Travel: Secrets On Florida’s 30A

30A white sand beaches

IF YOU’VE graced the beaches of 30A once, you likely fell in love at first toe in the sand. If you haven’t heard of this tropical destination popular with Hoosiers, let us introduce you.

30A is a stretch of highway on the part of the Florida Panhandle called the Emerald Coast, reaching from Destin to Panama City. Dotted along the 24-mile-long road is a collection of idyllic and unfairly gorgeous beach towns. Much like the tourists that flock to them, Rosemary Beach, Seaside, Alys Beach, and the other 30A beach communities have their own defining characteristics. No matter which plot of sand your beach rental sits upon, make special note of these on your itinerary:

Stay in untraditional digs

At Grayton Beach State Park, cabins start at around $130 per night. While basic in nature and far less luxurious than a beachfront rental, it’s a good option for those wanting to experience 30A on a budget or during peak season.

Skip out on grocery store crowds

Instead, have your groceries brought right to you. You can do this through a service like Shipt, and some Publix locations offer delivery.

Book a cruise on the Cattywampus Catamaran

Choose your feature: dolphin-searching, sunset-watching or ocean-snorkeling. Don’t forget the booze cooler or snacks.

Zen out with a view at Balance 30A

This beach house-turned full-service health studio offers a variety of yoga classes. They have their full class list available on their website, and it’s recommended you register online ahead of time during the busy season. At the end of class, the instructor will use a harmonium, which is similar to a mini keyboard. This instrument is popular in South Asia and is said to harmonize your body and senses.

Discover the hidden artist colony 

Behind the Seaside town center (famous as the filming location for The Truman Show), Ruskin Place is technically a residential neighborhood, but in addition to the townhouses, it boasts art galleries, a public park, and benches scattered about. If you time it right, you might even catch live music under the shade of the oak trees.

Create your own bike crawl

Make Chiringo your starting point for brunch and fresh fruit cocktails, then rent one of its e-bikes for the day. From there, bike 30A all the way to Rosemary Beach, stopping for refreshments, shopping, and quick bites along the way.

Add a cinnamon roll to your milkshake

You’re on vacation, so live a little and eat a lot. The tuna dip at Bud & Alley’s, boozy slushies at Stinky’s Fish Camp, and the fish sandwich at George’s at Aly’s Beach are must-haves. Feed your sweet tooth with banana cream pie ice cream from Blue Mountain Beach Creamery or the Cinnamon Heaven shake from Grace Pizza (it’s $22, but the homemade cinnamon roll garnish is worth that alone).

Know the good carry-out spots

Grab fresh seafood from the market at Goatfeathers. Wash it down with a giant draft beer or mimosa to-go from Modica Market or a boozy cold brew from Hotz Coffee.

Wake and drink at Cowgirl Kitchen’s Grumpy Hour

It’s like Happy Hour, but in the morning. From 8 to 9 a.m., they serve mimosas, Bloody Marys, and beer specials to kick off your beach day.

Discover the shuttles

Avoid traffic and circling the block for an open spot by taking the Grayton Beach or Seaside shuttle. Both run every 29 minutes and leave from the parking lot on HW 238. It’s across from Hurricane Oyster Bar & Grill.

Roast marshmallows on the beach

Companies like Native Fires will set up bonfires for your group, complete with chairs, tables, coolers, tiki torches, and s’mores kits. If a beach bonfire party is more your scene, check out The Bay for a weekly Wednesday-night fire and live music combo.

Jam out to local bands

According to insiders, Pickled Pickers and Forest Williams Band are two of the best in town. They both play standing sets at Red Fish Taco. Make sure to wear your dancing shoes.

Hear the singing bartender

To do so, you’re going to need to book a reservation several days in advance at Redd’s Fueling Station, touted as 30A’s only dive bar. She performs on “days with a T” and is popular enough to have her own Facebook fan page.

Get serious about sandcastles

Book group sandcastle building lessons through Beach Sand Sculptures. Sandcastle coaches will teach you how to create impressive sandy art. If you’re lucky, by the end of the 2-hour session, you’ll have a three and a half foot tall masterpiece that you may or may not want to document.

Leave with a souvenir sweatshirt from Sundog Books

Don’t be fooled by the line outside the The Seaside Style store. Their ribbed sweatshirts are cute and trendy, but they don’t have the lived-in feel of a Sundog sweatshirt, the softest option on the strip. After securing your souvenir, buy a book from the staff favorites shelf and head upstairs to the balcony seating area.