Monday, March 21, 2022

The Lindsay’s Sweet World Travel Guide to 30A Florida

30A is the name of a strip of highway in the panhandle of Florida that runs along the Gulf of Mexico between Panama City Beach, FL and Destin, FL.  It’s made up of several little beach towns that are only a few miles apart, and each beach town offers a very different, unique vibe.  Since the towns are so close together, you can easily walk, bike, or drive through all of them multiple times per day, so you can have a different experience every day of your trip.

With its white sandy beaches and clear emerald water, the 30A area is a little slice of paradise right here in the United States.  Since I was raised in Georgia, I’ve been vacationing in the Gulf of Mexico for most of my life as it’s only a short drive from our house, and it’s one of my favorite places on earth. 

We vacation there every single year, sometimes multiple times per year, and it’s always one of my very favorite weeks!  I have been asked for 30A recommendations countless times over the years, so I thought I’d put together a post with all of our favorite things to do, places to eat, and places to stay in 30A.

Where to Stay

The most frequent question that I’m asked about 30A is, “Where do you stay?”  30A is smaller and more private than most typical beach areas, so it’s comprised of houses and smaller condos rather than large hotels and skyrise condos.  That does make accommodations harder to find, but there are a variety of websites that you can use to find and book the perfect place to suit your needs.  The websites we use to book our condos are as follows:



Panhandle Getaways

Garrett Realty

There are rentals available in all of the beach towns, but we love to stay in the Santa Rosa area because it’s central to all of the beaches and it tends to be a little more affordable than some of the premiere areas like Rosemary Beach and Alys Beach.  We always book a rental directly on the beach because we like the convenience and the ambiance of having the ocean in our “back yard,” but the beachfront properties are typically pricier than those that are off the beach.

A few reasons we prefer to stay directly on the beach are as follows.  For starters, it’s so convenient to be able to step directly on the sand from our room.  We don’t have to worry about biking or driving and finding a place to park, and it’s much easier to haul all of our stuff down there.  Second of all, we don’t have to use public beach access… public beach access isn’t ample in 30A so it tends to get very crowded during peak season.  And third of all, we love to have the sweeping views of the ocean from our condo… there’s nothing like waking up and stepping out on your balcony to that view!

That said, it really just boils down to your preferences.  We know plenty of people who actually prefer to stay off of the beach in one of the quaint little homes rather than stay in a condo on the beach.  You really can’t go wrong anywhere in 30A!

Condo and house rentals book months in advance for peak season (June – August), so it’s wise to book your summer trips at least six months in advance.  We have never stayed in the same unit more than once, but we do have a favorite condo complex that we’ve stayed in numerous times.  We’ve loved some units more than others, but we’ve never had a bad experience anywhere.

Now for the fun part… the dining options and things to do!  I’m going to break these down by beach since each beach has a different vibe… and remember, these are my personal recommendations for places we’ve actually eaten and activities we’ve actually done! 

Inlet Beach

Inlet Beach is the first beach on 30A furthest east, and it is the beach that is closest to Panama City Beach.  Panama City Beach isn’t part of 30A, but it’s only a short drive from the 30A area and it offers many typical beachy, touristy things to do.  More on that later…

Inlet Beach is tiny and doesn’t necessarily have a specific vibe, but it’s important because it’s home to two of our favorite breakfast places, and it’s also the location of the closest urgent care facility.  It’s always important to know where those are when you travel!  Here are a couple of places we love in Inlet Beach…

The Donut Hole – The Donut Hole has, hands down, the best donuts on 30A!  They offer a huge selection including Dutch Crumb (my very favorite), Red Velvet (Brian’s favorite), Cinnamon Sugar, Powdered, Chocolate Frosted, Blueberry, Sprinkles, and so many more.  Be sure to get there early as they do not restock after they run out.  And if you’re not a fan of donuts, they also serve a full sit-down breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Big Bad Breakfast – This is our favorite place for a sit-down breakfast on 30A.  They have plenty of hearty options that you can eat indoors or out, and our favorite is the French Toast.  It is divine.  Again, it’s wise to get there early… if not, prepare to wait!


Rosemary Beach

Heading west, Rosemary Beach is right next door to Inlet Beach, and it’s one of the more upscale beach towns in 30A.  The architecture is stunning, the entire town is pedestrian friendly, and you will see the majority of people on foot or on bikes in Rosemary Beach.  It’s the quaintest little area, and it’s my second favorite beach town in all of 30A.  Here are a few of our favorite stops in Rosemary Beach…

The Sugar Shak – If you’re in the mood for dessert, look no further than The Sugar Shak!  They offer ice cream, shaved ice, cotton candy, and crazy amounts of candy options.  The candy ranges from popular stuff from today to old-fashioned candies from previous decades to super-unique candy you’ve never even heard of.  The Sugar Shak almost always has a line out the door, but it moves quickly, and it’s worth the wait.  If you have kiddos, it’s a must-do because of the unique array of candy options.

St. Augustine Green – At the center of Rosemary Beach is a large greenspace with the most gorgeous views.  Surrounded by The Pearl Hotel and several large homes, it’s the perfect place to sit and relax while your kiddos run around.  You’ll never ever get tired of this view!

Barrett Square – Filled with clothing boutiques, quaint little gift shops, book stores, and restaurants, you’ll definitely want to wander around this area at some point during your trip. 

The Hidden Lantern – The Hidden Lantern is the coziest little book store in Barrett Square, and it’s the perfect place to relax with a cup of coffee on a rainy morning.  Be sure to pick up a 30A coloring book for your kiddos while you’re there!

Rosemary Beach Post Office – This tiny little post office in the heart of Rosemary Beach is the perfect place for photos.  It has its own small courtyard that’s filled with flowers, benches, and a water fountain, so it’s the perfect spot to enjoy your dessert from The Sugar Shak.

Seacrest Beach

Seacrest Beach isn’t known for anything in particular like Rosemary Beach, Alys Beach, and Seaside, but it’s one of the less expensive areas of 30A to stay, and it’s central to all of the other beaches, so it’s definitely worth a visit!  Here are a few must-do’s in Seacrest…

La Cocina Mexican restaurant – If you’re looking for the best Mexican food on 30A (and my personal favorite Mexican restaurant EVER), look no further than La Cocina!  We discovered this place years ago, and we’ve eaten there for dinner every single year since!  The food is fresh and delicious, their queso and guac is divine, and their margs are right on up there with those of Bartaco’s which are the GOAT.  (IYKYK.) 

Peddlers 30A Bikes – One of the main features you can’t miss when driving down 30A through Seacrest is the sea of bicycles at Peddlers.  30A is known for its pedestrian-friendly transit, and there are walking trails and bike paths that wind throughout all of the beach towns.  Peddlers offers daily rates as well as weekly rates, so it’s the perfect place to check out if you want to explore 30A on two wheels!

Shops Behind Peddlers – Surrounding Peddlers on three sides are many shops and restaurants (this is where La Cocina is located), so you can spend the afternoon browsing.  There are also a couple of traditional souvenir shops in this strip if you’re looking for a few cheesy souvenirs to take home.  This is almost always where I buy our tacky frame for our vacation gallery wall at home.


Alys Beach

Known for its all-white architecture, Alys Beach (pronounced “Alice”) is the most luxurious of the beach communities in 30A.  The entire stretch of Alys Beach is private, so there is no public beach access, but the town is still worth visiting as they do have public shopping and dining options.  Here are a few of our favorite stops in Alys Beach…

Charlies Donut Truck – One of the most well-known establishments in Alys Beach is this beloved food truck that sits on the town square.  They open bright and early and serve donuts until they run out.  They do not restock, so be sure to get there early.

Raw & Juicy – This adorable little restaurant is a healthy option that serves cold-pressed juices, smoothies, and bowls.  They have an amazing patio complete with twinkle lights, and it’s a great place to sit and relax.  This place used to be home to my favorite coffee shop, Fonville Press, but after they closed Raw & Juicy opened in its place.

Alys Beach Amphitheatre & Splash Pad – Just outside of Charlie’s and located in the heart of Alys Beach is a large green space for the kiddos to run around, and there’s also a small splash pad at one end for the kids to play.  During peak season, the amphitheatre also offers live music, family movie nights, and other entertainment opportunities.

Architecture Stroll – Alys Beach is best known for its architecture, so an afternoon stroll through the town is a must-do.  The contrast between the stark white buildings and the bright blue sky are always a sight to see!

Watersound Beach

Similar to Seacrest, Watersound doesn’t have a specific vibe like the bigger beach towns, but it is home to several of our favorite places, and you’ll most definitely want to make a stop (or five) here on your trip!  Here is a list of our favorite places in Watersound…

The Hub 30A – This is, hands down, our favorite place on 30A.  The Hub is comprised of a giant greenspace that’s surrounded on all four sides by restaurants and shops.  At one end, there’s a large stage for live music and performances, and at the other end, a massive outdoor pavilion with tables and chairs, big comfy couches, fire pits, and twinkle lights everywhere.  Each night of the week they have a different entertainment option including live music, DJ dance parties, and family movie nights.  We love to arrive in the late afternoon so we have plenty of time to eat dinner, grab beers from the bar, turn the kids loose on the green, and then hang out all evening enjoying the entertainment.  Ice cream is always a must, too.  We go to The Hub on every single trip to 30A and we almost always end up going back for a second evening because we love it that much.  It’s like one giant back yard party and it’s pretty much the best thing ever.

Duos Burgers – Located in The Hub, Duos is our favorite place to get dinner.  Their burgers are delicious, and they have plenty of options for the kiddos.  There’s also a large bar located just outside its doors and they have tons of beer, wine, and cocktail options.

Super Freeze – Also located in The Hub, Super Freeze is home to several unique ice cream flavors that we love, and it’s always the perfect way to end the evening.

Shore Thing Cigars – And if you’re a Luke Bryan fan, don’t forget to pop into his cigar shop and bar at The Hub while you’re there!  Luke is known to pop in and out of there from time to time, but we’ve never lucked out and seen him, much to Olivia’s dismay.  Haha.


I think I speak for most people when I say that Seaside is the absolute best beach town in all of 30A.  With a massive greenspace and amphitheater surrounded by immaculate restaurants and shops, the town is laid out to perfection and it’s everything that you would picture a beach town to be.  As a matter of fact, the town is so idyllic, that The Truman Show (movie from 1998 with Jim Carrey) was filmed there.  There are tons of places to eat, tons of places to shop, a prime public beach access spot, and loads of entertainment.  Seaside has it all!  The only downside is the parking… they have tons of public parking, but you do have to pay, and most spots are occupied much of the day so it can be a challenge to find a place to park.  Here is a list of our favorite places and things to do in Seaside…

Bud & Alley’s Pizza Bar + Trattoria – This is our absolute favorite place to eat in Seaside.  There are indoor and outdoor dining options, but we always always opt to sit outside on their covered porch so we can feel the breeze blowing in off of the ocean.  There’s never a wait in the late afternoon, so you can typically walk in at any time and get a table, and that’s not the case with most restaurants on 30A.  It’s also family-friendly, their pizza is delicious, and they have a huge bar selection.  Oh, and you must try their fried Brussels sprouts.  Oh my gaaaah.

The Great Southern Café – If you’re looking for fancy southern cuisine, look no further than The Great Southern Café!  They have an extensive menu with loads of options, and the food is delicious.  They’re known for their mojitos and they offer a variety of different flavors, so don’t forget to grab one of those while you’re there.  Reservations are strongly recommended as there is a long wait most of the day.  Be sure to try the fried green tomatoes and gouda cheese grits for dinner.  You can thank me later.

Food Trucks – The most iconic part of Seaside is probably their row of food trucks.  From sandwiches to barbecue to crepes, they have something for everyone.  Be sure to pick up a grilled cheese from The Meltdown… heaven!

Dawson’s Yogurt and Fudge Works – If you’re looking for a sweet treat, Dawson’s offers various ice cream treats, frozen yogurts, old fashioned candies, and fudge.  Be sure to try the frozen yogurt with a flavor burst!  I still haven’t figured out how they get the color on the peaks of the ice cream so perfectly!

Seaside Shops – There is tons of shopping in Seaside, so be sure to set aside a couple of hours to stroll around and see everything the city has to offer!

Duckie’s – If you have kiddos, Duckie’s is a must!  Duckie’s is right in the heart of Seaside, and it’s the most whimsical toy store that sells a mix of unique and traditional toys.  We make a stop there on every trip to let the kids pick out souvenirs.  They also carry the ever popular Bogg Bags! 

The Seaside Style – If you’re a huge fan of Seaside like I am, then you’ll definitely want to make a stop in The Seaside Style to grab one of their iconic Seaside tees or sweatshirts.  I own short-sleeve tees, long-sleeve tees, and sweatshirts in an array of colors, and on our most recent trip, I also grabbed a koozie.  I love having a piece of Seaside with me at home all year long.

Seaside Post Office – In the very center of the shops sits The Seaside Post Office, and it makes for the most darling photo opp!  Seriously the cutest, quaintest little building!  It looks like something out of a storybook.

Seaside Amphitheater – Right smack in the center of Seaside sits a giant greenspace with an amphitheater.  All summer long they have live music and family movie nights, so bring a blanket or chairs and a cooler and kick back and relax!

Public Beach Access – While you’re in Seaside, don’t forget to step out onto the beach and take a peek at the sunset!  It’s another great place to take family pictures!


We’ve only explored Watercolor once, so I’m the least familiar with that area, but there were a couple of places that we enjoyed when we went, so I thought I’d throw them in this post as well…

The Wine Bar – The Wine Bar offers indoor and outdoor dining options, but the outdoor patio is truly the place to be!  Their outdoor patio stretches around two sides of the building, and the best part is that it’s surrounded by trees, so you can sit comfortably in the shade and out of the hot Florida sun.  They have delicious charcuterie options, amazing pizza, and an expansive wine list.  It’s the perfect place to sit and relax under the twinkle lights with a glass of cab.  And don’t forget to visit the store after dinner to pick up a couple of bottles of wine to take home!

The Candy Bar – If you’re looking for dessert, The Candy Bar is another solid choice in the 30A area.  Very similar to Sugar Shak in Rosemary Beach, they offer a variety of ice cream flavors and toppings and a huge selection of traditional, old-fashioned, and unique candies.  Warning, this place is expensive, and that candy adds up fast.  We were baffled when we saw our total at the register.  Lol.  It’s definitely worth stopping in once, though… it is candy heaven.

The beach towns of 30A continue to the west, but our family hasn’t personally explored past WaterColor (other than Destin at the far end), so I won’t try to pretend I know what I’m talking about for the remaining beach towns of Grayton Beach, Blue Mountain Beach, Gulf Place, and Dune Allen, etc.  We hope to visit those eventually, so I’ll be sure to update this post when we do.

As I mentioned earlier in this post, I do want to revisit Panama City Beach, FL, as it’s right down the street from the east side of 30A.

Panama City Beach

Panama City Beach is not part of 30A, but since it’s right down the street, it’s easy to drive to if you’re looking for touristy things to do or indoor things to do on a rainy day… it’s a large city so there’s no shortage of museums, miniature golf courses, go kart tracks, and thrill rides, and there is also an aquarium as well as a water park.  Panama City Beach is a suuuuper commercial area and it’s also very famous for being a spring break town in March and April, so it has a totally different vibe than anything in 30A.  It is FULL of high-rise hotels and condos, it’s noisy, and traffic is terrible, but I’ve been going there since I was a kid, and there are some great places to visit…

Pier Park – Pier Park is a massive complex that has been growing and growing over the last decade, and it offers LOADS of dining, shopping, and entertainment options.  If you’re looking for chain restaurants like Longhorn, Panera, Chipotle, Five Guys, Olive Garden, Red Robin, and Starbucks or chain stores like Old Navy, Nike, Dillard’s Bath & Body Works, Forever 21, Loft, Lizard Thicket, and MAC, then Pier Park is the place for you!  Pier Park is also home to a massive Dave and Busters as well as a movie theater with 16 screens, so it’s the perfect place to go on a rainy day.

Pineapple Willy’s Beachfront Restaurant – World famous Pineapple Willy’s is probably the most well-known restaurant in all of Panama City Beach, and it’s a must-do while you’re in town if you want to experience that true PCB feeling.  Situated directly on the beach, Pineapple Willy’s not only offers indoor and outdoor dining, but the outdoor dining is on their giant covered pier that overlooks the ocean.  On the menu is traditional bar food that’s surprisingly good, and you must try one of their famous cocktails... “The Pineapple Willy” is where it’s at!  There are lots of options for even the pickiest of eaters, and they have the cutest souvenir cups for your little ones.  Oh, and don’t forget to stop in the gift shop on the way out! 

Sharky’s Beachfront Restaurant – Similar to Pineapple Willy’s, Sharky’s is located directly on the white, sugary sands of the gulf, so you can sit outside and take in the ocean view as well as the ocean breezes while you eat.  It’s family-friendly, and kiddie meals are served in a souvenir Sharky’s frisbee that they can take with them.  Be sure to take a picture with the giant (fake) shark out front.  ;o)


Los Rancheros Mexican Restaurant – If you’re looking for Mexican food in Panama City, this place is yummy!  It’s nothing fancy at all, and it doesn’t have a view of the ocean, but the margaritas, dips, and food are all delicious. 

Margaritaville – Located in Pier Park, Margaritaville is always one of the kids’ favorite places to eat, because the employees make dinner fun.  Many of the servers walk around on stilts, and they make balloon animals for the kids, and it’s just a really fun atmosphere for families.  Margaritaville is a chain restaurant, so it’s not unique to Panama City, but it’s still fun to check out at least once.

The Pink Pelican – One of our favorite ice cream places in Panama City, The Pink Pelican, offers a huge variety of flavors, and they have one of my most favorites of all-time… Banana Cream Pie.  It is heavenly.  It’s only about a five-minute drive from Pineapple Willy’s and it’s just right across the parking lot from Los Rancheros, so it’s the perfect dessert stop after dinner at either of those places. 

SkyWheel – Also located in Pier Park is the recently added SkyWheel, an entertainment complex that is home to a miniature golf course, a ropes course, and the 200-foot SkyWheel observation wheel that has 30 fully enclosed, temperature-controlled gondolas.

Ripley’s Believe it Or Not – Ripley’s Believe it Or Not is a great place for a rainy day.  It’s an indoor museum with a bunch of Guinness Book of World Records displays, and our kids absolutely loved it.  Be sure to check out the Mirror Maze while you’re there!  It was our favorite part.

Pirate’s Island Miniature Golf Course – There are various places to play miniature golf in Panama City, and our favorite place to play is Pirate’s Island.  Pirate’s Island offers two different 18-hole courses, so we never have to wait to play.  It’s super clean and the greens and other props are well cared for, and we always have a blast when we go.


St. Andrews State Park – On the far east end of Panama City Beach is St. Andrews State Park.  It’s sandwiched between the Gulf of Mexico and St. Andrews Bay, so it’s the perfect day trip if you love to be in the water.  They offer boat tours, camping (with a reservation), hiking, biking, paddling, picnicking, scuba diving, snorkeling, and more.  It’s a great place to take in the sunset, and it’s also a great place to take family pictures on the beach.

We’ve barely scratched the surface of all that 30A and surrounding areas have to offer, but this post sums up the best of the best that our family has experienced there so far.  In addition to all of the things mentioned here in this post, there are so many more unique things to experience and, of course, all of the beach towns also offer a variety of traditional beach activities like canoeing, kayaking, paddle boarding, fishing and boating excursions, golf, biking, tennis, yoga, racquetball, spa retreats, beach bonfires, etc. 

While you’re there, don’t forget to spend at least one evening taking in the sunset.  Since the gulf faces the west, the sun sets over the ocean (on the right-hand side), and some of my most favorite sunsets ever were the ones that I saw over the gulf. 

Many families also love to have professional photos taken as the area is so picturesque, and there are many reputable photographers from which to choose.  Be sure to book early for peak season as they book up fast, too! 

And that’s it, y’all!  If you want more behind-the-scenes nuggets, you can read about all of our previous trips below or you can head to my Instagram bio and check out each of my past beach highlights – I have five different highlights saved with all of our adventures – 30A 2018, 30A 2019, 30A 2020, 30A 2021, and 30A 2021 (again, because we went twice that year). 

Panama City Beach, FL - April 2015

Panama City Beach, FL - June 2016
Day 1 Day 2 / Day 3 / Day 4 / Days 5 & 6

Panama City Beach, FL - June 2017

30A, FL - June 2018

30A, FL - June 2019

30A, FL - June 2020

30A, FL - March 2021

30A, FL - June 2021

Happy travels!

And happy Monday!


  1. You know I’ve been wanting to go there! I’m saving this post! My mom and I are looking for somewhere to go soon before another variant comes along! Airfare is just so darn expensive but I’m definitely going here someday!

  2. What an amazing post! I've wanted to go to this area because of you - maybe one day!

  3. Oh this post makes me so ready to go to the BEACH!

  4. You are queen of 30A!! I want to visit there soon - maybe in the next two years we can make it!

  5. I SO want to go visit 30A. It does look so picturesque with so many neat place to explore!

  6. I’m going to 30A for my bachelorette party! I cannot wait!

  7. This post puts everything in one place. I haven't been to the FL panhandle since the mid 90's on several girls' trips. Would love to go back now that it's all developed. Thanks for the tips.

  8. We have been to Gulf Shores a few times, it is a popular 'driving' vacation from St. Louis, but it can take 2 days (or 1 painfully long driving day) from here. We almost prefer to fly these days! It must be nice to be so close and to be able to visit 30A so often. I think out of all of these, I would love to visit Seaside! But, they all have their own unique things to do. This is such a thorough post and I'm going to pin it for the future.


  9. We have never stayed in the panhandle portion of Florida but it does look fabulous!

    1. Y'all need to go sometime! The Gulf is WORLDS better than the coast!!

  10. Guuuuuuurl, this was an amazing post! Having visited for our first time, I can't wait to go back. I'd love to rent a house next time, too. Thank you for putting together such an informative post. I'll definitely be referencing it again in the future!

    1. I'm so glad you found it helpful! I've had so many people ask me to do this post for years, so I'm glad to finally have it out there!

  11. This makes me so happy. I have wanted this post forever. I pinned it so I can go back to it when we finish planning our trip. Thank you so much!


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