Beachgoers looking for a Florida destination have gravitated to the beachside communities along State Road 30A. This well-known highway is the route to a well-known assortment of vacation destinations, often collectively termed “30A.”
A fairly-straight-shot drive from Atlanta makes it easy to reach the beach resorts that line this unassuming stretch of road, just 24 miles long, which is the gateway to a host of family-focused destinations.
You’ll know you have arrived at the Gulf Coast of Florida when you are met with nature’s beauty, palm trees, blue waters and, hopefully, sunny skies. As you continue traveling, the beachside towns offer up their powdery-white fine sand and clear, blue-cerulean water.
Strung together, these cozy beach towns seem to fit together like a puzzle, each with its own feel, thriving with beachgoers and families with kids in tow. Based on the location you book, you can explore nearby areas like Rosemary Beach, Santa Rosa Beach, Grayton Beach, Seaside, the WaterColor Inn & Resort and more. Throw in chic Alys Beach and you’ll have multiple choices to pick from.
Part of the charm when visiting the Southern Coast is driving from one town to the next, exploring what each has to offer. As we headed down 30A to our family vacation, we filled up the car with an ample supply of food, snacks and essentials. While there are plenty of grocery stores and markets around, there’s just no substitute for stocking up ahead of time.
Once you canvas the restaurants, nearby venues and unique shops, you can sort out the style that fits your wish list. For the 30A location you select, first visit their websites and do your homework. Talk to friends. Favorite ice cream parlor? Takeout restaurants? Check out what’s happening at Seaside’s The HUB, a green lawn area surrounded by food trucks, walk-up eateries, snow cones and fun. It definitely helps to eat dinner early, since many of the surrounding restaurants do not take reservations.
For house renters, be sure to carefully review the amenities included, whether you have ocean or pool access and if the community is a walkable one — the more inclusive areas tend to have bike paths — or if an electric cart is needed.
Additional costs add up quickly, so check the fine details. Making reservations ahead of time for extras such as electric carts, bicycles, beach chairs and umbrellas is a good idea.
One popular destination in the WaterColor community is The WaterColor Inn. According to David Demarest, director of communications and PR for St. Joe Hospitality, “WaterColor Inn has long been the centerpiece of 30A, and this summer we’re unveiling new multi-room family suites to make it easier for extended family groups to stay with us and enjoy all the amenities that come with a stay at the inn — including bike rentals, kayak and canoe rentals and access to 10 pools and six restaurants on-site. There are certain amenities, like WaterColor Beach Club, that are exclusive to guests staying in homes in the WaterColor neighborhood or guests of WaterColor Inn.”
Demarest says that one of his favorite things about staying along 30A, and in WaterColor in particular, is the pristine beaches, where no high-rise construction is allowed. “The landscape and the neighborhood are walkable and bike-friendly, and that also happens to be naturally beautiful. In fact, about 40 percent of all of land in South Walton is set aside for preservation — the WaterColor Inn itself shares a border with the 2,000-acre Grayton Beach State Park, which was recently named the #1 beach in America. We share the same beach,” he added.
As far as vacationing along 30A, most everyone I consulted seemed to have a different suggestion; the one thing they all had in common was an opinion. The key to figuring out the best lodging solution is to ask for recommendations from those who have already been. With a little help from friends or family, you’re bound to figure out the right match. Or, as the saying goes, you can always try, try again next year.
The beach towns of 30A are prepared to show you and your crew a very good time, but plan ahead and arrive prepared. Do your homework, then “let it go” and get ready for some fun in the sun.