6 Tips for Planning a Vacation to 30A: Rosemary, Seacrest, and Inlet Beaches

30A, tips to travel, Florida panhandle, rosemary beach,

Back in 1993 (when I was 12) our family fell in love with the sugary white beach and emerald water of the Florida panhandle.  At that time 30A hardly existed, so we grew up vacationing in Destin with our good family friends.

Fast forward twenty years and now, with a family of our own, we've decided to recreate the same memories just a few miles east of Destin in a series of beach towns popularly known as 30A.  Every other summer, we pack up with our best friends and head to the ultimate state of relaxation for an entire week.

To say the 30A corridor is our happy place would be a terrible understatement.  No matter how popular it becomes, it will always be the best-kept secret in our hearts.  While there are many little towns along 30A, our family has chosen the Rosemary Beach area as our absolute favorite.

The pine tree-lined one-way street echoes the ocean waves as families ride their bikes along the sidewalk.  With every person who passes, a nod of the head signifies a hello and their glowing smiles are felt within, giving this quaint little town a strong family vibe.

At night, the beaches clear and the small town lights up.  Peddler's Pavillion hosts live music every night where there is always dancing or kicked back feet.  There is nothing better than exhausted, sugar-filled toddlers dancing.  Within walking distance is Rosemary Town Center.  Boasting hot spots like the Sugar Shak and Edwards, paired with movie nights on the green overlooking the ocean, life really cannot get better.

Thinking you just might need to check this place out?

Well, you're right.  And no need to look further for tips on how to create the dream vacation to 30A because after fielding questions for years, I have finally decided to put my answers in one spot!

1.  Start planning early. 
Many of the beach towns alongside 30A book up early, often times, beginning in August of the summer prior.  Even if you don't immediately book your accommodations, go ahead and zoom in on a week that works and start planning.

2.  Location. 
Beach. For our family, we like to be as close to the beach as we can get.  Being south of 30A is non-negotiable for us.

Pool.  We still like to have some sort of pool access, so if we don't have a pool on our property, we make sure it has close access to one of the four in Rosemary or the one in Seacrest. Both offer community pool options IF you have booked through a property in their township.

amavida coffee, Seacrest beachTown. Be careful because it all appears much closer to the beach than it really is.  For example, anything close or north of Hwy 98, you will not want to walk to the beach.  Unless you're down for crossing a busy highway at night on a bike, then bikes are not ideal as transportation for properties near 98.
However, there are many, many wonderful properties south of 98 and north of 30A.  Anything west of Winston Lane in Inlet Beach and East of Sunset Villas in Seacrest Beach (and of course south of 98) will put you in decent walking distance to the beach, Peddlers Pavilion and Rosemary Town Square. The farther north of 30A, the further the walk to the beach will be. 

peddlers pavilion 30A
Peddler's Pavilion
To alleviate cost of the expense if you would like to stay south of 30A: rent a home with your whole family or going with a group of friends makes it very affordable.

This year, our travel buddies and our schedule didn't work out, so we are going alone.  We beat the cost by opting to stay in a carriage house with a garage (always make sure you have garage access) and will be paying less than your average hotel room per night.

VRBO, Home Away, AirBnb, 360Blue, 30a Cottages and Concierge are all reputable rental agencies.

Also, check out this 30A/Destin Rental Group out of Facebook, too!

One thing I would caution against is staying anywhere with a "tower" or more high-density condos. Your beach space will be much more crowded under those conditions. Inlet Beach is the least crowded of the three, but Rosemary walkover H is said to be the least populated of the five or six they offer.  Rosemary also has two bathrooms on the beach.  See walkover map.

3.  Beach Set Up.
rosemary beach
Each rental property has different ways to handle beach set up, so be sure to check into this at rental time. Beach set up can be pricey but is worth every penny.  If you are staying in Rosemary proper, your rental will either provide the set up for you or give you an access code and you will be able to book your chairs by row and walkover at Rosemary Beach Service.  If you book far in advance, be sure to put an alert in your calendar to remind you to book on the appropriate day--good chairs book fast!  Rosemary Beach only allows Rosemary Beach Service, but Inlet and Seacrest beaches offer additional companies such as Sea Oats, Live Well 30A, and Rent Gear Here.

4. Transportation and Food. 
Rosemary, Inlet, and Seacrest Beaches are the closest of the 30A beach towns to Northwest Florida Beaches Airport (ECP) in Panama City.  It's a short drive to town and if you're flying from Dallas, like us, American now flies there!

beach therapy
While cars can be replaced with bikes in Rosemary Beach, you might not want to solely rely on that. We prefer to have a car with us because a) rainy days and b) food.  I would HIGHLY recommend having your groceries delivered to your property the day you arrive.  The grocery stores are complete insanity on arrival days. Don't wait to find out for yourself. Trust me. Also, the road trip really isn't all that bad.

Especially from Dallas when you cut through Monroe and eat at Not Just Pie (ahem, my Uncle Jimmy and cousin J Walter's famous restaurant).

This is another thing worth mentioning:  traffic.  30A is notorious for traffic on Saturdays due to everyone leaving town and arriving in town.  When it rains, it's equally as bad.  Prepare for this.  Also without a car, you'll miss out on some amazing hotspots along 30A that are not within driving distance such as The Red Bar, the Airstream Food Trucks in Seaside, The Hub in Watersound, George's Alys Beach, Cafe ThirtyA and Stinky's Fish Camp both in Santa Rosa, just to name a few.

the hub 30A
The Hub
Super tip to avoid long, long, long waits (especially on rainy days) is to eat at 5-6pm, then walk the coast or dance on the streets until bedtime.  We also will do delivery and enjoy cooking a little while we are there too!

5.  Things to Do. 
beach fashion Many of our favorite things have been listed above, but there are also a lot of daytime options for kids too, listed on the links below.  You can set up a bonfire on the beach through most of the beach service companies, hit up The Pearl in Rosemary for yummy cocktails and an ocean view. Adults only can check out Pescado 30A, a brand new (literally just opened in March of 2018) rooftop restaurant.   The Hub, dubbed the "greatest backyard party of all time", in Watersound is an absolute must with live music, incredible food of every cuisine, a candy store and little shops.

Each town also offers daily and nightly activities, easily accessed on their websites.  Be sure to check these three sites out before you go (if staying in Rosemary-Alys-Inlet-Seacrest) and know that depending on the time of year you are looking at these, they may not be updated:

Alys Beach 
Peddlars Pavillion 
Rosemary Beach 

If you are good with driving, be sure to also check out Seaside, Watersound, Watercolor and Santa Rosa's event calendars, too!

The great thing about Rosemary is that you can also drive into Panama City and check out all of their MANY options for entertainment.  We have done dolphin cruises, they offer a pirate cruise, fireworks, sunset cruises, and many more. Be sure to remember to check out their options as well.

And finally, our favorite thing last year was surf camp where our six year old learned how to surf!  It was awesome and we can't sing high enough praises for Rent Gear Here and their program!  Be sure to tell them where you are staying so they can give you the location closest to your property.

6.  When It Rains. 
Play cards.  Take a nap.  Listen to the incredible thunder.  Read.  Bust out Monopoly.  Relax.

Our favorite places to stay: 
Beach Therapy 
The Water's Edge/Geoff Wilder Lane Properties 
The Crows Nest 

Best Place to Stay in The Hub area:
Stay A Little Longer 
The Lazy Dachshund 

Don't forget to pack beach towels, Smashball set, cooler, ice packs for lunches, lots of sunscreen and after sun! 

And if you really love it, check out realtor Greg Alsobrook and let him take you around to find your dream beach home! 


  1. There is something about those Florida beaches I will always love - even more then "exotic" ones!

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