We recently had a WONDERFUL family vacation in 30A! And if you’re wondering what 30A is (because it sounds so odd, right?), 30A is a collection of small, unique, beautiful Florida beach towns nestled quietly between the much busier areas of Panama City and Destin along Florida’s Scenic Highway 30A. Within this area, you’ll find the beach communities of Rosemary Beach, Alys Beach, WaterSound, and several more! Our family rented a house in WaterSound, so I wanted to share more about this specific community, along with where we ate and what we did while we were in Florida. If you’re looking for a vacation destination that has beautiful oceans, pools, restaurants and is kid-friendly, you pretty much hit the jackpot with 30A!
I’m linking up the outfits we wore on our trip, but scroll all the way down for my full review of our vacation in 30A!
On me: Frank & Eileen woven long coverup // rattan belt // On Kennedy: Target gingham swimsuit // pink sun hat
Maygel Coronel Tasi one-piece swimsuit // Florabella Madeline straw hat
On me: Lee Mathews Emmie maxi dress // Florabella Madeline straw hat // TKEES sandals // On my mom: eyelet puff sleeve dress // Brixton Joanna straw hat // Steve Madden Santina sandals
On me: Love Shack Fancy Aqua halter mini dress // On Chris: Peter Millar Owsley Summer button-up shirt // Vuori Aim khaki shorts
On me: sage green minidress // haute beach hat // Steve Madden wedges // on Kennedy: Rylee + Cru outfit // See Kai Run sandals
polka dot dress, also comes in pink // floppy hat
On me: linen cutout midi dress, similar but less expensive here // TKEES sandals // Brixton straw hat
How to Get to 30A
To get to the beaches of 30A, we took a direct flight from Charlotte, NC, to Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport (ECP). This airport sits in Panama City, FL, just a short drive from the coast. Flight options include Delta, Southwest, United, and American Airlines. Once we arrived at ECP, we picked up our rental car and then it was about a 30 minute drive from the airport to our rental house in WaterSound.
Where to Stay
First off, there are several different beach communities within 30A! It’s home to Rosemary Beach, Seacrest, Alys Beach, Seagrove, Seaside, Watercolor and Grayton Beach – to name a few. The entire highway stretches 28.5 miles, so no matter where you stay, you can easily check out the other beaches since they are close by. ALL of the beach communities are stunning, but since we stayed in WaterSound, that’s what I’m going to focus on for the purpose of this review!
WATERSOUND: My family rented a house in WaterSound for the week. WaterSound is a small, private 1,400 acre community just off of Scenic Highway 30A in-between Seacrest Beach to the east and Seagrove Beach to the west. Whether you are driving, walking or biking, you will need a gate code to access WaterSound. All of the houses are absolutely stunning and look brand new, and many of them come with golf carts and bicycles for your family to enjoy throughout the week. The beach in WaterSound is absolutely beautiful, with creamy, white sand and clear, blue water. One thing that sets WaterSound a part from the other communities is its beautiful sand dunes! There are multiple boardwalks to the beach, all criss-crossing over the gorgeous sand dunes (beware, though, there is a fine for climbing or stepping on the dunes!). Because of the sand dunes, none of the houses in WaterSound are right on the water, but you can get pretty close. One thing that we really enjoyed about WaterSound is the community pools. There are several community pools for you to enjoy while vacationing there, and they were never crowded! There is also a small pizza shop right inside WaterSound, so you don’t have to travel very far if you’re craving pizza. Bruno’s Pizza is a quick skip, hop and jump away from all of the houses in the WaterSound community. Otherwise, you will need to leave WaterSound and drive around 5 minutes or more to get to a restaurant or grocery store. Overall, we really loved the privacy and quiet of WaterSound – we did not have to worry about safety, hoarder of people, or crowded pools and beaches.
How do you find a house? There are a ton of different ways to track down a rental property. There aren’t many hotels to speak of (The Pearl is beautiful but adults-only), so a vacation rental home or condo is the way to go. You can search via VRBO, Home Away, Airbnb, 30a LuxuryVacations, Cottage Rental Agency of Seaside, 360 Blue Properties, 30A Escapes, or 30A Vacation Rentals.
Where to Eat
There are tons and tons of great restaurants in the 30A area! Here are the ones that we tried and loved:
GEORGE’S AT ALYS BEACH: My family loved our lunch at George’s so much, we came back and ate a second time for dinner! George’s is located in Alys Beach right off of Highway 30A and is an upscale restaurant with a casual feel. They’re known for their locally sourced, high-quality produce and fresh seafood. For lunch, our family absolutely loved the blackened grouper and fish tacos. For dinner, we enjoyed the Mexican Street Corn Salad, the Salt and Pepper Shrimp, and the Caprese Pasta. Literally EVERYTHING we ordered was delicious – I am still dreaming about that Blackened Grouper!!!
OLD FLORIDA FISH HOUSE: Old Florida Fish House was one of the most recommended restaurants, and we immediately saw why upon arrival! The atmosphere at this restaurant is simply incredible – most of the seating is outdoors, under twinkle lights and right next to a beautiful lake. The view at sunset can’t be beat! The food here was also amazing, whether you’re looking for sushi or a traditional Old Florida fresh seafood dinner.
PESCADO: Pescado is not kid-friendly, but if you get an adults-only night, head to Pescado! It’s a rooftop bar and restaurant located in Rosemary Beach, and the perfect date night spot. I’m pretty sure it’s the only rooftop restaurant in the area. They’re known for their seafood, hence the name of the establishment!
BUD AND ALLEY’S: Bud and Alley’s is one of 30A’s oldest restaurants. It’s known for great food, great fun and Seaside’s finest sunsets! Located right on on the beach overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, this restaurant has won numerous awards for their food and wine. We made a reservation to dine inside on the first level, but upon arrival we decided to eat upstairs on the porch, where there’s a fabulous view of the ocean! The food here is pretty casual – think burgers, fried fish and french fries – but everything we had was very good.
THE HUB (now called THE BIG CHILL): The Hub (now known as The Big Chill) is not a restaurant, but more like a gathering and entertainment area for families located right in WaterSound. There’s a large green area for kids to run around, a stage for live music and entertainment, all surrounded by six different restaurants, two full bars and several shops, including a candy shop! This area was within biking distance of our house, so we biked here multiple times throughout the week to hang out. It’s a great spot if you have kids, because the parents can sit at a picnic table with a drink while the kids run around in the grass!
BRUNO’S PIZZA: If you’re staying in WaterSound, Bruno’s Pizza is a great option if you want a low-key, casual dinner one night. We rode the golf cart to Bruno’s and picked up pizza on our first night in town, since everyone was tired from traveling. The pizzas were massive and very good!
CHARLIE’S DONUT TRUCK: If you’re looking for the best donuts in 30A, look no further than Charlie’s Donut Truck! I NEVERRRR eat donuts, but on vacation it is simply a must. We loved these donuts so much that we came back three times during our week in WaterSound! We loved the chocolate covered, chocolate covered creme-filled, bear claw, and custard-filled eclairs. This food truck is located right next to a big green grass area that is simply perfect for letting the kids run around.
What to Do
VISIT THE BEACH: 30A is unique in that most houses come with beach chair and umbrella rentals! Our house came with a rental for the week. All we had to do was bring a beach bag, head down to the beach and there was an umbrella and set of chairs already set up with our names on it.
RENT A BIKE: Some of the rental houses come with bikes, but if not, you’ll definitely want to rent one for the week! 30A is a very bikable community, and you can bike from one beach to the next. There are wide sidewalks in between each of the little towns that double as bike paths. One of our favorite activities was biking from our house to the Hub, but there are also plenty of cute shops, delish restaurants and pools to keep everyone more than happy for a week.
GO SHOPPING: There are tons of shops along 30A, and you’ll definitely want to reserve a few hours to visit them. Alys Beach has several great shops, but our favorite day was the day we went into Seaside! While you’re shopping, you can pick up a frosé or a snack from one of Seaside’s many food trucks. You’ll definitely want to stop into The Seaside Style, which is known for its corded pullovers and preppy classics. We had a blast and I came home with quite a few shopping bags and a heavier suitcase for the flight home – LOL!
VISIT THE SUGAR SHAK: You’ll definitely want to take a trip into Rosemary Beach specifically for The Sugar Shak! It’s a beloved Rosemary Beach staple serving ice cream and a plethora of candy and sweet treats. Their website says it’s, “the closest thing to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory as you’ll get in this life,” and I agree! They have every type of candy you can imagine, from floor to ceiling.
Let me know if you have any questions about 30A or WaterSound, specifically, and I’ll be happy to answer them!