Beautiful 30A Beach Towns
30A Florida is a collection of small beach communities in the county of South Walton Florida. They are strung between the busy cities of Panama City Beach and Destin along the 18.5 mile long County Highway 30A.
The entire area is colloquially known as 30A.
Vacationers will say they are going to 30A, but then will also name the individual town where they are going to stay. For example, “We’re gonna spend a week in 30A this summer, we rented a house at Rosemary Beach”
Even though they run from one to another without only yards separating them, you will find that each of the 30A beach towns has its own personality, its own perks, and its own price point.
Frequent visitors tend to have very strong opinions about which one is best!
This is a quickly growing area so you aren’t going to find much left of “old Florida.” However, you will find that the 30A beach towns range in personality from wildly upscale, to almost weirdly perfect, to artsy, to a mix of old and new.
This list of beach towns along 30A may vary depending on where you Some lists will also include Sandestin and Inlet Beach.
Below is our list of beautiful beach towns along 30A along with a description of each one.
Which 30A beach town do you think is right for you and your family?
Beautiful 30A Beach Towns
From west to east the beach towns along 30A are: Dune Allen Beach, Santa Rosa Beach, Blue Mountain Beach, Grayton Beach, Watercolor, Seaside, Seagrove Beach, WaterSound Beach, Seacrest Beach, Alys Beach, Rosemary Beach.
Dune Allen Beach
Dune Allen is on the far west end of highway 30A and is arguably the quietest of the 30A beach towns. This is the place to stay for solitude and nature lovers.
5 of the coastal dune lakes are located in the Dune Allen Beach area including Allen Lake and Oyster Lake. Although Oyster Lake is roughly shaped like an oyster we were told that it actually got its name because it once teemed with these delectable mollusks.
Sadly those days are gone.
In Dune Allen you will find the not to be missed Topsail Beach Preserve State Park.
If you are interested in camping or plan to bring your RV or just want a bit of seclusion then Topsail Beach Preserve State Park is the place to be. This amazing park has over three miles of pristine beach front and gorgeous sand dunes. Some of the dunes are as high as 25 feet.
According to legend sailors traveling along the coastline thought the white sand dunes looked like the topsails of a boat.
In addition to tent and RV camping there are also cabins that you can rent at the state park providing some of the least expensive lodging in the area.
The most well known restaurant in Dune Allen is Stinky’s Fish Camp. Next door to the restaurant you will find Stinky’s Bait Shack where you can pick up some fishing supplies as well as have a drink or listen to live music.
Other than the state park most of Dune Allen Beach consists of residential homes. In fact, this is one of the few 30A beach towns where you can still find remnants of the older single story bungalows which were once everyone along 30A.
Gulf Place / Santa Rosa Beach
The boundaries of Santa Rosa Beach are a little hard to define. Technically it encompasses much of the 30A area from Dune Allen all the way to the community of Seaside.
However, the 30A beach “sub” communities along Santa Rosa Beach all have their own unique location and personalities.
So, for the purposes of this post we are going to consider the area around the planned development of of Gulf Place as Santa Rosa Beach and then talk about each of the “sub” communities individually.
The address may say Santa Rosa Beach, but the communities really are distinct entities.
You will find that this is one of the more eclectic areas of 30A especially with regards to lodging.
Gulf Place on 30A is one of the original planned communities in this area. You can tell that it is an older community, but it still has some of best restaurants and shopping on 30A.
You can definitely find some Airbnb’s on Santa Rosa in the form of condos and even single family homes. You will also find some of the best public beach access in the entire area.
Be sure and check out the fun and funky Artists at Gulf Place. These are colorful little open air huts where the artists sell their wares.
Some of our favorite restaurants on 30A are located in Santa Rosa Beach including Shunk Gulley Oyster Bar and the newly opened 30A Chef’s Deli.
If you are staying somewhere with a kitchen and want to create some of your own Gulf coast inspired dishes pick up some fresh seafood at Goatfeathers Seafood Market.
Want to experience the Florida woodlands? From this area of 30A you can easily access the Point Washington State Forest which has 15,000 acres of Florida wilderness with trails for off road biking and hiking.
There is also primitive overnight tent camping allowed in certain areas of the forest.
Blue Mountain Beach
There is definitely not a mountain at Blue Mountain Beach but it is home to what is said to be the highest point on the Gulf of Mexico. How high? A grand and whopping 65 feet.
Blue Mountain Beach was named for the flowering blue lupine which once covered the dunes. Pockets of the flower can still be found blooming on the dunes at certain times of year.
Blue Mountain Beach has mostly private and vacation residences many of which are near the huge Point Washington State Forest mentioned above.
It is also home to Big Redfish Lake, one of the coastal dune lakes which you can explore in a kayak or, if your balance is good, on a paddle board.
One of the most interesting stops in Blue Mountain Beach is the gallery of local artist Justin Gaffery. His colorful work has become a signature look for 30A. You can even sign up for an art class at the gallery.
You will definitely want to stop at the Blue Mountain Creamery which is perhaps the most popular ice cream shop on 30A. Grab your morning coffee and pastry at Blue Mountain Bakery.
Some other great restaurants located on Blue Mountain Beach are Basmati’s, Blue Mabel Smokehouse, and Local Catch.
This is considered to be one of the least crowded areas on 30A
Grayton Beach is the oldest of the 30A beach towns. It has been attracting tourists for over 100 years. Grayton Beach is also considered to be one of the funkiest and most unique of the beach towns.
There is a laid back attitude here that makes it one of our favorite places to stay on 30A!
The residents of Grayton Beach consider their town to be the heart and soul of South Walton County. Their unofficial slogan is “Nice Dogs, Strange People.”
With a slogan like that you will not be surprised to discover that in Grayton Beach you will find funky art, including lots of peace signs, as well as art galleries, interesting shops, historic cottages, and picket fences.
The beach here has been named one of the most beautiful beaches in America.
One of the best things about Grayton Beach is that it is almost completely surrounded by Grayton Beach State Park. This is another gorgeous state park where you can camp, stay in a cabin, fish, paddle in a coastal dune lake, bike and hike and enjoy the pristine beaches.
If you like to fish one of the fun things about Grayton Beach is that you can hop on a charter boat directly from the beach! This is unique on 30A.
Grayton Beach has some excellent restaurants as well.
I would suggest Black Bear Bread Company for breakfast. Grayton Seafood Co. is a long time area favorite. You can try some local brews at the Grayton Beer Company or enjoy some drinks, bar food, and music at the Red Bar.
The town of Watercolor is a lovely place located on about 500 acres.
Its main claim to fame is that Watercolor is home to the WaterColor Inn. This is one of the few resorts on 30A and has been the recipient of multiple awards including “World’s Best” by Travel+Leisure.
Here you will find fine dining, gorgeous swimming pools, activities for the children and stunning views of the white sands and blue-green waters of the 30A beaches.
One of the best restaurants on 30A is FOOW (fish out of water) which is located at the Watercolor Inn but open to the public.
There are also private homes available to rent in Watercolor which are architecturally lovely and perfect for multi-generational travel.
Western Lake, one of the prettiest coastal dune lakes is located in Watercolor. This is a perfect place to kayak, paddle board, and watch the sunset.
Seaside, Florida is the most famous and iconic of the 30A beach towns. You will feel as if the most perfect Main Street in the US has been picked up and set at the beachfront.
The town began in the 1980’s using a concept dubbed “New Urbanism.”
The idea was for the town to be built the way they were in the past; walkable, with shopping and public spaces near homes. It was meant to be a place where people sat on their front porches and greeted their neighbors.
Seaside is known for its pastel cottages built in an old Florida style with large porches and white picket fences.
It is no wonder that Seaside was featured in the movie “The Truman Show” where the main character mistakenly believes that he lives a perfect life in a perfect town only to discover that his life is actually a reality tv show.
As quaint as Seaside is I think that it is important to know that it is very busy, especially in the summer. Traffic through this area is some of the worst on 30A.
The good news is that you won’t have to drive much if you stay here. It is small, but packed with easy beach access, and plenty of shops and restaurants within walking distance.
One of the best places to eat in Seaside is at the adorable Airstream row with a variety of restaurants in quaint Airstream trailers.
Bud and Alleys is a beach front restaurant which is a perfect place to go to have a drink and a meal and watch the sunset. The Great Southern Cafe is another well loved and delicious restaurant.
You will also find some great art galleries, live music, festivals, as well as local crafts and unique gifts in Seaside, Florida.
Seagrove is one of the 30A beach towns that still has a bit of the classic Florida Vacation vibe.
It was named for the thick grove of windswept trees that have been in the area since the old Florida days.
In fact, unlike other communities, Seagrove still maintains the green canopy of oaks, magnolias, hickories and sand pines that came to define it many years ago.
Be sure and spend some time biking along the Timpoochee Trail under the canopy of trees in this area. It is a great way to get around.
Today, Seagrove has an eclectic mix of old beach homesteads and fancy new “cottages.”
One of the best thing is that this community offers more public beach access points than any of the other 30A neighborhoods.
Seagrove is located near the two dune lakes, Eastern Lake and Deer Lake State Park where kayakers can enjoy the water and the wildlife.
You will definitely want to eat at the Seagrove Village Market Cafe and have their grouper sandwich which the magazine Garden and Gun once named one of the “100 things you must eat before you die.”
WaterSound is a private community that will encourage you to have a quiet retreat. It is an interesting place with architecture that looks like they picked up an Eastern seaboard town and set it along a Florida beach.
The WaterSound Inn is located in this community. This is a small boutique hotel with large condo sized suites. Guests enjoy access to the WaterSound Beach Club with its 7,000 square foot zero-entry pool.
You will also want to visit The Hub (now called the Big Chill) while in WaterSound. This is a gathering place for the community with food, drinks, entertainment, and shopping.
If you are traveling with a family The Hub has open space for the kids to run and play as well as live music and family movie nights.
This is an area that is almost all residential and is therefore one of the quietest of the 30A beach towns. There is virtually no commercial development here which means you will need to drive or perhaps bike to restaurants and shops.
It is also one of the areas along 30A in which you are most likely to find a place to rent that is right on the beach. In fact, this is where we stayed on our multi-generational family vacation.
Seacrest Beach has some of the highest sand dunes on Scenic 30-A. They are so high that one can easily view dolphins swimming in the distance from the top of the boardwalks that cross them.
One of the least developed and most scenic of the dune lakes, Camp Creek Lake, is located on the western edge of the community and extends north and south of Scenic 30-A.
Legend says that the Creek Indians lived in this area and that the lake was named in their honor.
You will know you are in Alys Beach when you pass the white minaret (beehive) style towers and see rows of gorgeous palm trees towering on either side of scenic route 30A.
Alys Beach is one of the most unique and arguably the most expensive of the 30A beach towns. Alys Beach is a luxurious retreat.
The architecture here is oddly captivating. All of the buildings are painted white which gives the place a feeling of Santorini or perhaps one of the white towns in the south of Spain. However, it is all mixed with a Bermuda or vaguely Caribbean vibe.
The all white is engagingly stark. Touches of color on the windows and doors and in the landscaping keep it from feeling cold.
This is a beautiful place for a bike ride or a stroll. In addition to the charm of the white buildings Alys Beach is full of green spaces, nature preserves, gardens and parks. You will definitely want to pedal through the 20 acre nature preserve.
Try a bowl or a smoothie at Raw and Juicy while you are in the area or stop for a wine tasting at NEAT. George’s at Alys Beach is considered to be one of the best restaurants on 30A. I love that their menu is divided by items labeled behave and misbehave items.
Alys Beach also has a string of lovely boutiques that you will also want to check out.
Although the area is exclusive it manages to still be casual and serene.
Rosemary Beach is one of the 30A beach towns that is particularly popular with families.
It has also been named by CNN as one of the “Most Romantic Towns in America.” So it is a perfect place for couples as well.
Rosemary Beach is gorgeous! The winding paths and cobblestone streets as well as its welcoming patios and courtyards give it old world charm mixed with new world amenities.
It was designed with an emphasis on green space so as you bike or walk through the area you get a wonderful feeling of being able to spread out in nature.
One of the very few hotels on 30A isThe Pearl in Rosemary Beach. This is a gorgeous, luxury hotel with a spa right on the ocean.
Fashion, food, and fun mingle together along the gorgeous public spaces here. You will find bike rentals, fun boutiques, and lots of al fresco dining in Rosemary Beach.
La Crema is a great place to have tapas and chocolate. You will also enjoy Pescado Seafood and Havana Beach Bar & Grill. Both of these have wonderful views of the Gulf which is rare in this area.
With so many 30A beach towns you are certain to find the perfect place for your stay!
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