Winter months now mean one thing to us…..FLORIDA TIME! We LOVED visiting the 30A/Rosemary Beach area so much last winter that we went again in August to close out our summer with a bang. We stayed at the Watercolor Inn both times and cannot recommend it enough. I’ll go into more details below but since we are now in the Indiana winter months, I thought I’d share our trip details with you all in case you are thinking about booking a tropical vacation to get away from the snow!
from the fourth floor of the Watercolor Inn
beach chairs & umbrellas to rent right downstairs from the hotel
First up….what is 30A? Bryan and I had this conversation many times prior to researching and booking our trip. We kept seeing people travel there, talk about it, rave about it – it’s beautiful in pictures! Finally we decided that we had to go check it out for ourselves.
30A is a highway that is about 20 miles long between Destin and Panama City on the Panhandle/ Gulf Coast of Florida.
We met (and have spoken) to many people that have been visiting the 30A area for years, and obviously we loved it so much we went back again a few months later. In our opinion, it’s worth the hype.
the Watercolor has poolside food & beverage service as well
SOME OF MY FAVORITE BEACH PIECES
We flew into ECP (Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport) from the Indy airport. It’s the closest airport to 30A, but you could also fly into Fort Walton Beach (VPS) or Pensacola (PNS) if you have easier access. I’d highly recommend renting a car to get you from the airport to the hotel (about 40 minutes for us). You’ll want the car for the airport transfer and to do a little exploring as you spend some more time in the area.
Where we Stayed:
Water Color Inn, Santa Rosa Beach. Bryan and I are incredibly fortunate to have traveled a lot (pre-kids and with kids), and this was one of our favorite hotels we’ve ever stayed in…..that says A LOT. You are treated like royalty, it’s beachfront, restaurants on site and plenty more that are walkable or a quick drive, and great for families/kids. We enjoyed it so much, after a couple of days, we extended our stay. It isn’t cheap, but if you book in advance you can save some money. There is construction going on at the hotel currently through May as they are making some awesome improvements that we can’t wait to check out.
I could write an entire post about this hotel we liked it that much, but to summarize here are a few of our favorite amenities:
The Pool: Beautiful pool with food/drink service after noon. Here’s the only kicker – it fills up fast. Bryan went down each morning when the beach club opened (9 AM) to reserve seats in the shade. Florida sun is no joke…you’ll want shade especially after noon & especially if you have kids.
The Beach: White sand beaches, absolutely stunning. Like, “no filter” pictures all day! Via the hotel website you can book chairs and umbrellas that will be set up for you in the morning and they are yours for the day (do this in advance if you’re there during busy season). You will want them, the sun is hot and it’s so nice not having to set up or take down. No beach food/drink service, but there’s a bar up a staircase with drinks to go and the food is another quick staircase away. Very easy to get take away food, or go take a break by the pool and have lunch. There are chairs/umbrellas day of – get to the beach club when it opens, walk down to the beach, wait in line and you can reserve your set up.
Another one of our favorite things to do was go down to the beach either before dinner or after an early dinner to watch the sunset. You’ll see multiple families down there taking pictures because it’s absolutely gorgeous. It’s also not sunny so it’s safe for your littles to play in the sand or water before dark without worrying about getting sunburned.
Fish out of Water (FOOW): On site (2nd floor) restaurant at the hotel that we really enjoyed… twice! The menu was great for adults, had options for Eloise, and was loud enough for parent types not to worry about it! Admittedly we were there a bit earlier in the dinner hour, but you could absolutely do date night there if you booked later in the evening. Lots of great fish, salads, burgers, etc – and fun cocktails. Go before your afternoon ‘siesta/nap’ to put your name in line (they don’t take reservations). We ate inside the first night, which was great, and got in line the next night to sit outside – overlooking the ocean and sunset. Worth the wait, beautiful and very good food!
SOME OF OUR FAVORITE TRAVEL ESSENTIALS AND GEAR:
fish out of water restaurant on the second floor of the Watercolor Inn
Bud & Alley’s taco bar is a must – a short 5 minute drive or 20 minute walk from the Watercolor Inn
Other Fun Stops:
Crepes Du Soleil: Hot day and Frose? Yes please. Just south of the Water Color (15 minute walk or quick drive) is a series of food trucks and everything we saw people eating/drinking looked amazing, but we were there for the frose! It was so refreshing, but beware, if it’s super hot outside you have to drink it pretty quick or it melts! We had a Crepe as well, which was also delicious!
Bud & Alley’s Taco Bar: Right across from the food trucks is a fun little area with this taco bar, a few other spots to eat, tables and shops. The tacos and drinks at Bud & Alley’s are a must! Super casual and great for lunch or dinner.
The Candy Bar: Eloise would probably tell you this was her favorite part of 30A! Tons of candy and ice cream. It’s across the street from the hotel and we made more than a few quick stops in for a treat as it’s easily walkable.
The Wine Bar: Also across the street from the hotel, this restaurant/wine bar has an awesome wine list and really fun food. We have eaten dinner there a few times – great salads, pizza, and some of our favorite fish that we had on vacation. If you stop by in the afternoons they have happy hour with very generous (and cheap) pours which was a great stop for prosecco after we had gotten Eloise a scoop of ice cream next door!
Scratch Biscuit Kitchen: Same street, next to the wine bar and candy shop is this gem for breakfast. It’s southern breakfast with biscuits, gravy, eggs, grits and so much more, and it is incredibly good! Bryan loves their southern breakfast (eggs, sausage, grits, and a biscuit) and I order either the Youngin’ (egg and cheese) or Southern Twang (ham, egg, sausage, gravy). They have great ‘simple’ options for Eloise – eggs, bacon, etc. One of our favorite breakfast spots on 30A for sure!
Beach Happy Cafe: Also walkable from the Water Color, we love this cafe! A great quick stop in the morning for a nitro coffee and some delicious food. The staff is super friendly and they have some fun grab and go options. If you’re around in the afternoon they have beer on tap!
The Hub: Such a cool spot! There is a huge stage with a massive screen behind it in the center of a bunch of shops and restaurants. They have zumba and yoga classes that run in the mornings and dance parties, concerts, sporting events at night! Check the schedule on their site or instagram to see what’s coming up. They show all the football games on the weekend and have a ton of live music. Are you a Luke Bryan fan like us? We don’t smoke cigars, but he has a cigar shop here as well!
Gigi’s Fabulous Kids: About a 15 minute drive from the Water Color is the Pearl Hotel (also affiliated with the Water Color) and next to the hotel is an incredible little neighborhood with some fun restaurants and shops. One of our favorite spots in this location is this toy store. Gigi’s is incredible! Eloise could have stayed in there all day playing and looking at all of the fun toys! A must stop if you’re in the neighborhood!
Cowgirl Kitchen: Same neighborhood by the Pearl Hotel – a fun spot to stop for a drink and some appetizers or lunch. We sat outside under an umbrella and had chips and queso with a beer and will definitely be back!
the candy shop right across from the Watercolor – ice cream and candy for DAYS
Our diaper bag turns into a little bed and it was a lifesaver with a baby on the beach!
Another look at our diaper bag – super comfortable and we love it for travel and everyday
I could keep going, and probably will in a future post, but we absolutely love 30A and will be back again soon. We love the casual beach vibe, the fact that you can drive a golf cart around everywhere, and tons of friendly people that clearly love it there as well.
We will be back this year for sure and will update this post as we find more things that we love! If you plan a trip this year to 30A, enjoy the heck out of it!