A Complete Guide to 30A, Florida’s Most Charming Highway

By
Cortney Tarell
30A Complete Guide

30A is one of Florida's best locations for a unique beach vacation. It is a highway that stretches along 28 coastal miles of the Florida Panhandle between Miramar Beach and Panama City Beach. It's located in Walton County, so this area is also often known as South Walton. The entire stretch is filled with charming individual beach communities that each have their own unique personalities, some of which have naturally formed over many years and some of which are planned communities developed in recent decades. Wherever you are on 30A, you're guaranteed to find beautiful beaches with excellent views of the crystal clear Gulf waters.

There are tons of ways to visit this enchanting region. Take a drive along the path to experience everything it has to offer. Or choose your favorite spot and rent a beach home for the whole family.

If you're trying to travel to this area, it can be confusing to figure out where one community ends and the next begins. This guide will help you make sense of it and take you through each community individually.

30A Communities in order

Dune Allen

Gulf Place

Blue Mountain Beach

Grayton Beach

Watercolor

Seaside

Seagrove

Watersound

Seacrest

Alys Beach

Rosemary Beach

Inlet Beach

 

Side note: Many sources list Santa Rosa Beach as a 30A community, but Santa Rosa Beach does not represent any one specific community. It actually describes much of this area as a whole. It is the incorporated city that many of these unincorporated communities fall within. For instance, if you are staying in Seaside, your hotel will technically have a Santa Rosa Beach address.

Start

This guide will travel from west to east. West of 30A is the Destin area. From Destin you will drive through Miramar Beach. 30A breaks away from U.S. Route 98 at Topsail Hill Preserve State Park, where you can experience some of the area's most dramatic dunes.

Dune Allen

Dune Allen 30A

Dune Allen is the perfect spot for a quiet beach vacation away from the traffic and action of most of the area. It has miles of pristine beaches that are more easily accessible than most of the communities here. It also has three coastal dune lakes to explore. Dune Allen is mostly home to houses and very few commercial businesses, so it’s a great place to buy a house or rent a large vacation home. It may lack some of the amenities that other communities offer, but its westernmost location on 30A means that it’s an easy drive from here to Miramar Beach and Destin for whatever you need.

Dune Allen 30A

Must sees

Stinky’s Fish Camp - If you want delicious seafood, wine, and southern cooking, Stinky’s Fish Camp is the place to be. It's constantly rated as one of the best places to eat on 30A. They serve fresh seafood right out of the Gulf of Mexico with a large menu that offers options for every taste. You don’t want to miss brunch served every Sunday.

Santa Rosa Golf & Beach Club - This is one of a few golf courses along 30A, but it's the only one that is member owned and contains a private beach club. It has holes that stretch right down to the Gulf of Mexico to meet the gulf front club restaurant, Vue on 30a. 

Gulf Place

Gulf Place 30A

Gulf Place is a small planned community with a laid back attitude but plenty of fun things to do. The main plaza here is one of 30A’s best. It’s full of local shops and restaurants, plus the artist colony 30A Artists At Gulf Place, which allows you to buy goods from local artists. Gulf Place is also home to a wide open lawn with an amphitheater that welcomes all kinds of musicians and performers. This is an excellent home to lots of 30A’s best events, most notably the Wine Walk that takes place on the third Thursday of every month. All of this is designed to make you feel like a local, even if you’re only staying for a short time.

Gulf Place 30A

Must sees

Artists at Gulf Place - hidden behind the main Gulf Place plaza, this colorful colony is the ultimate place to visit if you want to shop local on 30A. It contains 8 galleries that sell affordable art such as clothing, jewelry, sculptures, and so much more.

Gulley Amphitheater - This outdoor performance space is home to lots of live performances. If you don’t happen to catch a concert, you can still enjoy the green space around the amphitheater, which is a great place for some family leisure time.

Sunrise Coffee Co - if you need a pick-me-up while you drive down 30A, Sunrise Coffee Co is one of the best places to stop for caffeination or a quick lunch.

Blue Mountain Beach

Blue Mountain Beach 30A

Blue Mountain Beach is aptly named for its towering dunes (the highest elevation on 30A) and the beautiful blue lupine flowers that grow there. All of the beachfronts in South Walton are beautiful, but Blue Mountain Beach certainly seems to take it to the next level. It also contains two beautiful coastal dune lakes, Draper Lake and Big Red Fish Lake, and it neighbors Washington State Forest, so there are many ways to enjoy Florida’s natural seaside when you visit. As one of the least populated areas along 30A, it’s also a quiet place to take a stroll. But there’s lots of great places to eat and shop in Blue Mountain Beach as well, so you never feel like you’re too disconnected. 

Blue Mountain Beach 30A

Must Sees

Blue Mountain Creamery - After a long, hot day on the beautiful beaches here, you’ll need something to help you cool down. The ice cream from Blue Mountain Creamery is a delicious way to do exactly that.

Johnny McTighes Irish Pub - One of the cool things about the food in Blue Mountain Beach is that it goes beyond the fresh seafood and southern fare that you’ll find in most seaside towns around here. You can’t go wrong with any of the restaurants here, but if you’re looking for a fun time, Johnny McTighes Irish Pub is one place you shouldn’t miss.

Grayton Beach

Grayton Beach 30A

Grayton Beach is a hard place to describe in just a single paragraph. It contains one of the most well known parks in the Florida Panhandle, Grayton Beach State Park, with all of its pristine beaches and untouched sand dunes. It also borders Washington State Forest, so it draws in lots of birdwatchers, hikers, and nature enthusiasts of all kinds. But the town itself is eclectic, colorful, and artsy, filled with galleries and fun local restaurants that come together to make the place feel totally weird in the best possible way. “Nice dogs, strange people” is the motto. It’s one part cool artistic village, one part nature conservatory, and three parts tropical oasis, all coming together to make a place unlike any other. There are so many more fun shops and restaurants than we could possibly mention here, so make sure you drive through the town and stop by all the places that interest you.

Grayton Beach 30A

Must sees

Grayton Beach State Park - Grayton Beach State Park has beaches that are constantly ranked in the top beaches across the country. It's 2,000 acres of coastal paradise. If you want to spend your time in nature while you visit 30A, the state park is probably the best place to camp, whether in one of the park’s cabins or at a campground.

The Underwater Museum of Art - Less than a mile off shore from Grayton Beach State Park is the country’s first permanent underwater sculpture installation. Each year new sculptural works added, designed specifically to attract all kinds of marine life and eventually become part of a living reef. In order to fully enjoy the museum, you must be a certified diver, but this unique experience is definitely worth checking out if you are one.

Grayton Beer Company - This is the most popular brewery in the Panhandle. You can find some of their best beers in stores all across the region and all across the state, but you must visit the original location here in Grayton Beach for the full 30A experience.

The Red Bar - For the ultimate in Grayton Beach weirdness, head to its most famous bar. Enjoying its amazing food and cocktails alongside live music is a great way to spend some time cooling down away from the beach.

WaterColor

WaterColor 30A

WaterColor is exactly as colorful and adorable as the name suggests. Its incredibly walkable streets are lined with trees and filled with charming family homes, picturesque parks, and quaint local restaurants. It's one of the best locations along 30A, bordering Grayton Beach and Seaside. If you stay here, you get easy access to Grayton Beach State Park and all of the amenities of Seaside as well, without quite as much of the traffic. The community is anchored by the beautiful WaterColor Inn & Resort, which borders most of the beachfront here. WaterColor is one of the best places on 30A for families with young kids to stay. It's convenient and designed to easily explore by foot or bike. 

WaterColor 30A

Must Sees

Fish Out Of Water (FOOW) - This is just one of several dining options at the WaterColor Inn & Resort, but most people agree it's the best, in fact, it's often listed as one of the best places to dine on 30A. You can enjoy its fresh seafood and other classic southern dishes while you enjoy direct views of the Gulf of Mexico.

The BoatHouse - If you're staying in WaterColor, you will get to know the BoatHouse well. It's located on Western Lake, a coastal dune lake and it's your gateway to exploring the lake. You can rent kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards to take out on the lake.

WaterColor 30A

Wine World - If you’re looking for an upscale dining experience, look no further than Wine World. Here you can try a number of wines from their extensive wine list or enjoy some of the delicious food they offer.

Seaside

Seaside 30A

Seaside is the most famous community on 30A, and for good reason. It was built in 1981 as a planned community, the first of its kind. Since then, many of the other 30A communities have been modeled after it. Everything in Seaside was designed to make it the perfect place to vacation. The town is charmingly beach-y and photographable, with cute local shops where you can buy everything from shoes and clothes to books and records, and tons of places to eat including a strip of retro food trailers that let you enjoy your meal in the salty sea air. Basically, this is the idyllic beach town of your dreams. Unfortunately, it’s the beach town of everyone else’s dreams too. Even during the off season, crowds in Seaside can be overwhelming and parking can be nearly impossible. The good news: if you stay in Seaside, the town is small and extremely walkable and bike friendly, so you won’t have to deal with parking problems.

Seaside 30A

Must Sees

Airstream Row - Basically all of Seaside is a must see, but this collection of food trailers is worth the trip itself. With plenty of options for affordable, portable snacks and meals, there will be something for the whole family to love.

Modica Market - In the modern era of supermarket chains, Modica Market stands alone as an independent grocery store selling all kinds of unique items to give all of your meals an extra boost.

Seaside 30A

The REP theatre - This is 30A’s only professional theatre, so if you want to experience something other than beach fun while you’re on your trip to South Walton, check out the theatre to see what shows they are putting on.

Sundog Books - Check out Sundog books for all of the latest bestsellers as well as local books and unique gifts.

Seagrove Beach

Seagrove Beach 30A

Seagrove is one of the oldest communities along 30A, and as such it's more laid back than many of the other communities. It doesn’t have as much of a unified identity as Seaside or Grayton Beach, but it doesn’t need one. People come here to relax by the Gulf in a chill environment that’s less high energy, but is still home to many interesting local businesses and things to do. Seagrove’s long beachfront has more public access points than any other and is full of windswept trees and beautiful views, so if you’re just looking for a beautiful beach vacation without all the fuss, this might be the spot for you.

Seagrove Beach 30A

Must Sees

Seagrove Village Market Cafe - This is the oldest restaurant on 30A, it has been serving “deep fried love” to both locals and visitors since 1949. The original building no longer stands, but the current location still has the original building facade.

Old Florida Fish House - If you want to have dinner in a beautiful outdoor environment, you can’t beat the Old Florida Fish House. It’s located right on Eastern Lake, with plenty of outside seating in a romantic setting. 

Watersound Beach

Watersound 30A

Watersound Beach is a residential community that highlights the peaceful nature of the beach, giving you a place where you can stop and take a deep breath. It borders Deer Lake State Park, so there is plenty of nature to enjoy. Even outside of the park, most of the shoreline has remained untouched, with long boardwalks that stretch through the towering dunes to bring residents to the beach. There’s also a great community feel here, anchored by The Hub, the center of the neighborhood where the whole family can gather together to enjoy a meal and a game on the giant TV screen. Slightly north of Watersound Beach is Watersound Origins, a new community that is currently being developed.

Watersound 30A

Must Sees

The Hub - The Hub has everything you need all in one place. There’s tons of shopping as well as plenty of options for dining all centered around an entertainment center that contains a large outdoor stage for live events and a giant jumbotron to show football games and other events.

Deer Lake State Park - Watersound is a great community to experience nature, and Deer Lake State Park is the ultimate place to do so. It has a long stretch of pristine beach along a coastal dune lake that gives you an example of natural Florida at its finest.

Seacrest

Seacrest 30A

Seacrest is the community on both sides of Alys Beach, so it’s a little hard to define where the community begins and ends. It has a relaxed feeling but lots of opportunities for luxury living on beautiful shores that are much less crowded than many of the surrounding areas. The center of Seacrest is The Merchants of Seacrest Beach, where you can find lots of opportunities for shopping and dining. There’s a little bit of everything in Seacrest, and its proximity to Alys Beach and Rosemary Beach puts it in an ideal location.

Must Sees

Seacrest 30A

The Merchants of Seacrest Beach - This is the best place to experience the shopping of Seacrest. Here you can find lots of great places to shop for all kinds of local goods and also to grab a bite to eat. While you’re visiting, you can also come here to rent a bike from Peddlers 30A Bike Rentals here to make it easier to get around.

Seacrest Sundries - Located within The Merchants of Seacrest Beach, Seacrest Sundries is your one stop shop for everything you need. It’s a mom and pop grocery store, a coffee shop, and a great place for a quick bite to eat combined into one.

Alys Beach

Alys Beach 30A

In an area full of unique communities, Alys Beach stands out as the most unique and interesting of all. It’s a small village with striking architecture modeled after the Mediterranean towns of Greece and Caribbean villages in Bermuda. It's designed to give visitors an escape from ordinary life in a peaceful and serene environment that feels like its own little world. A stroll through the elegant streets and courtyards while you browse the shops and restaurants of Alys Beach is something you must do on any 30A visit. Its picturesque and romantic vistas make it a one of a kind wedding venue. Some of the areas most exciting events also take place here including Digital Graffiti, an art exhibition unlike any other.

Must Sees

Alys Beach 30A

NEAT Tasting Room & Bottle Shop - Have a delicious cocktail at Neat, where minimalist design meets high quality ingredients to deliver something special.

Alys Beach 30A

Caliza Pool - You are unlikely to find a more beautifully designed pool than this one. It’s an oasis of calm, a brilliant place to soak in the sun at the water’s edge. While you’re there, you should have an upscale meal at Caliza Restaurant.

Rosemary Beach

Rosemary Beach 30A

Rosemary Beach is a romantic planned community modeled after New Orleans’ French Quarter and the West Indies. It has a distinct and recognizable style that will make you feel like you’re being swept away to another world. Walking through the town center immerses you in that world completely while you take in the romantic atmosphere and lively energy. With great shopping, plenty upscale dining, and beautiful outdoor spaces to explore, you are unlikely to get bored in Rosemary Beach. Yet, it still manages to feel like a small, cozy town with a focus on community. Even though it feels completely disconnected from the outside wold, it’s actually just a short drive from Panama City Beach.

Must Sees

Rosemary Beach 30A

Hidden Lantern Book Store - Lots of shops in Rosemary Beach are worth stopping by, but make sure you stop by Hidden Lantern Book Store if you want to find something special to bring home with you.

The Pearl Hotel - One of the most unique buildings along 30A is Rosemary Beach’s signature hotel, the Pearl. In addition to having a beautiful facade, it is also home to an upscale spa and a restaurant, Havana Beach Bar & Grill, which features a rooftop deck with stunning views.

La Crema Tapas & Chocolate - If you want a nice place to grab a dinner, dessert, or even a glass of wine, this is one of the places to get it. Here, you can enjoy the romantic surrounding environment of Rosemary Beach while you enjoy your meal.

Inlet Beach

Inlet Beach 30A

Inlet Beach is the community where 30A ends. It’s a great midpoint between 30A and Panama City Beach, so this is the place to stay if you want to see a lot of the Florida Panhandle. It's one of the easiest places to access the beach in South Walton. You can enjoy the beautiful shoreline here or head offshore where there's an artificial reef you can snorkel. There’s also a lot of great dining and high end shopping at 30Avenue, where you can spend the day if you want a break from the beach. The beach area is lined with family homes, so it’s the perfect place to have a laid-back vacation with the whole family.

Inlet Beach 30A

Must Sees

Shopping at 30Avenue - There’s a wide variety of shopping options at 30Avenue, from boutiques and furniture shops to a bridal store and more. Whatever you’re into, you are sure to enjoy strolling along, checking out the shops here.

Cuvee 30A - This is a classic Florida style dining experience with award winning dishes from celebrity Chef Tim Creehan. It also has amazing wine. Come here for a top-of-the-line night out.

 

End

30A joins back to U.S. Route 98 at Inlet beach. Right after that, you'll come to Camp Helen State Park, which contains lots of great beachfront nature in addition to well preserved historical landmarks. After that, you can drive along Panama City Beach's 27 miles of beachfront.