Located in South Walton County, 30A is a Beach Highway that runs along the Panhandle of Florida. Quaint little towns and villages are dotted down the road and are a much different experience than more touristy, nearby areas. Rich in wildlife, high-end eateries, and local shops, this stretch is so picture-perfect, The Truman Show starring Jim Carrey was filmed here. You won’t find many hotels, nor chain stores or eateries. Beautiful 30A is certainly a charming experience, and these are some of the best things to do.
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Eat at The Shrimp Shack
Dine at The Shrimp Shack and enjoy not only the freshest local Gulf shrimp but the best seats in the house for watching the sunset. Their outdoor pavilion is right on the beach and located just steps out of the backdoor of the shack. As for the shack itself, it’s located amongst a cluster of oceanfront shops and eateries, and the small walk-through building offers everything from traditional lobster rolls, steamer baskets with corn and potatoes, to a mouthwatering, house-made shrimp salad that’s draped over crunchy, fresh greens.
Dine at Airstream Food Trucks
In the very same area across the street is a cluster of Airstream trailers that permanently sit along the sidewalk of this fun little nook of 30A. At one metallic shack, you can grab sweet and savory crepes, and at another, a gourmet grilled cheese—both places have gluten-free options. The barbecue place always smells amazing, and for dessert, you can grab a mile high shaved ice. String lights drape through the trees above, and some tables and chairs are scattered about for diners.
Lounge Outdoors at The Hub
You’ll notice these precious clusters of shops and eateries are common along 30A, and The Hub is unique because of its spacious astroturf center, complete with an outdoor movie screen. From sports to flicks, it’s a treat to watch anything outdoors, while surrounded by a po’ boy shop and other meaty goodness. Grab some street corn, tacos, or shaved ice, and let the kids stretch their legs while the big game is on. When it’s ultra-hot, super-powered fans are there to cool it down.
Ride a Bike
More folks are getting around by bike than by car in 30A, and more than a handful of shops, like Live Well 30A, offer rentals. Not only will you burn off all the delicious food, but it’s easier to navigate through small shopping areas—not to mention it can be rather difficult to find a place to park an actual vehicle, while bike racks are abundant. Bikes with children’s seats, training wheels, and even adult trikes are available, and you’ll be able to soak in the beauty a bit better. The Timpoochee Trail is exclusively for bikes and will take you all the way through 30A–wildlife and little villages included. Not feeling the bike? Golf carts are also easier to navigate.
Go to the Farmer's Market
Farmers markets, especially the one in Rosemary Beach on Sunday, are perfect for exploring the local food scene. From Gulf Crab Cake Co., which sells delicious crab cakes, to beef jerky crafters, the edible goodies are endless. Some set up and cook authentic international foods, others have their booths piled high with fresh produce—you’ll even find dog treat bakers. Generally all pretty healthy stuff, you’ll be stocked with some amazing snacks for the duration of your trip.
Explore the Dune Lakes
The only dune lakes in all of the United States are along the emerald coast, and the 30A area house 15 of the rare phenomena. Salt and freshwater intermingle to create a diverse wildlife structure, and the calm waters are supreme for paddle boarding and kayaking. Try out a session with 30A Paddleboard and Yoga.
Visit a State Park
Eden Gardens State Park’s mossy oaks and Azaleas, Grayton Beach State Park’s perfect beaches and ecotourism, lakes and forests, and Camp Helen State Park’s history and blue waters—the public accessible lands in 30A are nearly unparalleled. Point Washington State Forest protects most of South Walton’s land, and hikers and bicyclists are encouraged to come and explore. Walking through the forests and suddenly being met with the sea is a pretty stunning spectacle.
Fisherman will find paradise in 30A, not only because of the supreme deep-sea fishing via hosts like Santa Rosa Charters, in Santa Rosa Beach, of course but because of those rare dune lakes. Fuller Lake, Morris Lake, Campbell Lake, Stallworth Lake, Allen Lake, Oyster Lake, Draper Lake, Big Redfish Lake, Little Redfish Lake, Alligator Lake, Western Lake, Eastern Lake, Deer Lake, Camp Creek Lake and Lake Powell are thought to have existed for thousands of years, and only sit at about five feet deep. A huge variety of species await to be caught, from redfish to speckled trout.
Camp Under the Stars
Camping is likely the last thing some think of when 30A is mentioned, because of its high-end reputation, thanks to other swanky areas to lodge, like Alys Beach. But you’ll miss out if you only opt to lounge in fancy rentals. Given all the public land, beachside camping is at your disposal. Adventurists immerse into a highly diverse ecosystem and a rare environment. Grayton Beach State Park and TopSail Hill Preserve State Park have great sites for either tent or RV camping.