Ok, so we can all agree that 2020 has been a year like no other, Right? We all had plans, trips that were put on hold or halted all together, and if you’re anything like me, travelling is about maintaining sanity. So when I realized that those anticipated trips for summer 2020 were not going to happen, I was totally deflated. I had hopes of spending my birthday in Greece, and trekking around Europe, but the pandemic situation said otherwise. So how did I survive the summer of 2020? Not one airline trip to wander off to, but I was still able to find peace, fun, and unexpectedly had one of the best summers ever by driving a couple of hours to the Emerald Coast.
I have spent many weekends in Destin/South Walton/30a areas, but this summer was different. This summer I had time, no rushing to try and get it all in before heading back home due to work waiting on me Monday morning. I extended my hotel stays, enjoyed adult beverages while soaking up some Vitamin D, and satisfying my taste buds along the way.
Hands down, my favorite area of the Emerald Coast is 30a. Here you will find 19 miles of beauteous beaches and some of the best dining. Get lost in the ocean hues, and sunsets that make you forget your worries.
If you are wanting to experience nothing but the beach, Grayton Beach State Park is the perfect place to unwind. Just keep in mind as a state park, you must bring you own chairs and umbrellas, and also no alcoholic beverages allowed, but it is indeed a great spot to relax and enjoy the ocean. Once you are done lounging on the beach, the little town of Grayton Beach is definitely worth exploring. This area has a vintage, hippy feel to it. Grabbing a drink at The Red Bar (theredbar.com) and Grayton Beer Brewpub are a must. I must mention that I am not a beer drinker, but the Grayton Beer Company 30a Blonde Ale is perfect on a hot summer day.
Now let’s talk food!! There are countless of restaurants serving up deliciousness, so let me share some of my favorites.
I’ll start with one of my breakfast places that I love, Bud & Alley’s, located in Seaside. Although I love their breakfast most, their lunch and dinner selections are tasty as well, along with good libations. Bud & Alley’s seating also gives you views of The Gulf of Mexico that are not only beautiful but so serene. budandalleys.com
A couple of my dinner favorites are Local Catch and Stinky’s Fish Camp. Local Catch, even though there isn’t a view of the ocean, the food is delicious. Their Shrimp n Grits, SUPERB, along with their selections of live entertainment, makes is it a great dinner spot (localcatch30a.com). Now Stinky’s Fish Camp does not have oceans views but offers bay view seating on it’s patio. I have had brunch and dinner at Stinky’s Fish Camp, and enjoyed it both (stinkysfishcamp.com). Both of these restaurants are also a favorite with the “locals”. Nevertheless, you will not disappointed.
There are two restaurants that are not on 30a, but are so definitely worth checking out. The Surf Hut in Destin has really good food and ocean views that are simply breathtaking! surfhutdestin.com
An unexpected find was Capt. Dave’s on The Gulf. Definitely a perfect family oriented eatery with views and tasty food. captdavesonthegulf.com
As a foodie I’m always looking for new places to dine. Although the place that has become my favorite restaurant for brunch is not in 30a, but a short drive to Rosemary Beach, perfect on all levels. From the ambience, views, and excellent food, Pescado Seafood Grill and Rooftop Bar, has the dining experience down to perfection. I absolutely loved everything about Pescado, and honestly the staff was too notch, it was the most pleasant dining experience I’ve encountered in some time. Again, let me just say PERFECT! rooftop30@.com
One last food favorite is Shunk and Gulley Oyster Bar in Santa Rosa. The location is perfect because it’s right across the street from the beach. Soak up some sun and walk over to Shunk Gulley to refuel while you take in the view. shunkgulley.com
Once you have had your share of sunning, there are plenty of fun filled excursions. No matter how many times we have done the Sea Blaster Sunset Dolphin Cruise, it never disappoints. This boat excursion has the best crew! Oh and yes it’s always exciting to see the dolphins come out and play! destinseablaster.com
If you’re looking to party “in” the sea, Crab Island is the place. From live music to floating restaurants, even an ice cream truck, well it’s actually a jet ski, Crab Island is a lot of fun! You can rent a boat, jet ski, or ride a water taxi (crabislandwatertaxi.com) to the party. I picked the water taxi four hour excursion, and it was loads of fun despite not having some of the activities due to Covid 19.
I survived Summer 2020 by keeping a golden tan, countless adult beverages, and plenty of foodie experiences. The Sunshine State is and will always be one of my favorite destinations, and the Emerald Coast truly has a piece of my heart.