South Walton is a place that embraces uniqueness and beauty. It understands the value of simple pleasures: a sunset savored with a glass of wine, a lopsided sandcastle built with loved ones, or a bicycle ride that includes lunch.
It also happens to offer some of the best beaches on earth, generous affairs that boast empty sweeps of sand, ideal for clearing the mind and tickling the toes.
Read on to discover which one is the perfect fit for you.
Beaches and parks are listed geographically from west to east.
Vacationing in Miramar feels like stepping back in time, to a neighborhood where no one’s in a hurry. It boasts scenic beach roads, classic surf shops, and fabulous restaurants like Bistro Bijoux, a hidden gem with top-class cuisine. Beachfront homes, resorts and condos are all options for accommodations. In spite of its nostalgic vibe, it features ultra-modern amenities. Activities include Jet Ski rentals, parasailing and shopping galore at one of the nation’s largest designer outlet centers, Silver Sands Premium Outlets.
If you’re looking for luxury and outdoor adventure, Seascape’s for you. This upscale getaway offers tennis courts, swimming pools, a world-class golf course, bike trails, and a full-scale fitness facility—never mind a 2,000 foot sandy beach where you can rest up.
This beach town encompasses the Village of Baytowne Wharf as well as South Walton’s only marina, and hosts numerous festivals and events. Golf courses, world-class tennis programs and adventure activities ensure no one in your gang will be bored. You can indulge in retail therapy and great food at Grand Boulevard in the town center.
Topsail Hill Preserve State Park is named for the tallest dune in the preserve, which, when viewed from the Gulf of Mexico, resembles a ship's topsail. The park boasts 1,640 acres of coastal ecosystem, making it a nature lover's paradise. Discover rare coastal dune lakes, quiet beaches, old-growth longleaf pines, sand pine scrub and a variety of wetlands within the preserve.
Dune Allen is completely natural. And completely stunning. It’s home to three rare dune lakes, walking trails, and numerous beach access points. If raw, untouched beauty moves you, you’ll join the many photographers, birdwatchers, fishermen, and nature lovers from around the world that hold it beloved.
Pristine and graceful, Gulf Place boasts a vibrant artist colony and three beach walkways. It offers an amphitheater set on a manicured lawn, and sidewalks fringed with towering palms. It also offers 200 options for vacation rentals, perfect for your whole gang or a romantic escape.
Founded in 1910, this community was the beginning of South Walton as we know it today. Relax in a swanky beach house, delight in upscale dining or explore stunning Eden Gardens State Park. Other options are kayaking the placid waters of Choctawhatchee Bay or playing a round of golf. And let’s not forget the beach.
It’s beautiful from any angle.
Blue Mountain Beach marks the beginning of the Eastern Lake Hike/Bike Trail, which ambles through the rest of South Walton's beach communities. Take it slow and enjoy the trip past coastal lakes, dense woodlands and architecturally stunning communities. Blanketed with native blue lupine flowers and some of the highest dunes on the Gulf Coast, this retreat is perfect for outdoor enthusiasts.
You’ll feel right at home – and so will your best friend – in Grayton Beach. Its neighborhood motto is “Nice Dogs, Friendly Folks”, and truer words have never been spoken. Its vibe is laidback and organic. Picture narrow streets dappled with the shade of live oaks and wooden beach bungalows, and you’ll have it about right. Make sure to pay a visit to the iconic Red Bar for great music and good times.
This 2,228-acre coastal Park boasts a coastal dune lake that you can explore via kayak or YOLO board.
It has trails that wind through the dunes, that wind through and then disappear behind a hump of sand, begging to be explored.
It also boasts the sweetest seashore you’ve ever seen, a seemingly endless expanse of powdery, pure-white-sand bordered by clear, emerald colored waters.
In actuality the beach isn’t endless, but a mile long. Works for me.
This beach town encompasses nearly 500 acres. It effortlessly blends award-winning restaurants, shops, cozy cottages and resorts into the perfect recipe for relaxation.
Scoop up treasures at boutiques, bask on sugar-white sands or splurge on a massage at one of many spas.
Like other South Walton communities, this one’s ideal for biking or exploring on foot.
Designed so you can walk everywhere you want to go, no town can compete with Seaside for its stellar example of New Urbanism. Travel + Leisure magazine declared it one of “Best Beaches on Earth” for families. You're gang will love the emerald-hued waters, shallow and inviting, with surf that's generally measured in inches.
This picture-perfect community is so cute it starred on the big screen in "The Truman Show." And it has a shining character to rival its heralded design.
It’s fun, charming, and though undeniably upscale, it also has profound sense of community. Even the Post Office is adorable, if not exactly huge.
The village is home to an outdoor amphitheatre, a nationally acclaimed wine festival, and a local repertory troupe.
Make sure to nosh on fresh seafood at the pavilion behind the Shrimp Shack.
Explore the shops and galleries; some of the art is amazing.
And don’t miss the views – and the food – on the rooftop of Bud and Alley's.
Dappled with shade from the thick canopy of oaks, magnolias, hickories and sand pines that surround it, Seagrove is a quirky mix of old beach homesteads and newer cottages. It offers unique restaurants and shops, as well as a pristine mile-and-a-half long beach that encircles a small cove.
This park features a rare coastal dune lake that shares its name, as well as easy access to the beach via a boardwalk across the dunes. Picnicking, swimming and fishing are popular activities.
Riding beach cruiser bikes, a game of golf at the Camp Creek Golf Club, or kicking back by the turquoise waters: This gated resort community is all about serenity and the outdoors.
With tranquil beach views, boutique shopping and upscale dining , this community offers a central gathering space.
The minute you drive into this town, you know you’re someplace special.
Its iconic white walls, lush greenery and intimate walkways are the very height of luxury.
The Caliza Pool is breathtaking.
The same is true of the sparkling beach. The town encompasses a coffee shop that smells like heaven and two upscale restaurants that are pretty much guaranteed to wreck your diet.
CNN named Rosemary Beach as one of America’s most romantic small towns, and when you see it, you know why. Patios and wooden benches invite you to take a seat. The sprawling green lawns and French Quarter-style architecture only adds to the sense of intimacy.
Its beach, thick with sugar-sand, begs you to take off your shoes.
If you could describe Inlet Beach in just one word, "peaceful" is what might roll off of your tongue. Its quiet streets meander through streets fringed with both rustic beach cottages and modern multi-story homes. And it’s a given you’ll never have to fight for a space to throw down your beach towel on its powdery sands.
For more information, check out South Walton’s website.
Photos by Lauren Tjaden for VISIT FLORIDA