Alys Beach

Author: Will Estell

This Mediterranean inspired beach town was founded and developed by Birmingham, Alabama based EBSCO, and named after the founder’s granddaughter, Alys. You’ll first notice Alys Beach when you drive between the massive white butteries at the entrance. Everything about Alys looks different than most everything else on famous 30A and you may feel as if you’ve been teleported to some beach town in another country. Rest assured you’re still in the good ole US of A, just a rarer part of it. Alys Beach is still very much a work in progress and should continue to build out and grow for many years to come, though it’s already a great place to rent a house for a week… or buy for a lifetime. From the expansive resort style Caliza Pool to George’s restaurant to Fonville Press, Alys is a unique coastal getaway like none you’ve probably visited in this country, and that’s what makes it so special. Renting for a week in Alys Beach certainly isn’t cheap, with prices upwards of $8,000 to $12,000 per week for a house, however if you have the means I’d highly suggest taking the week.

Blue Mountain Beach

Author: Will Estell

This beach community was originally named for its blue lupine flowers found growing in the wild, as well as for having the highest dunes on the Northwest Florida Gulf Coast. Blue Mountain Beach is a rather laid-back area with everything from 60s-era beach cottages to modern waterfront beach mansions. However, the many adventure opportunities from hiking its cypress swamps and pine groves of Point Washington State Forest to biking the Timpoochee Trail make Blue Mountain a favorite of so many visitors.

Carillon Beach

Carillon Beach began as a pristine parcel of beachfront land consisting of approximately 104 acres and 3900 feet of white sandy beaches bordering the Gulf of Mexico. Lloyd Vogt, a renowned architect from New Orleans, was engaged to develop our town plan. Lloyd’s love of historical preservation coupled with his knowledge of traditional urbanism formed the look and feel of what Carillon is today. He knew the plan needed to recognize that a community beside the seashore has different requirements from a typical town layout. It was important that the town’s arrangement make the beach accessible both physically and visually. The features and their placement emphasized a sense of community, and were planned to encourage pedestrian, bike, and cart traffic.Both homes and amenities in Carillon contribute to weaving a fine community fabric that is functional while being aesthetically pleasing to the eye. It is a place where family, neighbors and friends can enjoy the environment and each other, while feeling safe and having a true sense of community. In a word… it is home.

Eden Gardens

The focal point of this 161-acre park is the beautifully renovated, two-story Wesley house with its elegant white columns and wrap-around porch. The moss-draped live oaks and ornamental gardens inspire visions of hoop skirts and landed gentry. Named after a wealthy Florida timber family, the park is part of the family’s estate. In 1963, Lois Maxon bought and renovated the home, creating a showplace for her family heirlooms and antiques. The house holds the second largest known collection of Louis XVI furniture in the United States. Visitors can also take a stroll along the grounds and enjoy the picnic area.

 

Grayton Beach

Author: Will Estell

Grayton Beach will celebrate 125 years in 2015, and is probably the most historic dot on the South Walton map. A town built on lots of history and one that stands true to its slogan, “Nice Dogs, Friendly Folks.” Grayton Beach is probably as down home, laid-back and old-school as any beach community can be. With its narrow oak lined streets, great fishing and watersports opportunities, as well as Western Lake and Grayton Beach State Park, Grayton Beach is a true paradise that has morphed to accommodate modernism, without having lost its old southern beach town charm. In 1885, U.S. Army Major, Charles Gray constructed a home on the piece of coast now known as Grayton Beach. The federal government owned most of the area land and not many people had any reason to move there. The area was beautiful in its coastline and views, but the sand was terrible for trying to grow anything one needed and the timber was not plentiful compared to other areas to the north. Skip forward about five years and two Army Generals, William Miller and William Wilson, both moved their families to the beach haven, and began to lay the ground work for the blocks and streets that would become their new town. It was named Grayton Beach after Major Gray, but reaching the area was somewhat of a chore as there wasn’t yet a bridge over Choctawhatchee Bay. Another early settler, W. H. Butler and his son, Van R. Butler, (who now has a South Walton school named after him) made the day-long trip from DeFuniak Springs to Grayton Beach in 1913 and simply decided to make it their new home. The Butler family decided to start a resort project and bought most of the land that is now known as Grayton Beach. This was the real beginning of Grayton Beach and its life as a vacation and resort destination. The Butler family built and rented cottages, sold building lots, and even ran Grayton’s dance hall-once located where the well-known Red Bar is today- and general mercantile. With all of this history and charm, combined with wonderful beaches and lots of activities for adventure, Grayton is a place you certainly want to spend some time in on your next vacation to South Walton.

Gulf Place

Author: Will Estell

Gulf Place is located right on Scenic Highway 30A, and has been making a name as a great place to dine, shop, and stay over the last decade. As the newest addition to the exclusive list of South Walton beach neighborhoods Gulf Place combines a town center and amphitheater, numerous swimming pools, well-manicured lawns, and more than 200 accommodation rentals quickly achieving distinction as a complete vacation destination. With all this and beautiful views of the clear turquoise waters and sugar-white beaches a visit to Gulf Place will have you coming back for more.

Inlet Beach

Author: Will Estell

A visit to Inlet Beach is like a visit to a place you’ve been before. You’ll feel like a local in no time in this laid-back community with beach cottages and three story waterfront homes. A primary mode of transportation is bicycling in Inlet Beach and doing so is a great way to unwind along the quiet streets, or make a quick jaunt to a local eatery. Inlet Beach is also home to the single largest public beach access point in all of South Walton; meaning you will often make new friends while getting away with old ones. Just remember that a few days spent here make you a local no matter where you really call home.

Miramar Beach

Author: Will Estell

Miramar Beach is that classic beach town from years ago. Miramar is made of great restaurants, large beachfront homes with expansive decks and beach resorts and condos with spectacular views of the beautiful gulf. There’s even an RV park offering beachfront camping, for those who like to rough it a little while taking it easy. Miramar is also home to lots of fabulous eateries, entertainment, and Silver Sands Premium Outlets, the nation’s largest designer outlet center.

Rosemary Beach

Author: Will Estell
From Rosemary’s wide-open wrap-around porches to its Town Center with a New Orleans French Quarter quality to the many eclectic shops and restaurants, there is something for everyone to like in this exquisite beach town. To spend a few days in Rosemary is like a venture to another place in time. One where people move at a slower pace and spend their days making new friends, browsing the boutiques, and playing in one of the four swimming pools. Don’t forget the beach when you’re here though. It’s still half of this town’s name, and most of the appeal to those who vacation or live in this village on the coast.

Sandestin

Author: Will Estell

Sandestin Golf & Beach Resort is practically its own city, with 2,400 acres and over 1,400 rental properties ranging from condos to homes. From shopping to dining to watersports to playing on the beach, there’s always plenty to do at Sandestin. Offering three championship golf courses and world-class tennis programs, along with spas and adventure activities, Sandestin caters to both the romantic couple on a getaway to the extended family on a week-long vacation. Sandestin offers the only marina in South Walton as well as the well-known Village of Baytowne Wharf with its numerous shops, restaurants and entertainment venues. While you’re in the mood to shop you’ll also want to visit nearby Grand Boulevard for some retail therapy. Sandestin plays host to festivals and events all year long and is known for being one of the most popular resorts in the entire country.

Santa Rosa Beach

Author: Will Estell

Santa Rosa Beach is one of the original two communities in South Walton, originally settled in the late 1800’s, and officially founded in 1910. Santa Rosa Beach already boasted 1200 residents by the 1920’s. Santa Rosa Beach actually encompasses a larger area than many of the beach communities of South Walton, and as such has something for everyone. From luxury beach homes and exquisite waterfront condos, to upscale dining and the well-known Santa Rosa Golf & Beach Club, Santa Rosa Beach is a place you’ll want to spend some time no matter where you stay in South Walton.

Seacrest Beach

Author: Will Estell

If peace and quiet is what you’re after then Seacrest Beach may be just the place for you. This community’s laid-back tranquility is perfect for really getting away. Resting on the eastern end of Scenic Highway 30A, this eclectic mix of classic Florida beach houses and brand new waterfront homes is something different from much of the other South Walton beach communities. Many of the homes are inhabited full time by their primary owners, though you can also rent vacation properties in the area. Besides the beach, Seacrest offers fishing, kayaking, swimming, hiking and golfing. You may also want to check out the opportunities for bird and wildlife viewing at Camp Creek Lake. This is another one of South Walton’s coastal dune lakes that are so rare across the rest of the world.

Seagrove Beach

Author: Will Estell

Seagrove Beach is a unique beach community that has an eclectic mix of old beach homes and newer beach cottages surrounded by lots of big oaks, vibrant flowers, and sugar-white beaches. With an abundant menu of off-beach activities that range from exploring Point Washington State Forest to browsing the beach shops and partaking of the restaurants dotted along this stretch, you’re sure to find something to catch your attention and fill your time while in Seagrove Beach.

Seaside

Author: Will Estell

Perhaps the shirts available in the Seaside stores say it best; “Nothing except Seaside is just like Seaside.” This quaint beach town, located about halfway down Scenic Highway 30A, was established in 1981 and has spawned hundreds of copy-cat communities around the world – none of which seem to have captured the true essence of what made the original what it is today. Seaside is about simplicity meeting modernism in a way that I’ve never seen any place be able to imitate. It really is home to wood floors and sandy feet, yet it is still a haven for the well-heeled affluent who want to get away from their gated homes, Porsche SUVs, and six-figure salaries and just relax at the beach.

With small town charm, vibrant but simple architecture, an outdoor amphitheater, a nationally acclaimed arts festival, and great eateries like Bud & Alley’s, Great Southern Café, Crush, Pickles, and Beachside BBQ, I believe it to be one of the best places to visit anywhere. That’s probably just what you’d expect from a town that wrote the rules for New Urbanism, and where the picture-perfect pastel homes and picket fences played stars alongside Jim Carrey in 1998 hit film, The Truman Show. Above-and-beyond that however, there’s so much more to Seaside than what myself or any other writer can put into words. It’s a beach town, much like all of the South Walton communities that you literally have to experience for yourself to truly understand why there is nothing else like it. Now call or visit the town’s primary vacation home provider, Cottage Rental Agency, located in Seaside’s town center, and discover it for yourself.

Watercolor

Author: Will Estell

This 500 acre resort community is located on each side of, and behind, the town of Seaside and has become an uber popular hangout for vacationers from all over the world, as well as locals. With its numerous paved, rock, and wood bike trails, as well as, lakes, wooded areas, and preserved dunes, WaterColor has been applauded for its eco-friendly design. The resort has also caught the attention of many celebrities and sports figures who make it a regular vacation spot of their own. Think about it this way; if Kenny Chesney has chosen WaterColor Inn and their famous Fish Out Of Water restaurant for multiple vacations, it’s probably a place most of us can also enjoy. With a top-notch inn and restaurant, beach homes and cottages, lakes, a boathouse, tennis club, spa, numerous boutique shops, restaurants, and the affluently appealing beach club, you won’t be short on things to do when you visit this resort community.

WaterSound

Author: Will Estell

This beach community offers beautiful waters and deep green wooded grasslands, from the serenity of riding a beach cruiser between sand dunes to the enjoyment of driving a golf ball on the front nine at Camp Creek Golf Course, this gated resort community offers anything and everything most visitors could dream of in a close-knit community with beautiful beaches and lots of fun activities.

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