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The Ultimate 30A Travel Guide | Emerald Coast, FL

Looking for the best 30A travel guide? You’ve come to the right place!

30A is a well-known spot in the panhandle area of Florida, with some of the most beautiful beaches and quaint towns I’ve ever seen! The area of 30A got its name from County Road 30A, which is the coastal stretch of road from Destin to Inlet Beach. Most people think of the South Walton area when mentioning 30A, which includes quite a few picturesque beach towns away from the super touristy hustle and bustle of Destin.

Keep reading for my 30A travel guide to help you plan your perfect beach vacation!

30a travel guide

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SEE ALSO: The Best Things to Do in Dahlonega, GA

30A Travel Guide: Trip Overview

  • PTO/Vacation Days Needed: 0-1
  • Nights: 2
  • Cost: $$$

How to Get to 30A, Florida

There are two nearby airports to choose from:

  • Panama City Airport (ECP): This is the closest airport, about 20 miles from the heart of 30A.
  • Destin/Fort Walton Beach Airport (VPS): A little further away (45 miles from the heart of 30A) but you’ll likely find cheaper flights to this airport

Once you land, I recommend using Uber or Lyft to get to from the airport to 30A. I do want to note – I was there in May 2021 and there was a Uber & Taxi shortage going on at VPS, and no rental cars available. I ended up having to take a shuttle that took quite a while to arrive in 30A, as it dropped people off in Destin first. Just a warning! Hopefully this shortage does not last long.

Where to Stay in 30A

30a travel guide
Rosemary Beach

30A is made up of a few charming beach towns, such as Rosemary Beach, Seaside, Watercolor, Alys Beach, Grayton Beach, and Seagrove Beach. In my opinion, they all pretty much have similar vibes, but Seaside seems to have the most action going on (and is the filming location of The Truman Show!), Alys Beach is the fanciest/most expensive area, and Watercolor is the best spot to stay for families with kids. Don’t stress too much about which town you choose to stay in. No matter which area you pick, you will be just a quick bike ride away from most of the other 30A beach towns!

I recommend renting a VRBO – there are plenty of awesome beach-front options for all budget levels. If you’re planning on visiting in summer, just make sure to book enough in advance since that’s the busy season.

For instance, check out this awesome VRBO that I found – this cute house in Seaside sleeps 8 people and has epic ocean views! It’s also conveniently walking distance to several bars and restaurants (including Bud & Alleys!)

Photo: VRBO.com

The Ultimate 30A Travel Guide: The Best Things to Do in 30A

1. Hang at the Beach

Perhaps the most obvious of my list, but one of the best things to do in 30A is to simply hang at the beach! The beaches in 30A are world-class. I’m talking fluffy white sand and crystal clear, turquoise water. It’s beautiful! If you flew here and didn’t bring a beach chair, there is pretty much always a beach chair company renting them out at each section of the beach here. You can normally rent two beach chairs + umbrella for about $60/day or so. Make sure to tip your beach attendant!

2. Cruise on your Bike

One of my favorite parts about 30A is that everything (for the most part) is pretty bike-able. There is a bike path that runs parallel to the road, so you can bike around from town to town. There are a few great bike rental shops to choose from, but 30A Bike Rentals is a popular choice!

best things to do in 30a

3. Sunset at Bud & Alleys

30a travel guide

Not only is Bud & Alleys one of my favorite restaurants in 30A, but it’s also one of the best places to watch the sunset! This two-story restaurant in Seaside has a beautiful view from the upper level. I recommend making a dinner reservation beforehand, but then showing up early for sunset and try your chances at the first-come-first-serve seating area on the upper level to grab happy hour drinks with a view!

4. Beach Bonfire + Charcuterie

30a travel guide

Light Me Up Beach Bonfires

30a beach bonfire

I can’t write a 30A travel guide without mentioning one of my favorite things to do! Having a beach bonfire is one of the best ways to spend an evening in 30A. You can technically apply for a fire permit beforehand and make your own beach bonfire, but I highly recommend instead doing it through Light Me Up Beach Bonfires. They are seriously awesome! They’ll set up everything for you: from obtaining the fire permit, building the fire, and having an attendant there to keep it going – so you can sit back, relax and enjoy! They have a table and chairs set up, as well as a smore’s station, bluetooth speaker, and sparklers! All you have to do is bring snacks and drinks. Which leads me to my next recommendation…

Graze30A Charcuterie

What pairs perfectly well with a sunset beach bonfire? An epic charcuterie board! I highly recommend ordering a perfectly-curated charcuterie board through Graze30A. It’s SO delicious and makes for a great complement to an awesome evening. You can DM them on their Instagram page (@graze30a) or Facebook to order.

best things to do in 30a

5. Paddleboard at Grayton Beach State Park

This is one of the most unique experiences in my 30A Travel Guide. While most people spend their days beach-side (you can also paddle board on the ocean), paddle boarding at Grayton Beach State Park offers a nice little change of scenery. Here you can cruise on the waters of Western Lake – a coastal dune lake within the state park. It’s the second-largest dune lake in Northwest Florida! There are a few paddle board rental companies to choose from, for instance: Adventure 30A, which rents them for $60/day and will deliver it to you.

30a travel guide

6. Boat to Crab Island in Destin

best things to do in destin fl
Normally the water is crystal clear blue, but we went after a bad storm so the water wasn’t the normal pretty color! Still awesome though.

Ok so this activity is not necessarily in the “South Walton” area of 30A, but I definitely wanted to include it in my 30A travel guide because it is SO much fun! About a 45 minute drive from the heart of 30A, you’ll reach Destin. Destin has become super touristy over the years, but there’s still some fun to be had. Taking a boat to Crab Island is one of them!

Crab Island isn’t technically an “island” but rather a big sandbar right offshore. In the summer, you’ll find tons of boats parked out here and people hanging out and partying (this is definitely not a family-friendly spot!). You’ll find little boats cruising by that are selling fun floats, drinks in a pineapple or coconut, merch vendors selling t-shirts and coozies, and a few food boats as well. It gets pretty wild out here, but it’s a super fun time!

30a travel guide

I recommend hiring a pontoon boat charter so that you can sit back, relax, and have fun without worrying about anything! This one has great reviews and is only $325 for a private charter that holds up to 12 people!

If you want to keep the party going after Crab Island, (since you’re already in the Destin area) – I recommend heading to the Destin Harbor and getting some drinks at AJ’s! This bar is huge and has awesome views from the upstairs area. You can also rent one of these cool light-up tiki boats that cruise through the Destin Harbor at night too!

7. Eat

best things to do in seaside fl

There are a bunch of cute restaurants to choose from when you’re in 30A! I recommend the below:

Seaside Food Trucks: If you’re looking for something casual in a scenic area, bike over to the food trucks in the heart of Seaside. You can eat in the grassy park area right behind the trucks, or take your food across the street to the beach!

Bud & Alleys: This is the place I mentioned earlier that has a great sunset view. It’s located right across from the food trucks in Seaside. This is a don’t-miss spot when you’re in 30A!

Cowgirl Kitchen: This is a great choice for breakfast or lunch! There’s a location in Rosemary Beach as well as Santa Rosa Beach

George’s at Alys Beach: This spot has delicious healthy options in the Alys Beach area

Black Bear Bread Co: The hottest bakery in town. Go here for coffee and a pastry! They also serve their bread as an appetizer option at Bud & Alleys.

Donut Hole: One of the most popular breakfast spots in the panhandle! Although the name suggests otherwise, they actually have a full breakfast, lunch and dinner menu (but I highly recommend ordering a doughnut too!) There’s a few locations throughout the area.

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