectable small plates and divine desserts await.
Last but certainly not least, Inlet Beach is another 30A locale with an Old Florida vibe and new-school amenities. Located on the eastern edge of Scenic 30A, Inlet Beach is perfectly poised for coastal adventure. To the northeast, Powell Lake is the largest coastal dune lake in Florida. Camp Helen State Park serves as an unrivaled access point to the area’s snow-white dunes, serpentine trails, and gulf beaches. You can rent paddling vessels from Friends of Camp Helen. Unlike some more developed beach towns, Inlet Beach has managed to preserve its unspoiled shores and dunes, making it a paradise for nature lovers.
In sum, if you’re looking for an unforgettable coastal adventure, then you’ll find it at one of 30A’s unbelievable beaches.
Sign Up for Vacation Deals
- September 2023 (4)
- August 2023 (5)
- July 2023 (5)
- June 2023 (1)
- May 2023 (2)
- March 2023 (2)
- February 2023 (1)
- January 2023 (1)
- November 2022 (4)
- October 2022 (2)
- September 2022 (5)
- August 2022 (2)
- July 2022 (4)
- June 2022 (2)
- May 2022 (2)
- April 2022 (8)
- March 2022 (1)
- February 2022 (2)
- January 2022 (3)
- December 2021 (1)
- November 2021 (2)
- September 2021 (3)
- August 2021 (1)
- July 2021 (2)
- June 2021 (3)
- May 2021 (4)