What can I say about 30A other than…..um, I wanted to move there forever more. We loved it! What is 30A, you ask? It’s a stretch of adorable beach towns along the Florida Panhandle that encompasses picturesque cottages, crystal clear blue water, white sand, and sun sun sun. Think Truman Show time cuteness (which incidentally was filmed in one of the towns along 30A, Seaside). We set off on a huge Southern driving trip last summer to find family friendly 30A!
Our huge summer trip started in New Orleans, which was a bit of a bummer because almost everything was shut down due to Covid. We promised we would take the kids back when things opened up more. So we set off to Florida.
30A officially starts with Dune Allen Beach and stretches about 23 miles down the coast to Inlet Beach. Each town is cuter than the last. White picket fences, quaint little cafes, hand spun ice cream shops, bars and restaurants with outdoor bands – this was a place that was utterly unknown to us and we couldn’t wait to see more.
Where to Stay
This is going to depend on where you want to be! Some of my personal favorites are Seaside, Seagrove, Watercolor, Watersound, Rosemary Beach and Inlet Beach.
Seaside does not have hotels. This picturesque community is all about the home rental! And they have plenty! From cute little cottages with only one bedroom, tucked away on a little cobblestone street to a stately 10 bedroom mansion located right in front of the sparkling gulf shore, this town truly has something for everyone. Seaside has turned into home rental haven with several property managers – Cottage Rental Agency, Panhandle Getaways and Vacasa are some favorites. The advantage to Seaside is proximity to their amazing beach, tons of restaurants and their adorable Food Truck Row. The disadvantage? It’s the most crowded area by far. Especially in summer.
Watercolor has many home rentals, as well, but it’s most well known for Watercolor Inn. The Inn is a huge draw during tourist season because of it’s friendly service, beautiful beachy decor, great restaurants and AMAZING beach club. Only Watercolor Inn guests can access the beach club and the whole resort and club were just recently renovated. Not only that, but they expanded the whole resort as well. The beach club is now larger and they added one and two bedroom family suites with full kitchens, as well. If you’re more of a resort person like us, Watercolor is worth a stay. They are also part of the Virtuoso community my agency is in, so I can secure two complimentary breakfasts per room per morning and a $100 resort credit towards food and beverage per stay.
Watersound is the place we always stay. Why? It’s like a fantasy land. Cobblestone streets, winding boardwalks through pine forests dripping with spanish moss, the cutest post office ever and absolutely gorgeous architecture. Not to mention their beach club, which we dream about every day. A huge pool and poolside restaurant, an upscale restaurant, a fire pit for cozy evenings and a game room for kids. And the private beach? Words can’t even describe it. It’s HUGE, beautiful and filled with the nicest people. They even set up your beach chairs for you! Watersound has some seriously gorgeous mansions and condos for rent, but we always stay in the boutique hotel, Watersound Inn. The Inn is a small hotel, located on the top two floors of the Watersound gate house. It is not on the beach and it is not anywhere near as fancy as Watercolor Inn, but it has beautiful one-bedroom units with small porches and it looks over the pretty homes and cobblestone streets. It also comes with up to 4 bicycles per room. While the Inn does not have beach views, it does grant you access to the Watersound Beach Club, which is worth it’s weight in gold.
Rosemary Beach, Inlet Beach, Blue Mountain Beach, Dune Allen Beach
These 4 beach communities are on either side of the “middle towns” of 30A listed above. These areas are mostly home rentals, much like Seaside, but there are some hotels or small hotels sprinkled throughout. Rosemary Beach has the beautiful Pearl Hotel. Note this is an adults focused hotel and not family friendly. Perfect for an all adults weekend. Two miles from Rosemary Beach lies the Carillon Beach Resort Hotel – a simple resort, but each unit has a kitchenette and fridge and access to the resort’s large pool. Note that this is a bit removed from the true “30A” area.
Dune Allen Beach houses the 30A Inn and Suites, a small boutique hotel. The remainder of the beach towns around these areas are all about the home rental, just like Seaside.
What to Do
We are big “sit by the pool” people when we travel here, because it’s our refuge from the crazniess of family life. But if you aren’t that type, there is plenty to do on 30A!
Watersports reign supreme here for obvious reasons. Think fishing, boogie boarding (when the waves are present), and a lot of YOLOing. Last time we were in town, a few paddleboarders were lucky anough to encounter pods of dolphins and follow them for over 1/2 hour. It was amazing to watch from the shore – I can’t imagine what it was like to be on the paddleboard!
In addition to water sports and boating, there is no shortage of farmer’s markets and pop up shops around the area! One of our favorites is The Big Chill – an outdoor food market that is fun for dinners, chilling out with ice cream, watching a football game on big screens outdoor and shopping in their cute little stores. The Big Chill often has farmer’s markets on the weekends and live entertainment, as well.
Are you big on bike riding? Be sure to rent bikes from one of the many places around town. Everywhere you go, there are people on bikes! One of our favorite things to do it to sit down in Seaside at Food Truck Row, buy a grilled cheese at Meltdown, crack open a beer and people watch all the bike riders. You can ride a bike along the trail connecting all the 30A beach towns.
If biking isn’t your thing, there are plenty of hiking/walking trails throughout the area! Topsail Trail, Grayton Beach Trail, and Point Washington State Trail are right nearby. This is not a mountainous area, so hiking and walking is pleasant and only as strenuous as you make it!
Festivals abound throughout 30A for most of the year. There are jazz festivals, wine festivals, dance festivals, fireworks and much more all year long. Next on our list is the 30A Artwalk, which is every Friday throughout August!
A great website to explore when festivals and events are happening – or simply to peruse what activities are best for your family – is 30A.com.
Where to Eat
For details on our favorites, see here.
- Great Southern Cafe
- Bud and Alleys
- La Tortuga
- Scratch Biscuit
- Cafe 30A
- Fish Out of Water
- Watercolor Grill
Watersound/Grayton Beach/Rosemary Beach
- Brunos Pizza
- Restaurant Paradis
- Havana Beach Bar
- George’s at Alys Beach
30A makes for such a magical vacation that I almost didn’t want to blog about it! I wanted to keep it all to myself to keep the crowds down! But after the pandemic, it’s safe to say it has been discovered by more than just nearby southerners! If you are thinking of heading to the area soon, reach out and I’ll find you the best option for your family’s needs!