Unless you're from the South, don't be surprised if you've never heard of the beaches of 30A. In fact, don't be surprised if you haven't heard of 30A, period. But now's the time to change things. One of the Emerald Coast's best-kept secrets, 30A consists of a series of small, utterly charming beach towns that dot the coastline between Panama City and Destin. There are no big hotels, no giant condos, and no annoying tourists traps. Instead, there's peace, calm, and as much sun, sea, and sand as you can handle. Each community is unique, but each one promises top-notch beachside fun in one of the prettiest portions of the Florida coast. Here's our pick of the 10 best 30A beaches you shouldn't miss.
10. Dune Allen Beach
If you're looking for a peaceful beach that's mercifully free of the tourist hordes, look no further than Dune Allen Beach. Most of the surrounding shoreline is residential, resulting in a quiet, calm vibe that feels a world away from the hustle and bustle of the state's bigger resorts.
9. Water Color
WaterColor is home to one of South Walton’s most picturesque coastal dune lakes, Western Lake. You can rent a kayak or stand up paddleboard (SUP) from the WaterColor Boathouse and spend your days paddling the lake, or hike and bike your way through Grayton Beach State Park and Point Washington State Forest. The architectural stylings of the WaterColor Inn & Resort are perfect for large families and multi-generational family vacations, and the wide front porches and Florida-style homes complement South Walton’s natural beauty. With rooms overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, the WaterColor Inn is home to the award-winning FOOW (Fish out of Water) restaurant, as well as The Gathering Spot. The panoramic views of the Gulf of Mexico from the outdoor patio at FOOW offer one of the most impressive views in all of South Walton. Along Hwy 30A, The Wine Bar showcases an enticing happy hour where you can sit and sip while sharing a gourmet cheese plate, a fire roasted brick oven pizza or indulging in the Red Snapper picatta. It’s the perfect way to relax after spending the day browsing the local shops and exploring beautiful Cerulean Park with your family. Each year WaterColor plays host to the Mountainfilm on Tour Festival, a two-night outdoor film festival dedicated to educating, inspiring, and motivating audiences, and the Harvest Wine & Food Festival, a three-day event featuring celebrity winemaker dinners, an al fresco reserve tasting and grand tasting showcasing more than 250 wines. A visit to WaterColor offers a relaxing small-town feel, with upscale amenities and a world-class beach, perfect for relaxing and connecting with loved ones.
If you've ever seen "The Truman Show," you might get a sense of deja vu walking around Seaside. You're not imagining it - this is the very town that the movie was filmed in. It's so picture-perfect and flawlessly planned that it seems almost fake. Fortunately, it's not, although it is expensive, so be prepared for the price tags. The beach is lovely, even if you do have to shell out for a beach chair, and the town itself is charming to stroll around. If you get peckish, you'll find plenty of food trucks bordering the beach and a good range of restaurants in the town - the 45 Central Wine & Sushi Bar comes particularly highly recommended, and not just because of the half-priced wine served between 4 pm and 6 pm.
7. Seagrove Beach
As harmonybeachvacations.com notes, Seagrove Beach is one of the best beaches in 30A to explore if you want to combine some relaxing time on the sand with some great local cuisine. The beachside community might be tiny, but it's crammed with great places to enjoy some fine food and wine. If you're in the mood for some retail therapy, the nearby town of Seaside has an excellent assortment of local shops to satisfy your retail cravings.
According to exclusive30a.com, WaterSound is so serene, it'll take your breath away. Hopefully, you'll get it back before long - with so much to do and see, you're going to need it. The beachside community is a delight of cute little cottages and affordable vacation rental homes, with a range of recreation options (including a lake, multiple pools, and a golf course) at their center. If you get a snack craving, head on over to the food hub, which boasts an excellent assortment of food trucks and restaurants.
5. Grayton Beach
Grayton Beach has the distinction of being one of the oldest communities in the area. It's also one of the most quirky, with peace signs decorating the streets, a very prominent VW van, and the kind of residents that would be best described as 'free-spirited.' The beach itself is lovely and rarely gets too crowded. It's one of the very few in 30A that allows bonfires, although be sure to get a permit before starting any fires. The adjoining state park is just as charming and offers several glamping sites if you fancy sleeping out beneath the stars. Come evening, be sure to stop by the legendary Red Car for some crab cakes and cocktails.
4. Inlet Beach
if you want to skip the crowds and enjoy some quiet time, head for Inlet Beach. It's remote enough to have escaped the notice of most tourists, leaving you free to enjoy its sparkling waters and spectacular views in blissful tranquility. The dunes backing onto the beach are wonderfully photogenic (as are the derelict old piers), so be sure to keep your camera by your side during your visit.
3. Rosemary Beach
If you're looking for a charming beach community with easy beach access and a score of attractions, look no further than Rosemary Beachside. Its tree-lined, cobblestone streets are great for a stroll, while the cute shops and lovely cafes on the town square are always worth exploring. If you're into food, be sure to stock up on fresh local produce at the farmers' market. The beach itself is just as charming as the town, with gorgeous views over the ocean and enough space never to feel crowded.
2. Alys Beach
Just a short walk or bike ride from Rosemary Beach is Alys Beach. As The Points Guy notes, if you didn't know you were in Florida, you'd be forgiven for thinking you'd be transported to Bermuda. Or maybe Antigua. Or maybe even Mykonos. Basically, any place that's hot, exotic, and beautiful. Once you've finished admiring the architecture, head for the beach - a hugely appealing stretch of golden sand fringed by palm trees and lapped by crystal clear water. If you get hungry, stop by Charlie’s Donut Truck for some sweet treats or head to George's for something a little more substantial.
1. Blue Mountain Beach
Of all 30A beaches, Blue Mountain Beach might well be the most breathtaking. Its name is inspired by the blue lupines that grow free and wild around the dunes, scenting the air with wafts of fragrance and adding an extra wow factor to its already abundant charms. The beach is gorgeously quiet for most of the year, leaving you free to enjoy its attractions without hordes of tourists getting in your way.
Written by Dana Hanson
Read more posts by Dana Hanson