One of my favorite parts of Florida is the panhandle. You’ll find the prettiest water, the whitest sand (it’s like sugar!) and it’s an easy drive from most southern states. I particularly like the area known as “30a” which is a scenic highway that stretches between Destin and Panama City Beach. The area is spotted with picturesque beach communities and it’s become increasingly popular with visitors the last few years. There are so many blog posts out there detailing the best things to do, shopping, and dining on 30a (including mine) so I’m going to skip the “guide” here and let you know some of my favorite things on 30a instead:
Go to the beach!! 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.
There’s a rental company at pretty much every beach entrance that provides daily chair and umbrella setups (two chairs, an umbrella, and a little table for about $60/day) 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.
The Airstreams in Seaside: 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.
Browse through a bookstore: The beach and books are like pb&j (for me anyways) so I always like to spend some time browsing the shelves of the local book shops. Sun Dog Books is a Seaside staple (and my favorite!) and they have a great selection of classic, new, and local books as well as paper related gifts. I also really like the Hidden Lantern Bookstore in Rosemary Beach.
Alys Beach architecture: All of the little communities along 30a are special in their own way, but I think Alys Beach has the most stunning architecture. I like to stop by George’s for dinner and take a stroll around and do a little sight seeing.
The Hub on 30a: Near Watersound (about halfway between Seaside and Rosemary Beach) is a great little hangout spot called the Hub. It’s a collection of food vendors and shops with communal seating and lounge areas. There’s a large lawn and a stage with an LED screen. There’s some kind of entertainment every night whether it’s a band, movie, or streaming the big game.
DONUTS: My favorites are Charlie’s Donuts in Seacrest (there’s a line outside the little shack early in the morning) but Five Daughter’s Bakery has an airstream in Seaside that’s super popular too. Also, breakfast at the Donut Hole (Inlet Beach just east of Rosemary Beach) is a must. Of course they have donuts, but they have a full breakfast menu too.
Disco: My all time favorite boutique. The first time I walked into this store in Rosemary Beach, it felt like I was seeing the inside of my head.
Walking & riding bikes: I like to start each morning by strolling around wherever I’m staying. There’s something nice about seeing the town, all of the little cottages, and the beach before everyone is out and about. In Seaside, it’s fun to check out each of the unique pavilion entrances.
Sunset at 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!).
The 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.
Breakfast at Havana: The restaurant at the Pearl in Rosemary Beach is one of my favorite places for breakfast. Sit out on the terrace for an ocean view in the distance. Next time I want to try happy hour or an early dinner at the rooftop pool.
Ophelia’s: This swimwear boutique (locations in Seaside and Seacrest) is packed with the most stylish bikini brands and carries super cute cover-ups as well as yoga and active wear.
Strawberry Shortcake at Heavenly: There are a couple of ice cream shops in Seaside, but the best kept secret in town is the strawberry shortcake at Heavenly. Oh. My. Goodness. Get it, you won’t regret it.
Logo Wear: People wear Seaside, Alys Beach, and Rosemary Beach logo wear like a badge of honor. Each town has a shop or two where you can get the official town gear.
Town Events: Each little community has events going on in the main square most nights (like a live band, and an outdoor movie) as well as a farmer’s market on Saturday mornings.
Lilly Pulitzer: Not on the 30a but still close, I like to drive over to the Grand Boulevard shopping center in Destin to visit the Lilly Pulitzer store.
Cowgirl Kitchen: Going for tacos at the Cowgirl Kitchen in Rosemary Beach has become a tradition. They also have an amazing grouper sandwich.