We spent an amazing week in Florida’s 30a, also known as The Emerald Coast. There’s a series of quaint little towns between Destin and Panama City Beach that’s gained popularity over the past few years. Most of you remember that before moving to Austin, I lived in Florida for 15 years in Orlando and Miami but I’d never been to the panhandle or the beaches north of St Petersburg on the Gulf side. My husband Simon and I wanted a little relaxing beach time and when we found out that the rental car companies (all of them) couldn’t guarantee a rental car due to shortages from Covid, we decided to drive rather than fly so we would have the ability to visit all the towns in 30a, not just where we were staying and man, I’m sure glad we did!
I had planned this trip 5 months in advance so I had plenty of time to gather recommendations from clients who frequent 30a or Santa Rosa beach as it’s formally called on a map so I made a list of all the restaurants we wanted to try, shops I wanted to visit and beaches we planned to spend the day at and those of you who don’t know me, I live by my Google calendar scheduled out 8 months at a time so on vacation, outside of the flights and hotel, I don’t like to plan a thing.
Thanks to you I had over 30 recommendations and only 7 days so we got to as many as we could and I’ve listed them below to help you plan your trip but if you get to go for longer, I’ve also included the places that were suggested that we didn’t get to.
A few things to note about 30a… apparently the secret is out and everyone from everywhere is going so if you want a great airBNB you need to book it sooner than I did. From what I could tell there are only two small resorts (in Watercolor and Rosemary) out of all the towns in Santa Rosa so vacation rentals are where its at. Now we lucked out an found a cute place steps from the beach in Seaside but we were hoping for Greyton or Rosemary but there was no availability in mid July. Luckily because we drove we took everything we needed but the first day on the beach we were sitting in our chairs we bought from home, admiring the rental chair set ups with loungers, umbrella and even a table so I called the number printed on the back and the guy said that they were sold out for the week, he recommended two other companies and both were also sold out. You’ll need to book your chairs at least a week to 10 days out if you can’t bring your own. That also goes for bikes, golf carts and most nice restaurants too. In several of the towns, especially Seaside, bikes and golf carts are the preferred method of transportation since there are bike paths and trails everywhere and the speed limits are really low so the carts drive amongst the cars. And I’m happy to report we never saw one scooter the whole week.
Now knowing how busy it is this time of year and hearing from people that have been going there for years, it’s easy to see why a lot of people book their next years trip while their on this years trip. We definitely go lucky, we got into all the places we wanted without knowing that we needed to plan ahead, even Cafe 30a.
What we loved most about 30a was all the different vibes between the towns. For example Alys is swanky, it’s all white like Greece and all the homes must have a feature outside for passers by to enjoy.. Rosemary is beautiful to walk and excellent for families with several outdoor activities and space geared towards kids. Most of the cute shops we visited were there too like Willow Boutique, Huck & Harlowe and Rosemary Beach Trading Co. Seaside is the one you’re probably familiar with because the movie The Truman Show was filmed there. It was bustling! Out of all the towns it was the most touristy with the most restaurants, golf carts and bikes. Grayton is really chill, more locals and less restaurants. Blue Mountain is almost all locals and the beaches are just as pretty. Watercolor is a laid back vibe with one of the only resorts and some of the prettiest new builds that reminded me a but of Charleston.
Oh and everything is only a few miles apart but with summer traffic it can take 30 minutes to an hour to get from town to town. There’s a small Publix that has a limited selection but everything you need. It is slammed on the weekends and completely picked over by evening so go once and go early! There’s a really big Walmart a short drive away with a huge beach section with most things you need.
I feel like there’s more I could share so if you have any questions, DM me on Instagram @KaraSanchezBeauty and I will happily share everything I know from our first trip to the Emerald Coast!
Places we liked and tried:
Cafe Thirty-A - Seaside
3899 E County Hwy 30A, Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459
Best ribeye of Simon's life!
FOOW- Fish Out of Water - Watercolor
34 Goldenrod Cir., Santa Rosa Beah, FL 32459
Great burger and fries! Loved their Coconut cocktail, bang bang shrimp, and seafood lemon fettucini!
Bud and Alley's Waterfront Restaraunt and Bar - Seaside
2236 E W County Hwy 30A, Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459
Amici 30A Italian Kitchen - Rosemary Inlet
12805 US-98 R101, Rosemary Beach, FL 32461
They have a 1ft ravioli!
30 Castle Harbour Dr, Alys Beach, FL 32461
Definitely try their lobster roll and fish tacos!
63 Hotz Ave, Grayton Beach, FL 32459
Donut Hole -Inlet Beach
12983 US-98 E, Rose Mary Beach, FL 32461
Places we didn't make it this trip but want to try:
14 Vicki St, Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459
Elegant and cozy
5960 W County Hwy 30A, Sanat Rosa Beach, FL 32459
Heard they have crawfish everything!
1735 E County Hwy 30A, Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459
Corn and crab bisque
4801 W County Hwy 30A, Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459
80 E County Hwy 30A, Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459
A southern twist on italian!
2976 S County Hwy 395 #6302, Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459
Heard they have a life-changing fried grouper poboy!
109 Central Square Seaside, Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459
63 Main St., Rosemary Beach, FL 32461
Crabby Steves Highpointe - Beach access only
10254 E County Hwy 30A, Rosemary Beach, FL 32461
Food and drinks
Pescado Seafood Grill and Rooftop Bar
74 Town Hall #4B, Rosemary Beach, FL 32413
10343 E County Hwy 30A, Seacrest, FL 32413