5.18.24

96 Hours on 30A

In early May, I attended a bachelorette party on 30A and it was the absolute best time. For those unfamiliar, 30A is a county road in Walton County, Florida, and off of it are 16 charming seaside towns —  including Rosemary, Seacrest, Alys, Seaside, and Watercolor. This part of Florida’s Emerald Coast was definitely more of a hidden gem to those outside of the South until recent years when it has blown up in popularity on a national scale because of social media. I’ve long wanted to visit — and it was just as beautiful in person as the photos make it out to be.

During peak season, I’ve heard that 30A is extremely crowded — so I feel like early May, when we went, was the perfect time to visit. It was after the spring break rush and before the end of the school year, so while restaurants and shops were open, we didn’t have a problem (or waits!) getting in anywhere we wanted to go. And, the weather was great – it was in the 80s and sunny the entire time we were in town. One person we overheard describing 30A this time of year said it was “all chic bachelorette parties and chill grandmas” and I couldn’t agree more. The vibes were immaculate!

One thing to note before you head to 30A — many of the beaches in Walton County are private. This is very different from the beaches where I grew up going to in the Carolinas where there are public access points every lock and you can set up your umbrella wherever you please, even in front of an oceanfront house. This is understandably a very contentious issue, but until things (hopefully!) change, I wanted to share in case you’re planning your own trip to 30A so you can ensure wherever you choose to stay has beach access if that’s of interest. I am not an expert on this topic, so recommend you do your own research before going. (The town-controlled private beaches usually have some sort of access point — for example, in Rosemary, you need an RFID card to open the gates to even get on the beach, and in Seacrest, where we stayed, we had to show wristbands that came with our rental to use the beach access.) There are also public access points throughout the county, but in the summer, they can get really crowded because you aren’t allowed to set up outside of the public beach area — you cannot set up on a private beach owned by a property owner.

HOW TO GET THERE —

Getting to 30A from the DC area was easier than I thought it would be! We took a direct flight from DCA to ECP, the Northwest Florida Beaches Airport. The flight itself was a little under two hours, and then ECP is only about a 20 minute drive to 30A. We rented a car for the long weekend, but while the maids of honor took our luggage to the house and stopped by the grocery store, we took the bride out for happy hour, so we also called an Uber from the airport. It did take a while to get one and it was about $70, but once we were on 30A, everything we did — except for visiting Seaside — was within walking distance of our rental house in Seacrest, so you can definitely get by without a car.

When planning our return from 30A, there was a direct flight home from ECP to DCA, but it didn’t leave until nearly 6pm on Sunday — and one thing I’ve learned about myself as I’ve gotten older is that when it’s over, it’s over. I want to get home earlier in the day from vacation so I have time to reset, especially if the following day is a workday. As such, me and a few of the other girls took a flight home out of VPS, the Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport, that’s about 75 minutes away from 30A. So while it was definitely more of a drive, it was worth it to me to get home earlier. The Uber driver who picked us up at ECP was super nice and told us she also owned an airport shuttle company, so we organized a ride to VPS with her for $150 + tip, which was comparable to what we would have paid for an Uber. (She also mentioned it would have been hard to get an Uber to VPS from 30A, so wanted to flag in case you’re also planning on flying in or out of VPS!)

WHERE TO STAY —

We were a party of seven, and rented this gorgeous Airbnb in Seacrest Beach. The property itself is new — the furnishings are gorgeous and the space is well laid-out as all the bedrooms have a private bathroom and balcony, which we loved. There were a few things we hope the owners work out since it’s still a new rental — namely, a few spots in the house could have been cleaned better and we thought they could have provided better information on where to get our Seacrest parking pass and wristbands. All that said, I would definitely recommend this property — the neighborhood was so picturesque and you can’t beat the location.

There are many towns on 30A, but what we really liked about Seacrest Beach was that it was bordered by Rosemary Beach to the west and Alys Beach to the east, so it was easy for us to walk to either, while also taking advantage of Seacrest Beach, which has a cute tram to take you around the neighborhood and to the beach, shops and restaurants — including an ice creamery, a pizza place, a brewery — and a huge, beautiful resort-style pool that would perfect if you wanted to take a break from the beach. The pool also had the cutest grill with burgers, sandwiches, nachos, and hot dogs alongside frozen drinks.

Many of the beach towns on 30A are master-planned communities, so they are well designed and also each have their own architectural style. Rosemary Beach is influenced by New Orleans and St. Augustine, Seacrest Beach is influenced by Charleston, and in Alys Beach, all the buildings are white and are influenced by Bermudan architecture. Seaside, a town further down 30A from the aforementioned three, was the first master-planned community in the area and was influenced by Old Florida and Key West architecture. While each beach town had a different feel, we enjoyed all of them and I would happily stay in any of them — I don’t think you can go wrong with picking a spot on 30A! We didn’t make it to Watercolor, but that is another master-planned community in the area I would love to check out — they have a very popular hotel.

WHERE TO EAT & DRINK —

I was really impressed by the food on 30A — I feel like sometimes you go to a beach town and the restaurants all feel the same with fried seafood, rinse and repeat. Here’s where we ate & drank:

Citizen Alys Beach: we loved Citizen that we actually came here for drinks twice! This was our first stop in town for a happy hour and we shared some apps — the whipped feta, blue crab beignets, red snapper ceviche, and yellowfin tuna poke. Everything we ate was delicious, and I would love to come back for a full dinner sometime.  We also loved their sunset swizzle cocktail, which was vodka, passion fruit, vanilla, mint, lime, and angostura bitters.

Neat Alys Beach: located between Citizen and George’s, this would be a great spot for a pre- or post-dinner drink. They have a few small bites you can enjoy with your drinks, but not enough that you could make a meal out of anything. If you have a whiskey lover in your group, they would also love this spot! We sat outside under their umbrellas and bistro lights and watch the sun set — gorgeous.

George’s Alys Beach: we ate here for dinner Friday night while we were in town, and it was a great spot. They don’t take reservations, but have an outside bar where you can grab a drink while you’re waiting, alongside some yard games for kids. We hung out on their rooftop patio while we were waiting for our table, and it was a great vantage point of Alys Beach and the sunset. Everything we ate for dinner was great — I did one of the daily fish specials that came with veggies and rice, and it was delicious.

Fonville Press Alys Beach: we grabbed breakfast here one day — they had an amazing breakfast menu and the space itself is so bright, airy, and cute. They also have matchbooks!

Bud & Alley’s Seaside: I loved Bud & Alley’s! We sat outside on their back deck, which overlooked the ocean and the views were amazing. We loved hanging out here for a few hours, enjoying some drinks and snacks — they had a great clam chowder — while we watched the Kentucky Derby. When we arrived around 3pm, we had no problem finding a table, but it definitely got more crowded as we approached 5pm, so if you have a bigger group like we did, it may behoove you to get there early.

WHAT TO DO —

One of my favorite things we did while on 30A was have a bonfire on the beach! This was not something that was allowed on the beaches I grew up going to, so it was a really fun experience. We booked through 30A Blaze and they did a great job — all we had to do was show up! They had our chairs ready to go, the fire burning, and we added on a s’mores package, which was very nostalgic in the best way. If you have a group going to 30A, this is definitely something that should be on your list!

Another thing we did that I loved was that we took a long walk around Rosemary Beach — we grabbed coffee one morning and then explored for an hour. There are so many beautiful homes, and Rosemary Beach has a wood walkway all throughout their community, which makes it really easy. We also popped into the Rosemary Beach Store for some sweatshirts, into Tracery for the most beautiful home decor — including some vintage finds, and into Hidden Lantern Bookstore, which had an amazing selection of beach reads and coffee table books that celebrated the local region. I picked up one called Saints of Old Florida and it is gorgeous!

We also spent an afternoon at The Pearl Hotel’s Spa — which was such a smart move by my friend, Taylor, who planned the trip as you get access to the The Pearl’s pool if you’re using the spa! So we were able to hang out by the pool before and after our spa treatments, which was so nice. We were able to order food + drink directly to our pool chairs from their rooftop Havana Beach Bar (which is worth a trip alone — it was gorgeous!), and let me tell you, my frozen margarita and burger were perfection. I had a great facial and everyone raved about their massages — but truthfully, the treatment was worth it to me for the pool access alone!

We also went down to Seaside Beach one evening for happy hour — we had to stop by the Seaside Post Office, which is probably the most picturesque Post Office in America, and the Seaside Store for more merch. The drive down to Seaside was also part of the fun because we got to see so many cute towns and beach houses!

If you have any questions about our trip to 30A, feel free to drop a comment below or email me at katie@atouchofteal.com. I absolutely loved our time on 30A, and cannot wait to get back and explore these charming seaside towns even more!

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