The area known as “30A” is one of the last true hidden gems in the state of Florida. Because it is one of the last areas on the Gulf Coast of Florida to be developed, 30A has some of the most restrictive building codes in the state. This means high rise condos do not exist on 30A, preserving the incredible views of the surf. With crystal clear water and huge bright white sugar sand beaches, it’s easy to see why the 30A region is receiving more recognition as a vacation destination.
But where and what exactly is “30A”? The answer might vary a bit based on who you are asking, since 30A is actually just a highway. But generally, the area known as 30A is 25 mile long string of 16 small beach towns between Destin and Panama City. You may have heard of Rosemary Beach, Grayton Beach, or Seaside; those towns are all part of 30A. This guide will go town by town starting in the west, highlighting the best 30A house rentals currently available.
Dune Allen is located at the very west end of 30A, closest to Destin. Dune Allen is a great location for those wanting to be close to the action of Destin but in a much more laid back area. There are many beach access points in Dune Allen, meaning even houses a bit off the beach have easy access to the sand. There are many Dune Allen house rentals that are just a few minute walk to one of these beach accesses.
Our favorite Dune Allen house rental is called “Dune Nothin”. This 4 bedroom, 3 bathroom home is in the Beach Haven housing complex on the eastern edge of Dune Allen. It is a quick 2 minute walk from the deck of this home to the beach. This is one of those properties that isn’t directly on the beach but close enough it seems like it. This is one of the best values of any vacation rental on this list, it it has a perfect 5.0/5.0 review scores to boot. “Dune Nothin” A 4BR Dune Allen Beach House Rental on VRBO.com, Check Rates and Availability
Blue Mountain Beach
Believe it or not, but Blue Mountain Beach actually has the highest elevation on the entire coast of the Gulf of Mexico. This is due to the unique coastal dune lakes formed by large sand dunes around this area. The only places in the United States that have these beautiful dune lakes are along 30A. Blue Mountain Beach has several of these lakes, including the beautiful Draper Lake. This area has an awesome bar and restaurant scene, including the famous Redd’s Pub and Blue Mabel Smokehouse.
Our best overall Blue Mountain Beach house rental is “The Bluefish Cottage”, a cute 3BR cottage in the heart of BMB. This house is both close to the beach as well as restaurants, bars, and shops. It isn’t over the top fancy, but it is really nicely renovated and a great value by 30A standards. The perfect reviews speak for themselves. “Bluefish Cottage” A 3BR Blue Mountain Beach House Rental on VRBO.com, Check Rates and Availability
Grayton Beach is the oldest town on 30A, and also the most laid back. This charming beach town has the old Florida charm missing from the fancier towns of 30A. The locals are super friendly, the prices are a bit cheaper, and you won’t feel under-dressed anywhere here. There’s a lot to like about Grayton Beach, including some of the prettiest stretches of beach in Florida. Even if you don’t end up staying here, Grayton Beach State Park (https://www.floridastateparks.org/graytonbeach) makes for a great afternoon trip from anywhere on 30A.
There are many awesome Grayton Beach house rentals currently in the market, and this was one of our hardest choices. We chose a beautiful 5 bedroom house called “Beacon”. This house was built in the 1940s and has been in the owner’s (Steve and Debi) family for almost 50 years. The gorgeous renovations mixed with “Old Florida” charm make this house our top pick in Grayton Beach. It is located about a block and a half from the beach access and just 2 blocks from restaurants and shops. With 5 bedrooms, this is the perfect house for a 30A vacation with a large group. “Beacon” A 5BR Grayton Beach House Rental on VRBO.com, Check Rates and Availability
Watercolor is a small vacation community sandwiched between Grayton Beach and Seaside. It’s basically a big subdivision outside of Seaside, but there are a bunch of great vacation rentals here. There isn’t much to speak of in the way of restaurants or attractions, but since it is so close to Seaside that’s not an issue.
There are many, many rental options in Watercolor. Most are off the beach, but golf carts are allowed and some rentals even include them. The house we chose in Watercolor is called “Heaven Can Wait”. This beautiful home features a heated pool and spa, commerical grade appliances, and is rated to comfortably sleep 12 guests. There is a brand new 6 person street legal golf cart on the property that can be included as well, making it simple to shuttle your group to the beach or local restaurants. The owner (Beverly) takes immense pride in this house and it shows by the flawless reviews. “Heaven Can Wait” A 5BR Watercolor House Rental with Pool on VRBO.com, Check Rates and Availability
Remember the movie, “The Truman Show”? It was actually filmed in Seaside, as the picture perfect pastel houses in this town were a perfect setting for that movie. Seaside is an art lovers paradise, hosting the annual national ArtsQuest art festival as part of South Walton Art Week (https://www.visitsouthwalton.com/events/art-week-south-walton/). If art isn’t your thing, no worries, Seaside has you covered with one of the widest varieties of a foodie scene on 30A. Seaside hosts the biggest and best farmers market on 30A as well as a wide collection of food trucks daily. There’s a little something for everyone here.
A word of warning as we keep moving down 30A towards Panama City. Rental prices for some of the next towns on our list (including this one) skyrocket. These are ultra high end towns and the rental prices match that. For more budget friendly options stick to the towns closer to Destin. That being said “Salty Glass Cottage” is our top pick in Seaside. This small 1 bedroom cottage is Gulf front, with absolutely breathtaking views from the second floor. For a romantic getaway, you won’t find a better house rental. “Salty Glass Cottage” A 1BR Gulf Front Seaside Beach House Rental on VRBO.com, Check Rates and Availability
Seagrove Beach is one of the only “unplanned” communities on this end of 30A. By unplanned we mean it isn’t a perfectly laid out subdivision-esque town. This leads to a more eclectic mix of shops and restaurants as well as less cookie cutter homes. Some of the best rated restaurants on 30A are located here, like Cafe Thirty-A (https://cafethirtya.com/). Because the town isn’t as gated and “exclusive” as the others around it, it generally feels less stuffy and more welcoming. There are more beach accesses in Seagrove Beach than any other town on 30A.
The house we chose as the overall best in Seagrove Beach is huge, and right off the beach. The 5 bedroom 3 story home has incredible ocean views from most rooms. The large pool and hot tub are just a few of the amenities designed to keep bigger groups entertained. This is the most expensive property on our list, but if you read all the perfect reviews, nobody seems to mind. “My Wife’s a Beach” A 5BR Seagrove Beach House Rental on VRBO.com, Check Rates and Availability
If I had to best describe Watersound, I’d say it’s a bigger and nicer version of Watercolor with more restaurants. They are both planned communities but it just feels like more thought went into laying out Watersound. The central eating and gathering area called “The Hub” features restaurants, food trucks, bars, and live music space. It’s a really cool area to come and hang out after a day at the beach. Here’s a link to check it out: https://hub30a.com/
The Watersound house rental we are naming the best is one of the highest rated properties on 30A. With over 100 perfect 5 star reviews, this house called “Beach Bliss” is packed with amenities not typically included in vacation rentals. The list of beach equipment included in this rental is too large to list, but it includes standup paddle boards and kayaks. Not trying to track down a 30A kayak or paddleboard rental during busy season is a huge perk. Find out why everyone raves about this rental property here: “Beach Bliss” A 4BR Watersound Vacation Rental on VRBO.com, Check Rates and Availability
Seacrest is the first town we’ve come to on our trip down 30A that has almost as many condos as houses. One major point to keep in mind here is that there is only 2 public beach accesses with limited to no parking. You must make sure that the place you stay has easy access to the beach or you are going to end up driving to a neighboring town for beach access.
I’ll break my own rules of this post and go with a condo for the best rental in Seacrest. It’s just not worth the hassle of being in a house rental that has no access to the beach other than walking through someone’s yard. This is one of the worst areas of 30A for beach access unless you are in a condo complex or house directly on the beach and have your own access. Our favorite condo is located in the Villas of Seacrest Beach complex and is overlooking their massive pool. Check it out here: 3BR Pool-front Seacrest Condo Rental on VRBO.com, Check Rates and Availability