In the 1890’s, the combination of natural wilderness and pristine beaches enticed summer vacationers to this area. As they returned year after year to their tiny beach cottages, small resort communities began to emerge. During the 1920’s, promotion and advertising were used to market these resort communities. Beach lots were offered for sale to those who wanted to build permanent residences. Today, 12 distinct beach communities have evolved along the corridor, each with its own unique history and character. Grayton Beach was not only the first community established in the area, but in 1913 was also the area’s first resort community. Today, Grayton Beach continues to have small-town character with its narrow tree-lined streets and a modest downtown with shops, bed and breakfast inns, a general store, and a handful of restaurants.
Santa Rosa Beach, one of the older communities, borrowed its name from a thriving turpentine plantation nearby. The abundance of slash pine trees made it a perfect place for such an industry. Settled initially in the nineteenth century, paper making eventually became the main business here.
Communities that developed later have been aesthetically planned and sport pastel colors and New Urbanism-style architecture. Some of the communities along Scenic 30-A have architecture based on the area’s rich maritime history or the warmth and hospitality associated with traditional Southern grand hotels and classic beach houses. To maintain the existing peaceful character of the area, height restrictions and design guidelines help new developments blend with old. Local organizations such as South Walton Community Council, Coastal Dune Lakes Advisory Committee, Beach to Bay Connection, and Scenic Corridor Association, also work closely with County government to help preserve and protect the unique character of the area.
Cultural resources are plentiful along Scenic 30-A, South Walton County is known for its artist colonies and thriving local art scene. Galleries, annual festivals, and antique stores are present along Scenic 30-A. Each season generates its own special events, beginning with ArtsQuest, a week-long event held each May. During the summer, the Seaside Repertory Theatre presents live shows from Memorial Day through August, and the Autumn Tides celebration is always a highlight of the fall season.
Scenic 30-A is known for its world-class, certified Blue Wave beaches; a mark of cleanliness and good management from the Clean Beaches Council. For those who desire a slower, simpler pace, an abundance of recreational activities await hikers, bikers, bird watchers, beach lovers, campers, and sportsmen. More than 200 miles of trails located on state lands are open to the public. Explore the 19-mile Timpoochee Trail, a paved multi-use path that runs parallel to the Gulf. Enjoy the tranquility of kayaking or canoeing on the coastal dune lakes. Learn about nature, by discovering the habitats of endangered species like the gopher tortoise or Red-cockaded Woodpecker, Choctawhatchee Beach mouse or rare wildflowers, including Gulf Coast lupine and wild rosemary.
Spend a day, or the rest of your life, exploring Scenic 30-A. Whether wandering along sugary white beaches, bicycling through a vast network of greenway trails, or exploring charming little coastal communities, you’ll be sure to want to return again and again…and again.