Scenic Highway 30A
- DesignationNational Scenic Byway (2021)
- Intrinsic QualitiesNatural
- Length18 miles
Scenic Highway 30A has many unique features, including 15 rare coastal dune lakes (only found on 30A in remote areas of the world including Africa and Australia), the historic beach town of Grayton Beach, the first new urbanism community—Seaside, and access to three state parks and a state forest. Meandering along an 18-mile stretch of Northwest Florida’s Gulf Coast,the road is naturally scenic by nature. It runs along soft white sand beaches, over coastal dune lakes, through quaint beachside towns with pastel cottages, and through large swaths of natural lands.
Santa Rosa County Tourism Development Office
Walton County TDC
Story of the Byway
Scenic Highway 30A is a 24 mile corridor that hugs the Gulf of Mexico coastline in Northwest Florida’s Walton County. Along this breathtaking drive you will see sugar-white sand beaches and rare coastal dune lakes. Scenic Highway 30A is a tourist attraction of major proportions.
In the 1890’s, the combination of natural wilderness and pristine beaches enticed summer vacationers to this area. As they returned year after year to their tiny beach cottages, small resort communities began to emerge. During the 1920’s, promotion and advertising were used to market these resort communities. Beach lots were offered for sale to those who wanted to build permanent residences. Today, 12 distinct beach communities have evolved along the corridor, each with its own unique history and character. Grayton Beach was not only the first community established in the area, but in 1913 was also the area’s first resort community. Today, Grayton Beach continues to have small-town character with its narrow tree-lined streets and a modest downtown with shops, bed and breakfast inns, a general store, and a handful of restaurants.
It is an exciting and eclectic mix of hot Caribbean colors and soft pastels, with architecture to match each community’s charm, whether it be Old Florida’s traditional 2-3 story homes, the cottages of Seaside with white picket fences, or New Urbanism. Miles of greenway trails connect state parks, preserves and residential areas along this byway.
Along this stretch of highway, dozens of art galleries are teeming with original artwork from talented local artists. Hwy 30-A is filled with artistic renderings of the area as well as multi-media pieces of all kinds. Under the water, the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County has established the first underwater art museum. Local artists have created metal sculptures that have been submerged to create a home for marine species, creating an artistic reef beneath the surface.
With three state parks and Point Washington State Forest, it’s easy to enjoy 30A’s natural attractions. On the west end of Hwy 30A, Topsail Hill State Preserve is home to two coastal dune lakes, the tallest sand dunes along the coast, pristine beaches, and miles of hiking/biking trails. In the middle, Grayton Beach State Park surrounds Western Lake and features hiking trails, and access to miles of pristine beaches and the coastal dune lake. Toward the East, Deer Lake State Park is a primitive park with nature trails, a wooden boardwalk through towering sand dunes, which leads to miles of white sand beaches. Add to this an extensive trail system through Point Washington State Forest.
Scenic 30-A is known for its world-class, certified Blue Wave beaches; a mark of cleanliness and good management from the Clean Beaches Council. For those who desire a slower, simpler pace, an abundance of recreational activities await hikers, bikers, bird watchers, beach lovers, campers, and sportsmen. More than 200 miles of trails located on state lands are open to the public. Explore the 19-mile Timpoochee Trail, a paved multi-use path that runs parallel to the Gulf. Enjoy the tranquility of kayaking or canoeing on the coastal dune lakes. Learn about nature, by discovering the habitats of endangered species like the gopher tortoise or Red-cockaded Woodpecker, Choctawhatchee Beach mouse or rare wildflowers, including Gulf Coast lupine and wild rosemary.
Florida’s Scenic Highway 30A is a two-lane road that hugs the beach in Walton County, Florida (sometimes also known as South Walton)
Points of Interest
Point Washington State Forest
Point Washington State Forest is made up of 10 natural communities. The majority of the area consists of sandhill, basin swamps/titi drains, wet flatwoods, wet prairie and cypress swamps. The Eastern Lake Trail System consists of three double-track loop trails. The hiker or bicyclist can travel the 3.5-, 5- or 10-mile loop.
Topsail Hill Preserve State Park
Topsail Hill is named for its dunes, which rise like a ship's sails over soft sand beaches and the emerald waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Those same white quartz dunes are responsible for a rare coastal ecosystem — freshwater dune lakes — which teem with aquatic wildlife. Walkers will pass through old-growth pine forests, sandy scrubland, dunes and wetlands, where they may see some of the 13 imperiled species that find refuge here, like the Choctawhatchee beach mouse and otherworldly-looking pitcher plants. Topsail Hill offers three miles of pristine beaches and is a bird-watching and hiking paradise.
Underwater Museum of Art
The Underwater Museum of Art is the first permanent underwater sculpture garden in the U.S. Located in the Gulf of Mexico, off of Walton County, Florida, the museum lies at a depth of 58-feet and at a distance of .93-miles from the shore of Grayton Beach State Park. Every year, a selection of sculptural works from artists around the world, is installed in the underwater garden. The sculptures quickly attract a wide variety of marine life and, over time, metamorphize into a living reef.
Grayton Beach State Park
Soaking in warm gulf breezes while relaxing on pristine Grayton Beach might be the main attraction, but that’s only one aspect to this gorgeous park. Grayton Beach consistently ranks among the most beautiful and pristine beaches in the United States. Western Lake offers fishing and paddling, and those who want to explore on foot have four miles of trails to traverse through a coastal forest where scrub oaks and magnolias stand, bent and twisted by salt winds.
Beach Paradise on Scenic 30A
Start at the Topsail Hill Preserve State Park for a morning of exploring the dunes to begin your journey along Scenic Highway 30 A. This park offers three miles of pristine beaches and is a bird watching and hiking paradise.
Head southeast along 30A for about 10 miles to Grayton Beach, passing though Santa Rosa Beach and Blue Mountain Beach. The town of Grayton Beach is one of the many cozy, historic towns along the byway. Check out the designated Blue Wave Beach and Grayton Beach State Park, home to a 400 acre paradise featuring pristine white beaches, a coastal dune lake, and plenty of nature.
Continuing along the byway for 2.5 miles, you’ll quickly reach the village of Seaside. This picturesque beach community is the perfect place to stop for lunch along the beach or in the town center and to stop at one of the quaint shops along the way. This cute town is picture-perfect and ready for some beach fun! While here, be sure to explore the beautiful village of Watercolor.
Heading southeast for another 7.8, you’ll reach Alys Beach, Florida for a taste of luxury. Triangular white pillars mark the entrance to town and palm trees line the way. Enjoy the elegance of the buildings that are just as white as the sand as you enjoy shopping at the local boutiques.
Finish your day in Rosemary Beach, just a few short miles from Alys Beach. Wander through the “French Quarter-esque” town center and stop for some dinner at a local restaurant. Be sure to explore the boardwalk promenades and secret pathways that wind between the carriage houses and cottages.
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