We have made a few trips to South Walton, sometimes with a group of friends sometimes just our family of four. There is plenty of fun things to do on 30A in South Walton, Florida. Last Fall we spent our days biking around to the many towns on 30A enjoying meals and ice creams, lounging by the pool, watching sunsets and counting stars at night. It was one of the best fall trips we had done, D and his friends will vouch for it any day!
What is 30A and where is scenic highway 30A Florida?
South Walton is home to many small beach communities affectionately called the beaches of 30A by families who live here, have beach homes in the area or visit on a regular basis. It includes the coastal communities of Dune Allen Beach, Point Washington, Miramar Beach, Inlet Beach, Rosemary Beach, Seacrest, Alys Beach, WaterSound, Seagrove, Seaside, WaterColor, Grayton Beach, Blue Mountain Beach and Sandestin, among others. The Scenic 30-A runs through these communities, long-leaf pine Flatwoods, white sand beaches and sea oat-covered dunes giving it the name.
If you are in South Walton in summer, all you probably want to do is wake up for morning walks on the beach, have breakfast and head back to lounge around or play in the waves. If that gets too slow for you, or if you are traveling during fall, winter or the spring months, no worries, there are plenty of things to do on 30A in South Walton Florida loving called Emerald Coast of Florida! Some even refer to the region as Hamptons of the South!
Best things to do on 30A South Walton Florida during Fall (anytime really!)
During fall dragonflies are everywhere and the Monarch butterflies return on their migration to Mexico. The roadsides of 30A turn gold in October with goldenrod, golden asters and camphorweed. Sea oats, the grasses on the dunes sway gently as the sun sinks and the sky explodes in shades of purples and pinks – fall sunsets alone are worth a trip to the beaches of 30A!
Ride on a Red Biplane
The Coastal Biplane is the new hot ride in town – imagine riding on a red biplane cruising the coastline 500 feet up. That color is not just any red by the way – it is Ferrari Red! While it was built in 2010, the plane has the timeless look and feel of classic 1930’s aircraft but comes with all the advances of today’s safety standards and digital instruments.
The red plane seats two side-by-side passengers while the pilot, retired Army aviator and flight instructor Buckley, delivers aerial thrills and views from the rear cockpit.
Attend the Art Alliance Flutterby Festival
The arts alliance celebrates with the annual Flutterby Festival in October. The Flutterby Festival, produced by the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County, celebrates its 26th year of the migration of the Monarch Butterfly through the area with art activities, live music, theatre and dance performances, art exhibits, and a butterfly parade!
See Underwater Art at UMA
You have seen art and seen fishes underwater but have you seen underwater art? Two of South Walton, Florida’s most beloved attractions make the perfect combination – the arts and the Gulf of Mexico – with the introduction of The Underwater Museum of Art (UMA), North America’s first underwater permanent sculpture exhibit.
Attend the Pirate of the High Seas Fest
Columbus Day weekend brings waves of fun-filled adventures to Panama City Beach with the annual Pirates of the High Seas Fest. The FREE festival takes pirate fun to a whole new level. You can enjoy live music, pirate parades, pirate costumes, an 8,000 beach ball drop from the sky, fireworks and more!
Go on cruising on a Pirate ship
The “Sea Dragon” Pirate Cruise is another Pirate attraction in Panama City Beach where you can go on 2 hour cruise with the family. They provide an exceptional sightseeing experience of the waters, shoreline and wildlife near the entrance to St. Andrews Bay.
Movie Magic at the Mountainfilm Festival
Mountainfilm on Tour brings a selection of culturally rich, adventure-packed and incredibly inspiring documentary films curated from the Mountainfilm Festival held every year in Telluride, Colorado. Each year, a selection of films from the International Film Festival is taken on the road to reach audiences who otherwise would not have a chance to experience the festival. Celebrating its 19th year, the film festival is dedicated to educating, inspiring, and motivating audiences about issues that matter.
If you are not traveling during fall you can enjoy a free outdoor movie or concert at the Seaside Amphitheater. Free movies are usually screened during spring and summer, concerts even ballet and dance, there is always something good going on at the Seaside amphitheater.
Visit the Farmers Market
Purchase fresh produce and peruse local vendors at the Seaside or Rosemary Beach Farmer’s Markets. Seaside’s market is held on Saturdays and Rosemary Beach on Sundays.
See some Coastal Dune lakes
Coastal dune lakes are shallow lakes located less than two miles from a shoreline. They are found only in a handful of places like in Madagascar, Australia, New Zealand, the Pacific Northwest, and South Walton. South Walton in fact has the largest concentration of coastal dune lakes in the world with about 15 of them. The lakes have unique ecosystems that support both freshwater and saltwater marine life.
Check out the Marine life
South Walton is taking a proactive approach to protect its shores and the beach communities on Northwest Florida’s Gulf Coast are building beach accessible artificial reef systems, creating habitat for a wide variety of marine life that you can check out while visiting the area.
South Walton Artificial Reef Association has deployed more than 150 artificial reef structures that lie close to shore and at easy-to-reach snorkel depths. During the months of May through October, endangered sea turtles build nests in that sand – two most common species of turtles in South Walton are Green Sea Turtles and Loggerheads.
If you drive a little further to St. Andrews State Park which is situated on a peninsula at the far eastern edge of Panama City Beach. Bordered by the Gulf of Mexico to the south, the St. Andrews Pass to the east, and the Grand Lagoon to the north, it is the place where you can pick shells on the Shell island and you can go on a boat ride to see dolphins in the wild.
Catch a colorful sunset
These beaches of South Walton have been rated as a Blue Wave Beach by a national organization that conducts extensive research of hundreds of beaches across the nation measuring pristine cleanliness and natural beauty. This scenic stretch with its twenty-six-mile shoreline is a highly coveted designation and has some of the best sunsets, especially during fall. The sky explodes in colors and shades that you have to see for yourself to believe!
Places to eat and restaurants near 30A in South Walton, FL
Set in a beach cottage with lots of outside dining options, George’s is an upscale, casual restaurant bringing regional coastal flair infused with global flavors to the quaint town of Alys Beach, Florida. Dishes are crafted using locally sourced, organic produce and the freshest seafood available. George’s at Alys also features a thoughtfully curated wine list and decadent desserts.
Firefly Dining room in Panama City Beach is THE place for a romantic meal, it is Casual Fine Dining at it”s Finest! Firefly specializes locally caught seafood, mouthwatering steaks seared on an 1800 degree broiler, wild game, fresh sushi and artisan pizzas.
Black Bear Bread Company, a neighborhood bakery and café in Grayton Beach is worth a stop. They have a new bar room next door recently opened that serves more.
North Beach Tortilla Co. is a new taco and tequila bar that sits at the foot of the Clyde B. Wells (Highway 331) Bridge overlooking the Choctawhatchee Bay in Santa Rosa Beach and worth checking out.
You may have seen the long-standing airstream that Raw & Juicy formerly operated out of on social media. They since closed the airstream and recently opened a new juice bar and organic raw vegan food restaurant in iconic Alys Beach. Worthy of a stop for both the drinks and photos!
You might need your car for this one. Pineapple Willy’s on the beach is a on-the-sand spot offering po’ boys and frozen drinks and you can watch your favorite sports on big-screen TVs. They also have live music.
The Airstream Row in Seaside is another great place to eat. You will find a few vintage Airstreams that sell everything from smoothies to BBQ and grilled cheese melts. All trailers are parked next to one another, don’t miss the snowcones.
Shunk Gulley Oyster Bar in Santa Rosa Beach by Gulf Place is another new family-friendly seafood restaurant with live music and Gulf views.
The Scenic 30A corridor in South Walton, Florida is home not only beautiful cottages and beach houses but also some great and diverse eats and you can ride your e-bike or bikes to dinner at any of the restaurants on 30A easily. Riding the bikes around was one of the best things to do on 30A, especially in fall, where the humidity is relatively lesser. If you don’t feel up to it you can always take one of the fun and photogenic Tuk Tuk 30A e-taxi services!
Where to stay on 30A Florida
As you know, the family-atmosphere of 30A makes renting a home or cottage the ideal way to enjoy the area. Cottage Rental Agency makes it easy for guests to be able to search homes by neighborhood and also features upcoming events, restaurants and things to do in each beach community.
Beside the Sea in Seaside is a lovely beach house located on the gulf side of 30A. It has just undergone renovations and has returned with an additional bedroom and another full bath, updated furnishings and so much more. Featuring expansive windows that open up to gorgeous Gulf views and high ceilings – its location can’t be beaten!
The first floor includes a sitting room and three bedrooms including a master king bedroom with a private bath, a queen and bunk bedroom. There are two more living areas on the second floor and a chef’s kitchen. The third floor has a sun deck perfect for taking in the breathtaking gulf and sunset views. You can find more beach houses and 30A cottage rentals on their website.
Best time to visit 30A Florida
Summer is the high season in South Walton and beaches are packed and rental properties are expensive. It is also the time that more families visit. We find that fall is the best time to visit the beach communities of South Walton– it is not as hot and there are fewer crowds in the beaches and restaurants.
But do keep in mind June through November is hurricane season. Florida Panhandle enjoys mild temperatures and plenty of sunshine year-round making is a great place to visit in winter as well.
How to get to 30A Florida Panhandle
While the 10 hour drive from Dallas is not a bad option, you can also fly from Dallas Love Field to Panama City Beaches International Airport on Southwest or American Airlines has added some direct flights from DFW to ECP. From the airport, the vacation homes on 30A Florida Panhandle beaches are just a 25 to 30 minute car drive if you have a rental car or you can get an uber.
Special Offer for Outside Suburbia readers
Use the special promo code OSUB to book your stay through Cottage Rental Agency for two nights and get the third night free. Valid until December 31, 2019. They are the largest and premier provider of beach cottages and luxury rentals in the area and operating since 1986.
Hope you are inspired to plan a trip to the beaches of 30A! And let me know about other fun things to do on 30A you discover.
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