Do you fancy driving past tropical-styled beaches without ever leaving the country? The 30A highway (locals just call it “30A”) is a twenty-four-mile scenic highway in the Florida Panhandle that is part of the Emerald Coast. It’s the perfect Southern US road trip—whether you’re in the area and fancy a one-day getaway or want to stop and spend some time at the many charming towns that dot the highway.
My husband’s family has been going to 30A every year for a while now, and this summer, I finally got to see what all the fuss was about! With white-sandy beaches, charming coastal towns, and turquoise water, it’s the perfect Caribbeanesque getaway, but right in Florida. With so many amazing places to see on the 30A, here I’ll cover the best of them.
Of course, one of the main reasons for road tripping along the 30A is the beautiful subtropical beaches of the Gulf of Mexico. With the aforementioned white sand and turquoise waters, the beaches feel like pictures straight off a postcard. These beaches are also easy to access via the 30A seaside towns. There are plenty of towns to visit, but I’ve narrowed it down to my favorites.
The coastal community of Rosemary Beach has charming coastal-style buildings lining the main street and beautiful, subtropical beaches. The community vibe in this town is strong, and even if you’re just passing through, you’ll definitely get to experience it. We stayed just walking distance away from the main town square in Rosemary. The town square has cute shops and restaurants that line the cobblestone streets. It’s picture-perfect!
Another beautiful Florida Gulf Coast destination, Alys Beach is a community with white stucco buildings. It’s a residential area with a luxurious vibe. We took a stroll, admired the architecture, and grabbed a delicious breakfast at Raw & Juicy, a trendy cafe with a gorgeous patio. The beach is private unless you’re staying in Alys Beach, but the town is enough of a draw in and of itself. It made me feel like I was transported straight to Greece.
Looking for more of a vibrant, but laid-back vibe? Head to Seaside. The town, different from all the rest, is excellent for families. It’s home to a lot of fun shops and restaurants (Bud & Alley’s Waterfront Bar is a popular spot with a lively atmosphere and rooftop bar), and, of course, the beautiful beach is never far away.
Another beach with a chilled-out atmosphere, Grayton has a sizable public access beach with sweeping views—it’s the perfect place to spend a day lounging on the sand or swimming in the warm sea. If you’re overnighting here, be sure to check out the Grayton Beer Brewpub too!
Florida’s state parks are arguably amongst the best in the country. Along the 30A, you’ll find the beautiful Eden Gardens State Park. With the grand, historic Wesley House and moss hanging from countless live oaks, I was blown away by its charm.
Also by the 30A is the Topsail Hill Preserve State Park, which is a unique place that should be on any keen traveler’s US bucket list. Famed for its white quartz dunes, the park offers surreal views of the beaches and is home to a unique ecosystem. It’s the perfect place for hiking, bird-watching, and animal spotting—keep on the lookout for the Choctawhatchee Beach Mouse!
And, last on my list is Deer Lake State Park. Less frequented than the other state parks, which adds to its beauty, it has a long boardwalk that crosses over beautiful dunes to the beach. It’s specifically known for its coastal dune lake.
Each of the towns on the 30A has a vibrant and close-knit community, and they welcome travelers to see their slice of paradise. There’s something for everybody. Whatever your style, you’ll undoubtedly fall in love with one of these gems!