Scenic Highway 30A, a 24-mile stretch of the Florida Panhandle between Destin and Panama City, is truly my happy place. Watching dolphins play in the emerald surf, I walk for miles on the beautiful beaches. It just never gets old….
Here are some of my favorite things to do along 30A – and I know my list will change periodically. I hope you enjoy checking out a few of these ideas – leaving plenty of time to nap under an umbrella, build a sandcastle, and lose yourself in a good book.
Please let me know which places you visit – or those I may not know about – I’d love to hear what you think!
Many restaurants are closed on Sunday, so check before you head out. Most offer a menu for the littles, and “upscale beach” pricing is the norm. After days filled with sunshine and fresh air, things wrap up early at the beach – by 9pm, most places are closing up.
Surfing Deer, Seagrove – This is my current favorite restaurant along 30A – and not because, unbelievably, my colorful back is featured in a photo on their website! I love everything on this seafood-focused menu, and their vegetarian options are excellent. If you can’t snag a reservation, the pretty bar serves a full menu. Dinners only, reservations necessary, valet parking.
Photo courtesy of Surfing Deer
George’s, Alys Beach – They do not take reservations, and this fun spot is usually hopping. With no huge space to hang for a table, dining on the early side may be a good idea. Who won’t love a seafood plate with hush puppies and grits on the side? A nice walk from Rosemary Beach, open for lunch and dinner.
The Perfect Pig, Seagrove and Gulf Place – Serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, the bacon-inspired menu is consistent and the vibe is casual. Even though I am at the beach and wearing a swimsuit, the meatloaf with cheddar mashed potatoes (oink! oink!) and the fig flatbread are my go-tos. Peek into the connected Deep South Market – a small selection of of items you need and some you don’t but wouldn’t mind having. Full bar at Blue Mountain location, beer and wine only at Seagrove.
Stinky’s Fish Camp, Santa Rosa Beach – A mainstay along 30A, be prepared to grab a drink and wait for a table at this laid back (Saltine crackers instead of bread), lively seafood joint. Offering several seafood specials each day, they will cook your fish however you prefer. Tired of grouper and snapper? Check out Taco Tuesday. Lunch and dinner, small wine list.
Basmati, Blue Mountain Beach – It took me awhile to get to this tiny spot offering sushi and a Pan-Asian inspired menu. And I returned quickly! I recommend a table on the screened porch overlooking the pine trees and Draper Lake. Serving lunch and dinner, a good date night.
Black Bear Bread, Grayton Beach – Grab a coffee, muffin, or sandwich on fresh-baked bread, and head to the beach. By the way, you do know there are black bears around here, don’t you? Open 7-3, (8 am Sundays).
Photo courtesy of Laurie Rising
The Wine Bar, Watercolor – Put your name on the list (or use the No Wait app), and plop in a wooden rocking chair on the patio. Even better, have a drink from their plentiful wine list. Seared ahi tuna salad, smoked snapper dip, and gourmet pizzas make this a favorite outdoor dining stop when girlfriends are visiting. Serving lunch and dinner, wine and cheese shop attached.
Airstream Trailers, Seaside – Lining the sidewalks of the central business district, the trailers are a fun Seaside institution. Choose among bbq sandwiches, gourmet grilled cheese, grass-fed beef hot dogs, smoothies, grain bowls, sno-cones (wedding cake for me), and key lime pie on a stick. Hours vary.
Photo courtesy of Barefoot BBQ
La Loba’s Bakery, Blue Mountain Beach – Geni and her team specialize in gluten-free baked goodies, quiches, burritos, and wraps. The scrumptious birthday cakes are perfect for special occasions at the beach, and she will bake a 1/2 cake for smaller crowds. Open 7am-3pm.
Charlie’s Donut Trailer, Alys Beach – Even if you don’t think you like donuts- stop here!! Tucked back near the amphitheater, this cute Airstream opens at 6:30am and often sells out. One red velvet please!
The Pearl, Rosemary Beach – Order a cocktail at this boutique hotel’s rooftop bar, and watch the sun go down over the Gulf of Mexico. Cheers to a great vacation!
Blue Mountain Creamery, Blue Mountain Beach – Dangerously walkable to my place, this may be the best ice cream I’ve ever had – depending on the flavors of the day. The line will be LONG, but it moves fast, and you will have time to debate peppermint bark or oatmeal cookie or graham central station. And, the house-made waffle cones and generous scoops are worth the wait.
During the busy season, be sure to rent bikes, e-bikes, sand bikes, and paddle boards before you arrive. Your property manager can recommend the rental shop closest to you.
Ann Hartley, Alys Beach – Ann travels the world to find treasures for her fashionable boutique. You will discover chic resort wear, statement jewelry, gifts, and, my favorite – unique clutches. Non-interested parties can wait for you in the wine bar around the corner.
Beau Home Interiors, Grayton Beach – Beautiful shop filled with dreamy blues and greens, spiritual books and decor, and gorgeous home accessories and furniture. Absolutely swoon-worthy.
Sundog Books, Seaside – Browsing this quaint shop is a great way to spend a rainy day or select your next beach read. Knowledgeable staff and loads of treasures – books, puzzles, cards, stationery.
Modica Market, Seaside – At this adorable gourmet grocery, you’ll find meals-to-go, beer and wine, baked goods, sundries, and meat.
Shrimper’s Seafood Market– My first and only stop for fresh seafood. Stocking some vegetables, bread, dips, and sauces, this is a one-stop market for getting dinner on the table.
The Shard Shop, Grayton Beach (next to Black Bear Bread) – On a rainy day, make your way to the Mary Hong art gallery, and enjoy her work depicting sea life and beach scenes. Using her recycled glass technique, sign up for a class next door and make a souvenir of your vacation.
Tags: 30A, beach, Florida, Travel
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Would love to hear more about your favorite places to stay as well
http://www.yourfriendatthebeach.com is a great source for large, gulf-front condo bookings. You might check http://www.360blue.com as well. The only hotels in the area are the Watercolor Inn and The Pearl in Rosemary Beach. The different beach communities (Grayton, Seaside, etc) do have rental agencies to go through. Please email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) if I can help further.
Makes me want to jump on a plane and go visit the Florida Panhandle. I spent a weekend in St. Pete and loved it. Such great seafood. great weather, beaches, and kitsch.
Yes, St. Pete is a beautiful area. I hope you made it to the Dali museum.
Awesome article. You did a great job catching some of the best spots in the area.
Thank you! There are a lot of fun places to explore!
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