30A is a two-lane road that meanders along Florida’s Gulf Coast consisting of 16 small beach towns nestled between Destin and Panama City Beach — collectively known as South Walton Florida. “After vacationing in Florida as a kid near the Panhandle, my family of 3 first traveled to the 30A beaches two years ago after a busy summer and in need of a quiet, relaxing beach vacation,” says Ali Schiesl a mom based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
“We were blown away by the quiet kid-friendly community, the stunning beaches, the walkability and the architecture of this growing area. Since that first trip where we were so taken, we have returned to the beach towns of 30A Florida twice a year and always experience that same sense of relaxation and family-friendly culture along the beautiful Florida Gulf Coast. Surrounded by state parks and rare coastal dunes, the beach feel is abundant, but these gorgeous beach towns are each unique and have so much more to explore and experience!”
We were blown away by the quiet kid-friendly community, the stunning beaches, the walkability and the architecture of this growing area.
Here’s the scoop on some favorite 30A beaches:
Rosemary Beach is a charming beach town with a great farmer’s market, cute shops and an adorable town square full of great, walkable restaurants. La Crema is a favorite – chocolate, wine and small plates? Yum! Many Rosemary Beach vacation rentals have easy beach access and often include beach chairs and bike rentals too.
A very short bike ride from Rosemary Beach (most of the beaches are accessible via bike paths), Alys Beach (pronounced Alice) – with its white buildings, beautiful palm trees and stunning gulf views gives an immediate feel of relaxation. On Alys Beach, George’s is a fantastic restaurant that has outdoor seating and is very kid-friendly. It does get busy during high season so get there early or bring some activities to keep the kids occupied while you wait.
Known for being the set for the movie The Truman Show, Seaside is one of the most iconic of the towns but also the busiest and most expensive. Of course, it is jam-packed with fun. There is often free music at the amphitheater along with ice cream shops, great boutiques and restaurants lining the streets. There is also a strip of food trucks with something for everyone…BBQ, hot dogs, grilled cheese and much more!
Grayton Beach is the most bohemian town on the 30A beach strip (it is also one of the oldest communities) with beautiful beaches and even more beautiful sunsets. The tide makes a little lagoon area which is great for small kids to play. Red Bar is the hot spot for lunch or dinner on Grayton Beach. Black Bear Bread Company is an amazing breakfast spot that has lots delicious and healthy options for parents and kids, including mimosas!
Grayton Beach is also one of the only 30A beaches that allows cars and beach bonfires (with permits.) You must be a local to get a car permit but you can schedule beach bonfires through Adventure 30A. You can also reserve a night of glamping in one of the state parks, fishing tours or paddle boards and kayaks. The state park on Grayton Beach is a great place to go for a long walk to see the rare coastal dunes.
(Parent tip: Grayton Public Beach doesn’t have restrooms and has very limited parking but restaurants are close by).
Panama City Beach (PCB) –
Considered a college spring break hotspot and the most built up of the beach towns, PCB with kids is still pretty awesome, especially the Pirate cruise where kids can listen to pirate stories, hunt for treasure and engage in pirate sword fights – perfect for kids 3 and up! After the cruise, head out for steamed oysters at Dusty’s – this unique little bar always has turtle and fish that the kids can feed while you eat. It’s both fun and affordable.
Some 30A Beaches Family Friendly Tips:
- Most locals would tell you that October is the best time to visit – It’s less busy, the average high is 80 (according to the Weather Channel) and the Gulf waters are still warm.
- Spring break season runs from about the first week of March through the second week of April. Families flock to 30A Beaches during spring and summer break but don’t expect many college students – except In Panama City Beach during this time. Year-round events have made 30A an all-seasons destination and the area is even drawing more families during the holidays.
- Condos and beach houses dominate 30A lodging. Most places to stay are through VRBO, Airbnb or independent rental companies. The larger homes are specifically designed for multi-families to share…so bring your friends and save some money.
- Some pools are not heated and the temperatures on 30A tend to be a bit cooler than other southern Florida towns, so pack light wetsuit tops for swimming. Also, pack light jackets for you and your kids – especially if visiting during the offseason.
- The towns of 30A are conveniently connected by a paved bike path… Beach biking and exploring can be an everyday activity! There are plenty of places to rent bikes and some vacation rentals include bikes – so be sure to check when making reservations!
- There are lots of upscale restaurants that are also extremely kid-friendly in Rosemary Beach, Alys Beach, and Seaside. Don’t be afraid to try them with your kids.
- If you or your kids are more adventure or nature seekers, the area is one of the few places in the world with coastal dune lakes, which include a phenomenal ecosystem with freshwater and saltwater species. Exploring them by paddleboard is quite an adventure. You can also spot alligators, bald eagles, and osprey on eco-tours of Choctawhatchee River.
30A is a family-friendly paradise full of food, adventure and stunning beaches, of course!
“After filling our bellies with oysters, taking sunny beach bike rides and hiking in the state parks…. my young son still talks about our nightly beach runs after dinner to “catch” the sunset,” says Scheisl.