The Ultimate Guide to Florida’s Highway 30A
At first, beachgoers landed on Scenic Highway 30A the same way sand settles on the seashore: slowly and without much fanfare. But then a wave began to build and—bam!—all of a sudden, this unassuming stretch of roadway, just 24 miles long, was one of the most popular destinations in the South.Perched on the northwest Gulf Coast of Florida, the beaches along 30A can be accessed with an easy trip over a bay bridge.
These picture-perfect towns are welcome sights for weary travelers, some of whom have been driving for hours amid crumpled potato chip bags, empty sippy cups, and restless children in car seats. A greeting of powdery-white sand, clear cerulean water, and a decidedly sunny disposition kicks off your stay. From there, the salt-whipped streets teeming with flip-flopped bike riders instantly shift you into vacation mode.
These tiny towns fit together like members of a family, each with its own personality. Grayton Beach, the oldest of the bunch, is like that cool uncle who once followed Phish around the country, selling roadside tacos for gas money. Seaside sticks closer to the straight and narrow, more akin to a khakis-wearing dad. Alys Beach is as chic as that jet-setting aunt who visits during the holidays, freshly tanned from a trip to the Caribbean, while Rosemary Beach is the quiet one who enjoys the simpler things, like reading while sunbathing—responsibly, of course, under a wide-brimmed hat.Wander from one town to the next, and your view of this Southern coast will constantly change. Sure, there’s a little sibling rivalry, but family is family. The beaches of 30A just want to show everybody a good time.
Get to Know the Communities of 30A
The scenery along this stretch of South Walton road is enough to make you want to pull over and take a second look, but its collection of communities will make you want to stay the night (or even the week).
Check out each of them below, or click on to see where to eat, what to do, where to shop, and where to stay on 30A:
From Grayton Beach to Rosemary Beach, their charming accommodations, local food options, diverse shopping, family-friendly activities, and incomparable water views will captivate you.
Where to Eat on 30A
From classic Southern fare to bustling rooftop bars to seafood dives, the restaurants scattered along 30A will satisfy (and fill up) everyone, from the most fastidious foodie to the pickiest nibbler. NEAT, a bottle shop and tasting room in Alys Beach, will expand your cocktail palate—and teach you how to make your own at home—and the simple, fresh ingredients at Grayton Beach’s Chiringo will transport you around the world with internationally inspired beach fare. For a snack to tote to the water, Seaside’s Airstream Row (pictured) has five excellent options to choose from. Whatever you choose, you can be sure that you won’t go hungry on 30A.
What to Do on 30A
Beyond the obvious long days on the beach, 30A is bursting with outdoor activities to help you make the most of the sunny Gulf weather. Rent bikes from the Seaside Transit Authority or the Alys Beach Bike Shop and roll across the sand or the streets. Take to the water with kayak or paddle board rentals from Yellowfin Ocean Sports; the more adventurous can hit the waves in the spring and summer with Austin Magee’s Surf School. For rainy day activities, click on for shopping options.
Where to Shop on 30A
30A has local shops galore; visitors have their pick of clothing shops, toy stores, bookstores, and more. Beau Interiors (pictured), in Grayton Beach, can be the place you go to furnish your dream beach home (or the place you go to make your inland home feel like a beach home); Seaside’s Sundog Books will supply you with the beach read you’ve been searching for. And clothing stores across the area—including Perspicasity and Grayton Beach Gypsea—offer perfect picks for beach attire. When you’re going to 30A, forgetting to pack a bathing suit isn’t such a bad thing.
Where to Stay on 30A
On 30A, accommodations typically mean home or condo rentals. The WaterColor Inn & Resort, in the community of the same name, is a luxury oceanfront option with its own restaurants and shopping in addition to its 60 guest rooms. Other small inns and B&Bs are scattered across the communities of 30A, but for long stays or big groups, a rental is the best option. Options include houses for the whole family, like at 71 Nonesuch Way (pictured) in Alys Beach, which sleeps 12, and apartments perfect for a romantic getaway, like Seaside’s beachfront Firefly. For a truly special day, you can even look into renting out a house for a destination wedding.
Grayton Beach: The Relaxed Village with Nowhere to Be
If a typical beach town is laid-back, then Grayton Beach is fully reclining—in a hammock, with an ice-cold margarita in hand. In fact, this beach village even comes with an unofficial slogan: “Nice dogs, strange people.”
Seaside: The Happy Town with an Old Soul
The 1998 cult-classic film The Truman Show, shot in Seaside, features a town so idyllic that it could exist in a movie. This place, however, is absolutely real—from the pristine amphitheater lawn to a charming string of food trucks to the crisp white, Instagrammable Seaside Post Office.
Alys Beach: The Worldly Sophisticate
Four gleaming minaret-style towers welcome visitors to Alys Beach and a stretch of the scenic highway flanked by towering palm trees. In case the sophisticated surroundings tempt you to put on airs, remember that this beach town was named after its original developer’s wife. That’s like naming your firstborn after your mama, and we all know it doesn’t get more relatable—or Southern—than that.
Rosemary Beach: The Charming Spot with a Quiet Side
With the same sugar-white sand and thoughtfully planned layout as its due-west counterparts, Rosemary Beach makes a play for the distinction of “most quietly charming.” In between boogie boarding and bike rides, don’t be surprised if you stumble upon a nicely shaded, secluded bench. In fact, you might find yourself sitting a spell. This place has that kind of effect.
WaterColor: A Cheerful Family-friendly Community
Tucked between Seaside and Grayton Beach State Park’s Western Lake, WaterColor—a resort town centered on the waterfront WaterColor Inn & Resort—combines resort amenities with the homey comforts of a residential community. Shops like The Blue Giraffe provide off-sand entertainment, and a selection of restaurants, from the resort’s celebrated Fish Out of Water to casual off-site spot The Wine Bar, promises days of fresh, vacation-perfect meals without repeats. (Unless you return for an encore, of course.)
Seagrove: An Old Florida Feel That Can’t Be Beat
Surrounded by a thick grove of trees—the source of the community’s name—Seagrove’s stretch of beach houses and sand marks a relaxed departure from the picture-perfect planned communities of Seaside and Alys Beach. The Cowgirl Kitchen Market & Cafe and The Perfect Pig have foodie takes on classic beach fare that make this stretch of 30A a must-visit, and a mindful yoga class at Balance Health Studio can give you a new perspective on your whole vacation. And don’t forget the beach: Passing under a cluster of vines to get to the ivory sand feels like stepping into another world.
More Beach Towns to Visit
But wait: Highway 30A is much more than just these four favorites. Take a drive and explore in-between beaches, from Blue Mountain Beach to Seagrove Beach to WaterSound Beach. With plenty of cottages to rent and seafood dives to hit, you won’t dare miss out on everything that Florida’s Highway 30A has to offer.