Why Rosemary Beach Should Be Your Top Pick Out of the Many Beaches Along Florida’s 30A

Why Rosemary Beach Should Be Your Top Pick Out of the Many Beaches Along Florida’s 30A

Why Rosemary Beach Should Be Your Top Pick Out of the Many Beaches Along Florida’s 30A

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Why Rosemary Beach Should Be Your Top Pick Out of the Many Beaches Along Florida’s 30A

Growing up in Nashville, Destin was always the spring and summer break destination. As a kid, there was nothing better than going to the beach during summer break — swimming all day, then biking at night with ice cream in hand. The sand didn’t bother me; the water was never too cold, and the sun was never too hot.

Destin is on Florida’s Highway 30A, which stretches along the Emerald Coast. The scenic road on Florida’s panhandle in the Gulf of Mexico has 16 charming, little beach towns. While Destin and Panama City Beach are more popular places to vacation, I wanted to spend a recent workcation somewhere that felt elevated and a little less touristy yet still evoked my nostalgia. Enter the Rosemary and Inlet Beach area. It ended up being a perfect fit with its offerings of things to do, less-populated beaches, and opportunities for wildlife viewing.

Rosemary Beach is stunning. It’s everything you dream a 30A beach should be: clear turquoise waters, white sand beaches, dreamy pastel pink sunsets. Shallow waters provide easy access to sandbars for sunbathing oceanside and make snorkeling a breeze.

View over Rosemary Beach florida

Photo: Lawrence Jackson/Shutterstock

In order to access Rosemary Beach, you’ll need to either stay at a place with private beach access or take a walk from a public beach access point. The nearest one is Inlet Beach, around a 20-minute walk. The area is walkable or bikeable, so traveling between Rosemary Beach and Inlet Beach is very doable.

Here are my tips on what to do in Rosemary or Inlet Beach on your next beach vacation.

We hope you love the spaces and stays we recommend! Just so you know, Matador may collect a small commission from the links on this page if you decide to book a stay. Listed prices are accurate as of the time of publication.

Rosemary Beach Town Center is adorable, dripping with Southern charm

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It’s only a 20-minute walk from Inlet to Rosemary Beach Town Center. Head here for some much-needed seafood and shopping. The architecture blends classic Southern style with coastal vibes, and the cobblestone streets lend an almost European feel.

Every Sunday the town center hosts a farmers’ market that sells freshly caught fish and vegetables. It is also where you can buy Rosemary Beach swag and souvenirs, local art, and support the bookstore. You can also satisfy your nightly sweet tooth here with the staple key lime pie, available almost everywhere, but restaurant Cuvee 30A had my favorite slice.

Where to shop

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Cutesy stationery and office supplies, best-selling titles, and curated book selections make the Hidden Lantern Bookstore the perfect place to pick up your beach read for the week or find some activity books for the kiddos. It’s also a great spot to pick up small gifts for those watering your plants or taking care of your dog back home.

The Hidden Lantern Bookstore: 84 N. Barrett Sq. | Rosemary Beach FL 32461

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Disco is a bachelorette shopping hotspot known for its apparel of bright-colored and white linen dresses. Rosemary Beach is one of the best-dressed beach towns I’ve been to, and if you want a little something to wear out on the town, pick up a fun beach dress here.

Disco: 46 North Barrett Square, #102, Rosemary Beach, Florida 32461

 

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The Rosemary Beach Trading Co. is your quintessential souvenir shop, where you’ll find monochromatic sweatshirts and t-shirts with “Rosemary Beach” stamped in white letters, beachy home decor, and holiday seashell ornaments. Go ahead and get matching sweatshirts for you and your family for those late-night strolls on the beach.

Rosemary Beach Store: 34 N Barrett Square, Rosemary Beach, FL 32461

Where to eat and drink

 

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As a popular local restaurant, booking a reservation at Gallions in advance is highly recommended. Fresh regional seafood and traditional Gulf fare, alongside innovative appetizers like the smoked fish dip and Gallion’s Butter Candle, make this a highlight, whether for a date night on the town or grabbing some lunch.

Gallions: 104 Barrett Square Unit C, Rosemary Beach, FL 32413

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We picked up some cold brews from Amavida Coffee Roasters as we meandered through the farmers market and window-shopped on a lazy Sunday morning. Being the coffee snob that I am (I work for a Guatemalan coffee roastery, so don’t judge me too hard), I found this place delightful, with organic and sustainably sourced coffee you can also purchase by the bag to take home.

Amavida Coffee Roasters: 104 North Barrett Square, Unit 1A Lofts West, Rosemary Beach, FL 32461

 

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The sunsets on 30A are not to be missed, and one of the best places to view them is at this rooftop bar with a glass of wine from their extensive wine list in hand. They also offer their own crafted cocktails, but if making a decision is not your holiday vibe, you can always request the Pescado Choice, where they’ll surprise you with seasonal ingredients. They also serve brunch from Wednesday through Saturday with favorite Creole-inspired Southern dishes like hot honey chicken, fried green tomatoes, and shrimp and grits. Be sure to check their schedule before heading there, as they occasionally host private events.

Pescado: 74 Town Hall Road, Suite 4B, Rosemary Beach, Florida 32459

Visit the uncrowded Inlet Beach

Sunset stroll on Inlet Beach’s sandbar. Photo: Kelsey Wilking

At Rosemary Beach, you’ll find the usual stretches of matching resort umbrellas and chairs. But Inlet Beach is mostly residential, with no hotels or resorts close by. It’s also next to Camp Helen State Park. There are swaths of unoccupied sections to find a spot with a view, offering a more private feel than other beaches.

Go wildlife watching or collect seashells

Inlet Beach’s Powell Lake feeds into the ocean through — you guessed it — an inlet and brings a blend of wildlife from freshwater to seawater. I spotted dolphins close to the sandbar at sunrise, cuttlefish and schools of other types of fish during afternoon swims, pelicans and sandpipers at sunset, and crabs during our moonlit strolls. And I mean tons of crabs. Did I feel like I was in a horror movie where hundreds of crabs descended upon me to feed on my soul? Yes. Did I love every minute of it? Also, yes.

If you’re more into shells than animals, you can also take an excursion to Shell Island for a private beach experience that highlights its namesake.

Walk to Camp Helen State Park

Camp Helen at Panama City Beach

Photo: EZ Miles/Shutterstock

Whether you stay in Inlet or Rosemary, make sure to hike through Camp Helen State Park, home to one of the largest coastal dune lakes in Florida. This brackish body of water is rare, occurring only in a few regions of the world, such as Australia, New Zealand, Madagascar, and, of course, the Florida Panhandle. Depressions in the dunes collect freshwater from rain or small streams, creating runoff to the ocean. When the surf comes in, the salty ocean water mixes with the freshwater, forming unique ecosystems that support rare plants and animals. You can kayak, take a guided tour, and even spot turtle eggs (mainly Loggerhead and Green sea turtle species) hatching in this protected wildlife area between May and October. And if you’re a birder, pick up some binoculars at the visitor center and head out to find everything from herons to ospreys to kingfishers.

Bike the Timpoochee Trail

You can bike from Destin to Panama City Beach on the Timpoochee Trail that connects all of 30A’s 19 miles. Near Rosemary Beach, multiple paved paths make this a very bikeable area. Rent a bike for the week ($70 for one week) instead of a single day ($40 per day). Bike from Rosemary Beach to Alys Beach, a beach community known for its all-white architecture, in only four minutes and stop at the cottage restaurant, George’s, for lunch.

Take your pup to Dog Beach

Dog Beach in Panama City Beach, 15 min drive from Inlet Beach. Photo: Kelsey Wilking

The beaches along 30A aren’t exactly dog-friendly. Residents are only allowed to bring their dogs to the beach between 3:00 PM and 8:00 PM. I saw a few rule breakers but didn’t want to risk the $100 fine as the code compliance police strictly enforce it. The good news is Dog Beach in Panama City Beach is only a 15-minute drive from Inlet Beach. We made the trek (it was our dog’s first time at any beach) and enjoyed the small space where dogs roam leash-free.

Beach days are best with a group — bachelorette or otherwise

Hailing from Nashville, I’m no stranger to the wilds of bachelorette parties. However, Rosemary Beach has become a popular destination for these groups, providing a more intimate and relaxed experience. Only here do bachelorette groups trade cowboy hats and boots for sundresses and bikinis. Pro tip: you can rent a bonfire directly on the beach for you and your crew while roasting s’mores underneath the stars. And yes, alcohol is allowed on the beach (just no glass containers). Add some additional zen to your stay with yoga on the beach with the Salty Yogis. Or escape the heat entirely and book a massage.

Where to stay near Rosemary Beach

Apartment close to Inlet Beach

Photo: AirbnbPhoto: AirbnbPhoto: Airbnb

We stayed at this affordable, cute, and cozy apartment on the first floor, within easy walking distance to Inlet and Rosemary Beach. It had a communal pool and was dog-friendly at the time of booking.

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The Pearl Hotel

Photo: Booking.comPhoto: Booking.comPhoto: Booking.comPhoto: Booking.com

One of the best hotels in Florida, this luxurious beachfront resort is the perfect place to pamper yourself with your own designated beach chair and umbrellas, a poolside spa, a welcome cocktail, and bicycles for exploring the city center. Instead of finding chocolate on your pillow before bed, you’ll receive a baked good delivered to you every evening.

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Turtle Watch Home

Photo: Booking.comPhoto: Booking.comPhoto: Booking.comPhoto: Booking.com

This oceanside home features a private pool, multiple balconies for sunset viewing, and eight beds so your entire group can stay comfortably.

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Seven-bedroom beach home

Photo: AirbnbPhoto: AirbnbPhoto: Airbnb

This seven-bedroom home is directly on the beach and can accommodate 16+ people, perfect for large groups and family reunions. It has a private pool, beach access, and of course, stunning ocean views.

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Guesthouse near Panama City Beach

Photo: AirbnbPhoto: AirbnbPhoto: Airbnb

Closer to Rosemary Beach, this guesthouse has access to a saltwater pool and hot tub within walking distance of the beach. It’s a great spot for easy walking to dinner for Rosemary Beach restaurants.

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Hi, I’m Steven, a Florida native, who left my career in corporate wealth management six years ago to embark on a summer of soul searching that would change the course of my life forever.

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