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30A is a county road in South Walton County, Florida. It borders the Gulf of Mexico in an area Southerners call the Florida Panhandle. Many Southerners grew up going to the larger beach communities here like Destin and Panama; however, 30A is a little gemmed tucked away. Read along for the ultimate guide to visiting 30A in the Fall.
Fall is the premier time to visit to enjoy these gorgeous sugar sand white beaches. Crowds drop dramatically after Labor Day, and as the season stretches, the temperatures lower too. I prefer Fall because it is not quite as hot, the water is still warm, fewer crowds and lower prices.
This is my absolute favorite time of year, and I hope my guide helps you decide where to stay and the best activities there.
🚨🚨Short on time? Book my favorite 30A neighborhood directly on the beach by clicking HERE!🚨🚨
Beach Packing List
- the best beach chair
- beach umbrella
- sun shade
- beach towels
- beach blanket
- beach toys
- best hat
- bug spray
- kids face sunscreen
- kids face stick
- adult face sunscreen
- body sunscreen
30A month by month
Many Southern school districts start in the first or second week of August. They have more of a balanced calendar with breaks scattered throughout the year. The first is considered “fall break” from mid-September to mid-October, depending on the system. We almost always come to 30a during this time with our kids and parents.
Remember this to avoid large groups of teens on bikes in popular neighborhoods.
After Labor Day passes, the area quiets as most school districts in the Southeast are back in session. Some of the metro Atlanta districts have fall break at the end of the month, so crowds pick up a little.
The early part of the month will see larger crowds as more schools have fall break- either a long weekend or a whole week around Columbus Day. After the fall break craze passes, the beaches are tranquil. It is the best month to visit.
November is a beautiful time to visit with low crowds, and the weather is slightly cooler at night. Remember, the time changes in early November, so that it may be darker earlier.
Seeing Red Wine Festival
For winos, you’ll want to plan your vacation around the Seeing Red Wine Festival. It is a fun and casual activity held every year in November in Seaside. You can walk around food and wine tastings and browse the adorable shops.
Rosemary Beach Uncorked
Rosemary Beach holds a similar event to Seaside but with a combined emphasis on local food and wine known as Rosemary Beach Uncorked. The event also hosts live music and photo ops. This event is typically held the first weekend in November.
In early November, Watercolor Resort hosts a film festival in their amphitheater. The festival is a Mountain film tour stop highlighting some of the best short films from the Telluride Film Festival.
You can buy individual tickets per day or the weekend package. Also, some packages come with lodging in one of the Watercolor hotels. If you are here in early November, you could pair this even with Rosemary Beach Uncorked too.
Thanksgiving 5k in Rosemary
Spending Thanksgiving on the beach sounds amazing to me. Beautiful weather and temperatures paired with family time! If you are in town, consider participating in the Thanksgiving 5K in the Rosemary community.
🎬Check out my web story on 30A in the fall🎬
30A is home to some of the most unique and breathtaking beaches in all of Florida. I grew up coming to the Panhandle, and honestly, no other beaches in Florida or the East Coast compare.
It can be overwhelming to know where to stay in 30A. Some areas are more expensive than others. Here’s a quick summary starting in the east and moving west along 30A.
Inlet is a smaller community east of Rosemary. Many streets border Highway 98 instead of 30A, but you can easily access Rosemary and the same emerald green water.
Rosemary Beach is the furthest east community, and you’ve stepped into a European community. You can walk or bike the cobble streets, grab a delicious meal, and head to the beach. FYI- the beach access is locked and requires a key code.
Rosemary is very popular, so keep that in mind when looking at home rentals and pricing. Fall is an excellent time as prices drop a little. Staying at The Pearl Hotel in Rosemary is another fun option, as you are in the heart of town.
Seacrest is the next beach community adjacent to Rosemary. There are condos and homes on the north and south side of the beach, so there are plenty of options.
I find Seacrest more affordable than Rosemary, yet you are still so close to the amenities and restaurants of both communities. You also have easy access to Alys. FYI- this is one of the neighborhoods with many kids and teens during fall break.
Alys is an upscale community on the emerald coast with stunning white homes and condos. Driving or biking through the neighborhood is worth even if you don’t stay here. As a side note, you do have to rent homes here directly through Alys instead of VRBO or Airbnb.
Watersound is a gated community south of 30A with beautiful homes and condos. It is one of the more quiet neighborhoods but could be pricey. When looking at home rentals, ensure you have access to the beach. Adorable homes in that area claim to be in Watersound but don’t have access- you would have to drive to the beach.
Seagrove is one of my favorite areas as it is more spread out, and there are many affordable lodging options. It neighbors Seaside, so you are close to many dining and shopping options, although Seagrove has their own. I find Seagrove to be a bit quieter.
Seaside is a colorful community in the heart of 30A and a popular destination. Many guests stay in other areas but always stop here to eat, shop, and explore.
The public grocery store is in between Seagrove, Seaside, and the northern end of Watercolor.
🏖️If you want a more in depth summary of each beach community, click HERE!🏖️
Watercolor is adjacent to Seaside and is a large planned community. Some condos are on the water or close to it, but Watercolor is an extensive neighborhood with hundreds of rental homes and a resort known as the Watercolor Inn. Their pool area is gorgeous; you can walk to the Seaside community.
Blue Mountain Beach
Blue Mountain is also quieter and less densely populated than Seaside or Seacrest. My husband prefers this area for that exact reason. We are close to the restaurants but not in the crowds.
Santa Rosa Beach
Dune Allen Beach
Dune Allen is quieter as well, but up and coming. You can find some affordable rentals here.
The beach is pristine in the Fall, but it is also a great time to try something new. Leaving the beach for another outdoor activity is hard in the hotter months. Fall is a bit cooler and the perfect time to enjoy these activities and state parks.
About 45 minutes north of the coast, there’s a beautiful park with natural springs. The water stays around 68 degrees all year! If you go, pack a swimsuit, but you can also hike, fish, snorkel, or go bird watching.
It is open year-round with a very cheap fee of $4 per car. Autumn is the best time to visit with lower crowds and temps.
Grayton Beach State Park is a natural beauty directly on the ocean. It is sandwiched between Watercolor and the Grayton community, so it is easier to get to than Ponce de Leon.
As for activities, you can enjoy the beach, hike, fish, paddle board, or kayak. They even have a few cabins you can rent. Admission to the park is $5 per car and is open throughout the year. Take time to check out this fantastic state park.
Camp Helen State Park
Camp Helen is another excellent idea during this season. On the way to Panama City, it is on the east side of 30A. Admission is $4 a car, and the park is open yearly.
At this state park, you can explore one of Florida’s largest coastal dune lakes, Lake Powell. You can hike, walk to the beach, bird watch, and fish.
Like visiting the state parks, golfing can be miserable in the summer. With lower temps, Fall is a great time to try out one of the golf courses, such as Legacy Golf Club in neighboring Panama City Beach.
Once you arrive at 30A, you’ll notice guests of all ages on bikes. For a majority of 30A, there are bike paths. Biking 30a and through the various neighborhoods is one of my favorite activities. My kids love to hop on the bike and ride to pick up a sweet treat.
Many rentals come with bikes; if not, you can rent them throughout the region. There are multiple bike rentals scattered throughout the area.
🚴Book your bike HERE!🚴
Kayaking & Paddle Boarding
While visiting, consider renting a kayak or paddleboard for the day. Many vacation rentals work with beach equipment companies that will rent umbrellas, beach chairs, bikes, kayaks, and paddleboards to guests.
Another option is to kayak on one of the lakes or in the state park.
If your rental home has a stocked kitchen, I would recommend buying fresh seafood one night. Our favorite market is Goat Feathers and they have several locations. Cook in and catch a beautiful beach sunset. We do these several nights in lieu of eating out each night.
Local companies such as La Dolce Vita will set up a beach bonfire for you!
FAQ: What You Need to Know about 30A
☀️How to get to 30A?
You can reach the Panhandle by driving or flying, depending on your location. The closest airport is in Panama City and is small but pleasant. It is straightforward to navigate- I’ve picked up and dropped off family there. Destin-Fort Walton Beach airport is another option but further away.
As for driving, you’ll want to plan around traffic if driving during the week, as many guests go through Atlanta, Birmingham, or even Montgomery.
FYI- you will be on some country roads for part of the ride, so plan bathroom breaks and meals before you leave home. You’ll thank me later!
☀️Is October a good time to go?
Visiting the Gulf of Mexico in October is the perfect fall getaway.
☀️Are there any downsides to early Fall?
Late summer into Fall is hurricane season in Florida, so consider booking travel insurance.
Also, it can still be hot in September, and sometimes these annoying black flies are on the beach. Cactus juice spray helps to keep them away.
☀️Is the water warm?
In the early part of Fall, the water is still warm. By November, the temps will drop a bit. It is probably not bothersome to little kids, but adults may be less eager to hop in the water.
☀️Why is 30a so popular?
30a has vibrant communities, gorgeous beaches, bike trails, small shops, and delicious restaurants. In other beach communities on the Gulf Of Mexico, the beaches are packed with high-rise resorts, and you won’t find that here.
☀️What are the best local restaurants?
There are many fantastic options here, so this is just a sampling. 30a favorites include Bud & Alley’s, Red Bar, the Great Southern Cafe, George’s, Basmati’s, and Pescado.
In conclusion: The Ultimate Guide to Visiting 30A in the Fall
If you are on the fence about whether to try the gulf coast during autumn, don’t be! Once you go, you’ll never go back to the busy summer season. We are now regular visitors to 30A every September, and I hope my guide to visiting 30a in the fall helps you plan your next great adventure!