The complete stretch of Scenic Highway 30A runs along the Emerald Coast in Florida's Panhandle between Destin and Panama City Beach. This area of the coast is lined with planned beach communities that each offer a unique style and charm.
This area is technically Santa Rosa Beach, though more recently it has become known as 30A & South Walton Beaches.
The natural beauty of beaches along this stretch of Florida coastline and the surrounding state parks and forests with nature activities, along with the charming planned communities, is what makes this area a top destination in Florida.
With some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, discover which beaches you can gain public access to and which ones require you to stay in the community to access the private beach access areas.
What this Guide covers
This guide is all about the beach areas: the beaches, access points, parking, wildlife, activities, sand and water, beachfront area, shelling, and anything related to being on the beach! Everything you need to know about the beaches for a day, a weekend, a quiet moment, vacationing, moving or buying in the area. For detailed information on 30A, see our Complete Guide to 30A here and find local businesses in the largest 30A Metro area business directory (coming soon).
Also see surrounding area Beach Guides:
Beaches from West to East as you turn onto Scenic Highway 30A from US Hwy 98 are an exploration of Florida Beach towns and communities. This area of Florida focuses on small communities with amenities, natural coastal areas, and outdoor activities.
Topsail Hill Preserve State Park is the first beach access as you drive along 30A from the west. This park features a nice preserved area and nature walk that leads to the beach area. And if you are not up for the hike, take the tram to the beach access and back to the parking area. Topsail Hill also features a campground area and is pet friendly. Topsail Hill Preserve State Park is the beach that connects the Destin area beaches with the South Walton 30A area beaches.
Family & nature define this community. Dune Allen features gorgeous beaches along with coastal dune lakes, miles of nature trails, and is a outdoor lover's paradise. Home of Topsail Hill Preserve State Park, with a beach access point from one of the trails in the park. Another access point is at Dune Allen Regional Beach Access with lots of parking, boardwalks over the dunes, and restrooms and picnic areas.
There are two small neighborhood beach access points on the west side of Dune Allen. Beach Highlands Neighborhood Access is on Highland Avenue right outside the gated community of Stallworth Preserve with a couple parking spaces and a walkover to the beach. Bullard Neighborhood Beach Access is at the end of Bullard Road with a small walkover to the beach.
Dune Allen Regional Beach Access points are across from Lake Allen on Scenic 30A. There are two access points here with parking and facilities.
4 additional neighborhood access points are on the east of the main regional beach. West Allen Loop Beach Walkover is a neighborhood walkover with some space for carts and bikes only. Lake Causeway Beach Access is at the end of Oyster Lake Causeway. It has a few parking spaces and facilities. Dune Allen Beach Walkover is next to the Palms of Dune Allen condos. Santa Rosa Beach East Allen Loop Walkover is a neighborhood walkover
Gulf Place is a quaint artisticly focused community in Santa Rosa Beach with an Amphitheater, art galleries, local beach eateries and shops.
There are lots of beach crossovers along Gulf Place Neighborhoods just west of the Gulf Place Town Center that have a simple neighborhood walkovers with no parking or facilities.
Ed Walline Regional Beach Access is directly across the street from Gulf Place Town Center with shops and dining. This beach access offers parking and facilities and a two story boardwalk overlook.
Gulfview Heights Access is at the end of Gulfview Heights Rd and includes parking and facilities.
2 additional walkovers are between Ed Walline and Gulfview Heights at the end of Shellseekers Cove and Spooky Lane
The "mountain" here is about 65 feet above sea level, so it's really only a mountain to us Floridians! It is the highest point in all of the South Walton Beaches. The blue in the name comes from the blue lupine flowers that are more common along the dunes in this coastal area.
This community is a less touristy more laid back family friendly area, yet has art galleries and restaurants that are world-renowned.
Blue Mountain Beach has 1 main beach access with parking and facilities at the end of Old Blue Mountain Road. There are 3 additional walkovers with no parking available along Blue Mountain Rd at Gulf Point Rd, Sea Grade Rd and Blue Lake Rd.
Natural Beach Dunes and artistic funky community, this beach town is one of the original beach communities in the area. The natural beauty of the beach dunes combined with art galleries, lots of great eateries, and quaint local shops make this a perfect location for those who want to discover local Florida at it's best.
In the heart of artistic downtown Grayton Beach are two access points to the beach. Parking is available along the street in the downtown area near the access points. The west access point is at the end of the Main Downtown street on Hotz Ave. The east access point, Grayton Dunes, is at the other end of Hotz Ave and Garfield Street. This access features a boardwalk next to Western Lake, one of the areas coastal lakes that occasionally flows into the Gulf forming a river across the beachfront.
Grayton Beach State Park features trails that cross the dunes with both beach and lakefront hikes. Cross over the boardwalk to the beach for one of Florida's most beautiful beachfronts with large dunes and naturals shoreline.
Watercolor is a newer community that wraps around Seaside and is kind of an extension of the Seaside community. Watercolor is an upscale, stylish and picturesque beachside community with nature trails and homes that offer a natural environment with small parks and outdoor activities.
Watercolor Beach access is only for community members. However, there is one access point between Watercolor and Seaside. The Van Ness Butler Jr Beach Access is directly between Seaside and Watercolor with a parking lot with facilities on the north side of Scenic 30A off Western Lake Drive. This parking area is a perfect spot to park when Seaside parking is full as it is within walking distance to Seaside's Central Square.
This small planned community is one that started it all in the new urbanism style architecture with beachside charm. With a Central Square for shopping and eating, open-air amphitheater and performing arts, this area is popular for annual events and festivals. It was also the location for the filming of the Truman Show starring Jim Carrey.
Directly in the Central Square location are a couple gated access points to the beach. Community members and vacationers who are staying in Seaside will have access. A little known fact is that if you pay to rent a chair, you then have access to the beach.
You know you are in Seagrove as soon as you see the streets lined with trees. Oaks, magnolias and seagroves are native trees that showcase the natural old Florida beauty of this community.
If you live close enough to walk or bike to the beach, Seagrove offers access points and walkovers all along the community. However, unless you live or are staying close enough to walk or bike to one of these crossovers, you may not get to the beach at Seagrove because parking spaces are rare. The beaches are all open to the public, but access for the public is difficult.
Walton Dunes Beach Access is a bit off the path of scenic 30A and only those who know about it or are looking for it go here. Lakewood Drive leads to the public parking down the street from this access point. There is no parking directly at the beach area so you have to park down the street. Once you get to the beach access, it is well worth the walk. The beach is absolutely gorgeous and only about a block to Deer lake State Park along the shoreline. This spot is where Deer Lake can extend into the Gulf and offers a unique beach experience.
Deer Lake State Park offers some of the most magnificent dunes in the state of Florida. The walkover to the beach is just serene. The dunes here are kept natural and offer a pristine visit to the natural beauty of Florida. Deer Lake State Park is a Florida State Park open to the public that sits between Seagrove Beach to the west, and Watersound to the east.
Access the beach through the park.
Gorgeous community that sits behind towering and widespread dunes with boardwalks that cross over the dunes with some of the most picturesque views in the state of Florida. WaterSound is an active community with The Hub that features food, shops and a huge screen for movies nights, sports and music that is focused on family time.
Getting to the beach at WaterSound can only be accessed by staying in the private gated community, or by accessing the beach area from the neighboring Deer lake State Park Access Point. No access points without staying in the community.
Seacrest Beach was split by Alys Beach, which is a newer planned community along 30A. Interestingly, some of the addresses in Seacrest beach still show the cities of surrounding communities of Santa Rosa Beach, Panama City Beach, and even Inlet Beach.
Seacrest Beach has a few public beach walkover boardwalks to the beach that all offer a tremendous view on the high bluff that overlooks the beach. None of these access points offer parking, so the beaches, while public, are most accessible only by those who live in the neighboring communities.
Gulf Lakes Beach Access is the west access point nearest to Camp Creek Lake.
Seabreeze Beach Access is the middle access point in Seacrest on Scenic 30A at the intersection of Seabreeze Trail.
Seacrest Drive Access is the east access point in Seacrest on Scenic 30A at the intersection of Seacrest Drive.
You know you are in Alys Beach as you drive along 30A due to it's unique upscale Mediterranean Style planned community. Popular for those seeking an upscale service oriented community. Alys Beach is becoming famous for beach weddings and events with their gorgeous gazebo that overlooks the beach and Beach Club with extraordinary views and amenities.
There are 3 private beach access points only for community members only. 1 is at the main community center and the other 2 are manned stations.
Another New Urbanism planned community by the same designers as Seaside, this beachside town of Rosemary Beach Florida includes a town center with boutiques, restaurants and community amenities.
Access to the beach in Rosemary Beach is only for community members and vacationers who stay in the community. There are 9 lettered access points (A-I) that run the length of the beach, each with a coded gated entry. The only way for the public to access this beach is to walk from nearby Inlet Beach. Of course, there is no reason to do that because public beach goers will love Inlet Beach just as much. What makes Rosemary Beach so great is the community, which has food and shops accessible to all.
The town center is at access point G with parking, shops, dining and a perfect spot to simply take a walk around this picturesque community.
Inlet Beach is the most accessible beach along 30A. It is open to and welcomes the public and has a local beach vibe. What makes this spot even better is the location. Walk to the east and you are in Camp Helen State Park. Walk to the west and you are in Rosemary Beach, the only way to walk across the shoreline of Rosemary Beach if you are not part of the community.
There are two west access points that have no parking, Winston Lane Beach Access and Wall Street Beach Access.
Inlet Beach Regional Access is the main access for Inlet Beach with parking, restrooms, lifeguards during peak season and 3 dune walkovers.
There are tow east access points that have no parking, Phillips Inlet Access and Lupine Access on South Walton Lakeshore Drive.
Camp Helen State Park sits between the scenic 30A communities with Inlet Beach bordering the park to the west, and Panama City Beaches with Carillon Beach bordering the park to the east.
A feature of Camp Helen State Park beach is the lake that at times will extend out into the Gulf, pilers that still stand from an old pier and the extended beachfront with soft white sands.
Access the beach through the park.
Most of 30A has a planned community feel and is focused on family and luxury.
Biking and golf carts are the preferred method of getting around in these communities, particularly the more inclusive. If you drive along 30A, you will quickly see the appeal of biking as the road can be quite congested.
Parking & Beach Access & Parking
Beach access throughout the communities along 30A varies depending on the community. While many are private communities, you can still walk along the beach if you can access it.
When parking is available, it is free on all of the beach communities along 30A. However, because many of these communities are private access only, or have limited or no parking at the beach access points, it is good to know where the larger public access points are.
Pure white sandy beaches line the entire beachfront along 30A.
Dunes line the many of the beachfront areas. Dunes are an important part of the ecology and are protected so please cross the dunes in the designated areas and boardwalks.
The Beachfront along the entire coastline of 30A is wide making the beach a perfect place for both relaxing and recreation.
The Shoreline offers soft sands making it enjoyable to walk barefoot and play in the shallow waters.
The water is a gorgeous green blue color blending into a deep blue on the horizon. The waters are warm most of the year and are very inviting for swimming, surfing and water activities.
Beach Ecosystem & Cleanliness
Each community along 30A manages their own beaches so each is a bit different. However, all of the beaches promote protection of the ecosystem and cleanliness.
Dolphins and Sea Turtles frequent the areas waters. Dolphin watching is particularly good during late spring/early summer and they are more active in the morning and late afternoon hours. Sea Turtle season runs from May to October and is the perfect time to go on a turtle walk with volunteers who teach the respect for these immense creatures.
Common Shore Birds are seen all along the shoreline of 30A. Bird watchers will spot terns, gulls, pelicans, black skimmers, sandpipers, herons, egrets and other birds in the area.
Water Activities include swimming, snorkeling, body surfing, stand up paddleboarding, and boating and fishing excursions. All along the stretch of Scenic Highway 30A are rare coastal dune lakes that offer fishing and boating.
Shelling along the waters edge is a favorite pasttime and there are always shells to be found. While 30A and the Panhandle is not one of the top destinations for shelling, and some of the shells found are seasonal, it is always fun to search for that unique treasure from the ocean.
Shopping is community small local shop focused in most of the communities along 30A. Anyone looking for larger retailers and malls need not go far. Destin to the west and Panama City to the east both feature the large shopping venues.
There is no other row of communities along the coastal areas in Florida quite like 30A. What makes it so unique is that each beach community has it's own personality and atmosphere. As you drive along scenic 30A, the changes from community to community are quite apparent.
The coastal lakes are close to the Gulf and occasionally create channels that connect to flow out to the Gulf waters. This is a rare phenomena that occurs in only a few places in the world.
30A features gorgeous sunsets and sunrises. During the winter months, from the angle of the earth to the sun, both sunrise and sunset can be seen across the horizon along the edge where the water meets the sky.
When visiting or moving to 30A, you will find options for homes, condos, town homes, hotels, and beach homes. The area brings visitors and residents who are looking for a specific beach town that fits their lifestyle.
The area is a good retirement choice for retirees who love boating, love the beach, and want to have all the amenities of an upscale lifestyle with shopping, golfing, and spas.
30A offers every type of real estate from beachy style homes to luxury homes, condos, apartments, and some of the best planned communities in the state of Florida.
All of the beachfront communities in the 30A area offer a beautiful beach vacation with the gorgeous white sand and emerald waters, water that is swimmable with shallow areas and sandbars, wide beachfronts for relaxing or playing and all inclusive communities.
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