By Dalia Colon
Where: County Highway 30-A in Walton County, encompassing mostly residential beachfront communities such as Rosemary Beach, Alys Beach and WaterSound.
Length: 28.5 miles.
How to get around: Car, bicycle or walk.
Best time to visit: October, for festivals and butterfly migration.
Fun fact: The area has developments and towns, but no official cities.
For more info: For things to do, check out 30a.com and sowal.com.
Vivian Shamel remembers when Walton County was just a blip on the radar.
“I moved down here 13 years ago, and there was hardly anything. During the winter season, there were about three local restaurants that we could go to, and now I couldn’t even count how many there are. There has been tremendous growth,” said Shamel, community outreach specialist for Walton County Planning and Development Services.
Word continues to spread about the charm of the area surrounding Scenic Highway 30-A. While 30-A is still a two-lane road, visitors flock to the surrounding areas such as Alys Beach, with its avant-garde Digital Graffiti Festival in May, and the increasingly popular community of Seaside, which Shamel said has “everything going on.”
Seaside’s amphitheater, shopping and dining districts, beach access and weekly farmer’s market have made it attractive for visitors.
In fact, the entire region is thriving, with a social calendar full of everything from Seaside’s Seeing Red Wine Festival in autumn to the springtime ArtsQuest Fine Arts Festival in Sandestin.
And the restaurant scene? It has a lot on its plate. The Red Bar, with its live jazz and kitschy decor, remains popular in the ever-expanding sea of local eateries.
But the area’s biggest attractions are still its natural ones. A quiet afternoon at family-friendly Topsail Hill Preserve State Park or bicycle outing along the Timpoochee Trail is pretty much heaven.
And in October, there’s no better place than the beach.
“If you’re lucky, you get to see all the monarchs that are migrating,” Shamel said, referring to the butterflies’ annual pilgrimage from the Northern United States to Mexico for the winter. “You can sit on the beach and watch all the monarchs fluttering by.”
It’s still the perfect escape.