We recently got back from our third family vacation in the 30A area of Florida. We have stayed in Grayton Beach, Rosemary Beach, and Watercolor. We had an amazing experience at each location, but Rosemary Beach is by far our favorite. We love the little town of Rosemary, how the beach accesses are organized, and the overall feel of this area. We have two more trips booked for 2024 and they are both to Rosemary Beach!
30A is a small collection of adorable beach towns nestled between busy Panama City Beach and Destin along Florida’s Scenic Highway 30A. The communities you will find here are Rosemary Beach, Seaside, Alys Beach, Watercolor, WaterSound, Santa Rosa Beach, and so many more. The sand is sugar white, the beaches are clean, the water is a clear, beautiful turquoise. If you’re looking for a vacation that is kid and family friendly, has access to the beach and pools, and has cute little shops to bop around to…this is it!
Many people in Indiana drive to the 30A area. It’s about a 12 hour drive, and if you are traveling with children you need to bring a lot of things (which can be challenging to do on an airplane). The first two times we went to 30A, we drove.
This year, we flew into the Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport (ECP), which is close to Panama City, FL. We traveled with Southwest Airlines, but most airlines have flights in and out of this airport. Once we were at the airport, we rented a car through Enterprise and drove about 30 minutes to the home we rented in Watercolor.
Each time we visit the 30A area we rent a home with a plunge pool that has a beach access close by. We travel with either Brian’s family or my family and rent a home that has enough bedrooms for everyone. There are SO many communities to choose from (Watercolor, Grayton Beach, Rosemary Beach, Seaside, etc), but our favorite is Rosemary Beach. The 30A highway stretches 28.5 miles and each of these communities is along the highway and they all have their own personality, beach access, shops and restaurants.
When choosing a home it was important for us to have a pool, enough bedrooms for everyone, and a nearby beach access.
We love the look, feel, shops, and everything about Rosemary Beach, but we especially love how the beach access areas are organized. There are 9 walkovers labeled A-I that area easily identifiable throughout the entire community. So no matter where you stay within Rosemary Beach, the walk to the beach isn’t more than 10 minutes and there is a straight path to get there. This also keeps the beach from feeling too crowded, which is really nice when trying to keep track of little ones!
To find a home to rent in the 30A area, you can search sites like VRBO, the Rosemary Beach site, 30A Escapes, 360 Blue, Cottage Rental Agency of Seaside, 30A Luxury Vacations, Vacasa. There are specific property management companies in the 30A area and many of them have their own sites, but this list will give you a good starting point.
There are many delicious restaurants to enjoy in the 30A area, but I’ll share the spots we have enjoyed based on location.
The Big Chill – The perfect spot to grab lunch (there are a few different restaurant stalls here featuring BBQ, Mexican, and Seafood) and let the littles run around. We usually stop here on our way into town or on our way out of town. I haven’t ever been that impressed by the food, but its a great way to let the littles burn off some energy.
Fish Out of Water – This restaurant has a beautiful view of the water and sunset, so I recommend coming here for dinner! Just keep in mind that they don’t take reservations.
Black Bear Bread Co – This coffee shop is absolutely adorable. The specialty lattes are tasty (I tried the Tan Lines iced latte), but this spot doesn’t open until 7am.
Amavida Coffee – There is an Amavida location in most of the little towns across 30A, and they open at 6am, so Brian and I would wake up early before the girls, grab a coffee and walk on the beach. It was such a nice way to start our day!
Daytrader Tiki Bar and Restaurant – The cocktails are beautiful and delicious. The favorite thing we enjoyed at this restaurant was the wood fired shrimp…literally amazing!
Bud and Alley’s – This is one of 30A’s oldest restaurants, making it a place you MUST visit. They have outdoor rooftop seating, indoor seating, a pizza bar, a taco bar…pretty much anything you want and need.
3rd Cup Coffee – This coffee shop opens up early as well! When we stayed in Rosemary Beach, we would do our beach walk THEN grab our coffee and walk home with it before waking up the girls. The coffee is delicious and so are the pastries.
Cowgirl Kitchen – We sat outside at this restaurant, which allowed for a ton of people-watching. The outdoor seating area is near the sidewalk, which makes it feel very European.
Havana Beach Rooftop at The Pearl – Delicious drinks and great outdoor atmosphere.
Pescado – Brian and I had a date night here and LOVED the seafood and French 75s.
Crabby Steve’s – We walked up to this restaurant from the beach and had the most delicious lunch. It’s the perfect spot for a sandy, seafood meal! This place is a MUST visit.
Charlie’s Donuts – Delicious donuts (the word on the street is that they are the best in 30A!). We woke the girls up early one morning to watch for dolphins (and saw several!), then grabbed Charlie’s donuts to take back to the house for the family after. We love this tradition.
Shunk Gully – A cute little spot for lunch or dinner right off the beach in the Grayton Beach area.
Visit the beach! Each town has its own beach access. We like to rent 2 reserved beach chairs that are set up each morning and then we rent backpack beach chairs to bring down to our area for any extra family members who want to join. Make sure to take care of this ahead of time!
Book here for beach chairs in Watercolor. We entered the beach from the Watercolor Resort, which is right by the “West Section” (an option to select when reserving the chairs).
This is the site for Rosemary Beach service rental.
Many homes come with beach chair service rental, so make sure to check the details of the rental listing when you are making that reservation.
Swim in the pool! Many of the homes in the various communities have small plunge pools, which have turned out to be the perfect size for our little ones. We love swimming in these pools while lunch is being prepared or when dinner is being prepared. Many of the communities have community pools for you to enjoy too!
Go shopping! Each town has little shops to bop around and explore. We always make a stop at Gigi’s in Rosemary Beach so the girls can pick something out.
Ride bikes! Many homes come with bikes to use, but you can also rent a bike if it doesn’t come with one. We have rented everything (even a bike trailer!) through Vacayzen.
A lot of gear is needed when vacationing with little ones, and I have found it so helpful to rent many things when we are traveling.
Items we have rented:
We always rent with Vacayzen, and items are delivered directly to the home we are renting and they pick it up and clean it off for the next person. Sometimes we are able to get early check-in. In this case, I just call Vacayzen and ask them to deliver the items within a specific time window and they are usually pretty accommodating.