When you think about a beach vacation, your mind usually turns to shimmering waves, warm sand, and palms swaying in the wind. Your mind fills with peaceful dreams of relaxing on the shore, without a care in the world. But another thought might creep up on you, as well—how are you going to keep up with your exercise routine when all you want to do is lay on the beach? Fortunately, a beach vacation doesn’t mean you have to forgo your exercise. In fact, it might even motivate you to have a change of scenery!
Scenic Highway 30A on the Emerald Coast is a 28.5-mile stretch of stunning coastline, making it the ideal place for running. Whether you’re a longtime runner or novice, 30A is an awesome location to go on a run.
Check out these nine ways to run 30A… and then don’t forget to pack your running shoes when you visit!
The “Check-In” Run
Don’t wait to get a workout in, go for a run after you check in to your rental! One of the great things about check-in day is experiencing and exploring your surroundings. Why not do this while on a run? As you run, glance up at towering palms, breathe the salty air, and feel the coastal breezes on your skin. Check out the beach homes and cottages that make up the vibrant 30A neighborhoods. And don’t forget to explore the Timpoochee bike path that extends along 30A. From your property, simply find the bike path along the road and see where it takes you! Spoiler alert: it takes you everywhere.
Related Article: 30A Runs & Races
Local Favorite Run
30A locals, of course, have extensive knowledge of the best running routes. And locals agree that a secret to this lovely slice of paradise is the trail system that starts in Santa Rosa Beach and goes all the way to Seaside. These trails are well-marked, quiet, beautiful, and they maintain the authentic Florida feel. They meander through the native pine forests, cross bridges, and traverse a few small roads. The Longleaf Pine Greenway trailhead is off of Satinwood Drive across from Goatfeathers in Santa Rosa Beach. Here, you will find parking and a bathroom. There is also a bathroom at the end of the trail on Highway 395. Total mileage for your run will vary depending on how you want to spend your energy, but you can string together up to 14.2 miles from Santa Rosa to Seaside.
30A Community Run
Another great way to get a run in and see some behind-the-scenes stuff is to pick a 30A community and hit the road. There are over ten towns to choose from, starting in Dune Allen Beach to Inlet Beach. Start with the community you’re staying for vacation, or pick a different one—either way, you’ll enjoy a great run with even better sightseeing. WaterColor is a local favorite, as it has plenty of parking and the trail system is amazing. In WaterColor, you’ll not only get off the beaten path, but you’ll see some impressive homes along the way, from cute cottages to luxury homes. And once you’ve finished your run, the town center is the perfect place to grab a water or a bite to eat. Bonus: there are bathrooms as well.
The Ocean Reef Collective Sticker Run
Okay, so we just sort of made this up. But we think it’s fun! If you’ve eaten too much and want to work off some calories before heading back to your vacation home, what better way than to run the whole thing? Yes, the entire stretch of 30A! You’ll experience a little bit of everything along the way. Trails, roads, neighborhoods and communities, cool beach spots you probably missed, coastal dunes, and more! When you’re done, swing by the Grayton Beach Ocean Reef office, present your worn-out running shoes and sweat stains, and we’ll give you a collectible Ocean Reef sticker. Then, every time you look at it, you’ll know you earned it.
Related article: 30A Stickers
Run the Parks
Who doesn’t love exploring state parks? They’re peaceful, and there’s always something new to see. In the peak season (Memorial Day to Labor Day), the state parks are free. So, that’s a win! But even during off-season, the parks are inexpensive to explore. Grayton Beach State Park and Topsail Hill Preserve State Park are each $4/vehicle. If you’re not driving into the park, you can find the Grayton Beach State Park trailhead north of the park on 30A. The trail is open from 8 am to sunset, and it is free to use year-round. It intersects with the Longleaf Greenway trail, so you can run to your heart’s content. If you do drive, Grayton Beach State Park has a total mileage of 2.5 miles from the beach parking lot to the entrance and back. Topsail Preserve features 4 miles from the parking area to Campbell Lake and back. Camp Helen also has an extensive trail system that rocks. The north end of the trail is a paved pathway that traverses Powell Lake, while the south side of the trail is packed sand that will take you all the way to the beach. If you’re vacationing long enough, you might want to check out all of these places and then decide which is your favorite running route.
The “It’s okay if you walk” Run
You don’t always need to be going top speed while you exercise, it’s okay to walk. After all, it’s still exercise, and sometimes it’s easier and more enjoyable to enjoy the sights if you’re not worried about your breathing, heart rate, and not tripping! Alys Beach has a surprisingly great trail system. It is located at the back of the community and meanders for about a mile through a few trails and over a couple of bridges. If you park at Raw and Juicy and walk to the trailhead, you can get a nice little two-miler in. And while you’re at it, you can check out some cool Alys Beach art sculptures along the way!
Keep reading: Walking on 30A
30a Bike Paths Run
As mentioned previously, there is quite a system of bike paths and trails on 30A. The benefit of sticking to these paths is that you can always find a bathroom or a place to a break, grab some water and food, or browse a gallery or boutique. Other benefits include smooth trails that are easier on your joints, friendly folk, refreshing shade, and scenic views.
Beach Access Run
An easy way to ease into the week is with a guaranteed, no-regret run between the 30A beach access points. Park at a beach access and run the bike path to the next one. This way, you not only have bathrooms along your run, but you have a saved parking spot for the rest of your beach day excursions. To beat the beach crowd even in the peak season, be sure to park and start your run prior to or around 9 am. Early bird gets the worm—even (or especially) on vacation!
Beach Access Run Mileage
Whether you’re training or simply curious, sometimes you want to know the distance you’ve covered on a run. We understand and want to make it as easy as possible for you! If you want to keep track of your miles, it’s easy to use the beach accesses as reference points. Here’s the distance between each 30A beach access point:
- Dune Allen Beach parking lot to Gulf Place: 1.5 miles along Scenic Highway 30A (Tack on an extra 0.5 miles by adding Allen Loop—a local favorite—into your route.)
- Gulf Place to Blue Mountain Beach: 2.2 miles
- Blue Mountain to Grayton Beach: 2.1 miles
- Grayton to Seaside (Airstream Row): 2.2 miles
- Seaside to the Hub 30A: 4.7 miles
- The Hub 30A to Rosemary Beach: 3.4 miles
- 1st Beach Access in Dune Allen to Rosemary Beach: 16.1 miles
We hope this gives you the motivation to keep up your running routine while on vacation! No matter where you’re staying, it’s super easy to get out and stretch your legs in this beautiful paradise. And if you haven’t booked your stay yet, be sure to browse our selection of 30A vacation rentals.