Summer to many people means beach season! When the sun is shining and the temperature is hot, is there really any better way to spend your summer days than at the beach? Well, how about a strip of beaches where you cannot only enjoy the sun and the sand, but you can shop til you drop, eat amazing food and have countless places to explore. I have just the place for you! Let me take you on a day along the famed Highway 30A in the Florida Panhandle.
On today’s journey we will be moving from West to East and stopping at my favorite places along 30A. I will share with you my recommendations for eating, shopping, adventuring and beaching. (Can I make those words verbs?!) It’s truly an incredible area and one you will want to explore as soon as you can. Whether you spend your day along 30A this summer, this year or this decade, I promise you are in for a treat.
Stop 1: Watercolor
This is a sleepier community that actually makes you feel like you might be in the woods and not near the beach. But fear not, it’s only blocks away no matter where you are in the community. They have a lovely inland lake where you can canoe/kayak, stand up paddle board or fish. They have a beautiful resort right on the beach. (In all of these communities you can also rent homes and that is very popular for guests wanting to spend extra time in the area.) They also have some cute shops, my favorite being the Barefoot Princess, where you can stock up on fun designer pieces and beachy must-haves.
Stop 2: Seaside
This is probably one of the most well known spots along 30A! It has been growing tremendously since construction first broke nearly 30 years ago and has become known as one of Florida’s best beach towns. If ever there was a place that felt like stepping into a tropical postcard, Seaside is it. You may have even seen it as the gorgeous backdrop in the film The Truman Show featuring Jim Carrey. My parents often tell me about my first trip to Seaside, when I was about 1 year old. At that time they had just a few houses, a beautiful beach and a post office. Times sure have changed. They are now a community of hundreds of colorful (super colorful) homes, tons of quirky shops, delicious restaurants, an active events calendar and the cutest little strip of Airstream trailer food trucks. They also still have that stunning, world class beach! On one of my last visits they were even using the beach to shoot a Macy’s summer ad campaign. My recommendations…
- Deja Vu: One of my favorite stores! You can see some of the great pieces I have found here, here and here. They carry a lot of fun styles, but my favorite are always the Judith March ones. She is such a fun designer!
- Perspicasity: The best part about this shop is that it’s open air style. There a little cabanas lining the main area that house all of the clothing (color coated by cabana) and in the middle, all of the accessories. They have really unique finds and are just steps from the beach.
- Bud & Alley’s Taco Bar: You will find that there are a lot of Bud & Alley’s locations in Seaside, with each one specializing in different food. This one is my favorite! They have delicious shrimp and fish tacos, great guacamole and colorful seating that is situated in a bust courtyard, perfect for people watching.
- Pickles Beachside Grill: Great diner food in a fun location. They have really great french fries and decadent milk shakes.
- Seaside Transit Authority Bike Rental: An absolute must for a visit to Seaside is a bike ride through the community. (You can actually ride through all of the communities along 30A if you would rather do that than drive! It’s definitely a fun way to see each area.) As I mentioned the houses are all very colorful, and each one is so unique, biking is a great way to see them all. It’s a peaceful ride and one that lends itself to many photo ops.
Stop 3: The Hub
This is one of the newest locations along 30A. In an ever growing area you are bound to run into new places and this one is a fun one to check out. It may be that I like it so much mainly for the fact that they have an entire store selling mermaid items, Mermaids of 30A, but there is definitely a lot more to see as well. They have some fun restaurants that serve all types of food, a place to rent bikes and they are best known for their park-like courtyard where you can expect events all of kinds. Think outdoor movie nights, concerts and dance parties!
Stop 4: Alys Beach
Visiting Alys Beach almost makes you feel like you have stepped out of Florida and into Greece. It’s lined with white stucco buildings (beautiful ones), accented by lush grass and greenery all around, and of course the turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico nearby.This particular area is a little more subdued and high end than the rest of the stops along 30A. If you decide to bike this route, set aside time for a nice break at Gulf Green park. It will give you a chance to relax and really soak up the simple beauty that is Alys Beach.
Stop 5: Rosemary Beach
While all of the communities along 30A have their own distinct feel, Rosemary Beach has a very unique vibe. It’s very different from the tropical feeling you get in Seaside, or the simplistic styling of Alys Beach. I would describe it as a mix of Mediterranean meets Spanish meets Mexican. The buildings are all more subtle in color, but by no means boring. Would a famous designer pick this place to live if it was boring? I think not! Which is why HGTV’s Vern Yip calls it home. (His house is stunning as you would expect.) Rosemary Beach has a lot to offer in terms of food, shopping and even a stunning resort. Because of it’s beauty, endless places to stay and close proximity to the Panama City airport, this has become a hot spot for Bachelorette parties and weddings alike. My recommendations…
- Cowgirl Kitchen: Really cute restaurant with great fish tacos! If you still have not gotten on board the fish taco train, this is a good place to try them out. They have really quirky takes on traditional Mexican food.
- The Pearl: Outside of having the most charming decor (hello gorgeous cabana striped awnings), this hotel is in a prime location, one block from the ocean. Many rooms have stunning views, and if you aren’t feeling like getting salty, they have a really pretty pool area. They also have a great rooftop lounge where you can enjoy authentic Cuban cocktails and cuisine, which you could guess is also decorated impeccably.
- Feed & Supply: If you are in need of food for a picnic [or your room], this is a good place to stop. They have lots of unique grocery items, lots of local items and lots of gluten free items.
- 30A: Since this is the last stop on our day trip along 30A, you will want to stop into this store and get lots of gear to remember your adventure. They have really cute “30A” branded hats, T-shirts and sweatshirts, plus the famed “30A” bumper sticker you will see all over the area.
All of these stops fall within South Walton county and you can gather a lot more information on their website, as well as through the links for each community above. You should also check out the fun facts below about many of the places you will pass as you drive along 30A. They will give you the edge on your travel mates and you can stun them with your knowledge!
Signed with Style,