Have you ever heard of 30A? Until we moved to Texas, I had not! When we first moved, Matt and I both kept hearing people reference “30A”; from co-workers chatting in the breakroom to bumper stickers on cars driving around Dallas. We were at a loss of what “30A” even was until we finally Googled it. Turns out it is a place; short for “Highway 30A”, 30A is a scenic roadway along Florida’s panhandle between Destin and Panama City, home to several charming beach towns!
After those initial Google image searches, it was on our travel wishlist! White sand beaches, bright blue water, adorable seaside towns – it looked idyllic.
Two years later we finally visited this Spring and I’m here to tell you, it is, in fact, perfection.
Even further, while we generally don’t re-visit places we travel to, we both agreed that this is a place we hope to come back to over and over again in the future.
While we were only there a weekend (we by all means didn’t get a chance to see and do everything), I had some requests to share what we did and what I recommend, as a few of you are already planning trips. Below is essentially a compilation of everything we had researched and considered doing or eating (even if we didn’t have a chance to) as well as some general notes about the area.
Part of what makes 30A so great is that it appeals to so many. Family vacations, romantic getaways, girl’s trip – there is something for everyone and no one has to sacrifice!
If you’ve never heard of 30A, you need to put it on your list, and if you’re currently planning a trip, I hope this helps you prepare for your trip and gets you extra excited!
Towns of 30A
The three most notable towns are: Seaside, Alys Beach, and Rosemary Beach. These are master planned communities so they each have a unique and distinct feel that makes them special!
Seaside: If Vineyard Vines did a collaboration with Disneyland, it would be Seaside. Think white picket fences and candy colored homes.
Alys Beach: While this community is still largely under construction, it is dreamy! With its all-white stucco buildings, Alys Beach is posh! Has a more “adults-only” feel to it than the others.
Rosemary Beach: Think colonial Caribbean with an upscale twist and trees covering a maze of wooden boardwalks between the homes. My favorite of the three!
Other towns on 30A:
And a few more I’m not thinking of!
How to Get There
Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport (VPS) + 1 hour drive
Pensacola (PNS) + 1.5 hour drive
Tallahassee (TLH) + 2 hour drive
New Orleans (MSY) + 4.5 hour drive; this is a good option if you have more time and want to do both places on one trip. This is what we did!
Where to Stay
Your best bet is an Airbnb. A lot of them are crazy expensive because they are intended for families or large groups (check out this one in the heart of Seaside with an indoor pool and 4th floor tower overlooking the beach – yes please!). However, with some digging you’ll find some reasonable gems like this one or this one that’s a total steal. This one or this one look amazing for a large group.
What to Do
Bike ride, walk or run on the trail between the towns
Hang out at the beach, swim in the ocean, paddleboard
Outdoor activities like tennis, swimming, croquet or bocce ball
Boating, fishing, paddleboarding, kayaking
Movie nights and live music at The Hub in Watersound
Relax, read a book, take it easy!
Where to Eat and Drink
Amavida – coffee right on the Seaside square
Black Bear Bread Co – coffeeshop also serving up pastries, breakfast, and lunch
Five Daughter’s Bakery – two words: stuffed cronuts
Charlie’s Donuts – food truck serving up classic donuts and frozen yogurt
Seaside Farmer’s Market – Saturday mornings, this is less of a farmer’s market and more like gourmet tented food stalls
Southside Slice – really good pizza! Order for pickup and take it to the beach for a sunset picnic
Cowgirl Kitchen – multiple locations serving up fresh seafood in a casual setting
Shrimp Shack – casual spot for seafood
Great Southern Cafe – go for happy hour of oysters and mojitos – they have tons of flavors to choose from and if you don’t finish it, you can take it in a to-go cup!
Seagrove Village Market – casual spot great for lunch
Bud and Alley’s – one of the most infamous restaurants in 30A, it seems like everyone recommends this one
Pescado – bar and restaurant with the most incredible view over Rosemary Beach. Arrive early if you want a seat with a view and keep in mind: no kids allowed
Cafe Thirty-A – another one of the classics that lots of people recommend
Caliza – perfect for an upscale date night in Alys Beach
Havana Beach Rooftop Lounge at The Pearl – grab a drink atop this infamous Rosemary Beach hotel
George’s – looks really cozy with its string lights, great for a nice dinner in a comfortable atmosphere
The Meltdown – food truck in Seaside specializing in all sorts of grilled cheese sandwiches
The Red Bar – a late-night spot that is supposedly a 30A institution
The sand is sooooo soft – like unreal soft. I was wearing sneakers one of the days we were there and at the end of the day I took of my shoes and sand poured out. I had no idea I even had sand in my shoes because it is so fine! A stark contrast to beaches on the west coast.
This is very much a vacation spot, so if you are wanting a trip with a lot of culture and an “authentic, local feel”, this isn’t going to be the best fit. But, if you’re looking to kick back and relax in the most beautiful setting, 30A is ideal!
The whole area is pretty contained and easy to get around, so don’t stress too much over which town you stay in; you can easily take a bike ride from town to town or drive (though traffic is common since it’s just a two-lane highway.
So while I do recommend staying in a house in one of the towns mentioned above, if you would prefer to stay in a hotel in Destin, you certainly could. It will make going to 30A more of a “day trip” rather than waking up and being right there, but it is an option.
We were worried it would be too far, so even though we could have stayed for free with Marriott points in Destin, we paid to stay at a random hotel in between there and Seaside. Once we started driving around we realized that staying in Destin would have only added about 10 or 15 minutes to our drive and would have been totally do-able.
I am not 100% clear on this, but it seems the area is also sometimes referred to as “Santa Rosa Beach”. Santa Rosa Beach is the beach on the north side of Highway 30A, so the beaches are on the bay rather than on the ocean, and isn’t directly on the coast like the towns I mentioned above. However, if you hear people talk about that, or see Airbnbs saying they are located in “Santa Rosa, Florida”, they are likely talking about the same general area.
Lastly, there seemed to be a “type” of person who vacationed on 30A: white, middle to upper class, Southern families. Truthfully it was a little unnerving being in a place where everyone looked just like me. While there is no reason that you shouldn’t go if you are not all three of those things, I don’t want anyone to be shocked when they arrive. That said, everyone was so kind and friendly, from restaurant workers to fellow visitors!