30a, located in Santa Rosa Beach, is one of the panhandle’s most stunning scenic areas. A series of beaches makeup this stretch of land between Destin and Panama City Beach, dating back to the 1700s, with its sugar white quartz sand that migrated down from the Appalachian mountains thousands of years ago.
Founded in 1824, Walton County was home to parts of Okaloosa, Holmes, and Washington counties. Towns of Walton were beginning to form in the late 1800s. Eventually, Santa Rosa Beach was home to buzzing town center called Hogtown Bayou. However, soon after, the town was devastated by a crop disaster followed by a hurricane, and residents began to leave in masses. It became the definition of a ghost town and in 1890, Point Washington in Santa Rosa Beach became a small sawmill and timber hub in order to create an economy out of the remains of the hurricane’s devastation.
As the sawmill solidified an economy in Santa Rosa Beach, the beaches were beginning to find their own economic value in tourism. In 1913, The Butler family visited the beaches from the nearby DeFuniak Springs and saw a vision of the future and soon Grayton Beach became the first town among the beaches to blossom what was at the time a budding tourist’s dream.
Access to Grayton was limited until the 1930s when Highway 98 was built. It was then when business and tourism in Grayton began to flourish. Once Grayton’s economic success took off, other beaches in the area began to boom as well. From the east to the west end of Santa Rosa Beach, a string of sixteen Gulf front beaches each began their own tourism efforts and as a collective, created one of the most beautiful tourism destinations in America, now known as 30a.
From east to west, here is the breakdown of the top beach towns that make up 30a:
Located next to Oyster Lake, Dune Allen is largely a residential area. It is within walking distance from the nearby Gulf Place, a small community filled with local restaurants, art shops, retail shopping, and more.
Most popular for its funky reputation and brave beginnings, this charming beach town is home to one of the most popular beach front restaurants along 30a: The Red Bar. It is also home to a few small retail shops, a general store, and an overall magical feeling.
One of the more upscale beaches, Watercolor boasts a beautiful lawn often filled with farmer’s markets and fresh air, surrounded by a number of retail boutiques, the Watercolor Inn, a couple of fine dining restaurants, local art shops, and many picture perfect vacation homes.
As seen in The Truman Show, this pastel colored wonderland is what some might call a picture-book fairytale town. With retail shopping, a repertoire theater, local art shops, a record and book store, an ice cream shop and small-town market, and funky restaurants in airstreams surrounding the immaculate green amphitheater lawn, this is a must see town and a favorite among 30a vacationers.
This tucked away beach town is one of the most laid back of the group. You are sure to see beach goers in flip flops riding bikes up and down the streets while vacationers in golf carts explore the local eateries and shops around town. There are many local treasures to be found here!
One of the most prestigious and beautiful beaches along 30a, this tidy and minimalistic looking white town is simply pristine and gorgeous. Palm trees line the roads while local shops need not boast of their elegance. Certainly mesmerizing and a sight to behold, Alys Beach is a must-see.
The last of the beaches on the 30a scenic road, Rosemary Beach is another favorite among vacationers. With enchantment behind every door front, this beach town is a complete encapsulation of the charm of 30a. Reminiscent of Italy, with a book store, coffee shop, local retail shops, and cobblestone streets filled with the scents of baked goods wafting through the air, this is a beach that vacationers cannot pass up.