In 1981, as newlyweds, we were thrilled to move to northwest Florida. My husband, Ron, had his first Air Force assignment at Eglin Air Force Base flying F-15 Eagles in an operational jet fighter squadron. It was very exciting! It’s still a common sight today to see and hear fighter jets fly over the Gulf of Mexico as you play on the beach. My first job was at the Destin Chamber of Commerce and then as a radio news anchor at WFTW. This piece of paradise is a treasure and is our second home. It holds a very special place in my family’s heart as we go there several times at year. That’s why I wanted to share some of my favorite places on 30A – a very scenic two lane road that is filled with charm and natural beauty!
Santa Rosa Beach: Gulf Place is a great stop. Cruise through the Art Walk and listen to live music through the gulf breeze. Our favorite – The Forrest Williams Band, plays weekly in this area. Shunk Gulley Oyster House is just across the street and has a fabulous upstairs bar, coastal view and live music! Or, for a dressier place, drive nearby to one of our favorite restaurants, The Vue on 30a. It has amazing beach-front dining. We love their early-bird specials and fiery sunset views.
Blue Mountain: Head over to For The Health of It. It’s an organic food and produce market where you can fuel-up with fresh juices or smoothies. It’s also a great place for a body massage. There’s actually large hills so be prepared to take stairs down to the beach. The is a great place to also have a bonfire. You must get a permit from South Walton or hire a Beach Bonfire service. They will set up and tear down everything. It is well worth the money!
Grayton: The Shard Shop is a trendy make-your-own-art boutique. They offer classes in ShardART. This is a place where you can create an original art piece. Or buy a piece of original art from artist and owner Mary Hong. The classes are a fun and therapeutic. I’d recommend Chanticleer Eatery while in the area. They have fantastic salads and foods with a French twist served at this comfy joint with an outdoor patio & a casual ambiance. And now there’s AJ’s nearby that has nightly live music, a great place to eat and dance.
Seaside: This is such a picturesque little village. Bud and Alley’s is great for waterfront dining and the rooftop bar is a local favorite. Nearby there’s lots of great shopping.
I love stopping at Modica Market, a quaint gourmet grocery. They have an eclectic mix of cuisine, libations & culinary essentials. If you want to learn to surf attend Austin Magee’s Surf School at Seaside. It’s his mission is to provide each student with a safe, creative, and fun surfing experience. Austin is our cousin and is an awesome international and professional surfer.
Watersound: There’s always something happening at The HUB! From Funk and Jazz, they have nightly live music on a huge outdoor stage. Or, watch family-friendly movies under the stars. Another option is a burger and beer, relax and watch sports all season long on the 25’ outdoor jumbotron. This is a great bike ride destination!
Rosemary Beach: Spend the day in this scenic area – we love The Pearl Hotel. The breezy rooftop, reminiscent of a European villa, has an awesome open air patio. Have a cool drink and take in the views of the glistening gulf. Ladies, don’t miss the many great boutiques here. Bike rentals are popular on 30A so consider riding from Rosemary Beach and travel west into Alys Beach to see stunning architecture. This area is my favorite… really chic and beautiful!
Fun Fact – Coastal Dune Lakes are arare and natural phenomena that only occur in a handful of locations around the globe. On Scenic Highway 30A it has 15 named coastal dune lakes, the only in North America.
South Walton’s coastal dune lakes are said to be as much as 10,000 years old and were formed by winds that redistributed sand and created the shallow basins, surprisingly…most lakes average only about 5 feet deep.
There are miles of things to discover along the 24 mile stretch of 30A crowned by the pristine sugar sand beaches. It’s always a great family vacation or a nice romantic getaway!
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