“30A” is the name of the Florida State Road 30A, a 20-mile stretch of highway nestled across Florida’s panhandle along the gulf coast. On this two-way highway lies a string of beautiful beach towns with pristine white-sand beaches. Seaside, Alys Beach, Grayton Beach, WaterColor, and Rosemary Beach. Maybe you’ve heard of these vacation destinations, or maybe you’ve just seen “30A” bumper sticker on a passing car or an oversized “Seaside” shirt paired with Nike shorts on a VSCO girl. Regardless, 30A is one of the best-kept vacation secrets here in the states – and if you know, you know!
We’ve been going to 30A for a sunny escape my whole life! We started out vacationing to Destin when my sister and I were quite young and it seems we’ve been slowly moving east each subsequent trip! For most of my childhood, we stayed in Seaside. With a quaint town center, boardwalk, and food trucks that are bustling with kiddos under 10, it’s probably the most kid-friendly out of all the 30A beach towns! We then moved next door and tried WaterColor about 10 years ago – right next door to Seaside, this resort by the same name is beautiful and made trekking to the beach easy! And now we’ve landed on our favorite (and maybe the most adult-friendly) Alys Beach! It’s unlike the other beach communities along 30A and honestly feels like you’re vacationing outside of the US. With stark white buildings and architecture that seems almost Dutch and Moroccan at the same time, it truly transports you!
The whole 30A strip is ideal for kids, with so many family-fun offerings and fun activities to do! Spend your days at the beach or take a dip in the pool. Ride bikes to lunch and go “crabbing” at night! There’s also a huge water park to make a splash at and mini-golf/go-karts, too! For adults, there are plenty of activities to keep you occupied, too! You can go golfing, enjoy wine tasting, hit 30A trail for some bike riding, and shopping (Rosemary Beach has the best)! You can of course get sandy and enjoy the beach or relax and take advantage of your vacation and get a massage! I love 30A because every day is almost like a “choose your own adventure” day!
The food is fantastic along 30A. Seafood-centric and quite casual, there are great eats in every 30A neighborhood and most are worth the drive! A few of our favorites are George’s (Alys Beach) for lunch, the rooftop at Pescado (Rosemary Beach) for a drink at sundown or dinner, Bud & Alley’s (Seaside), The Citizen (Alys) for oysters and cocktails, and the Old Florida Fish House (Seagrove) that serving up some amazing sushi! One fun place to go with a big group is The Hub – it’s a communal gathering place with 6 restaurants, 2 bars with live music, and is such a blast!
Packing for 30A:
To Eat & Drink:
- Edward’s – Sophisticated American cuisine, with a focus on seafood, is served in an intimate, romantic space.
- *Pescado – One of our favorite dinner spots and a great rooftop! A seafood-centric menu in a light-filled dining room with contemporary interiors & patio seating. Get the Flash Fried Burrata, Pepper Crusted Tuna, and don’t skip the Yuzu Cheesecake! Call ahead of your trip to get reservations!
- The Courtyard at Pescado – If you can’t manage to grab a reservation at Pescado, they have a downstairs bar that doesn’t offer the views, but has a great cocktail list with some bar food bites!
- La Crema – Bright, cozy cafe serving Spanish small plates & chocolate confections, plus wine & other drinks.
- Seacrest sundries market
- Charlie’s Café – Serving locally made donuts, fresh salads, sandwiches & wraps, and ice cream. They also have a full-service espresso bar featuring coffee roasted in the panhandle and locally made Kombucha! They’ve got my favorite blueberry donuts here!
- Lola – Coastal Italian cuisine from Chef Tom Catherall!
- Playa Bowls – Smoothies and delicious acai bowls!
- LaCo – Coastal-accented Mexican fare & creative cocktails served in airy, cheery digs with sidewalk tables.
- Havana Beach– Stylish spot in The Pearl Hotel with a mahogany bar & veranda for locally sourced New American fare.
- Sugar Shak – Well-known sweet shop & ice cream parlor with some baked goods & a huge selection of candy.
- *George’s – Cottage cafe serving upscale American fare in a bright & airy dining room or on a breezy porch. Start off with the Calamari Fries and get the Lobster quesadilla or Salmon!
- *Citizen – A seaside tavern located within the town center of Alys Beach. It has beautiful interiors with delicious food + cocktail program and an oyster bar! The Chicken Flatbread, Bahn Mi Sandwich, Whipped Fetta, and the Lucid Greens cocktail are all amazing!
- Raw & Juicy – Cold-pressed juices, smoothies & bowls. If you go in the morning, expect a line! They have a raw/vegan coconut + lime cheesecake that is just amazing.
- Neat – Wine tasting room & bottle shop that hosts scheduled wine tastings!
- Mast – Everything needed to decorate the home, from lighting to furniture, made both locally and across the country
- Charlie’s Donuts – Serving up freshly made donuts, pastries, and coffee, this popular 30A stop is open daily from 6:30 AM to 10:00 AM.
- *Bud & Alley’s – Long-standing, laid-back eatery on the beach with an eclectic menu plus an open-air bar upstairs. Fun rooftop patio & bar
- The Shrimp Shack – Compact waterfront eatery with an outdoor deck features a casual menu of seafood baskets & plates.
- Pickles Burgers & Shakes – A bustling open-air counter-serve known for its fried pickles, plus burgers, chili dogs & draft beer.
- Great Southern Café – Southern specialties come with a twist at this warm spot that gives classic recipes a modern spin.
- Heavenly Shortcakes & Ice Cream – A bright, modern shop selling ice cream, gelato, strawberry shortcakes & pastries, plus coffee!
- Bud and Alley’s Taco Bar – Colorful oceanfront snack bar offering tacos & light Tex-Mex bites, margaritas & outdoor seating. Great Chicken Quesadillas & Margaritas!
- *Bud & Alley’s Pizza Bar + Trattoria – Relaxed pizzeria with terrace & sea views, also offering pasta dishes, Italian appetizers & a bar.
- *Seaside Food Trucks:
- The Green Stream – Raw Cold-pressed Juice, Real Fruit Smoothies, Acai & Pitaya Bowls, Wellness Shots, Avocado Toast, & More!
- *Mr. Gyro Hero – They are best known for their amazing gyros, but their Mediterranean menu offers a variety of dishes including vegetarian and kid-friendly options. Simply the best Mediterranean food in Northwest Florida.
- *The Meltdown – Locals line up for gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches, soup & beer from a food truck setup.
- *Frost Bite – Chill old trailer serving lots of flavors of frozen custard, shave ice & combos from the window. Our favorite snow cones!
- Cowgirl Kitchen (Seagrove + Rosemary) – Gourmet-foods market with an attached breakfast & lunch cafe, Bloody Marys & a sizable patio.
- Surfing Deer (Seagrove/Watercolor) – Buzzing, upscale beachfront New American eatery with a seafood focus & shaded patio seating.
- Seagrove Village Market Cafe (at sea grove village) – Burgers, fish baskets & Southern specials like po’ boys are the draw at this icon dating to 1949. Loved the grouper fish tacos!
- Beachy Bean (Seagrove)- Coffee Shop situated off 30A with beautiful views of Eastern Lake. Serving locally Organic Coffee, Smoothie Bowls, Pastries, and Breakfast & Lunch Bites. Right next to the Old Florida Fish House.
- *The Old Florida Fish House – Airy eatery is a family-friendly destination for seafood, with a sushi bar & frequent live music. We loved the “Miami Heat” roll!
- The Perfect Pig – Shabby-chic market & bistro serving upscale breakfast & lunch with a focus on ham & bacon.
- Prema – Organic cafe offering 100% organic food, that is always gluten-free, non-GMO, soy-free, and prepared without canola oil. Cold-pressed juice, smoothies, bowls, grab & go, salads!
- Cafe Thirty-A – Innovative American menu (quail & grits, banana beignets) with a classy decor & islandy vibe. Get the Crab Cake, Tuna Poke, and She Crab Soup to start. If you love lobster, don’t miss their Maine Lobster in Paradise!
- Goatfeathers – Seafood restaurant and fresh seafood market. If you’re wanting to grill or cook seafood at home, I’d recommend getting it from one of their two market locations along 30a!
- The Red Bar (Grayton Beach) – Set in an old general store, this open-late hangout offers Southern-tinged fare & live music. We grew up coming here and the establishment burned down a few years ago. But now it’s built back and up & running!
- Black Bear Bread Co. (Grayson beach) – Contemporary cafe for craft coffee, house-baked breads & pastries, sandwiches & all-day breakfast.
- Charingo (Grayton) – Spanish-style dishes served in a colorful, rustic-chic setting with outdoor seating & gulf views.
- Pizza by the Sea (Watercolor, Rosemary, Santa Rosa) – This vibrant, kid-friendly pick serves pasta, sandwiches & pizza, plus gluten- & dairy-free options.
Things to do:
- Ride bikes!
- Visit the Big Kahuna’s Water Park for a splash!
- Play some mini golf + go-karts at The Tracks!
- Go “Ghost Crabbing” or crab hunting at night!
- Hang and grub at The Hub – The Hub is an entertainment district and gathering place for families and friends with great restaurants, shopping and events. With six restaurants and two full bars there’s something to please every palate in your group! Catch live music at the venue during the weekends!
- Duo’s – Burgers, fries, dogs, salads, and sandwiches. It’s American fare at its best! Great kid’s options, too.
- Hooked – Great seafood & light options! I loved the avocado salad!
- Macho Taco – Mexican Inspired Soul Food. Get the Crispy Cauliflower Bites!
- Nektar – Coffee & Wine
- Mr. Freeze – Ice cream cones, shakes, and plenty of yummy toppings like Super Freeze Dust!
- Go golfing along 30a!
- Wine tasting at NEAT (Alys Beach), Wild Olives (Rosemary), or The Wine Bar (Watercolor)
- Go shopping:
In WaterColor, stay at the resort and in Alys Beach, go through their home rental portal to rent a house there. Everything else I’d recommend looking into VRBO for a rental house in Seaside or between any of these beach towns!
- *Alys Beach – This is my family’s favorite place to stay and where I’d recommend it! The visually stunning, predominantly masonry white-washed town, which today includes dozens of homes and a variety of amenities, including Grecian-inspired Caliza Pool, is also a luxury vacation destination.
- Rosemary Beach – Inspired by other classic beach neighborhoods, the 107-acre, gulf-front development of Rosemary Beach was designed to bring back the notions of community, neighborhood, and convenience. In other words, this slice of heaven on earth offers residents the opportunity to live and work in paradise.
- Seaside – We grew up going to Seaside and I think it’s the best place for those with young kiddos! Seaside is a small resort community known for its late-20th-century New Urbanist design, as well as pastel-colored houses featuring porches and white picket fences. A series of striking pavilions mark the access points to the long sandy beach. Shops and restaurants cluster in the town center. Fun fact, ‘The Truman Show’ was filmed here!
- WaterColor – One of the newer communities along Florida’s idyllic 30A, WaterColor is anchored by an inn and resort of the same name, with a prime waterfront spot on the Gulf and a slew of activities to entertain beach-goers of all ages. Tucked between Seaside and Grayton Beach State Park in South Walton, this neighborhood of charming homes and tree-shaded lanes is on the rise—check it out before all the beach loungers are taken.
Here are some 30A throwbacks over the years:
Have you been to any of the 30A beach towns before? There really is a beach town for everybody because they really are all so different! I hope you enjoy and this little guide helps you down on 30A!