30A Dreaming of No matter if it is Watercolor, Alys Beach, Seaside, or Grayton Beach, scenic 30A is made up of unique beach communities that still offer the laid-back lifestyle and local vibe that one expects from Florida beach towns.
The 1890’s was a period when American taste and interest in vacationing at the beach in the summer was popular. In several parts of Florida, small beach resort communities began to grow. By 1911, Grayton Beach was a small resort for beach goers from DeFuniak Springs and elsewhere in the county. As with many developments in the 1920’s, promotion and advertising were widely used to market resort areas. Newspapers in DeFuniak Springs carried advertisements that promoted Grayton Beach as a place to buy a beach lot and as a place to relax and recuperate from daily life.
By 1923, new houses replaced the cottages that had been located on the beach since before the turn of the century. Visitors continued to come from Alabama and Walton County. J.J. Kinney and B.B. Murray were among several who built houses at the beach. Their houses were described as “air castles” with low hip roofs called storm roofs and large screens with hinged shutters to protect from hurricanes.
The first recorded cabin was in the late 1860s, but it became a major bay community in the early 1900s. As a major steamboat landing, the Town of Santa Rosa boasted a population from 850 to 1,200 people at its height. However, a crop disaster and vicious hurricane devastated the town. The town eventually took on a sinister “Wild West” tone after a recorded posse chase took place and a murderous feud caused divi
TOP 5 PLACES TO VISIT ALONG THE 30A
One of South Walton’s planned New Urbanist communities, Rosemary Beach is an architectural treasure trove, boasting influences from the West Indies, New Orleans, Charleston, and St. Augustine, among others.
Encompassing the lush greens is the community’s town center, where The Merchants of Rosemary Beach, a wonderful collection of quaint shops, boutiques, and restaurants are located. Grab a good read from Hidden Lantern Bookstore and then treat yourself to a drink from Amavida Coffee, where you can also shop for 30A gear.
Perched on the sunny Gulf of Mexico, Grayton Beach has thrived as a tranquil resort town since the early 20th century. Life here hasn't changed all that much since its initial settlement - the village center is a beguiling maze of winding streets, quaint cottages, and white picket fences. A friendly crowd of fishers, artists, and blissed-out vacationers can normally be found here, hanging out in friendly, family-run restaurants, or more likely enjoying life on the sensational sandy beach.
When designing the community of Watercolor, care was taken to preserve the health and natural beauty of Western Lake. Instead of immediately bordering the lake, lake-front homes in Watercolor view this rare natural wonder through groves of tall pine and scrub oak groves. On the South side of Scenic 30-A is the WaterColor Beach Club and the luxurious WaterColor Inn, home of the James Beard award-winning restaurant, Fish Out of Water.
The 158-acre site, which occupies the last piece of beachfront property on the Florida Panhandle, slopes slightly to the south, offering exceptionally long views to the water from many points inland. Planned by Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company, Alys Beach is a Traditional Neighborhood Development (TND) whose architectural vision has its roots in the style of Bermuda architecture.
When you’re in the mood for water that’s unsalted, Alys Beach’s Caliza Pool complex has a 100-foot, zero-entry pool surrounded by a loggia and cabanas, as well as a shallow family pool, a 75-foot lap pool for serious swimmers, and a cypress-shaded spa pool.
Founded by Robert and Daryl Davis in 1979, Seaside's innovative “small town” design was carefully planned. With its nine unique beach pavilions,
cobblestone streets, quaint cottages, white picket fences, and picture-perfect parks and storefronts.
You’ll find kids walking to Seaside Neighborhood School, and the The Repertory Theatre, where actors are busy rehearsing for tonight’s big show. Travel is by foot or bicycle. There’s a town grocer (the famous Modica Market), a book and record store (Sundog Books and Central Square Records), charming art and jewelry galleries, cafes, toy shops, clothing boutiques, a weekly farmer’s market, outdoor concerts, and movies under the stars.
WHERE TO STAY
THE PEARL HOTEL
With its distinctive Old World European architecture, and sun-drenched turrets and terraces, along with timeless black-and-white striped awnings, The Pearl Hotel brings an ultra-luxury boutique experience to the regal shores of Rosemary Beach. With unparalleled services and amenities befitting the only full-service, adult-oriented hotel in South Walton, they offer complimentary beach chairs and oversized umbrellas as well as privileges at the private St. Joe Club & Resorts. Here, guests may enjoy private amenities such as Watersound Beach Club, championship golf, tennis, boating, and more. www.thepearlrb.com
Overlooking the sugar sands of Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, just a short distance from popular attractions including Seaside and Rosemary Beach, you will find Watercolor Inn, a warm family-friendly destination steeped in southern hospitality, history and charm. The hotel is situated on a stunning 500-acre community, tucked between the Gulf of Mexico and a coastal dune lake framed by a longleaf pine forest.
Watercolor Inn experiences are inspired by the surroundings, from the coastal elegance of the 60 guest rooms and suites to the locally sourced menus and captivating Gulf views at the restaurants. www.watercolorresort.com
COTTAGE RENTAL AGENCY – SEASIDE
Cottage Rental Agency has the largest selection of homes in Seaside and exclusive, full-service guest amenities. CRA on 30A features vacation cottages in surrounding beach communities including Watercolor, NatureWalk, and Old Seagrove. Some of the perks they provide include: two complimentary bike rentals, bottle of wine upon arrival, unlimited DVD rentals, free popcorn and a welcome beach tote with unique souvenirs.
WHERE TO EAT
Cuvee 30A brings everything the Emerald Coast loves about celebrity Chef Tim Creehan’s wildly popular cuisine to South Walton’s gorgeous new 30Avenue development. Savor Tim’s award winning signature dishes such as Amy Grant’s Seared Tuna Rare and Vince Gill’s Pecan Crusted Grouper in a stunning venue conveniently situated at the junction of 30A and Highway 98. cuvee30a.com
LA CREMA TAPAS & CHOCOLATE
La Crema restaurant is influenced by the incredibly popular tapas and chocolate shops of Madrid and Barcelona. Rosemary Beach and Barcelona share a similar climate and strategic location next to the sea for fresh food. A tapas and chocolate shop was a natural fit for the quaint beach town. La Crema is a place to linger with friends, while dining and enjoying great flavors both in cuisine and wine. lacrematapas.com
GEORGE'S AT ALYS BEACH
Established in 2008, George’s bring regional coastal fare, infused with global flavors to the quaint town of Alys Beach. They craft all of their dishes using locally sourced, organic produce, and the freshest seafood avalabe. George’s now offers a beautiful viewing deck where you can take a drink and look out over Alys Beach while you wait to be seated.