Hwy 30A – Eatin and Paddlin, Eatin and Paddlin

I have a new obsession.  My obsessions, I have to admit, come honestly and it’s usually go big or go home.  For you, the reader, this is a positive situation.  I play the role of guinea pig and you get to make up your mind if it’s for you or not.  My newest obsession, stand up paddle boarding.

I first discovered the sport in Cocoa Beach, FL.  I decided to visit when my in-laws won a weeks vacation at a silent auction.  Cocoa isn’t a beach that comes to mind as “my speed” but I took a chance since it was free.  I have a hard time sitting still and so after seeing others paddle up and down the beach I decided to do the same.  The best place to learn?  The World Famous Ron Jon Surf Shop!  Really.  Located just next to the flagship store on A1A is the watersport shop where you can schedule a lesson on either the Atlantic Ocean or the Banana River.   Just call 321 868-1980 next time you’re in the area.  While in Cocoa, check out a dining surprise at the Fat Snook, 2464 S Atlantic Ave. 321-784-1190  It was so delicious and fresh, we ate there twice.  My favorite? The wine list!  Wines by the glass are usually a been there done that situation but at the Snook I found a list that was surprisingly refreshing and according to them hand selected resourcing only small, boutique style vineyards.

My latest paddling adventure, County Hwy 30-A…

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From the “Roof Deck Bar” above Bud and Alley’s in Seaside

What started as the “new urbanism” development known as Seaside (see The Truman Show)  has since turned into a small but exceptional stretch of beach side communities along the North West Florida Panhandle known as 30-A.  Named for the county road they inhabit, this includes but is not limited to; Grayton, Watercolor, Seaside, Alys, Seacrest and Rosemary Beaches.  The pure white sand and emerald water have landed this area on several best beaches lists and the 13 mile bike path that connects them allows you to park your car and leave it, one of my favorite activities.   You can rent a bike from several different outfitters along the highway and they will deliver them to your doorstep but let’s get back to business, paddlin’.

The place to go is the Boat House in Watercolor.  Here, you can visit the guys from YOLO Board Adventures on the shores of Western Lake.  They can rent you a board, take you on a guided tour or set you up with a SUP Yoga class.  There are even daily SUP camps for the younger folks if you’re looking for some “me” time.  You can contact them at 850-419-6188 to set up your adventure.  Mine took me from the boat house to the world famous Red Bar in Grayton Beach and back.  At the Red Bar you can hang with the locals, the beach bums or the stars, literally.  The paddling will take you about an hour round trip, weather depending.  The hanging out?  I suppose that depends on you.

While in 30-A the best place to look for lodging, especially homes, is on VRBO.com or vacation rentals by owner.  One of our favorites is actually a town home available at Emerald Waters Realty 800-226-3974.   The town homes at “Blue Tide,” come as 1 or 3 bedrooms, are beach front, updated, have a pool and are an easy bike ride to both Alys and Rosemary Beach.   We have also stayed in the Villas at Sunset Beach which are also 3 bedroom style condos and have a beach front pool.  Although the word condo may conjure up images of high rise towers, the beauty of 30-A is that New Urbanism architecture does not allow for buildings more than 3 stories leaving only amazing views of that beautiful emerald coast line from everywhere.  One Caveat, if you are looking for a traditional hotel or a resort, then this may not be “your speed.”  30-A is made up mainly of private rentals.  There are a few exceptions like the highly anticipated and highly priced “The Pearl” in Rosemary Beach or the Watercolor Inn but not many.  Some of the rentals have private pools and most of the communities do as well but get ready to walk or ride.  In order to promote pedestrianism the pools are part of the community and are located at small watering holes throughout.

Now for the good stuff, the eatin’.  There are many excellent choices while on 30-A so let’s make this easy and do a top ten list.

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The Pool at Alys Beach during Digital Graffiti and Caliza

Caliza – 850.213.5700 The ultimate special occasion place located pool side in Alys Beach, Caliza specializes in local seafood and specialty cocktails like the “Honey Badger.”  Once a year it plays host to the hottest party on 30-A, Digital Graffiti, where the all white stucco walls in Alys become blank canvass to digitally projected art from around the world. Really!

Fish Out of Water – 850.534.5050 Another special occasion restaurant. FOW located at the Watercolor Inn has the most amazing views of the gulf.  Try the Half Dozen Raw Apalachicola Oysters, you can’t get any fresher than that.

V – 850. 468 .0973 Shining like the ultra modern mecca that it is, V is the last of the shmancies.  No reservations are accepted but arrive early and you will be rewarded with a selection of half price entrees.  Although the wine list was about par, the service and food more than make up for it.  Try the Shrimp and Grits Boullettes, in three words, big shrimp balls!

Georges – 850.641.0017 The place to be seen, nobody wants to sit inside and who would with the scenery that Alys beach has to offer.  Georges does not take reservations and they line up early in good weather.  Their signature lobster quesadilla is a great start to a great evening.  Kid Friendly.

Aqua Coastal Sushi – 850. 764.2782 Where are we anyways?  Ahhh yes, Rosemary Beach, a homage to any European village.  On the other hand, sitting inside Aqua puts you smack dab in the middle of NYC with it’s leather banquettes and hipster stylings.  With sushi that tastes like NYC to boot, this is definitely the newest most chic place on the block.

Cowgirl Kitchen – With two locations in Seagrove and Rosemary, this is your place for breakfast.  Try the Migas, a traditional Texas egg scramble with tomatoes and jalapenos served over grits and two strips of bacon.  Or for dinner their made from scratch, thin, hand rolled pizzas.  Delicious!

La Cocina – 850.231.4021 You say you want some loud throw down mexican food 30-A style?  This is your place.  Located in Seacrest Beach, La Cocina has a family friendly atmosphere with good food and great service.  My kid spilled Sprite all over the floor and as the waiter mopped it up he told me it was my job to be pampered.  Throw in a LaCoRIta, a house made frozen margarita with a swirl of sangria and I believe it!

Seagrove Village Market – 850.231.5736 serving since 1949, the most authentic beach joint on the list.  Try their Po Boys and you’ll be lining up at the gift shop turned restaurant in your dreams.

Red Bar – 850. 231.1008 Looking for a place that has live music and an after hours scene?  Look no further than the infamous Red Bar.  Wall papered with old concert posters and dollar bills this local dive bar is loud and fun.  Good food to boot.

Bud and Alley’s Taco Bar – 850.231.5900 The quintessential hangout at the heart of 30-A in Seaside.  This restaurant is made up of little other than counter service and a few patio tables but it is not to be missed.  The fish tacos are the BEST I have ever had and the rest are pretty amazing too. Definitely ask for a margarita rocks made with Herradura silver, amazing.   Afterwards head across the street to get a Louisiana style snow ball from Frost Bites and let the kids run wild in the Seaside amphitheater.  Stir in a sunset and enjoy!

Thanks for reading.  Hope your summer is filled with whatever obsession makes you happy!

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