Ultimate 30A travel guide for the first timer….meaning you’re probably trying to figure out “which part” of 30A you should stay in. This is the guide is for you – an in depth analysis of the 30A beach towns and the best way to find a place to stay! Even if you have been there before but looking for recommendations on where to eat, stay and play this is a great 30A travel guide.
In recent years, 30A has gotten a lot of hype! Or maybe it’s because I moved to Nashville in 2018 and genuinely hadn’t heard of it before. Then I start seeing and hearing everyone talk about 30A – it’s a go to vacation spot for Nashvillians since it’s about a 6 -7 hour drive!
And I understand why – 30A beaches have the most crystal clear blue ocean water in the US with soft, white beaches. One of the best beaches in the US – especially if you’re the type that hates darker water because you can’t see what’s going on. The photos you see of the ocean is what makes you want to go – I was sold immediately and wanted to understand the hype with a trip!
Back up – What is 30A?
Let’s start with a map to help orient you!
30A is a magnificent strip of about 25 coastal miles in South Walton County, FL – the “highway” name is Scenic Highway 30 – A (alternate route). Let me be clear – THIS IS NOT A HIGHWAY. Okay, it is, in some parts. But in the actual beach towns, it’s a 5 mph 2 lane “road” that golf carts are allowed on and crosswalks every 100 feet. Meaning it’s stop and go traffic, you will move through the cities extremely slowly as the towns are pedestrian, golf cart and bicycle heavy.
30A is also known as the Emerald Coast for it’s almost Caribbean like beach quality combined with perfect soft, white sands. The technical location is in the Florida Panhandle in between Destin and Panama City Beach.
Everyone just says they are going to 30A, but 30A isn’t super specific. It could be 1 of 13 beach towns In the area that are considered part of 30A. Seaside is the original development along the strip – and one of the most family oriented. I will go into detail on each beach later in the post!
Finding a Place to Stay in 30A
First of all, in general it’s pretty confusing to find a place to stay and/or pick the right beach to stay in, because you can’t generically search for 30A in AirBnB or VRBO because it’s not a city. You have to specifically search by beach, and there are 8 main beaches in the 30A area and you have to specifically search each town.
- Inlet Beach
- Rosemary Beach
- Alys Beach
- Seagrove Beach
- Grayton Beach
- Blue Mountain Beach
- Santa Maria Beach
- Dune Allen
Yeah…..that’s a lot of towns to search for a house! I’ll break down the vibes of each town and how to pick one that’s right for your trip further down in this post, but for this section I am focusing on how to search for a house or condo in the area.
There really aren’t a ton of hotels or condos in the 30A area….a few I know of are:
- The Pearl in Rosemary
- The Pointe on 30A (where we stayed)
- Watercolor Resort
- I’m sure there may be a few others, but these are the popular ones!
In addition to VRBO or AirBnB, you can usually find better deals booking on a specific 30A rental agency website. Well, how do you find those? I found this article helpful that listed 8 or 9 main sites, which I will also link below!
Direct Websites with 30A Rentals – 30A travel guide
- Homeowners Collection (Seaside)
- Southern Vacation Rentals (everywhere)
- 30A Beach Getaways
- 30a.com (lists a bunch of additional rental sites + keeps it updated more than me!)
Finding a house to rent in 30A can be time consuming because there are so many different websites. In addition, houses book up WELL in advance for June / July – we started looking in May for a July rental and wish we booked 6 months in advance. There were not a ton of great options left for our date parameters.
One more thing to know about booking….almost all houses are Saturday to Saturday rentals – so if you wanted a weekend getaway you may have to stick to one of the hotels mentioned. Overall, the 30A area is one of the pricier places in Florida.
Why we Picked the Pointe at 30A – 30A Travel Guide
This post is not sponsored by 30A in any way – we paid for our trip. All opinions are my own in this 30A travel guide.
We were 6 adults + 1 child – needing 3 bedrooms. We all wanted our own queen or king beds. Almost EVERY SINGLE HOUSE has bunk bed rooms! NOBODY wanted the twin bunk bed room as grown adult couples. Many of the houses are built for families and cram multiple bunk beds to host more people, but it’s not how we wanted to sleep for a week. Finding a house didn’t have bunk beds in 1 of the rooms was a huge priority, and proving difficult to find 2 months in advance.
The Pointe on 30A is a condo building – but they had up to 3 bedroom condos! The condos were actually quite spacious too! The condo had the exact set up we wanted – 2 bedrooms with king beds and the third bedroom had 2 queen beds. Everyone had their own bathroom and 3 balconies total! Not just a regular bathroom, huge bathrooms with both a shower and tub.
The pool was also really nice, and it was located pretty much in Rosemary Beach. The condo came with 2 free beach chairs an umbrella, and a shuttle to the beach. The amenities paired with the exact room layout we were looking for, and prime location sold us!
I will say, I think next time we DO want to stay in a house though – we just need to book earlier to find a house with the bedroom layout we are looking for, and not crazy expensive $15k+ for the week! Ideally, a house with a pool and golf cart sounds like the perfect rental, but this was great for our needs for the week!
I did think we would be “in” Rosemary Beach based on the map, but we were a 3 min bike ride outside of it. Not super important, but I do want to note the location is right outside of it and technically Inlet Beach.
Vibes of each Beach Town in 30A / Recommendations on Where to Eat
Describing each beach town below + restaurants recommendations for the ultimate 30A travel guide.
Inlet Beach – 30A Travel Guide
To me, Inlet didn’t really have a town. There’s a strip mall with restaurants on the opposite side of 98 – which is an actual highway. Inlet Beach is a large neighborhood right next to Rosemary Beach and will be your closest bet for ice cream, dinner, live music, etc. I would recommend staying here if you want to be in Rosemary Beach but can’t find a house there– it’s very close and alllllllmost the same thing.
- Amigo’s Mexican // Amici Italian – sister restaurants right next to each other and right across the 98 highway from The Pointe. We would walk to get margaritas and my parents loved their tacos!
- Shades Bar & Grill – most down to earth place in the Rosemary Area – casual sports bar + outdoor dining – “American” menu but good with a family / large group!
- Donut Hole – somehow we didn’t stop here but we were supposed to before we drove home! It’s the HUGE blue building on the side of 98 – famous spot for breakfast & donuts of course. They have 2 other locations as well – Santa Rosa Beach and Destin.
- Cuvee 30A – If you’re looking for something fancier, check out Cuvee 30A! This wasn’t our group vibe, but I wanted to throw it on here for an option. I just have a hard time going to a beach vacation then eating in a strip mall, lol. I’m all about views on vacay!
Rosemary Beach – 30A Travel Guide
Laid back, but also affluent? If that makes sense – maybe a little bit of East Coast vibes. Tennis Club, home of the Pearl Hotel, and town area gives off European vibes. The main area of town is a brick road with 4 story homes above the restaurants. The restaurants all have their outdoor seating along the sidewalks. The Farmers Market of 30A is in Rosemary Beach. Overall, it’s very family oriented with live music on the square multiple times a week! I will say – they do not have a ton of family dining and more fine dining options for adults. We travelled to other beaches for more family dinners.
- Pescado (adults only) – rooftop restaurant in town but you’ll be sitting high enough to have a view of the ocean! This was number one on my list, but unfortunately this was a vacation with kids!
- Edward’s Fine Dining – right in the heart of Rosemary Beach town with indoor and outdoor dining!
- Cowgirl Kitchen – breakfast & 8 – 9 am mimosa or bloody mary happy hour! Definitely come here for breakfast to take advantage of happy hour. Very laid back and casual – we sat outside on the street of Rosemary which is fun! They have another location in Seagrove
- La Crema – Spanish tapas + chocolate! My kind of restaurant. Unfortunately – they were closed due to lack of staff the week we were there.
- Playa Bowls – amazing acai and smoothie bowls! Dragonfruit is my favorite! Perfect afternoon healthy treat.
- Big Bad Breakfast BBB – casual, laid back breakfast that’s actually located at The Pointe on 30A (condos where we stayed).
Seacrest Beach – 30A Travel Guide
Another town on the opposite side of Rosemary Beach! I would 100% try to stay here, because again, it’s right next to Rosemary Beach and a 5 min bike ride max. Seacrest actually has its own town though, with a small square, live music and a few shops and restaurants. There’s even a large pool for everyone staying in the neighborhood!
- LaCo Cocina – Latin Coastal Kitchen…..sounds and looks amazing!
There’s a few other to go places like Charlie’s Donuts, a pizza joint, and a brewery in the town square – but since it’s so close to Rosemary and Alys there are plenty of other restaurants in the neighborhoods next door.
Alys Beach – 30A Travel Guide
This place ya’ll, I don’t even want to look up the price of rental houses LOL. I bet it starts at 20k a week, so not really realistic to stay here on my budget. But it’s SO WORTH WALKING OR BIKING THROUGH! We were staying at the edge of Inlet/Rosemary, and we could bike to Aly’s Beach neighborhood in 10 minutes. Oh, and FYI it’s pronounced ALICE not Aly’s. The entire neighborhood is white houses with different color shutters – blues, pinks, tans – it looks like you’re at the Mediterranean Sea!
- The Citizen – in hindsight, another restaurant I wish I booked. It’s a newer restaurant in Alys Beach and top rated – even the girls at Krewe recommended it to us but we couldn’t get in last minute for a group of 7.
- George’s on Alys Beach – a casual coastal vibe with healthy & seasonal food!
- Raw & Juicy – vegan spot for lunch, juice or coffee! My mom & I split the avo toast & kale caesar salad after we shot pics in Alys.
Watersound – 30A Travel Guide
Small and private, gated community and beach along 30A. If you aren’t staying here….you can’t really go here. I have nothing to report here since I didn’t stay inside the community! What is in walking distance right outside the community that’s open to the public is The Hub at 30A!
The Hub at 30A has live music, jumbotron screen for movies, food trucks, drinks and more! A great spot to hangout for the whole family regardless of what beach town you are staying in.
Seagrove – 30A Travel Guide
We drove to the Seagrove area twice for dinner! We drove there after dark, and I didn’t really see a town square or anything, but there might be one! There were a lot of great restaurants though – none with a view of the ocean though.
- Surfing Deer – our favorite dinner! More upscale of a restaurant with a covered patio for outdoor dining. They had both amazing seafood + a filet mignon for the people in our group who didn’t care for fish.
- Old Florida Fish House – came here for the atmosphere, but honestly the food was just ok. It wouldn’t be on my family’s list to go back, even though we loved the huge outdoor space and lighting ambiance outdoors. Highly recommend the grouper if you do go, it was the best fish we ordered! (picture above is Old Florida Fish House)
- Café Thirty A – Tried booking here, but it was already full! Common theme with booking a large party in 30A – get those reservations in 30-60 days in advance of your trip. Looks amazing though and highly rated!
Seaside Beach – 30A Travel Guide
The “coveted” beach with the Seaside sweatshirts! For the way people rave about this place, I think I had too high of expectations going in. Honestly, I was a little underwhelmed. All of these towns are much smaller than you think. Seaside is a town square area with a lawn/amphitheatre as its focal point – and restaurants and shops surrounding it.
Even though it’s small, it’s the original beach town of 30A and actually the largest! It’s great for young families because of the grass area in the town square. One of the most family friendly!
There are food trucks and multiple restaurants, but it’s not nearly enough for the amount of people staying in the area. This was the one night we didn’t make a reservation, and deemed impossible to get in anywhere. Literally, the answer was we are full for the night. Not even a 2 hour wait or anything! We ended up at Bud & Alley’s pizza restaurant – super casual but not exactly the seafood cuisine we were seeking in a beach town. We were seated within 10 minutes though!
- Bud & Alley’s – they have a rooftop deck WITH BEACH VIEWS! FINALLY! Unfortunately, it’s not handicap accessible so it wasn’t an option for us. More casual of a restaurant as well and great for drinks!
- The Great Southern Cafe – one of the highest rated restaurants in 30A – would definitely add to the list!
Watercolor – 30A Travel Guide
Another neighborhood that is amazing to stay in for families and next door to Seaside! Definitely biking distance. We struggled to find any houses available for rent here when we were looking 2-3 months in advance for a summer booking. Since I didn’t stay here, here’s a better overview of Watercolor area here.
- FOOW (Fish Out of Water) – I had mixed reviews from ya’ll on story polls on this one – and I personally found the website confusing trying to book a reservation so I didn’t. Again, in hindsight, this restaurant would have been PERFECT for our group. With our handicap girl on crutches, she didn’t get to see much of the ocean on this trip. This is one of the few restaurants in 30A that’s actually ON the water with a spectacular view. So even if the food was average, we would have been so happy with the atmosphere!
Grayton Beach – 30A Travel Guide
The most laid back, chill and casual beach town of the area. Seems more local and not overran by multi million dollar homes. When we went to the beach at night – there were tons of Jeeps & trucks parked on the beach to watch the sunset and tailgate.
- Churingo – super casual and laid back bar and restaurant – with exceptional tacos and bowls! Our group loved this restaurant and was one of the best nights overall. The rooftop seating does have views of the ocean, however not handicap accessible. This place is so casual you could even wear your bathing suit after the beach!
- The Red Bar – one of the few bars in the 30A area that’s more night life oriented!
Overall Food Recommendations – 30A Travel Guide
Overall, I’d recommend Surfing Deer for an amazing meal, Old Florida Fish House for big groups and families / best outdoor ambiance. I didn’t end up eating at FOOW, but really wish we did. As a first timer, I didn’t realize how rare views of the ocean are. Most of the towns and restaurants are inland – with no ocean views.
The ONLY restaurants I know of with ocean views are at Bud & Alleys, FOOW, Pescado (from far away rooftop), Havana (depending on vantage point, and Churingo (rooftop only). Please add your suggestions if you know any!
What to Do in 30A Travel Guide
Obviously, the beach!
But what else? The pool? Yes. Eating? Already covered that.
Honestly, a lot of biking around! There are bikes to rent everywhere, and many come free with the place you are renting from. All the beach towns close pretty early – even Kilwin’s Ice Cream closed at 9 pm.
Overall, 30A is a great spot for a relaxing family vacation where you can hang out together at your house at night after dinner. There are many services that will also set up a campfire and smores for you on the beach to have a sunset picnic for a fun activity!
We did end up going to Panama City Beach for a dolphin site seeing tour – which was pretty fun for the whole group! We didn’t see a ton of dolphins, but it was still a great activity. There are some dolphin tours in 30A, but smaller boats with a 6 person max capacity. The one in PCB was a giant boat that held about 50 people – and I felt MUCH safer and less seasick on the big boat compared to a small fishing size boat on the ocean.
30A beaches are also a lovely destination to take family photos with a professional photographer! We loved working with Alyssa Forbes Photography for our family photos at sunset.
Our 30A Outfits – from Sun & Ski Sports
This post however is brought to you by Sun & Ski Sports! They sponsored our outfits for our trip – everything from our beach sandals and swimwear to our clothing to walk around town. I’ve always shopped Sun & Ski for snowboarding and winter gear, and then I realized they had a ton of great clothing options for the summer months too!
They carry brands you already know and love – Birkenstock, Billabong, Roxy, Columbia, The North Face, Patagonia, Reef, Maaji, O’Neill and many more!! They have 2 stores in the Nashville area (Franklin & Opry Mills) in addition to selling everything online! You can check out their full brand list here.
The whole family loved their sandals for the beach and riding bikes – Ross tried leather Olukai’s which have major support for flip flops, and Owen went with a Chaco style slide! I went with Reef leather sandals which have more arch support than any other classic flip flop I own!
I grabbed a Billabong oversized tee for a beach cover up + to wear around town with a pair of pull on Roxy chambray shorts. Ross & Owen had similar Patagonia tees and shorts. Ross went with the signature men’s Columbia PFG sun shirt with a fun pair of Billabong swim trunks, and Owen went all Quiksilver.
I highly recommend checking out Sun & Ski for the whole family for your summer and winter adventures!
I’ll wrap up the 30A guide here, and let me know if you have any questions about 30A and the 30A travel guide! Link to more travel guides here!