The Florida Gulf Coast is known for having some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.
In particular the section of coastline in the panhandle of Florida colloquially known as 30A is a beach lovers paradise!
30A which is part of the Emerald Coast,, has been a vacation haunt for southerners for many decades, but it is definitely no longer a regional secret!
People now flock to 30A Florida from all over the US and even the world.
If you are planning a trip to 30A this post will help you with everything that you need to know to plan the perfect vacation in this gorgeous area.
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Here is Everything You Need to Know About 30A Florida
What is 30A Florida? and Where is 30A Florida?
Scenic County Highway 30A runs near the coast in South Walton County. A variety of beach communities are strung along its 18.56 mile length.
The entire area is known by both locals and tourists as 30A.
However, people will name a specific community to give directions or to tell you where on 30A that they are staying. For example, you might hear someone say, “we are spending our vacation on 30A. We rented a house in Rosemary Beach.”
What are the Beach Communities on 30A?
From west to east the communities on 30A Florida are typically considered to be:
- Dune Allen Beach
- Santa Rosa Beach
- Blue Mountain Beach
- Grayton Beach
- Watercolor, Seaside
- Seagrove Beach
- WaterSound Beach
- Seacrest Beach
- Alys Beach
- Rosemary Beach
Some lists will also include Sandestin on the west and Inlet Beach on the east.
Each community has its own feel and price point. You can check out this post about the 30A communities.
It is there that we describe each of the 30A Florida beach communities in more detail to help you decide where you might want to stay on your visit to 30A Florida.
We also have an entire post about the most famous of the 30A towns, Seaside.
How to Get to 30A
Until recently most southerners drove their families to 30A. It is within a days drive from most of the southern states.
However, as 30A has become increasingly popular you will find that more airlines are flying into one of the nearby airports and more people are choosing to fly.
Bargain fare airline, Allegiant, even has direct flights during the summer months from many smaller city airports. We flew directly from Memphis to Fort Walton Beach airport on Allegiant for our most recent trip to 30A.
Here are the airports near 30A Florida that you might want to consider.
Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport (ECP)
The closest airport from the center of 30A is in Panama City. It is called the Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport (ECP). This airport is approximately a 40 minute drive from Seaside, Florida on 30A.
Destin / Fort walton Beach Airport (VPS)
The Destin/Fort Walton Beach airport (VPS) is another excellent option. It is about 50 minutes from the center of 30A – so not much farther than the Northwest Florida Beaches airport.
Pensacola International Airport
The larger Pensacola International Airport is another viable option as it is about 2 hours from 30A.
What is High Season on 30A?
Because 30A tends to be a family destination you will find that, unlike many areas of Florida, high season is summer. Crowds and traffic can be very dense during the summer months.
I would highly recommend visiting 30A in the spring or fall.
Fall is my favorite time of year to vacation in this area but you will want to check the weather as fall also happens to be hurricane season.
Reserve lodging early if you plan to travel during the summer months and plan to make reservations at many restaurants in advance.
Transportation While in 30A Florida
You are probably going to want a car to fully explore the area.
However if you plan to stay in your own community and if you are located near the ocean you may find that a bike will suffice. This is a very bike friendly area and there are many places to rent a bike for a week.
Some people spend their vacation on 30A using a golf cart as their main form of transportation. However, I would only suggest this option if you plan to spend all or most of your time in your own community.
If you plan to use a golf cart you will want to double check that they are allowed in your community of choice.
What about Traffic and Parking on 30A Florida?
Traffic is busy most of the year but especially during the summer months.
In addition to the car traffic Highway 30A is crossed by multiple pedestrian walkways so you will always have to be on the lookout for people crossing the street.
You will also encounter a lot of bike traffic and will need to watch for that as well.
In other words, you will want to drive slowly and carefully when taking a car down 30A!
Parking can be difficult to find during the high season on 30A, especially near the community of Seaside.
Parking lots at some of the most popular beach access points also fill up quickly. If you plan to park at one of the public beaches I would suggest getting either an early or a late afternoon start.
My best advice for driving on 30A is to put yourself on beach time, go slow, watch for pedestrians and bikers, and don’t plan to ever be in a hurry.
What is the Lodging like in 30A
The vast majority of lodging on 30A consists of vacation homes, town homes, and condos.
Most vacationers to 30A rent a house or condo and stay for a week or more.
You can find some of the vacation rentals on Airbnb or VRBO, but for many of the beach communities, including the more exclusive ones, you will want to contact a local vacation rental company and book through them.
Just google “vacation rentals in…(the community of your choice)…and you will find many local agencies from which to rent lodging for your trip.
Many of the vacation rentals will give you access to pools or tennis courts. Some provide bikes or baby gear and a few even provide a golf cart for you to use during your stay.
You can find something to meet your needs!
NOTE: One thing that I think is important to know is that many of the rental properties in 30A Florida are NOT right on the beach. Instead they will be within easy walking distance of an access point to the beach.
Read the fine print as you making your booking to see how far you are from good beach access. Your vacation will be much easier if you do not have to drive to the beach.
All that said, It definitely is possible to find vacation homes or condos right on the ocean. We have done it ourselves and it is wonderful. Just be prepared to do a little more searching and to pay quite a bit more.
What are the Beaches like on 30A Florida?
Seriously, the beaches here are gorgeous! The sand is pure white. So white that it rarely gets hot under you feet even in the heat of the day. The water is almost always a stunning clear blue/green color.
Of course, you will find the typical sea life. You might see dolphin, fish, sting rays, jelly fish…and, yes, sharks. But the good news is that the water here is clear enough to see what is swimming near you.
The drop off on the beaches tends to be gradual so you can often walk out quite a while before getting in deeper waters.
Of course, you can’t predict the storms or the action of the waves, but on the Gulf Coast the waves are often small, particularly in the summer months.
In fact, the waves here are often so smooth that paddle boarding on the ocean is a popular past time.
NOTE: Conditions can quickly change, even from hour to hour, so always take precautions and check out the beach flags before going for a swim.
Meaning of the Beach Flags on 30A
- GREEN: Low Hazard: Conditions are calm but as always exercise caution.
- YELLOW: Medium Hazard: Moderate Surf and/or Moderate Currents.
- RED: High Hazard: High Surf and/or Strong Currents.
- DOUBLE RED: Water Closed to the Public.
- PURPLE: Marine Pests Present.
On our most recent trip to 30A the yellow and purple flags were out the entire time. We did see quite a few jellyfish but the waves and current were almost nonexistent.
Beach Chairs and Umbrellas on 30A
Because many of the vacation rental units are not right on the ocean you will find that there are multiple companies who will set up chairs and umbrellas for you at your preferred beach access point every morning and take them down every evening.
If you are staying in a resort they will often set up chairs for you, but if you are staying in a home you may have to contact a rental company yourself.
I highly recommend taking advantage of this service! We always do.
It will make your vacation so much more zen not to be required to lug all of your own equipment to the beach.
In addition many of the beach access points have stairs up and over the dunes so it can be difficult to bring a wagon to the beach with your supplies.
What are the Restaurants Like on 30A Florida?
You may be surprised to hear that the food is excellent on 30A Florida! Way better than you might expect in such a touristed area.
You will find some great restaurants nearby no matter where you stay on 30A. Check out our list of our favorite 30A restaurants.
If you are traveling during the summer months you will want to considering making reservations at the more restaurants that take them and be prepared to wait a while for a table at those that don’t.
What are those Lakes all Along 30A?
The lakes that you will see as you travel between the beach communities along 30A are called coastal dune lakes.
This is a natural phenomenon found in only a few places in the world. Besides South Walton County Florida they are found in New Zealand, Australia, and Madagascar.
The coastal dune lakes are really a treasure in this area.
Some are available for visitors to kayak and paddle board. Go here to learn more about the coastal dune lakes along 30A Florida.
Besides the beach what else is there to do on 30A?
You can bike, kayak, hike, shop, eat amazing food, visit one of the amazing state parks, and so much more.
Here is a list of other activities that you might want to do during your visit to 30A.
More Tips, Little Secrets, and Things to Know as You Plan Your Trip to 30A Florida
- 30A is geared mostly toward family travel.
- Reserve lodging early – particularly if you are planning to visit during the busy summer months.
- There will be traffic all the time and during high season there will be lots of traffic.
- As you are driving along most of 30A you typically CANNOT see the ocean. Either the road is too far from the beach or it is too built up to see past the homes.
- Few restaurants in 30A Florida have an ocean view. Don’t imagine sitting on the sand while enjoying your meal.
- The nature of the coastal dune lakes is that water is sometimes exchanged between the lake and the open ocean. Water will flow to and from the lakes. Occasionally this may cause a section of the ocean water to have a streak of brown. The water is NOT dirty. The coastal dune lakes are clean but are brown from tannins. Think of it like steeped tea.
- It may feel as if everyone who lives on 30A is rich. Don’t let those beach mansions fool you. Many of the locals are regular hardworking people.
- Dogs are not allowed on most of the beaches unless you have a permit.
- 30A is not an inexpensive beach destination for visitors. Restaurants and lodging tend to be pricy especially during the high season.
- The attire along 30A is very casual. You will not have to dress up even at the nicer restaurants.
- Crime is rare in this stretch of paradise, but, as always, be aware.
30A Florida is truly a wonderful place to visit. I hope that you enjoy your trip there!
We have more information here about planning your perfect vacation to 30A.
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