Around Memorial Day every year we escape Atlanta’s brutal heat for a few beach days on the Florida panhandle. This year in quarantine we needed an extra heavy dose of salt water therapy and sunshine to break up our monotonous work-from-home routine. So with our beach bags packed and podcasts loaded, we made our way towards Florida’s scenic Highway 30A.
Highway 30A stretches 24 miles of emerald coastline from Grayton Beach to Rosemary Beach, stringing together several charming beach communities along the way. These quaint and colorful towns are known for their relaxed cruiser bike culture, sprawling sand dune beaches, and local restaurants serving up today’s fresh catch.
Welcome to Coastal Southern Living at it’s best.
Where to Stay
Our favorite spot to stay along 30A is anywhere between Seaside and Rosemary Beach. With only 10 miles between these towns, everything is either within walking distance or a short drive away.
Seaside offers an idyllic vacation spot for families. With it’s cozy colorful cottages, brick streets and laid-back eateries, here you’ll find your home away from home. By far the most popular option here is renting a VRBO or AirBnB. Rent early because places book up quickly during the Summer months. Tip: look for a rental that includes beach cruisers. Bikes and golf carts are the main means of transportation around this area.
Rosemary Beach, on the other hand, will make you feel like you’ve arrived in Beverly Hills. Grandiose beach houses, flaunting the best of coastal southern architecture, center around a bustling town square filled with high-end restaurants and boutiques. For an ultra-luxury experience, I recommend staying beachfront at The Pearl.
What to Do
Aly’s Beach or Seaside Beach: Spend a couple of hours each day soaking up the sun at the beach! My beach bag essentials include: a good book, lots of sun protection (SPF + sunnies + a hat), a fun beach game like this one.
Tip: A lot of house rentals provide beach chairs for their visitors, but you can also rent beach gear (chairs, coolers, umbrellas) through one of the popular rental companies. The nice thing about the latter option, is that your rentals will be set up for you in a designated spot when you arrive to the beach. Live Well 30A and Club Cabana Man both provide friendly and reliable service.
Rent Cruiser Bikes: One of the things that I love most about 30A is the cruiser bike culture. Everyone from families to road bike enthusiast can be found peddling around town. The Timpoochee Trail runs parallel to the beach for 19-miles, connecting the towns along 30A. It’s a great way to break a sweat or just enjoy a relaxing ride while you take in the salty ocean air. Traffic can move slowly along 30A, so I recommend renting bikes to get around for your full stay. Big Fish Bike Rentals is a great option.
Shopping in Seaside: Once you’ve had enough sun for the day, spend a few hours strolling through the shops in Seaside’s central square. The Art of Simple is my favorite shop; it’s a beachy version of Anthropologie. Sundog Books is a quirky little shop full of records and books; great place to grab a beach read! The Seaside Style is a modern boutique where you can buy the infamous “Seaside” shirt.
Live Music at The Hub, Santa Rosa: There’s always something fun happening at the Hub. Grab a spot on their green space to jam out to live music or watch movies under the stars while you enjoy a meal or cool treat from one of the surrounding restaurants.
Where to Eat
Amavida Coffee, Seaside & Rosemary Beach: Organic Fairtrade coffee found in the heart of the Rosemary Beach & Seaside town squares. Enjoy fresh pastries and a smooth cup of ice coffee on their outdoor patio, perfect for people watching. We returned here every morning for our caffeine boost.
Charlies Donuts, Rosemary Beach: This popular airstream is known for their Sour Cream Pound Cake Donut. THIS is my favorite donut. Hands down. No questions. If you’re a fan of old-fashion donuts, this is a must try. Get there early because they sell out quickly.
Modica Market, Seaside: This quaint, gourmet grocery shop is located in the heart of Seaside, whipping up gigantic Belgium waffles, decadent pastries, and a variety of hearty breakfast sandwiches. I highly recommend ordering at least one Chicken Biscuit. Maybe two. And a mimosa with fresh squeezed OJ.
The Daughters Kitchen, Rosemary Beach: We originally sought this place out for the Cronut (croissant-donut), but learned when we arrived that the previous “Five Daughters Bakery” had been bought out. Now operating as The Daughter’s Kitchen, this place offers a variety of donuts, coffees, and healthy options like avocado toast and power breakfast bowls.
Raw and Juicy, Aly’s Beach: This converted trailer offers everything from green smoothies, cold press juices and specialty coffees, to a variety of healthy and creative takes on traditional items like their brussel sprout flatbread or lentil beet burger. They also have a fun and refreshing cocktail menu.
Lunch + Dinner
Seaside Airstreams, Seaside: There is something for everyone here at this lineup of vintage food trucks – from grilled cheese and BBQ to healthy juice smoothies and shaved ice. We devoured two of the best grilled cheeses of our lives at The Meltdown – the Smokin’ Turkey & Cuban McConnell. Both 10/10 cheesy, meaty goodness squeezed between thick slices of sourdough bread. A must during your visit.
Havana Beach Rooftop, Rosemary Beach: For lunch or dinner, stop into The Pearl for a refreshing cocktail and shared-plate lite bites while you enjoy rooftop views of the ocean at this alfresco-style bistro. The Rooftop has fire pits and cabanas for lounging and lingering day to night.
The Surfing Deer, Santa Rosa: A buzzing, upscale beachfront New American eatery with a seafood focus & shaded patio seating. Tip: they have an awesome happy hour menu, offering a refined selection of cocktails and popular dinner options at a discounted price.
Perfect Pig Grill and Fish House, Seagrove: A great spot for any meal of the day offering foodie takes on classic beach fare. You honestly can’t go wrong with anything you get here. I got the open face gulf shrimp sandwich and Wes got their award-winning pulled pork sandwich.
Café Thirty-A, Santa Rosa: a casual, fine dining restaurant for that one night you feel like getting dressed up. Go ahead and splurge on the lobster, you’re on vacation! Make sure to book a reservation in advance.
Bonus: if you happen to be in town on a Sunday, there is a rather large outdoor farmer’s market in Rosemary Beach that sets up in the town square. We stumbled upon a tent selling the best guac and chips we had ever tasted, called Alligator Pear Chip Co.This is a great spot to stock up on beach snacks.
How to Sweat
My husband and I genuinely love to work out. I’m a Pilates instructor on the side, so I’m always looking for fun and challenging new ways to break a sweat. Plus if you can’t already tell, I LOVE food. So fitness is as much of a passion as it is a balance. The more calories burned up front means extra wiggle room for my inevitable ice cream cravings later in the day!
Incorporating an element of fitness into your day can be a fun way to see and experience a city. Especially in a beach town, where water sports are at your disposal. Here are our favorite ways to sweat while on 30A!
Rent Paddle Boards: this is a full body workout, especially on those days when there’s baby waves to surf. I highly recommend going early in the morning, while the tide is low and ocean is calm. Currents can be strong, which is not ideal for paddle boarding or kayaking, so make sure to check the warning signs posted up on beaches. Rent boards at The Rental Shop 30A.
Run, Walk or Bike the Timpoochee Trail: this flat and easy to follow trail runs parallel to the beach for 19-miles and is great way to experience each of the towns along 30A. This trail gets packed and hot during the day, so I recommend running before sunrise or after sunset.
SoWal Pilates, The Hub in Watersound: if you haven’t tried Pilates before, this is a great place to start. They offer both private and group reformer, mat and equipment classes, in a pristine boutique setting.