Off the Beaten Path
Scenic Route 30-A is an 18-mile road that hugs the coast along the Gulf of Mexico in Northwest Florida. Along this breath-taking drive you will see sugar-white sand beaches and some very rare coastal dune lakes. You will also discover a wonderful string of beach communities that are known for their relaxed lifestyle. I hope this lens inspires you to take a trip and visit this peaceful stretch of road and all that it has to offer.
A Tour of 30-A
Let's begin our tour of Walton County Road 30-A by heading East on Highway 98 from Destin. After about fifteen miles we'll come to a fork in the road and veer to the right which puts us on CR30-A. The first beautiful little town we come to is;
Dune Allen Beach
At the far west end of 30A, Dune Allen Beach has been a quiet family favorite for generations. Mostly comprised of time-tested beach homes, Dune Allen Beach is also home to several of 30A's rare coastal dune lakes, including Stallworth Lake and Oyster Lake (which is shaped like an oyster shell, but was also reportedly once teeming with fresh oysters). We don't have far to go before coming upon;
Santa Rosa Beach
Santa Rosa is one of the oldest beach towns along 30-A, When you come upon the first condominiums and shopping area, you have arrived. There is a lot to do and see at the main intersection of 393 and 30-A. Besides shopping and restaurants and a coffee and dessert shop, there is a roadside park called Ed Walline Park. As we continue Eastward it's not far at all until coming to;
Blue Mountain Beach
This beach has remained a virtually unspoiled area on 30-A until this day. There is the mysterious Draper Lake, with its large, expansive body of water but with no public access to it. Then there are Alligator Lake and Big Red Fish Lakes and two other smaller dune lakes in the area. You can see lily pads and marsh amongst the windswept oak and pine trees. Blue Mountain Beach is also the home Big Daddy's bicycle shop, my favorite in the area. They stock a nice supply of new bikes, parts and accessories as well as a large fleet of rental bikes. The Bike shop is on the highest point of the road so your first few pedals from there are easy ones. Blue Mountain Beach also has 30-A's only health food store and cafe. There are just a few other commercial businesses in this area and the few permanent residents that live here, prefer it that way. Now we travel a bit further on the road and come to;
Grayton has a special "small cozy town" feel with narrow tree lined streets and friendly people. It has a modest "downtown" with interesting shops, bed and breakfast inns, a general store and a handful of restaurants. And of course it has a beachfront that has been called one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. It also has a public dock on scenic Western Lake where you can take your canoe or kayak and explore one of the largest of the dune lakes. Our favorite 30-A breakfast can be found at Hibiscus, we love the cinnamon roll french toast. Another couple of miles brings us to;
This is a beautiful master planned community. Cerulean Park is Water Color's central gathering space, and Town Center is a collection of retail shops, offices, and the Water Color Market. Hiking and biking paths unfold in an extensive woodland trail system within Water Color. Nearby state parks offer differing perspectives of coastal dune lakes, sand pine scrub, long leaf pine, flat woods, cypress ponds, wet prairies and titi swamps. We spend a bunch of time in Water Color when we are visiting the area. The bike trails are fantastic and we hang out with Kimberly at the Bears at the Beach shop. Right next to Water Color is the wonderful town of;
Seaside is an older master planned community that began in 1981. It has been a model for other developments all over the world. This is a very special place. The Truman show was filmed here and it is the heart of 30-A. We enjoy riding our bikes, playing frisbee and dining here frequently. You can find more on this stunning place at my Seaside lens. Seagrove Beach is adjacent to Seaside.
Seagrove Beach has shown an increasing amount of traffic in the last few years. Residences, condominiums, shops and restaurants are springing up in the area and it is becoming a very popular destination for tourists. The rates for beach rentals are somewhat less in Seagrove than the surrounding towns.
Is the next town we come across on our tour of 30-A. It is a a community that is just being built. It will have many of the same attributes as Water Color though unique to itself. Just beyond Water Sound is;
Seacrest is a quiet residential community with some of the highest sand dunes on 30-A, so high that one can easily view dolphins swimming in the distance. One of the least developed and most scenic of the dune lakes, Camp Creek, is located on the western edge of the community and extends north and south of 30-A. Legend says that the Creek Indians lived in this area and that the lake was named in their honor. Until recently, Seacrest Beach has been one of the quietest beach communities along Scenic 30-A, mostly due to the fact that there is virtually no commercial development here. As we continue East we come to;
Alys has the feel of being overseas. It is a beautifully designed town with massive homes that look like they could have come straight from Dubai. As we roll past Alys beach we come into;
Nearing the east end of 30-A, you'll find Rosemary Beach. This recently developed community was named after the wild rosemary that grows in the area and dunes. Rosemary Beach has it's own U.S. Post Office and Town Hall. A charming little Italian Inn is also on the premises. This is a "New Urban-ism" planned community on 30-A, with its totally unique architectural theme. One of our preferred stops in Rosemary is the Sugar Shack. This place is filled with all things sweet. You can find candy that you haven't tried since childhood. Then we come to the end of the road;
"Inlet Beach is a fairyland of beauty tucked away in this secluded spot on the Gulf of Mexico, sheltered by encircling forests and flanked by the turquoise waters of Lake Powell." I hate to get back on Highway 98 so why don't we turn around and go back the way we came?
The best way to tour CR30-A is by bicycle. There is an 18.5 mile bike path that runs along the entire road. It is one of the most beautiful rides you will ever take. There are many places to stop along the way and the path is virtually flat so anyone can ride it. There are a number of places that rent bicycles as well as anything else you will need. All of the places we have used rent trailers, child seats and other equipment to take along young family members that are not yet riding on their own.
30-A Bike Path
Here's a little section of the bike path that runs along 30-A.
If you choose other please let us know where in the comments. Thank you.