If you live in Georgia, chances are you’ve seen a sticker on the back of some suburban with a “3” sun shape and an “A” on top of a jolly turquoise blue circle. It stands for 30A which is the strip of pristine beach that lines Florida’s Emerald Coast. The sticker is a cheeky nod to the Emerald Coast fan club that dots up and down the Eastern Seaboard and symbolizes that the wearer has good taste in beaches and likes to see their neighbors at home be their neighbors at the beach as well.
Seaside Florida is one of the most popular destinations on the Gulf Coast for family travel, there are a ton of things to see and eat here, you definitely need more than one visit to do it all. Or plan to stay an entire summer as most of the semi-locals do.
Where to Eat
On the Beaten Path…
- The Airstreams on Central Square. From grilled cheese to juices, to tacos, hot dogs, and giant shaved ices, these airstreams converted into food stalls have something for everyone during your time at the beach. I love the novelty of getting a grilled cheese at the beach, it’s not your typical beach food and I appreciate it’s uniqueness. I will typically follow this up with a giant shaved ice from Frost Bites in Rainbow flavor to make sure the 7-year-old inside of me is placated. Read more of my Airstream recommendations here.
- Bud & Alleys Rooftop Bar. Bud and Alleys not only has a bathroom for those who aren’t eating there, but they also have an air-conditioned haven inside their restaurant for when it’s too sweltering outside to stay at the beach. The food is light and familiar but fresh and delicious. Definitely, a great place to share for lunch when you’re craving heavy appetizers.
- Great Southern Cafe. One of the best places for breakfast in the area. It has that down-home southern feel and the breakfast staples you’re looking for like biscuits and gravy or two eggs served with a side of grits.
- Modica Market. If you’re looking for a European inspired market to buy your beach edibles at, this is the place for you. They have premade charcuterie boards, mini bottles of champagne, and pre-sliced fruit and plenty of jam spreads to be the envy of your beach blanket neighbor’s sunset picnic.
- Dawson’s Yogurt & Fudge. No beach town would be complete without a swirly ice cream shop and you can get your zebra ice cream fix at Dawson’s in the square. If I didn’t love Jeni’s Goat Cheese & Cherry Ice Cream so much I would claim that Dawson’s zebra swirl ice cream is my favorite flavor on Earth. Being doused in sprinkles greatly increases my tendency to lean towards Dawsons.
- Raw & Juicy. Not only do they have an airstream in the square, they also have a brick & mortar that serves up fresh coconuts for the beach (which you can and should also get filled with a prosecco cocktail), and they also have their own curated shop of eco-friendly goods for the beach.
- Amavida Coffee. Fairtrade coffee right in the heart of town that’s taken up post as the elderly man’s hideout (and mine) in the early hours of the morning. Here you’ll find the town coming to life as they drift in for coffee and leave with an incidental pastry in hand. Great ice coffee, good patio people watching.
Off the beaten path…
- The Donut Hole. This place doesn’t have a real website outside of their facebook fan page but don’t let that deter you, these are some of the best donuts in the Southeast and you can’t let a trip to Seaside escape you without trying one (or three) donuts. As soon as you walk in to the Donut Hole, you’re welcomed back into the good ol diner days and you’ll most likely find the stereotypical (although very necessary) dining patrons like cops, workers coming from their night shift, and hard laborers among other beach patrons ready to fill up in preparation for their daily grind.
- Chiringo. Chiringo is relatively new to the area although already an institution. The entire restaurant’s windows open up to let in the fresh sea breeze which is a great relief after sitting in the sun all day. Their cocktials and beat hummus are worth the drive, and then you can go ahead and fall in love with the place after having the grouper tacos with a side of plantains.
- Red Bar. Yes, this bar is RED. It’s such a fun place to gather, they have music nightly and their food is as fresh as it gets. Head this warning- cash only.
What to Do
- Stake out your spot on the beach. With a tourist population in the 30,000’s during the summer, you’re going to want to get a good spot at the beach and early! Beach traffic starts as soon as the sunrise peaks over the sand dunes, so prep your beach day accordingly.
- Rent Bikes. If you don’t bring your own bike, there are a ton of places nearby your rental that will loan you one for the day. 30A has a very friendly bike community, so bikes are welcomed -nay encouraged- at every restaurants and shop.
- Shop at Perspicasity. This open-air market has everything you might need for going to the beach, coming from the beach, or going out on the town later that night. It’s casual yet refined and I undoubtedly get stuck pondering if I need another wicker bag for my collection.
- Central Square Records. For the music buffs, Central Square Records tips its hat to those who nostalgically like to play their tunes through a Gramophone versus their iPod.
- Sundog Book Store. A perfectly packed bookstore filled to the brim with classics, new thrillers and tried and true beach reads.
- The Art of Simple. Unlike its name implies, this store is not simple nor common. It’s bursting to the brim with cool trinkets and fun collectible things for your home and kitchen.
- The Seaside Farmers Market. This year-round market is open every Saturday and boasts a huge gathering of local farmers and artisans who are willing to sell you the best of what 30A has to offer. Located in Central Square.
- Visit other nearby cities. 30-A has a lot of tiny communities right next to each other, I highly recommend checking out the neighboring cities, Grayton Beach, Rosemary Beach, Santa Rosa Beach, and Alys Beach, as each as a unique community attraction to it!
Where to Stay
- AirBnB’s. By far the most popular lodging option here is the rent a house. We’ve had great experiences renting through AirBnB, one of our rentals even had a clementine tree in the back which made for great additions to each evening happy hour!
- The Pearl. Located in Rosemary Beach, the Pearl is a gorgeous European style hotel that is as beautiful as the name suggests. I haven’t stayed here but it’s on my list due to its world-class service and stunning architecture.