Destination Review: South Walton, Hwy 30A, Florida Gulf Coast.

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Small-town beach life on a scenic highway that runs along Florida’s Gulf Coast, Hwy. 30A. I've been visiting this coastline since I was a wee traveler so it holds a lot of special memories. It's practically home away from home especially now that part of my family lives there which means I plan to visit this part of the world even more. I'm sure I will share more as I continue to visit here but for now here are few highlights. 

30a fits into my travel style as a great long weekend or maybe a week visit. I usually err on the side of "budget friendly" when I'm down this way so I can splurge on my international trips. However, now that my family lives there I might stay a little longer . . . .

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From 30A East to 30A West, our beach towns are Inlet Beach, Rosemary Beach, Alys Beach, Seacrest, WaterSound, Seagrove Beach, Seaside, WaterColor, Grayton Beach, Blue Mountain Beach, Gulf Place, Dune Allen, Sandestin, Miramar Beach - a bit to the north are Santa Rosa Beach, Point Washington, Freeport, and WaterSound. As you drive through each town you soon realize they all are a little different. Each has something different to offer. Continue to reading to see a list of few of my favorites out of the line up.

 


Inlet Beach

Favorite Place to Stay:

The Pointe on 30a. This is a new location and beautifully designed with modern rooms facing a gorgeous pool and garden. There's even a rooftop bar, restaurant attached, and nice gym. They are designed like apartments and some of the suites include a full kitchen with a washer/dryer. However, they have a front desk and bike rental like a hotel. It's a nice balance. 

We caught them in the off season and during renovations but it didn't bother us much plus this meant the price was half off. The bathrooms are huge and beds are really comfy. I could have stayed longer! 

Favorite Place to Eat or Drink:

Big Bad Breakfast. This is a newer restaurant and attached to The Pointe on 30a. I had breakfast and went back for lunch because it was so good. They have a variety of specialty coffees as well. Each time this place was busy so expect a wait. They have indoor or outdoor seating by the pool. You can also order to go. Try the avocado toast or the shrimp and grits! 

Favorite thing to Do:

Kayaking in the nearby Lake Powell. Kayak Rentals to choose from and they will set you up. The lakes are some of the few in the United states that contain both salt and freshwater. Watch out for Gators! 


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Rosemary Beach

Favorite Place to Stay:

The Pearl.  This hotel truly is the the crown jewel of Rosemary. You won't miss it's sleek European style architecture and striped balconies. This five star hotel is gorgeous on the inside and includes with a equally nice pool and roof top deck. The grassy knoll often caters to children and parents with live music and other family friendly events.

If the hotel is out of the budget there are plenty of rental homes within this area to choose from. Check VRBO or Wyndham Vacation Rentals for available accommodations. 

Favorite Place to Eat or Drink:

Havana Bar & Grill. Still one of my favorite dinners on 30a.  Havana is located in the bottom of The Pearl hotel and serves a fusion of American and Cuban dishes. I believe you need reservations and there is a dress code. We went for a special dinner and enjoyed a delicious 4 course meal. We sat near the pianist and I might have requested him to play Summer Time.  

I will never forget the puffed crust Empanadas. I definitely recommend them!

Favorite thing to Do:

Strolling & shopping in town in the winter or beach walking in the offseason. There are lots of little shoppes all around this area. Easy to walk to or bike. Parking is limited in peak season. There is an adorable bookshop/art gallery that I really enjoyed. The owners know their stuff! One of which somehow knew I liked Harry Potter without me even mentioning it. She then directed me to a specially ordered wand book and I quickly became a fan of that shop. 

Also, the beach is practically empty in the winter months. So relaxing and quiet. You will have to have the gate code to enter the beach to and from Rosemary due to their private entrance. 


Seaside Beach

Favorite Place to Stay:

Seaside  

In the colorful neighborhood of Seaside, you’ll feel immediately at ease — here, most people get around by bike or by foot. Funky airstream trailers serve hot dogs, fresh juice, shaved ice and more; just down the road you’ll find cozy cafés and a specialty market.

Experience the breathtaking beauty of Seaside while you walk along its sugar-white sand; or, grab a seat at a restaurant patio for a perfect beach sunset view. Explore this beach neighborhood’s artistic side by visiting a local art studio or seeing the local theater troupe.

Pastel-colored homes and an iconic whitewashed post office are just some of the notable features of this New Urbanist beach neighborhood. Other signature Seaside characteristics include wide-open green spaces and Bud, the adorable dachshund of Bud & Alley’s restaurant.

While in Seaside, be sure to slow down your pace a bit and soak it all in. Savor each sip of a fresh juice from Raw & Juicy or splurge on an extra topping at Wild Bill’s Beach Dogs. Mingle with neighbors at the farmers’ market or connect with a local musician at Central Square Records. In a thoughtfully crafted town like Seaside, it’s easy to make lasting memories. Source

Fun Fact: The movie the Truman Show was filmed here.

Favorite thing to Do:

Sundog Book Store Hanging out at Sundog Book Store is always a fun time. There's something really enjoyable about picking up a new book and finding a nice spot to delve in. However, in peak season this store as well as the nearby others can be a mad house. Best to enjoy when the crowds are at a minimum

Favorite Place to Eat or Drink:

Modica Market I love packing up a picnic from Modica Market and taking it to the beach. They have floor to ceiling shelves full of delectable treats. Also, it's just a really cute store. 

 


Alys Beach

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This area of 30a is the most recognizable of all of them with its Pueblo-Spanish meets Santorini style architecture and perfectly manicured lawns. The minimalistic layout and design of Alys beams art, wealth, and leisure. You won't be able to resist the temptation of strolling through the area or stopping for a coffee at Fonville. 

Also, there are constantly seams to be new new construction which only means there might be some street noise so check with your booking but I will say that Alys is getting more beautiful with each new addition. 

Favorite Place to Eat or Drink:

Fonville Press for coffee or a tasty bite to eat. 

Neat a nice spot for fancy drinks

Favorite thing to Do:

Bike ride from town to town. There are several bike rentals (you can't miss them!) and some accommodations include two rentals for free. You won't get bored with an ocean one side and beautiful architecture on the other.

TRAVEL TIP: Watch out for pedestrians! 


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Seacrest Beach

Favorite Place to Stay: 

Villas At Seacrest Beach. Here you'll find cozy but affordable accommodations near all the shopping and dining you could need. Plus just a short walk to the beach and access to an amazing pool. We often book a studio apartment at a great rate even during peak season. 

This easygoing beach neighborhood is the perfect place to escape for a beach vacation. Spend a day wandering through the shops and sights of Seacrest — you’ll spot everything from gorgeous dune lakes to gourmet restaurants. Then, unwind with a stroll along Seacrest’s sugar-white sand. Source

 

Favorite Place to Eat or Drink:

Pizza by the Sea

Favorite thing to Do:

Hang out at the huge Villa pool! This is possibly the biggest pool I've seen on 30a. Claim your spot early in peak season. It fills up with families around noon.


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Santa Rosa Beach

Favorite Place to Stay:  

Sand Dollar One  Similarly to Seacrest you can find affordable accommodations as well but you are near more restaurants and can easily hop or ride a bike to the nearby 30a towns. 

Favorite thing to Do:

Beach Bum all day.  Pack drinks, suncreen, umbrella, and bring a float.  On a calm ocean day you can anchor your float down into the sand so you don't drift and just chill for hours.

TRAVEL TIP:  My tip to avoid the massive crowds is to get to the beach from 8am-10am then come back for sunset while everyone else is at dinner. Perhaps even bring your dinner. 

 

Favorite Place to Eat or Drink:

Stinky's Fish Camp. Try the Oysters or the the Crawfish Bake!

TRAVEL TIP: Stinky's is a first come first serve restaurant

The first time I went to Stinky's was in 2009 and I remember it had a limited menu. I wasn't very impressed. Since then they have drastically changed things even adding a Taco Tuesday and I can now say I love this place. So far everything I've eaten has been delicious even the oysters are growing on me, not literally of course! Can't stomach them? Then opt for the Crawfish Bake or spicy crunchy shrimp.

If you can't get in for dinner due to a wait then at least try for lunch. The menu seems to be the same.  

 

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