Grayton Beach, Florida: What To Do in This Tiny Beach Town with a Groovy Soul
This beach village comes with an unofficial slogan: "Nice dogs, strange people."
If a typical beach town is laid-back, then Grayton Beach is fully reclining—in a hammock, with an ice-cold margarita in hand. Settled into the wild, unkempt land that makes up the surrounding state park, this small town doesn't worry too much about whether you like it. As paper-white town squares and pastel cottages grew up just down the road along Highway 30A, Grayton Beach kept its shell-speckled, sandy roads; sea-weathered homes; and groovy attitude. Barring a little strip of stores and restaurants, the tiny coastal village remains old-school. Here's everything you need to hit on your next trip.
Book your stay at Hibiscus Coffee & Guesthouse
"Go on out to the Backyard of Love," says a mellow woman behind the counter at Hibiscus Coffee & Guesthouse, a little bed-and-breakfast hidden beneath Spanish moss. She points to a shaded area behind the inn. Nailed to a tree outside is a rustic wooden sign that reads (she wasn't kidding) "Backyard of Love." Below it, there's another sign that simply says "Hug in...hug out."
To get there, you will meander through a lush, fairy-worthy tapestry of ivy and narrow pathways forged during the B&B's 25 years in business. Like most things in Grayton Beach, the Backyard of Love is nothing fancy and a little funky—the kind of place where you could imagine a Woodstock revival coming together. That suits a town with the unofficial slogan "Nice dogs, strange people."
It's all booked? Try renting one of the cozy cottages instead. For a more resort-like experience, you can book a room at WaterColor Inn & Resort only about two miles away.
Eat your way through Grayton Beach, starting with Black Bear Bread Co.
After a morning bike ride, trade dusty pedals for the whitewashed floors of Black Bear Bread Co. Once inside the cozy cottage, you'll be smacked with the pleasant aroma of toasty sourdough and Benton's bacon, mingling in perfect harmony with poached eggs. Warm, flaky croissants and cinnamon rolls tempt you as you wait to order at the counter. You might catch executive chef and co-owner Phil McDonald running point by the galley window or swooping in with a steaming plate of the weekend-only biscuits and gravy to satisfy a hungry diner. The café has recently expanded next door, opening its own Bar Room. There, you can close out your day with oysters, shareables, charcuterie, and a selection of natural and biodynamic wines.
"I remember the days when we used to sit around a table and try to figure out how to get people to come down to 30A!" says co-owner Dave Rauschkolb. "We'd go, 'When are they going to discover this place?'" Nobody's asking that now.
But that's not the only place worth snacking. Head to Chiringo for gorgeous ocean views and a fresh Spanish-style menu, and get your fill of seafood at Grayton Seafood Co. or Hurricane Oyster Bar & Grill.
Shop a beach boutique owned by one of Nashville's biggest country stars
Across the street from where The Red Bar used to stand, Tribe Kelly Surf Post—owned by wife-husband duo, Brittney and Brian Kelley (who makes up one-half of the Florida-Georgia Line country duo)—offers clothing, jewelry, and trendy knickknacks and will send you home with something you can't find anywhere else. The team designs its off-duty chic collections right on the top floor of its beach abode.
Try paddle boarding or kayaking at Grayton Beach State Park
Highway 30A is home to some of the most stunning dune lakes in the world, which you can fully experience at Grayton Beach State Park. Head out at sunrise or sunset with paddle boards from BOTE Grayton Beach or kayaks from Adventure 30A, and catch a coastal scene like no other. We're talking pastel skies and sparkling blue waters, folks. Once you're comfortable on the calm waters, try the ocean on for size!
Grab a six-pack from Grayton Beer Co. before heading to the beach
This is the closest you'll get to being able to taste the local flair of Grayton Beach, and it's the only thing you should be cracking open on these shores. Grayton Beer Company started with two classic brews, an IPA and a Pale Ale, and vacationers and locals alike instantly fell head over hops. Visit the Taproom, Brewpub (with a tasty bar menu), or any nearby store for a six-pack before hitting the beach. It'll make your experience that much more authentic.
Visit the newly-reopened Red Bar, which was destroyed by a fire in 2019
For a while, this iconic beachside restaurant wasn't spilling out with beachgoers waiting for tables and catchy tunes coming from The Red Bar Jazz Band. However, after plenty of well wishes and a reconstruction, The Red Bar is back and better than ever. (The restaurant-and-bar suffered irreparable damage from a fire on February 13, 2019.)
The Red Bar has always existed as a scarlet-lit, bohemian anomaly on the impeccably polished and planned Highway 30A, and now it's started a new era. The Grayton Beach mainstay blends a '70s Parisian beatnik bistro with a beach vagabond vibe, and Southerners come for the perfectly blackened grouper and stick around for the house margaritas and live music by The Red Bar Jazz Band.
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If Grayton Beach wasn't already first on your can't-miss list for 2021, feel free to add it now.