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A Traveler’s Guide to Florida’s 30A

The Emerald Coast on the Florida Panhandle, with its crown jewel, Scenic Highway 30A, should be at the top of your travel list. Planning your getaway with Legacy Beach Homes gives you the most access to everything this dream destination has to offer.

This is your guide to the corridor to paradise: Highway 30A!

About Florida’s Scenic Highway 30A

Florida’s Scenic Highway 30A is a 24-mile stretch of coastal bliss nestled along the Gulf of Mexico’s Emerald Coast in South Walton County. It’s more than just a road; it’s a lifestyle, a celebration of small-town beach life, and a haven for those seeking pristine beaches, charming beach communities, and a laid-back atmosphere.

Photo Credit: Anita Barnes

Each town along 30A has its own personality, from the pastel-colored cottages and picket fences of Seaside to the upscale elegance of Alys Beach.

Enjoy watersports like paddleboarding, surfing, and fishing. Explore art galleries and boutiques in Rosemary Beach, grab a bite at a local cafe in Grayton Beach, or lose yourself in the natural beauty of Topsail Hill Preserve State Park. Shop for unique souvenirs at local farmers markets dotting the highway, indulge in delicious seafood at waterfront restaurants and experience the vibrant nightlife in some of the towns.

Whether you’re a family seeking kid-friendly fun, a couple looking for a romantic getaway, or a solo traveler craving adventure, 30A has something for every type of traveler.

Best Beach Towns To Visit Along 30A

The Emerald Coast is famous for its pristine beaches, often ranked among the best in the United States. Imagine sinking your toes into the soft, white sand and feeling the gentle waves lap against your feet as you gaze out at the sparkling turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico. It’s paradise found!

Miramar Beach

Photo Credit: Ruth Peterkin

Miramar Beach is a classic coastal beach community in South Walton. It exudes a vibrant energy with it’s winding beach roads, sun-kissed surf shops, and beachfront homes. You’ll find a buzzing mix of families, couples, and groups of friends enjoying the diverse activities and attractions. From watersports on the sparkling Gulf to shopping sprees at Silver Sands Premium Outlets. Miramar Beach is a postcard come to life.

Dune Allen Beach

Photo Credit: Alycia Meile

Dune Allen Beach is for nature lovers, tranquility seekers, and those who crave a taste of old Florida charm.

Explore the unique coastal dune lakes like Oyster Lake, Allen Lake, and Stallworth Lake, perfect for kayaking, paddleboarding, or fishing.

Beyond the beach, explore the hiking trails and ancient coastal dunes at Topsail Hill Preserve State Park.

Santa Rosa Beach

Photo Credit: Anita Barnes

Santa Rosa Beach has sugar-white sand beaches and crystal-clear turquoise waters, like its Emerald Coast neighbors. The wide, gently sloping shoreline is perfect for sunbathing, swimming, building sandcastles, or simply soaking up the Florida sunshine.

Compared to some of the busier Emerald Coast destinations, Santa Rosa Beach offers a more peaceful and relaxed atmosphere. You’ll find plenty of space to spread out, explore the natural surroundings, enjoy a quieter vacation experience, and even host a bonfire.

Blue Mountain Beach

Photo Credit: C.M. White

Blue Mountain Beach sits at a high elevation of 64’, offering incredible views of the Gulf of Mexico’s turquoise waters. Explore Blue Mountain’s coastal dune lakes like Little Redfish and Big Redfish, perfect for serene kayaking, paddleboarding, or fishing.

Grayton Beach

Photo Credit: Rotorhead 30A Productions

Grayton Beach is a vibrant village pulsating with artistic energy, laid-back charm, and a touch of bohemian spirit. This stop along Highway 30A breaks the mold of the typical coastal town. Expect a quirky mix of colorful beach houses, art galleries, and funky local shops.

Wander through the pedestrian-friendly streets. Stop into The Red Bar, or catch some stunning Gulf views at Chiringo. Head to Grayton Beach State Park for a peaceful canoe trip or some standup paddleboarding!

Seaside, Alys Beach, And Rosemary Beach

A little further down the beach are Seaside, Alys Beach, and Rosemary Beach, each unique pearls on the same string.

Seaside

Photo Credit: Kristi Blokhin

Seaside is Picture-perfect nostalgia with pastel-colored cottages with picket fences, charming squares, and a timeless Americana vibe. Seaside is straight out of a storybook or movie. The Truman Show was filmed right here. Savor delicious coffee and pastries at Black Bear Bread Company in Seaside.

Between Seaside and Alys Beach, you’ll find The Big Chill. It’s not just a place; it’s a vibe. Imagine a bustling courtyard dotted with food trucks, restaurants, live music and DJ parties, boutique shopping, an open-air bar overlooking the action, and plenty of space to spread out, relax, and soak up the coastal atmosphere.

Alys Beach

Photo Credit: Fotoluminate LLC

Alys Beach exudes a luxurious vibe with its whitewashed architecture and manicured lawns. Rosemary Beach offers a European-inspired atmosphere with its cobblestone streets and art galleries.

Rosemary Beach

Photo Credit: Bonnie Taylor Barry

Rosemary Beach will transport you to a Mediterranean village. Expect cobblestone streets, art galleries, and quaint cafes. Enjoy tapas and dessert at La Crema Tapas and Chocolate.

When To Visit The Emerald Coast

Ultimately, the best time to visit the Emerald Coast is whenever it best suits your preferences and priorities. Consider what you’re looking for in your trip and choose the season that best aligns with your expectations.

Peak Season: June to August

If lots of activity, hot weather, and crystal-clear waters energize you, then peak season is ideal. Expect sunshine, full beaches, higher prices, and larger crowds.

Shoulder Seasons: May & September to October

These months offer ever-so-slightly cooler temperatures, smaller crowds, and lower prices with warm water and plenty of sunshine. It’s a good balance between peak season energy and quieter times. The Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic is in October. Witness the excitement of this world-renowned fishing tournament in Destin.

Spring Break Season: March to April

Enjoy pleasant temperatures, blooming flowers, and smaller crowds before the summer rush. Spring offers is a great opportunity to get to know the community and rub elbows with the locals. This is also Spring Break for most colleges.

Holiday Season: November to December

Escape the summer heat and crowds with mild temperatures, beautiful fall foliage, and lower prices. However, water temperatures may be cooler, and some businesses may have reduced hours. If you’re here during this time, you’ll get to see Florida’s Emerald Coast transform itself. Immerse yourself in the festive holiday spirit with twinkling lights, parades, and special events.

What To Pack For Your Florida Vacation

To pack the perfect suitcase for your vacation to the Emerald Coast, consider the time of year and your planned activities.

  • Summer (June to August): Depending on your plans (boating, fishing, diving) pack plenty of swimwear, cover-ups, shorts, t-shirts, sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat. Don’t forget light and breathable clothing for hot days. Your Legacy Beach Home will have beach towels so no need to pack those. If you’re tight on space, forgo the sunscreen. Buy some when you’re in town.
  • Fall (September to October): Pack for warmer days with occasional cooler evenings. Include lighter jackets or sweaters, pants or jeans, and closed-toe shoes for exploring. Maybe pack a few dressier outfits for going out in the evenings. Fall and Spring are perfect for hiking. Be sure to pack comfortable shoes. You’ll be getting your steps in for sure.
  • Spring (March to May): Expect pleasant temperatures with potential for occasional rain. Pack a mix of shorts, jeans, t-shirts, light sweaters, and a raincoat.
  • Winter (November to February): Although mild, temperatures can dip a bit at night. Pack a mix of light and medium-weight clothing, long pants, and a light jacket or sweater.

Getting There

When flying into or close by to Destin, Florida, your best airport option depends on a few factors. Compare flight prices to all three airports before booking. For most visitors, the most convenient and efficient option is to fly into Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport (VPS). However, if you don’t mind a longer drive, consider flying into Panama City Airport (ECP) and renting a car. It’s a good idea to have a car to take advantage of the scenic Highway 30A.

  • Valparaiso, Florida (VPS – Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport): This is the closest airport to Destin, located just 16 miles away. It offers a wide range of flights from major airlines and is the most convenient option for most visitors.
  • Panama City, Florida (ECP – Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport): Located about 55 miles from Destin, this airport may offer cheaper flights, but the longer drive time needs to be factored in.
  • Tallahassee, Florida (TLH – Tallahassee Regional Airport): Located about 165 miles from Destin, this airport may offer even cheaper flights, but the significant drive time makes it less ideal.

Stay in Destin and Explore Florida’s 30A

Just step out the door of your beautiful Legacy Beach Home to experience all that the Gulf Coast and Scenic Highway 30A have to offer. Pack your swimsuit and your sense of adventure and discover its hidden coves, vibrant towns, and unbridled beauty. You won’t be disappointed!

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