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This past December I partnered with Allegiant Airlines for a Content Creation trip and was able to take my friend Lizzie to Destin, FL! Allegiant flies direct from the Boston area to Destin / Fort Walton. Not only were we able to see Destin during our weekend trip, we were also able to road trip along most of Highway 30A Florida to Panama City thanks to our rental car! This blog post is going to cover everything you need to know about Route 30A Florida and essential road trip stops.
Disclaimer: I worked with Allegiant Airlines for content creation, but this blog post wasn’t a required deliverable – although I do highly recommend their non-stop flights into the Destin airport. Everything written here is my own opinion!
What Is Highway 30A Florida?
Route 30A, or Scenic Highway 30A Florida, is the coastal state road that connects Pensacola, FL to Panama City, FL along Florida’s panhandle. The “panhandle” hugs the Gulf of Mexico in Florida and is situated directly under Alabama and Georgia, making it a popular vacation spot for southerners. The main airport is this area is the Destin airport, which Allegiant flies direct to from numerous regions around the US. Highway 30A Florida is known for its white sandy beaches and turquoise waters. There are so many quaint beach towns in this area, I highly recommend renting a car to explore, although bikes are a common form of transportation within the small towns too! This is one of my favorite road trips in Florida, in addition to a 5 day Florida Keys road trip!
Where To Stay Along 30A Florida & How To Get Around
As mentioned above, Highway 30A Florida is full of charming beach towns, so I would rent a car so you can visit more than one! Plus, the quaint beach towns are a little far from both the Destin and Panama City airports, so a car will be needed to reach your rental home or hotel. If you’re staying along the beach, a bike is a great way to get around the shops and restaurants in the area.
As for where to stay – I highly recommend renting a home along route 30A! Highway 30A Florida is scattered with charming, pastel beach homes – perfect for extended families or friend groups. I’ve been to this part of Florida twice now, once with my cousins and a second time with a friend. I’m so glad we rented a home when I was here with my family. A hotel is a great option if you’re traveling with a friend or significant other.
If you look at a map (see below), you may be a bit overwhelmed by the amount of towns located along Route 30A. Luckily, they are all quite small and blend with each other. I recommend staying centrally between Destin and Panama City in Seaside or the Seacrest area. There’s also Rosemary Beach and Alys Beach but these are more residential and have more hotels. Seaside has tons of vacation homes for rent, just a few minutes walk from the Gulf shores!
Pro-tip: If you’re looking for an upscale hotel between the Rosemary Beach and Destin areas, try Hotel Effie in Sandestin. This is where my friend Lizzie and I stayed when we visited 30A Florida in December and loved it. There’s a few hotels and condos in the area – it’s actually within a gated community and on a golf course, so the vacation vibes were totally there. Plus, it has a connecting walkway with the Baytowne Village, which was a convenient and fun option for dinner. This place also had tons of games, shops, and activities so it’s perfect for families!
What To See On A Highway 30A Florida Road Trip
Since there’s so many beach towns along Route 30A Florida, I’m going to break this section into recommendations by region, beginning with Destin in the west and ending with Panama City in the east.
Destin / Fort Walton Beach, Florida
We quickly drove through the part of Destin near the Fort Walton Airport because there wasn’t much to see. However, the Destin Pier / HarborWalk Village area was great! There’s tons of shops and restaurants here, including a big Margaritaville on the water that we ate lunch in. This area is a must-see in Destin on a 30A Florida road trip.
Another must-see is Henderson Beach State Park. Although it was a bit chilly when we visited, this state park blew me away. For being located right off a main road and surrounded by shopping plazas, this state park was a total paradise. It cost less than $10 per vehicle to enter and there’s tons of parking available. Popular activities within the state park include camping, swimming, and picnicking. Lizzie and I didn’t do any of these things, but we did love watching sunset here. The sunset was honestly one of the best I’ve ever seen! Plus, this beach was immacutely clean and had showers and restrooms near all the walkways onto the beach. I really loved it here and hope you’ll add a visit here to your Route 30A Florida road trip itinerary.
Looking for a yummy southern brunch? Look no further than Scratch Biscuit Kitchen! Located in a shopping center in Watercolor, this breakfast was so delicious! Grayton Beach State Park is also in this area, which is well-known for it’s hiking / biking trails, popular camp spots, and boat launch into Western Lake.
Seaside Beach / Seagrove Beach / Seacrest Beach
A bit confusing isn’t it? This area is the main beach area along Highway 30A Florida, directly in between Destin and Panama City Beach. All 3 of these beach towns border each other and are so small and similar, it’s almost impossible to tell when you’ve crossed from one to the next.
As I mentioned above, Seaside Beach is a fantastic area to rent a vacation home in. This is where I stayed with my cousins years ago… it’s so charming and super bike-friendly. As for things to do, you can’t miss the Seaside Pavilion and Amphitheater area. This is the main part of town and is surrounded by shops, restaurants, cafes, and ice cream parlors. Be sure to swing into Sundog Books, it’s a sweet independent bookstore located here! Next door you’ll find the quaint Seaside Post Office and Great Southern Cafe, one of the best restaurants in the area.
This is also where you can find one of the best farmers markets along Highway 30A Florida, and the Vintage Airstream food trucks. These food trucks are oh-so-adorable and serve everything from hot dogs to crepes… there’s tons of outdoor seating in this area too, so don’t miss it!
Pro-tip: Right across the street from the restaurants and food trucks are several stairs leading down ramps to public beach access.
You can’t fully enjoy a Route 30A Florida road trip without visiting Rosemary Beach! Rosemary Beach is quintessiential Route 30A – it’s so freaking cute! It’s also one of the few place in the US that truly resembles Europe. This area is super nice. There’s luxury rental homes, a racquetball / tennis club, and plenty of chic boutiques.
Rosemary Beach is probably most well-known for the Pearl Hotel. This luxury hotel looks straight out of Switzerland. Whether you stay here or not, I highly recommend checking out the area. Right near the Pearl is a strip of shops and restaurants that make “downtown Rosemary Beach”. You can’t miss it – the area is quite small.
I highly recommend the Cowgirl Kitchen for lunch / dinner. My friend and I ate lunch outside here and loved it! The beach is just beyond the Pearl if you’re interested in checking that out too, although we mostly enjoyed the nearby neighborhoods and European-inspired downtown.
Alys Beach is located adjacent to Rosemary and is tiny. There’s pillars along the Route 30A road that say “Alys” on them, and in about half a mile, there’s more – signaling you’ve driven through the area.
Alys Beach is also so new there’s still tons of construction here. We asked one of the construction workers “who actually lives here”, since most of the homes appeared to be empty and he answered with “the elite”!
Alys Beach has to be one of the most beautiful neighborhoods I’ve ever seen… it’s so aesthetic. Every building in this area is pure white, designed in the sleekest style. The architecture here blew me away. Each home also had such beautiful greenery, gardens, and exterior lighting. Exploring this area was the highlight of my Route 30A Florida road trip. I highly recommend parking your car in one of the neighborhoods here and just strolling the streets with your camera. It feels like you’re walking through a movie set!
Pro-tip: Alys Beach is extremely residential, so there’s not much to do here, but I do recommend Raw & Juicy for a healthy bite to eat! It’s right on Route 30A in the center of Alys Beach, you can’t miss it.
Panama City, Florida
The farthest out we visited on our Route 30A Florida road trip was Panama City, Florida. Panama City is one of the easternmost cities on Florida’s panhandle and is one of the largest cities along Route 30A. There’s another airport here that’s a common spot for families to fly into.
Panama City is known for being a popular spot for spring breakers. Along the beach you’ll find tons of budget-friendly hotels and motels, along with beach bars. Consider visiting here if you’re a college student! There’s tons to do near the Panama City Beach Pier for families, including the Pier Park of shops, restaurants, and attractions, such as a massive Ferris wheel. The Panama City Pier was cool to see and is one of the top attractions in the area. I was surprised to see that it wasn’t free though! It cost $4 per person to walk along the pier. I do recommend paying this small fee to see the fishermen and the views. You can walk way out!
That concludes my Highway 30A Florida road trip guide! This Florida trip really is perfect for extended families, friends, or couples looking to escape the cold and enjoy the Gulf views. This part of Florida also has some of the bluest water and most charming architecture, so it’s definitely on the top of my list for recommendations for the Sunshine State. Thank you again so much to Allegiant Airlines for working with me for this trip! I highly recommend checking out Allegiant for non-stop flights into the Destin airport to kick off your Highway 30A getaway!
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