Posted on 7/12/2022
When planning a beach vacation, the first thing to do is decide which beach to visit. If you’re headed to the Emerald Coast in Northwest Florida, you’ve likely heard of Destin. It’s a popular tourist destination—and for good reason! The pristine beaches and warm waves are superb. The area is low-key and laidback, while offering a variety of cool coastal activities, amazing restaurants, family-friendly fun, and nightlife opportunities.
What you might not know, however, is this slice of Emerald Coast paradise is home to several other popular beach towns. So, if you haven’t yet picked your next coastal getaway destination, check out these favorite visitor spots before you book!
Often mistaken for Destin, Miramar Beach is actually its own little beach oasis located just east of Destin. Miramar Beach features a larger selection of vacation homes and some of the most sought-after condos along the coast. These include beach view condos like Majestic Sun, Amalfi Coast, Edgewater, and so many others. Many of Miramar Beach’s vacation condos boast stellar Gulf views, swimming pools, on-site fitness centers, tennis and basketball courts, and convenient beach access. If you’re looking for something a little more quiet and private than a condo, Miramar Beach also has a number of private vacation homes that are perfect for family getaways or romantic excursions. Some of these even have private pools for guest enjoyment!
In addition to comfortable accommodations, Miramar Beach is centrally located—meaning close to all the coastal fun, shopping, dining, and entertainment along the coast. In the heart of town, you’ll find Seascape Resort with championship golf, tennis, and recreation rentals available. And Ocean Reef Resorts guests receive discounted rates at Seascape, too! Silver Sands Premium Outlets is a well-known designer outlet mall with amazing finds and juicy discounts. Whether you’re looking for a new outfit or some much-needed retail therapy, Silver Sands is a fun place to explore. Some local and visitor favorite restaurants in Miramar Beach include the beachfront Whale’s Tail, Fat Clemenza’s (authentic Italian), the laidback Surf Hut, and Royal Palm Grille (sushi, steak, and seafood).
Read more: Destin vs Miramar Beach
Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort is the most popular resort in Northwest Florida. It offers fun from the Gulf of Mexico beach to the Choctawhatchee Bay. The resort is set in the most perfect coastal setting—with snow-white beaches to the south, shaddy forest throughout, and the glistening bay to the north. Not only does the resort offer incredible vacation rentals, it also boasts one-of-a-kind vacation amenities.
This resort is a golfer’s paradise. With four—yes, you read that right—championship golf courses, how could it not be? The Links, Baytowne Golf Club, Raven Golf Club, and Burnt Pine Golf Club each offer their own unique golfing experience for golfers of all levels. But golf isn’t the only outdoor recreational activity this Gulf Coast destination has to offer. When you stay at Sandestin, you’ll have access to swimming pools, tennis courts, and water rentals for bay-to-beach recreation.
One of the best parts about Sandestin, though, is the Village of Baytowne Wharf. Located on the bay, the Village of Baytowne Wharf is a vibrant collection of stores, restaurants, and activities. You can shop ‘til you drop at the unique shops that dot the Village. Enjoy bayside dining at Marina Bar & Grill, Fat Tuesday Daquiri Bar, Poppy’s Crazy Lobster, and many others. A zip line, carousel, ropes course, arcade, escape room, and much more provides fun for the whole family. Baytowne LIVE features live music throughout the summer months, while fireworks blast off every Boomin’ Tuesday for a great end of the day treat.
With so much to offer at Sandestin, you’ll never have to leave during your entire vacation.
Read more: Destin vs Sandestin
Panama City Beach
Panama City Beach is another great vacation destination alternative in Northwest Florida. And with average lower costs than Destin, it’s more bang for your buck! This area also has a lot of fun attractions for kids, making it a great family-friendly getaway option.
While there are a variety of lodging options, Splash Resort is one specifically for families and kids. It’s the only resort in Panama City Beach with its own water park—how cool is that?? The waterpark includes waterslides, water toys, a lazy river, and a “dive-in” movie theater. The resort is also located right on the beach, so you can hop on over to those sugary shores whenever your heart desires.
One must-visit spot in Panama City Beach is Pier Park, which features premier shopping and entertainment for locals and visitors alike. There are over 100 shops to browse, a variety of restaurants, an IMAX theater, and a mirror maze. If you like evening and nighttime fun, Dave and Buster’s or Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge are great options for you. You can also take a walk down the pier, where you can enjoy unending views of blue-green water glistening brightly under the Florida sun.
Santa Rosa Beach
Santa Rosa Beach encompasses much of Scenic Highway 30A, which is a collection of cute beach towns that dot the Emerald Coast. In general, the atmosphere in Santa Rosa Beach is laidback and relaxed. It’s a place where time slows down, and the stresses of everyday life are left at home. Of course, not every 30A beach town is the same and each has its own personality and following, too. A few of the most popular coastal towns on 30A include Dune Allen Beach, Blue Mountain Beach, Grayton Beach, and Seagrove Beach.
Dune Allen Beach
Dune Allen Beach is located on the western edge of Scenic Highway 30A, and this is where you can find the Gulf Place Town Center. This 30A hotspot is just across the street from the beach, which may be accessed by the public Ed Walline Regional Beach Access. Gulf Place Town Center itself is home to a variety of restaurants, shops, and art galleries. Sunrise Coffee Co. is a great spot to grab your morning coffee before enjoying a peaceful walk on the beach, while Pizza by the Sea is a favorite lunch spot for vacationers. For recreation rentals, YOLO Board + Bike has you covered. If you’re looking for a cute souvenir, check out the Artists at Gulf Place. This collection of outdoor art galleries features unique finds from local artists. Gulf Place Town Center also has a grassy amphitheater which is used for live music and seasonal events.
Blue Mountain Beach
Blue Mountain Beach has the highest elevation of any town of 30A, and it might make the top of your vacation destination list! With vacation homes perched on tall sand dunes, visitors can enjoy some of the best Gulf Coast views. In addition to the beach, Blue Mountain Beach has two rare coastal dune lakes (Draper Lake and Big Red Fish Lake), which are perfect for paddleboarding, kayaking, birdwatching, or simply enjoying the coastal outdoors. The town itself is quaint with a small-town feel. When you stay in Blue Mountain Beach, be sure to visit Blue Mountain Beach Creamery, Red Fish Taco, and Blue Mabel Smokehouse & Provisions for delicious meals and tasty treats.
Grayton Beach is as laidback as it gets when it comes to coastal living. Here, it’s all about enjoying every moment and not stressing about the hard times. Grayton Beach State Park and Western Lake are must-visit spots for those who love the peaceful nature the great outdoors. At the beach, you’ll find water lovers of all ages swimming, paddle boarding, snorkeling, diving, surfing, and windsurfing. The historic village of Grayton Beach is only a short distance from the sugar-white sands and jeweled-toned waves. The vibrant town center includes popular dining options like The Red Bar and Chiringo, as well as an eclectic shop known as the Zoo Gallery. A little further north, the Shops at Grayton offer additional shopping and dining opportunities. Grab a coffee at Black Bear Bread Co., browse incredible beach photography at Modus Photo, dine in at Hurricane Oyster Bar, or make your own piece of glass art at the Shard Shop.
If you’re on the lookout for a beach vacation full of quiet privacy and laidback enjoyment, Seagrove Beach is exactly what you’re looking for. Spanning two miles of the South Walton coast, Seagrove has several public beach access points, making it easy to hop on over to the picture-perfect shores. The town hearkens back to simpler times with old classic Florida homes, but also looks to the future with newer modern homes right next door. Many of the available vacation homes give a sense of privacy, while still being conveniently close to shops, restaurants, and vacation activities. A few places to visit while here include Seagrove Village Market Café, the upscale Café Thirty-A, and the Perfect Pig.
No matter where you vacation on the Emerald Coast, you’re bound to have a memorable experience! Whether it’s in Destin or any of these other great Gulf Coast towns, there is plenty to see and do. Browse our vacation rentals to discover what is right for you. Once you find it, book your stay with us, and we’ll help make your next vacation one you won’t forget!