Visiting the Beaches of South Walton County Florida
The beaches of South Walton County Florida stretch along Highway 30A, a road that parallels the Gulf of Mexico. This section of Florida is alternatively known as Northwest Florida, the Florida Panhandle, and the Emerald Coast. It's characterized by dazzling white quartz sand beaches and crystal, clear emerald green water. The water gets its unique green-blue color as a result of the pure white sand reflecting sunlight.
South Walton County Florida is located approximately midway between Panama City, Florida and Pensacola, Florida. The beach towns of South Walton County include:
- Inlet Beach
- Rosemary Beach
- Alys Beach
- Seagrove Beach
- Grayton Beach
- Blue Mountain
- Santa Rosa Beach
- Dune Allen
- Miramar Beach
Because of its location in northern Florida, the beaches of South Walton County Florida are cooler during much of the year than other parts of Florida. The average January high and low is 60˚ and 37˚ respectively. April’s average high and low is 76˚ and 52˚, July’s average high and low is 90˚ and 72˚, and October’s is 80˚ and 55˚.
The busiest tourist season is summertime when lots of families visit South Walton County Florida because it’s a convenient drive from many southern states such as Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. Plus, this is a time of year when children aren’t in school. The busy summer season is also when you will find the highest prices and the most crowds. From a weather perspective, summer isn’t the best season to visit the beaches of South Walton County because it’s extremely hot and humid.
Spring break is the second busiest time of year. While this part of the Florida Panhandle doesn’t get the same college crowds that nearby Panama City Beach gets, it does attract more sedate spring breakers and families. The spring break crowds are pretty short-lived though since most schools schedule spring break sometime between mid-March and early April.
If you want good weather, lower prices, and fewer crowds, the best times of year to visit the beaches of South Walton County Florida are late April through late May and mid-September through early November. Unfortunately, if you have school-age children these aren’t optimal dates to travel.
Where to Stay in South Walton County Florida
There aren’t a lot of hotels in this part of Florida, so most people stay in bed and breakfasts, rental homes or condos. As a result, there are many companies available to help you find the best accommodation to meet your needs.
If you want to stay in a hotel, there are three in Sandestin. The Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort and Spa , Courtyard Sandestin, and Residence Inn Sandestin. The Hilton is directly on the beach while the Courtyard and Residence Inn provide you with a free beach access parking pass to the beach at the Hilton. The only other hotel is the WaterColor Inn and Resort in WaterColor.
Where to Eat in South Walton County Florida
There are so many dining choices combined with personal food preferences that it’s hard to know where to begin. In general, seafood is a good option because the seafood is likely to be “just off the boat” fresh. Some of my favorite restaurants include:
- Stinky’s Fish Camp in Dune Allen.
- The Red Bar in Grayton Beach.
- Bud and Alley’s in Seaside.
- Another Broken Egg Cafe in multiple locations.
- The food trucks along Highway 30A in Seaside.
What to Do in South Walton County Florida
People come to South Walton County Florida for its magnificent beaches, but there is much more to do at those beaches than just lay in the sun. Though you can certainly do that too! Some of the more physical activities you may want to engage in at South Walton’s beaches are swimming, standup paddle boarding (SUP), kayaking, surf fishing, boogie boarding, surfing, walking along the miles of uninterrupted sand, volleyball, and various other beach games. Pretty much the only beach-related thing you can’t do is launch a motorized boat. For that you need to go to Destin in the west or Panama City Beach in the east, however, there is one exception to this. If you have a permit you are allowed to drive onto the beach at Grayton Beach or Inlet Beach and launch a boat from the beach. The thing is, you need to be a full-time Walton County resident to obtain a permit.
Although most of the things to do here are beach-related, one notable activity away from the water is biking. You will see people biking everywhere! That’s because there is an amazing bike path that runs 17 miles, all the way from one end of Hwy 30A to the other. In other words, from Inlet Beach in the east to Topsail Hill Preserve State Park in the west. The bike trail takes bikers through South Walton’s beach towns’ shopping and dining districts and puts them near many beach access points.
Shopping is another popular off-the-beach activity. Choices run the gamut from Silver Sands Factory Stores, a large outlet shopping center, through quaint boutiques owned by local artisans. Whatever you are looking for, you will probably find it.
One of the nice things about traveling to South Walton County Florida is you don’t have to bring all your gear with you if you don’t want to. There are lots of rental companies that can provide everything from bikes to beach chairs to non-motorized water sports gear to fishing equipment. Even better, many of them will deliver the stuff right to your hotel, condo, or house!
Public Beach Access Locations with Parking Lots
Inlet Beach – S. Wall Street off of Highway 98.
Santa Clara Beach – Bramble Grove Place off of 30A.
Van Ness Butler Jr. Beach – Highway 30A right where Seaside and WaterColor meet.
Blue Mountain Beach – Blue Mountain Rd and S. County Highway 83.
Gulfview Heights Beach – Gulfview Heights Street off of Highway 30A.
Ed Walline Beach – S. County Highway 393 off of 30A.
Dune Allen Beach – Off of Highway 30A by Stinky’s Fish Camp.
Miramar Beach – Newman Drive at Scenic Gulf Drive/Scenic Highway 98.
Many thanks to Patrick Wilson for providing me with much of the information for this article.
To many joyful beach experiences!
— Lisa Dworkin
Photo courtesy of Lisa Dworkin.