After a week of recovering from our vacation and being so incredibly thankful that our family was able to spend time together and get away, I thought I would share our experience with everyone that might be looking for a new place to explore whenever this country is able to fully open once again (it seems never ending most days). After seeing several friends and a fabulous blogger I follow, recommend the Destin/30A area of Florida, I decided this would be our next vacation destination. We perused a ridiculous amount of options and ultimately settled on a large beach house in the Nature Walk development about 5 minutes from the beach in the Santa Rosa section of 30A (FYI, 30A is a highway/main drag, but it’s also known to many as a section of this Florida area that makes up several beach towns).
The beaches, well, it goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway. Wow! It’s like being in the Caribbean, the water is clear, the sand is white, and in the area we set up each day, PLENTY of space! For all the crowded beach photos seen on the news on a daily basis, that was not the case in the Santa Rosa Beach section. We stayed about a 5 minute drive away from this location and chose it not only for proximity but because we needed bathrooms close by for little ones. Additionally, they have ramp access and since my poor husband often appeared to resemble a pack mule, this was a necessity. Don’t plan on parking at the drop off point unless you arrive by 9 a.m. I’m not kidding. People go and they are in it for the long haul. No one leaves (aside from us, apparently) until like 4-5 p.m. We did luck out a few days and were able to park the cars across 30A in public parking, but the rest of the time my dad and I would just head a few blocks down the street and found street parking. This trip to the beach taught us to stay for more than 2 hours (although Emerson did lose her mind once and refuse to nap, but that’s another post entirely) so typically we packed lunch with coolers and came prepared with an UMARDOO TENT when we needed a break from the sun. EVERYONE needs this tent because it is manageable both in weight and assembly, even for me, so clearly you all can handle this. The best part is, the shade is held down by using sand (and being at a beach, should not be a problem) and then you dump out said sand when you leave. SO EASY!
Where we ate
Since Justin has Celiac’s, we tend to make most of our meals at home, so dinners out need to be researched beforehand to insure that he (and now my soon to be sister-in-law Kayla) can find something to eat as well. Additionally, visiting a vacation destination in the summer at prime dining time, you should either be making reservations or preparing for a wait which, with young kids and me always so hangry, isn’t always the best option. Here were the top places we would recommend!
30A Burger– OMG, it’s delicious! This is fast food and can be ordered online or in person. The burgers are some of the best I’ve ever tasted and we caved and did a side of onion rings as well. Not typically a fan, but these were amazingly fresh and the perfect size to share and not feel overwhelmed. Justin also got a GF bun that he was impressed didn’t fall apart upon picking up. I’m still drooling over this burger 2 weeks later…
Amici Italian Kitchen– This is in the same plaza/strip as 30A Burger and it also boasts a sister restaurant Amigos next door. We were in the mood for Italian and were not disappointed. The wait was maybe 30 minutes (we stalled the kids with cookies down the way and a walk up bar for adults) and the service and food were spectacular. I got the Pesto Pizza Pie and trust me, amazing fresh and then amazing for lunch the following day. Also a good idea if you are looking to split a meal, because wow was it filling. I managed two pieces and was done! For GF friends, they have gluten free pasta and both my husband and sis-in-law were happy!
Fish Out of Water (FOOW)
This restaurant in the Rosemary Beach area was by far our fanciest night out, but the food was amazing and enjoyed by everyone. Both me and my brother opted for the Sweet Tea Chicken sandwich and woah, was it amazing. And filling. Don’t worry, I powered through! They don’t do reservations, but if you get there by 5, 5:30 you can easily get a seat inside (outside with the oceanview already had an hour wait and we needed the air conditioning!) Do yourself a favor and walk across the street afterwards. They have a park area that resembles the Savannah Historic district and is amazing for pictures!
Crackings– our one breakfast out was the last day there. We wish we would have discovered this little area in Grayton Beach much sooner! The service was attentive and the food was delish! I had an omelet, but for GF eaters, they have pancakes and huevos rancheros, among other options. Our girls got fresh made donuts with some yogurt and I taste-tested and approved of the cinnamon sugar toppings! Additionally, I hate tater tots, but these potatoes/hash browns, etc. were so good with the right amount of consistency, without being soggy. Can you tell I’m still hungry as I type?! This same area has outdoor seating and live music round the clock, as well as shop owned dog and cats that roam a bit and were so friendly to pet!
I found our house searching through VRBO and overall I was happy with it. Named Pine Shore, we were one of many in this new development that boasts a main pool, lap pool and kiddie pool. We had a run-in with ahem, nature, and that kind of ruined it for me, but honestly, the size of the house the quality of the furniture, and the location were quite amazing. The house has two indoor living rooms that are both spacious and include TVs. There is a screened in back porch that I had my breakfast on each morning and was quite relaxing and pretty. The kitchen is so pretty and again had plenty of space for us to all move around. The beds are ridiculously comfortable and with 3.5 bathrooms, we had no problem all being able to get ready easily. My girls enjoyed the rope swing that hung from the Master deck and McKenna even fell asleep on it one afternoon! So, we did encounter a scorpion in our bathroom sink one evening, which left me sufficiently freaked out the next few nights, but the rental company was quick to respond and sent out pest control the following day. Yes, we were surrounded by the lush greenery of the area, but I just wasn’t expecting to encounter it in the house. And scorpions?! In Florida? Who knew!?
We didn’t get to do nearly as much as this as I would have liked, as most stores seem to close by 5 or 6. I’m not sure if this was due to the COVID 19 issue or just the standard beach hours, but here are ones that we found worthwhile! Rosemary Beach has plenty of shopping right off of 30A but they were all closed once we finished dinner, which was disappointing.
The Seaside Main Circle has plenty of shops to wander through, the issue is definitely parking. You have never seen so many cars and so little parking in your life. Trust me on this. If you are taking older kids or have the opportunity, I recommend renting bicycles or a golf cart, both are EVERYWHERE and seem much easier than a car. I avoided this area after our first visit simply because it was far too crowded at all times of day for my taste.
The Shops of Grayton was our last stop before heading home and wanted to get a little tricket to remember our trip. McKenna and I both ended up with light weight super comfy Grayton Beach sweatshirts and the prices were right and the material is quality! I wish we would have had more time to wander through this area!
Other items that made my life more comfy and simplified while visiting the beach?