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As the vibrant hues of fall fade into the quiet serenity of winter, families often seek the perfect getaway—a place where the spirit of the season intertwines with warmth and relaxation. Look no further than the exquisite stretch of Florida’s coastline known as 30A. While it might be renowned for its bustling summer vibes, it’s an equally magical destination in the winter months, and I love 30A in the winter.
Winter on 30A offers unique experiences, providing a serene escape from the cold winter months to the North. We’ve escaped the cold days of February and headed south for a relaxing week with my kids, mom, and sisters on the Florida Panhandle. Although it was too chilly to swim in the ocean, we explored state parks, ate delicious seafood, and rode bikes up and down 30A.
Follow along to see why I recommend 30A as a fantastic winter getaway. From hidden gems to well-known treasures, let’s explore the essence of this coastal paradise and uncover why it’s the perfect setting for your family’s winter adventure. I have spent the last fifteen years exploring this region of Florida and know all the ins and outs of a vacation on the beautiful Emerald Coast.
Your 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
Discovering 30A’s Charm in the Winter
Although January and February are dreary months, even in the South, I enjoy the simplicity of that time. The hustle and bustle of the holidays cools, and it is a time to rest. Getting away for a long weekend or week to the Emerald Coast is good for the soul as the winters are mild and ideal for exploring the great outdoors of Northwest Florida. Whether you’re seeking thrilling outdoor escapades or strolls along beautiful beaches, the winter season promises experiences that will create cherished memories for the whole family.
Perks of the Winter
- rates are more affordable on the off-season
- shorter wait times at popular local restaurants
- fewer crowds
- moderate temperatures
- Explore the gorgeous state parks on the Panhandle
Winter Activities & Events
In mid-January, the communities of South Walton host the 30A Songwriters Festival for four days. Over 175 musical guests perform in 30 venues in the area and extends to San Destin. Venues range from resorts to restaurants and breweries, to name a few.
Here are some tips-
- Shuttles run from overflow parking at Silver Sands, the outlet mall in Destin.
- Stay in a community that hosts most of your desired concerts. This will help reduce the transportation stress of getting to the venues.
- Stay in one of the host properties, such as Hyatt Place, The Pearl in Rosemary Beach, or Hilton Sandestin.
Sandestin Gumbo Festival
The Sandestin Gumbo and Bloody Mary Festival is held every February in the beautiful community of Sandestin, just west of 30A. Baytowne Wharf hosts this two-day festival. Guests will savor fresh homemade gumbo while listening to live music. Bring the kids, as activities are abundant for the little ones.
Gulf World Marine Park
If you travel with young kids, check out Gulf World Marine Park in Panama City Beach, just a short drive to the east. Gulf World offers live performances, interactive lessons, and a variety of sea animals to view. For instance, they are home to dolphins, harbor seals, California sea lions, stingrays, and penguins.
The winter season is an excellent time to visit this local experience, especially on a rainy or cold day. Tickets are reasonable, and kids under 4 are free.
Here are some tips
- You can’t bring snacks or lunch into the facility. I would go early and then eat lunch in Panama City. Don’t go during lunchtime unless you are prepared to buy their food.
- Touch the stingrays at Stingray Bay. Most animal encounters cost an additional fee, but this one is free!
December-February temperatures range from the high 40s to mid-60s’, which is ideal weather to be outside without a heavy coat. On our trip, the temps hovered in the 50’s, so a light jacket was perfect. By March, it does start to warm up a bit.
I love the beach, and in the summer months, I’m hesitant to leave those white sandy beaches during the day. I could swim, play in the sand, or read under an umbrella for hours. Going to County Road 30A in the winter allowed me to explore what exists off those pristine beaches, and honestly, I loved our winter getaway as much as other visits.
My boys were old enough to ride their bikes, so we packed them on the back of our car. If you don’t want to mess with bikes, plenty of rental places and some vacation homes include them. My sisters and I rented adult bikes, and mine came with a child seat for my youngest, who was 3 then.
We spent hours riding through the beautiful streets of Rosemary, stopping for ice cream or a run around the Rosemary common area. One day, we packed a picnic lunch in our bike baskets and rode to Alys for a leisurely lunch in their green area.
The communities dotted along 30A are connected by biking trails. It is a fun way to explore and get some fresh air.
Although it was a bit too cold for ocean swimming, we enjoyed playing in the sand, and my kids bravely dipped their toes into the water. Don’t let the winter months deter you from enjoying time on those white sand beaches. Book a beach bonfire one night if it is a mild winter day.
These months are also ideal for kayaking and paddle boarding on the lakes in the area.
One afternoon, we hopped in the car and headed east. Visitors will discover beautiful Camp Helen State Park, sandwiched between Panama City Beach and 30A. We enjoyed a leisurely afternoon exploring their walking trails.
I suggest starting your day with a hearty brunch before exploring. This region boasts some of the most beautiful state parks in Northwest Florida. Make time for Grayton Beach State Park and Camp Helen. Ponce de Leon Springs is a bit further north and worth the drive if you have time (over an hour away).
30A’s Beautiful Beaches in Winter Season
Within the breathtaking views of Florida’s coastline, 30A boasts some of the most unparalleled and captivating beaches in the entire state. Growing up frequenting the Panhandle, I’ve found these shores unrivaled by any other in Florida or along the East Coast.
The options can feel overwhelming when choosing where to stay along 30A, especially considering the varying price points across different areas. Here’s a swift guide from my experience, starting from the east and journeying west along the vibrant stretch of 30A.
Beginning the journey on the eastern edge, Inlet Beach offers a quieter and more serene ambiance. Accommodations here are slightly more affordable than other areas along 30A, making it an attractive choice for those seeking a relaxing vacation without breaking the bank.
Moving westward, Rosemary Beach exudes luxury and elegance. Known for its upscale atmosphere and stunning architecture, this area often boasts higher-priced accommodations. However, its charm and sophistication make it a coveted spot for visitors.
We stayed here on our February getaway, and the off-season is a great way to try this popular destination at a lower price point. We rented a gorgeous and spacious three-bedroom condo in the heart of town. We loved walking downstairs for coffee, fresh donuts, and bike rides.
Click HERE to book our lovely condo in the heart of Rosemary.
A little further along, Seacrest Beach presents a blend of upscale offerings alongside a relaxed vibe. Accommodations here range from luxurious to moderately priced, catering to luxury seekers and budget-conscious travelers. We’ve often stayed here and loved the proximity to Rosemary, ice cream, and restaurants.
Alys Beach stands out with its striking white architecture and upscale accommodations. The ambiance here is serene and upscale, focusing on luxury living, reflected in the higher-end pricing of accommodations.
Seagrove is a large part of 30A without a core city center like other communities. Don’t let this sway you away. Instead, Seagrove’s central location gives you proximity to many restaurants, town centers, and restaurants. Bike routes on 30A help connect the communities. I personally love Seagrove as there are many lodging options tucked off 30A.
Famously picturesque and renowned for its unique architecture and vibrant community, Seaside offers a mix of vacation rentals, cottages, and high-end accommodations. While it can lean towards the pricier side, the charm and atmosphere make it a coveted destination.
Adjacent to Seaside, Watercolor stands as a sprawling planned community along 30A. Its charm lies in the extensive array of rental homes and the renowned Watercolor Inn, boasting a stunning pool area. Moreover, its convenient proximity allows for a leisurely stroll to the vibrant Seaside community. I love how the serene feel of this neighborhood.
Tucked away off 30A, Grayton Beach exudes a sense of tranquility and quirkiness distinct from its neighboring communities. While quieter, it boasts a close-knit and devoted community. Visitors frequent the area for its live music scene and delectable cuisine, particularly at the renowned Red Bar.
Blue Mountain Beach
Less densely populated compared to Seaside or Seacrest, Blue Mountain Beach offers a quieter ambiance. It’s an ideal choice for those seeking a peaceful retreat. With proximity to restaurants yet away from bustling crowds, it’s favored by many, including my husband, for its serene allure. We’ve have made this our home on recent vacations.
Click HERE to book our lovely condo in the heart of Rosemary.
Santa Rosa Beach
Santa Rosa Beach sprawls as a more extensive area along 30A, boasting a myriad of home rentals and a diverse range of restaurants. The area also features accessible public beach points, inviting visitors to enjoy the pristine coastline. We enjoy the restaurants in this area.
Dune Allen Beach
Dune Allen Beach, though quieter like its counterparts, is gradually emerging as an up-and-coming locale. Here, you can discover affordable rental options amidst the tranquility, making it an enticing choice for those seeking a peaceful getaway.
In Conclusion: Visiting 30A in the Winter Season
As draw a close on our exploration of 30A in the wintertime, it’s evident that this stretch of Florida’s coastline offers an enchanting escape for families seeking a different kind of winter wonderland. From the serene beaches of Santa Rosa to the emerging charm of Dune Allen, each corner of 30A holds its own allure. I hope my guide on 30A in the winter helps you plan your next great adventure.