Florida has always been one of my favorite beach destinations and if you’re looking for a perfect beach set beside a charming town just a few hours drive from many Southern states, then Seaside is the perfect destination for you!
Located on the Florida panhandle between Destin and Panama City (on a little stretch of scenic highway called 30A), there’s plenty of things to do in Seaside and the charming little town offers all of the amenities and activities to keep you occupied while still providing the perfect place to chill out and unwind.
The main attraction in Seaside and the surrounding area is of course the beach! Sugar white sand and beautiful blue/green water stretches for as far as the eye can see in both directions and daily life revolves around sunrises, sunsets, and all the rays in between.
While it would be easy to spend a full week bumming around on the beach and exploring up and down the coast, Seaside is also the perfect long weekend destination. I’ve been to the Seaside several times (it’s a family favorite!) so here are my picks for a great trip:
Where to Stay: There are no hotels or resorts in Seaside because beach cottages are the name of the game. Seaside is famous for its pastel colored beach houses (each featuring a unique name) and the Seaside Cottage Rental Agency can arrange nightly, weekly, or monthly rentals.
If you’re want the amenities of a hotel and don’t mind venturing a little bit out of Seaside, the Watercolor Inn (in nearby Watercolor) and The Pearl (in Rosemary Beach) are great options. For great rooms on a budget, go with 30a Suites.
When to Go: Summer is peak season to visit, but shoulder season (April, May, August, September, and October) is when rates really begin to drop. I think this is the ideal time of year to visit. The weather is still warm but the crowds and prices aren’t as high as summertime. The Seaside Cottage Rental Agency will usually offer some sort of package discounts during these times (and the off season) that include perks such as a gift card to Bud and Alley’s or a round of golf at San Destin.
What to Do: Go to the beach!! Duh. Seriously though, the stretch of sand between Pensacola and Panama City is one of the best beaches in Florida and draws TONS of visitors each year. There’s an onsite rental company that provides daily chair and umbrella setups so all you have to do is show up with your book, sunscreen, and shades and wile the day away (in the high season, make reservations in advance to guarantee a set up on the front line).
Besides the beach, there are plenty of other outdoor activities in the area like bike riding (it’s the main way of transportation down there), kayaking, and paddleboarding. There’s even a paint-your-own-ceramics place in town. The town has events going on in the main square most nights as well (like a live band, and an outdoor movie) as well as a farmer’s market on Saturday mornings.
If you’re looking to explore the surrounding areas, drive over to Rosemary Beach for plenty of shopping and dining, Alys Beach to check out the latest resort town, and Grayton Beach for laid back “we were here before it was cool” vibes. And of course, there’s always Destin with its plethora of shopping malls and entertainment complexes.
Where to Shop: Seaside has a great mix of local shops (seriously, people drive over from Destin just to check out the town and go through the shops). A few of my favorites are:
The Art of Simple: I wish I could’ve bought the whole store! They have the best selection of housewares, knick-knacks, and stylish apothecary type items. This is a great place to find a gift for that hard to buy for family member or pick up something special for yourself.
Ophelia’s: Tucked away towards the back of Ruskin Place, this swimwear shop is packed with the most stylish bikini brands and carries super cute cover-ups as well as yoga and active wear. They also have a second shop in Sea Crest.
Déjà Vu: This local clothing boutique is the perfect place to pick up a new outfit or two if you’re into a bohemian/gypsy style and they’re pretty reasonably priced.
Seaside Logo Wear: If you’re looking for Seaside specific souvenirs, don’t miss the Seaside logo wear shops next to Ama Vida Coffee Shop. There’s two shops, one that carries merchandise featuring the more classic navy and white logo wear and one that features more playful colors.
Sundog Books: Sun Dog Books is a Seaside staple and they have a great selection of classic, new, and local books as well as paper related gifts. This is also a great place to kill time while you’re waiting for your table at the Great Southern Café next door.
Where to Eat: For such a small little town, Seaside really does have a lot of places to eat! One of the things they do best is the walk-up. Since everything here revolves around the beach there are a number of places where you can walk up, order at a counter, and then either eat your food at nearby tables and chairs or take it back to the beach. For this kind of atmosphere/convenience try Shrimp Shack, Pickles, Taco Bar, and any of the food trucks.
Shrimp Shack: This place is perfect for, as its name suggests, shrimp lovers! The menu is super simple, with a few options for different kinds of shrimp and sides. I like to grab a pound of the peel and eat and a couple of sides and take it to the beach pavilion out back for a casual dinner with epic views.
Great Southern: This is THE place to eat at in Seaside. It’s one of the few sit down restaurants in Seaside so it tends to get a little crowded. Breakfast is great (and less crowded than dinner) and includes breakfast favorites along with Southern classics (can you say grits?) For dinner, don’t miss the Grits a Ya-Ya and the pecan crusted fish of the day. Also, 2-2 ½ hour waits aren’t uncommon here so either arrive early for happy hour or plan to put your name in and spend some time browsing through shops and the bookstore.
Bud and Alley’s: This is Seaside’s iconic beachside bar and grill and it’s a definite must while you’re in town. It’s not very big and it gets crowded in the evenings but it’s a fun place to be. Go for breakfast for a lighter crowd. They also own the pizza place downstairs which is another good option (try the crab bruschetta!).
Heavenly: For dessert, most people go with ice cream from one of the two shops in town, but the best kept secret in town is the strawberry shortcake at Heavenly. Oh. My. Goodness. Get it, you won’t regret it.
Food Trucks: Seaside is famous for its row of food trucks (converted Airstream trailers) fronting the beach. For a healthy pick me up (and a lot of Vegan options) try anything at Raw and Juicy. They specialize in cold pressed organic, raw, and vegan juices and smoothies as well as some café offerings. The Meltdown on 30a is my favorite place to grab lunch and they can make your grilled cheese any way you like it. There’s also a BBQ truck and of course Frost Bites, the best place in town for shaved ice.
If you’re looking for the perfect little beach town to escape to, it’s hard to find one cuter than Seaside. Its relative proximity, small town charm, and strong Southern feel make it a real draw for a laid back beach vacation.
For more pictures of this adorable little beach town, check out my Seaside Walking Tour.
P.S. Love Seaside? Come on over to Facebook and let me know your favorite thing to do there!
P.P.S. This post contains a few affiliate links, but don’t worry…I always tell you EXACTLY what I think.