Scenic Gulf Drive – South Walton to Rosemary Beach
Going East of Destin on Gulf Highway 98 you connect with Scenic Highway 30A just past Topsail State Park. This will give you an opportunity to return to driving along with a view of the gulf and through the South Walton beach communities along the Emerald Coast. While there still are condos and town homes along this stretch, they aren’t as tightly packed on top of one another like in Destin and along the route you begin to see some actual single family homes with larger yards.
You’ll also pass several ponds that are called coastal dune lakes, freshwater lakes that drain into the Gulf, providing a unique ecosystem due to the exchange of salt and fresh water. Some of these coastal lakes have preserved, natural shoreline – no homes or condos and therefore indeed offer some natural scenery to justify calling this a scenic drive. About a mile before you get to the community of Grayton Beach you are actually driving through Point Washington State Forest.
While the drive doesn’t offer an abundance of notable scenery, it is a more pleasant and slower paced drive than traveling on busy highway 98. But about halfway along the 24 mile route there is a genuine scenic and unique destination: the historic beach town of Grayton Beach (see article) and it’s popular neighbor Grayton Beach State Park – see our article here.
Grayton Beach, Florida
The tiny village of Grayton Beach traces its founding back 125 years when vacationers used to travel by horse and buggy to enjoy its white sand beaches and small town character. As you walk through the town you can see many examples of old cottages lovingly restored and some with a humorous and artistic twist.
The town is largely surrounded by Grayton Beach State Park (see our review) which has served to limit the expansion of the village and probably played a role in preserving its unique character. The State Park’s gulf beach extends on both side of the village providing more than a mile of relatively uncrowded pristine beach terrain. The park also encompasses a 100 acre coastal dune lake providing opportunities for canoeing, kayaking, paddle-boarding and fishing. There’s a 59 unit campground and 30 cabins in the park and biking and hiking trails. Make your reservations early as this is a popular park.
Grayton Beach and the State Park are located along the paved Walton County hike/bike path that runs adjacent to Scenic Highway 30A. Biking is one of the best ways to get around town as well as the three nearby towns east of Grayton Beach . . . as there isn’t a lot of public parking space.
Seaside to Rosemary Beach
Going east of Grayton Beach on 30A you quickly arrive at the very upscale community of Seaside with an extensive collection of modern condo units and a popular town square that hosts entertainment, beach-related enterprises, festivals and outdoor food carts. We drove through this town in late March during spring break time and were in awe of seeing what seemed like a thousand kids on bikes running back and forth along the bike path adjacent to the road and droves of teens crowding around the food and entertainment in the town square plus walking to and fro. I wonder how crowded the beaches were because there were sure lots of people walking and biking around town. Seaside is a popular place.
Further east of Seaside is the community of Seagrove (more beach condos) and then at the end of Scenic Highway 30A the community of Rosemary Beach essentially a replication of Seaside with condos, beach resort venues, a very busy town square and people walking and biking everywhere. These three villages east of Grayton Beach seem to be very popular, especially with families. If you rent a house, cottage or book lodging at a condo many types of entertaiment, in addition to the beach, are within walking distance (and biking and bike rental places abound!). These villages must have a reputation as safe places because there were young kids streaming all over the place, many without any adult supervision.
- Our article and Photos of The Village of Grayton Beach
- Article and Photos of Grayton Beach State Park
- See Part 1 of Gulf Coast Scenic Drive – Pensacola to Destin, Florida
- Directory of Articles & Maps: Traveling the Gulf Coast Scenic Drive
- Seaside Florida website
- Seagrove Florida website
- Rosemary Beach website
Next: Part 2. Gulf Drive Rosemary Beach to Apalachicola – – –by