top of page

top five guide: highway 30A, florida

Updated: Aug 17, 2023

Highway 30A Seaside Florida Beach Blue Umbrellas Boardwalk White Sand

If you grew up anywhere near an SEC school, there is a good chance you are at least somewhat familiar with the gospel of Florida's Highway 30A. I am even willing to bet that you have seen a 30A bumper sticker on the back of a Tahoe in the carpool line, or perhaps you noticed a bunch of pastel-colored "Seaside" t-shirts popping up around your school.

The rabid popularity of the beach communities along this stretch of the Florida panhandle is not without warrant: the white sand, blue waters, and expertly planned communities make them some of the most desirable beach destinations in the US. They seem so perfect, in fact, that it might make you go so far as question their reality - which is perhaps exactly why the cult classic film The Truman Show was filmed there.

I’ve been lucky to visit the beaches of 30A a few times over the years, so here are some of my top picks so that you, too, can fully enjoy this little slice of stateside paradise.

Here are my top five tips for a trip to Highway 30A:

Rosemary Beach Golden Hour Highway 30A Florida

1: where to stay

Scenic Highway 30A is nestled in between the larger cities of Destin and Panama City, and is comprised of several separate but adjacent communities along a 24-mile stretch of road. The two most popular beaches are Rosemary Beach (pictured) and Seaside. Both are known for urban design that encourages walking, biking, and golf cart riding over car driving (amen). You can’t go wrong with a house, condo, or hotel stay at either one (see links for ideas), though be warned that they can get pricey. If you are trying to save money, I suggest looking in Seacrest Beach, which is mere feet away from Rosemary Beach.

Women Walking to Rosemary Beach Florida Highway 30A

2: getting around

As I mentioned above, a huge part of the charm of these communities is that they are built with walking and biking (rather than driving) in mind. That translates to clusters of shorter buildings with a neighborhood feel rather than gigantic high-rises lining busy interstates (which is what you'll find in Panama City just a few miles away). No high-rise condos means there are few beachfront properties, so you can make your beach commute a bit breezier by renting bikes. Another fun activity is renting scooters to explore the entirety of this picturesque highway.

Alys Beach White Buildings Florida Highway 30A Four Women

3: alys beach

Wherever you stay, it's worth taking a detour to Alys Beach. Alys is a relatively newer, smaller, and quite upscale community that looks like it belongs in Greece or the Mediterranean rather than Florida. With stark white structures against crisp blue skies, this town provides an aesthetically-pleasing example of New Urbanism architecture. Spend an afternoon exploring the quiet streets here and be sure to grab a meal or cocktail. Though my favorite spot Caliza is now only open to guests and residents, non-guests can still try out The Citizen for lunch or dinner.

Bud and Alley's Seaside Florida Rooftop Sunset Dinner 30A

4: rare rooftop views

Yet another consequence of few high-rises means there are fewer opportunities for sipping a crisp rooftop rosé after a long day on the beach (and that's the best kind!). Two fantastic rooftop restaurants for a boozy brunch or a sunset sip are Pescado in Rosemary Beach and Bud & Alley's (pictured) in Seaside. I highly suggest making a reservation in advance for both options. Cheers to beach life!

The Red Bar Grayton Beach 30A

5: the red bar

If the quiet luxury of Alys Beach is on one end of the 30A beach community spectrum, Grayton Beach is on the other end. Often described as a more laid-back beach town with a funky, bohemian vibe, Grayton Beach has long been a favorite hideout among artists, musicians, and chefs. It has been around considerably longer than many of the master-planned communities along this highway, and happens to have one of the best restaurants in the area: a little divey spot called The Red Bar. This iconic spot serves up delicious fresh coastal fare along with live music seven nights a week.


bottom of page