60 Seconds in South Walton Beaches: Santa Rosa Beach, Seaside, Rosemary Beach, and Grayton Beach

Florida's Northwest is largely unspoiled - perfect for a romantic beach getaway with your significant other.

By David McRee

Sometimes a romantic getaway in Florida is just the thing to add a little spice to your life. And when you can combine it with some time at the beach, so much the better.

When you and your significant other are yearning for a new location to try when on the hunt for a romantic getaway,  South Walton in northwest Florida is calling to you.

Located on Scenic Highway 30-A, about halfway between Panama City Beach and Destin, Grayton Beach (population of about 200), offers quiet, narrow, tree-lined streets. It is within a short bike ride of the popular vacation destinations of Santa Rosa Beach, Seaside, and Seagrove Beach. And it has one of the most beautiful beaches in the state.

Hibiscus Coffee and Guesthouse

Grayton Beach offers quite a few beach houses for rent, such as the bed-and-breakfast named the Hibiscus Coffee and Guesthouse. The Hibiscus has 12 tidy units housed in three buildings – Bert's Barn, Hibiscus Flats, and Hibiscus House – situated among beautiful informal gardens. A fourth building, Woodpecker Cottage, has been converted into a guest room.

Each room has a distinctive theme and vintage furnishings, perfect for a romantic getaway by the beach. A favorite room among many, the Funky Bird room, is decorated with bird themed art works. I loved the Old Florida-style buildings. The wood floors, large porches, and native plant gardens made me feel a bit like I'd been transported to a simpler time (without giving up cable TV and Wi-Fi).

Breakfast Hibiscus Style

Breakfast comes with the room, so each morning you can stroll through the garden to the on-premises cafe located in the Hibiscus House for a relaxing breakfast. A  popular breakfast dish was the multigrain pancakes with fruit.The cafe is well known, and quite a few bicyclists stop by for a leisurely breakfast.

After breakfast, enjoy exploring the upstairs library and sitting on the second floor porch listening to birds and the sounds of friendly conversation from the garden below. It's easy to fall into the slower pace of a small town, but there is plenty to explore.

The Beach                            

First on your list of “must-see” things is the beach. It’s just a short walk up the street! When you arrive two things will immediately impress you: The sand is deep and pure white, like coarse sugar, and the water is the clearest, calmest, emerald green we could have imagined. At a comfortable 78, degrees the clear Gulf waters are delightful –you’ll even forget the calendar had turned the page to October.

 If you get the urge to explore other beaches in the area, don’t fight it. A short drive up Scenic Highway 30-A takes you to Blue Mountain, Santa Rosa and Dune Allen beaches. All have the same brilliant white sand and emerald-green water. The public beach accesses have restrooms, changing facilities, and boardwalks to the beach. Check out more information about South Walton beaches and neighborhoods.

A Little Something to Eat

The restaurant most highly recommended is Stinky's Fish Camp. Located in Santa Rosa Beach, this unassuming restaurant along Scenic 30-A provides you with a quiet tasty lunch: an Amberjack Po' Boy sandwich or “Great Big Salad” along with countless other delicious options. Enjoy the dark brown Gumbo soup, and we indulge yourselves by ordering homemade pecan pie and ice cream for dessert.

For dinner, this restaurant has an extensive wine list, and their fish is right off the boat. Like many restaurants in Northwest Florida, Stinkys' cuisine has a distinctly Gulf Coast Louisiana flair.

Grayton Beach has several excellent restaurants within walking or biking distance of the Hibiscus. Seafood steaks, Thai breakfast menu,s and sandwiches are right around the corner.

Exploring on Bikes

One of the highlights of your getaway will be riding our bikes along Scenic 30-A on the paved bike trail. Wheel past picturesque coastal dune lakes and tall pines as you travel from Grayton Beach to Seaside, then past neighborhoods of New Urbanism style architecture that require a double-take the first time you see them. Take many a detour down side streets to marvel at the beautiful homes built on shady streets that go up then down again with the contour of ancient dunes.

If you plan ahead , start your bike ride early enough to tour Grayton Beach State Park, famous for its dune lake ,pure white sand beaches and tall dunes overlooking the emerald Gulf.

Things to See:

Eden Gardens State Park: Plan to visit this park between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. to enjoy a tour of the historic Wesley House, which has two stories, columns, and a wrap-around porch containing a large collection of Louis XVI furniture.

Grayton Beach State Park: This park is famous for its dune lake and pure white sand beach. A nature trail winds through scrub oaks and magnolias shaped by the bonsai effect of salt winds.

Topsail Hill Preserve State Park: This park boasts three dune lakes and three miles of secluded white sand beaches.

Where to Eat 

Stinky's Fish Camp Restaurant: 5960 W County Highway 30-A Santa Rosa Beach. Great food for lunch or dinner. Go for the fish!

Hurricane Oyster Bar: 37 Logan Lane Ste 4, Grayton Beach.(Just a short drive up the street from the Hibiscus.) For lunch and dinner, choose from oysters cooked many ways, fish, and chicken entrees. I had a great Jambalaya, and Sue's fried oyster salad was so huge I had to help her finish it.

Piccolo's and The Red Bar: 70 Hotz Avenue, Santa Rosa Beach. (Located right on the beach.) Famous for almost nightly live jazz. Serves lunch and dinner. Diners form a line at dinner and the noise level can get very loud.

Another Broken Egg Cafe: 51 Uptown Circle, Santa Rosa Beach. (Within walking distance of the Hibiscus, in case you need a traditional bacon and eggs breakfast.) Serves breakfast brunch and lunch.

Hibiscus Coffee and Guesthouse: 85 Defuniak Street, Grayton Beach. All 12 rooms have private baths, cable TV, DVD players, and Wi-Fi internet. Breakfast is served in the cafe from 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. The menu includes coffee smoothies, fruit waffles, pancakes, biscuits and gravy, and more. Traditional eggs and bacon breakfast is not on the menu. I recommend the cinnamon bun French toast!

Places to Remember