Posted on 12/2/2022
So you've been to Destin a couple of times, with the fams or your so. It's beautiful, the harbor, the beach, seafood, shopping, and back again. But do you ever get the feeling you may be missing something? Duh, you so are! Sprinkled just east of Destin's white sand shores, there are over two dozen heart-stopping, must-see little beach towns! Sadly, we can only cover a handful in this article due to the limitations of space and time. In our humble opinion, these are the cutest (think Labrador puppy) beach towns near, adjacent to, or by Destin, Florida, tailor-made to melt your heart.
But first, more on Destin!
Now back to your regularly scheduled program:
Just twenty years ago, the cutest and well-only communities, lol, along Scenic 30A were old Grayton Beach, Blue Mountain Beach, Seagrove Beach, and Seaside. Between 2003 and 2006, entire picture-perfect coastal villages sprouted up overnight. Not at all a surprise as the coastal beauty along this gorgeous stretch of beach is unrivaled the world over. One thing all the cutest communities have in common is nature. The pristine shoreline, the jeweled-toned waters of the gulf, vast forests, and exotic coastal dune lakes make up just a few of the local treasures. 15,000 Acres of our most forested land have been preserved, as well as award-winning state parks along Scenic 30A. All conspire to make the perfect backdrop to your beachy adventures.
Each 30A coastal village has its own "charm" and a certain unique ambiance. From west to east, the cute towns around are Dune Allen Beach, Santa Rosa Beach, WaterColor, Seagrove Beach, Watersound, Prominence, Seacrest Beach, and Inlet Beach. We chose to focus on the following most adorable: Blue Mountain Beach, Grayton Beach, and newcomers Seaside and Rosemary Beach. Here two are older and established, and two are relatively younger. Let's take a more intimate look at these stunning microcosms of cuteness.
Blue Mountain Beach
Blue Mountain Beach routinely receives acclaim for its breathtaking shoreline, but it is this dune's size that matters; it boasts the highest elevation on the entire Gulf of Mexico. The name goes back to Spanish explorers in the 1500s! While mapping the coastline of Florida, they thought they saw "blue mountains" bordering a "beach." What they saw from that distance were towering hills covered with indigenous Blue Lupine flowers. The forested hills here rise almost seventy feet into the sky and can resemble mountains from afar compared to the relatively flat elevations alongside them. They named it "Blu La Montana La Playa" (Blue Mountain Beach).
Beyond the soft blue flowers, the coastal village of Blue Mountain Beach is a brilliant community with an enchanting laid-back, bohemian atmosphere, home to many local artists and eateries. It's a great place to take a long walk. It features the yummiest local restaurants, lively bars, an old-fashioned ice cream parlor, a wonderful bakery, and Walton County's oldest health food store.
Looking for light bites? Cowgirl Kitchen has your number. A long-time local favorite, this place recently moved from Seagrove - and by "moved," we mean they brought the entire '50s style beach cottage it was built in, via trailer transported to Blue Mountain Beach. Don't miss this place. Just next door, you'll find the delicious Blue Mable; it features to-die-for delights and is the spot for brunch, featuring fun Capri sun-style wine pouches; hello! Looking to grab a bite with 1-20 close friends? Try the newest place in town. Mimmo's is Destin's favorite Italian restaurant and offers some of the area's most critically acclaimed cuisine. Fun fact it has, hands-down, the most attractive wait staff around. Pop by; it's right on 30A, by the west side of town. Have a drink or a light 5-course meal. The perfect place to take your fittest friends... For the Health of It features organic produce, smoothies, homeopathic remedies, Tupelo honey, scented soaps, candles, and (Mmmmmm!) massage therapy.
Grayton Beach is the cuddliest of enclaves. Home to eccentrics, artists, and wealthy folks with mysterious backgrounds, ooooh. It was thrust into the limelight around 2000. At that time, a popular bumper sticker around town read: "Grayton Beach, Nice Dogs. Strange People." It is an old town, with old ways *chuckle. It was established in the late 1800s as a small summer fishing destination way before paved roads or electricity was even an option. The architecture here is so very quaint. The historic village center of Grayton Beach borders the jeweled waters of the glittering gulf and Western Lake. Coastal Dune Lakes like this one are precious natural treasures that are found hardly anywhere else in the entire world.
Hard stop kids: this is one of the most romantic walks you can take. A stroll by a coastal dune lake with the moon reflecting off the dune-framed, cola-colored waters, sorry, there's nothing else like this on the planet. Creek-like estuaries meander across the sugary dunes from the artisan spring-fed lake into the open gulf and tidal action creating a magical mixture of brackish water. This supports a thriving habitat for wildlife, a wide variety of fish, and lots of waterfowl. A village dock invites visitors to go paddle boarding, kayaking, or fishing while exploring the lovely lake. This lake and shoreline borders the expansive, highly acclaimed Grayton Beach State Park, which was reported by Forbes Magazine to be one of the most beautiful beaches in America.
Besides having easy access to the beautiful beach and lake, this locale offers a real hustle and bustle; you can feel it in the air. The famous Red Bar in the heart of old Grayton Beach serves great food, craft cocktails, wine, and beer - breath - all while providing live music nightly! The unique Zoo Gallery is right across the street with a vibrant, colorful array of decorative art, jewelry, and very unique beach-inspired furnishings created by select artists nationwide. The Tribe Kelley Surf Post right next door offers a nice array of chic, fashionable coastal clothing along with handpicked shore-styled accouterments. While in town, you won't want to miss the Grayton Art Wall, complete with the requisite angel wings, perfect for leveling up your selfie game. If people watching and tropical drinks are in order, stop by Chiringo; they have an infamous karaoke night, seafood, live music seasonally, and interesting drinks. Try the "Billy Ocean," perfect for that rum-loving Caribbean Queen in your group (P.S. this may be you). Destin's famous A.J.'s Seafood & Oyster Bar now has a Grayton Beach location which is only about a minute away by car. They feature delicious oysters and fresh gulf-caught seafood, and best of all, they have rollicking bands that play every night into the wee hours of the morning. Can you say party central?
A short distance to the east over the often Instagrammed Western Lake is Seaside which, in addition to being the cutest (the council has spoken), has become an internationally acclaimed architectural village. Here candy-colored cottages frame brick-lined streets that lead to some of the most beautiful beaches, lol, and people in the world. Gravel paths intersect throughout, creating a web of shaded walkways. Some homes have intricate ginger breading, and some are starkly modern, but all are nestled in this quaint, one-of-a-kind town. It was this place that reintroduced the world to a pedestrian-friendly "New Urbanism" design. In the early 1980s, this perfectly planned community began its development.
The town encompasses eighty acres and hosts more than three hundred homes. You'll find over a dozen restaurants, bars, and eateries here. It also boasts dozens of specialty shops, boutiques, and art galleries. The idyllic village served as the film location in 1998 for The Truman Show with Jim Carey and Laura Linney. The nostalgic Americana is designed to create a small charming "seaside" town atmosphere, pedestrian friendly and living proof "that everything old is new again." An outdoor amphitheater ringed by towering Royal Palm trees plays host to free live concerts, fun festivals, and holiday firework celebrations. Don't fall in love here; just kidding!
The charming Village of Rosemary Beach is at the far eastern end of Scenic 30A, about eighteen miles from the Dune Allen Beach's western gateway. It is a highly enchanting colonial Dutch West Indies-styled coastal village. With nooks and crannies made of architectural elements, aka the perfect place to steal a kiss. Although meticulously completed in fairly recent years, it resembles classic colonial-styled settlements with stepped gable rooftops, walled courtyards, and stately bearings.
A long, lush lawn serves as a village green where outdoor concerts, old-fashioned Americana-styled family games, art shows, festivals, and seasonal fireworks are featured. The soaring dune-topped view of the glowing waters is heavenly. Walk down the Western Green Village Beach Access point from Barret Square on Scenic 30A; it meanders toward the bright white beach below. The street is filled with specialty shops, fashion boutiques, bistros, and second-floor townhomes. You'll feel like you are in Europe, not the Emerald Coast. Nooks, crannies, hidden gardens, and sculptures abound, and you can't help but catch the buzz Rosemary Beach exudes. You won't want to miss the Sunday Farmers Market, so much local produce, crafts, and a vibe like no other!
Browse Ocean Reef Resorts vacation rentals on our website. Detailed descriptions of each complement vivid property images, aerial location views, seasonal rental rates, and calendar dates. If you are lucky, they are still available to make reservations. Some of our most popular offerings are in Blue Mountain and Grayton Beach due to the variety, laid-back atmosphere, less traffic, and lower costs. Both quite are close to Seaside and Rosemary Beach.
Wherever you choose to play, Ocean Reef Resorts will find you a captivating and, yes, wonderfully "cute" town to stay in, so enjoy!