by E.J. KELLEY
If you don’t, you should. This string of beach towns in Northwest Florida’s Walton County is all about enjoying life’s simpler pleasures in style.
Surrounded by water on most of its sides, it’s no secret that Florida, which exists almost entirely as a peninsula between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean—latticed, no less, by veins of inland lakes—has countless beaches to choose from. But that very abundance has enabled some areas of the state to remain somewhat provincial destinations, escaping the spotlight of hyped, household name neighbors to fly largely under the radar.
The 30A corridor, which spans its scenic, namesake highway along the Panhandle’s Emerald Coast, might well be its ultimate hidden gem.
68 Kingston Road in Rosemary Beach epitomizes the detail-loaded, amenity-forward sensibilities typical of the region’s newer residences. (Corcoran Reverie)
In many respects, it’s a magic, coastal kingdom of Mother Nature’s own design, where cerulean swells break gently over windswept bluffs of powdered-sugar sands that ascend to elevations sure to astound those unfamiliar with this part of the Sunshine State. This surreal shoreline yields to conserved, wooded wilds navigable by miles of nature trails, interspersed with marsh, meadow, the occasional championship golf course, and some 15 coastal dune lakes—a rare, prehistoric phenomenon that can only be found in four countries across the world.
"Above all else, our neighborhoods here were quite literally designed with relaxation top of mind."
Hilary Farnum-Fasth — Founder, Corcoran Reverie
All of this blends together as harmoniously as you’d expect of somewhere with place names like Watercolor, Rosemary Beach, and Seacrest Beach—a series of communities that, despite their meticulous planning and palpable art direction, embrace the low-key atmosphere every beach town should be.
“Our neighborhoods here were quite literally designed with relaxation top of mind,” said Hilary Farnum-Fasth, founder and president of Corcoran Reverie. “And compared to many resort communities, we have the infrastructure and location to make full-time residency practical—all the more, as hybrid and remote work arrangements increasingly become part of our new normal.”
Alys Beach, a visually-striking planned community at the heart of the 30A corridor, channels Aegean-meets-Caribbean sensibilities. (Derick McKinney)
While the anchor towns of Destin and Panama City Beach lie on long-established foundations, with high-rise beach towers and single-family homes dating to the mid-20th century and earlier, the gap between them boasts an almost overwhelming stock of new construction that uniquely corners all verticals of laid-back luxury.
That holds particularly true in South Walton’s amenity-loaded master-planned communities. Here, you’ll find a full spectrum of Pinterest-perfect modern farmhouses, condominiums, and gulf-front villas with private boardwalks, many offering residents-only beach, tennis, and golf clubs. Each also sports their unique, architectural flair: Alys Beach, which didn’t exist two decades ago, beckons with alabaster Aegean-meets-Caribbean sensibilities, gated by a quartet of ornamental butteries—a sort of functional Bermudan obelisk folly used for food storage—adorned in murals depicting the area’s history.
Above: 113-A Sandy Shores Court, a modern beach villa on the bluffs of Seacrest, enjoys a dramatic setting with 60′ of Gulf frontage.
Below: In Santa Rosa Beach, 4858 W. County Highway 30A lies quite literally between the water and the links. (Corcoran Reverie)
As if the picture-perfect beaches weren’t enough for waterfront lifestyle-seekers, the other side of 30A holds the shores of Choctawhatchee Bay, a 127-square-mile navigable estuary that stretches across the entirety of the corridor. This second coast has experienced renewed popularity as of late, where homes with private docks provide boaters a safe harbor with seamless portage through Destin Pass to the Gulf’s open waters. The bay’s calm, clear waters offer a pristine setting for about every form of recreation—like paddleboarding, waterskiing, fishing, and snorkeling, just to name a few. Various canals, rivers, and tributaries also make for some serious kayaking. Time it right and you might rub noses with a dolphin or two.
Seaside homes like 410 Beachfront Trail in Santa Rosa Beach pitch an alternate vertical to traditional layouts—with views to match. (Corcoran Reverie)
Wherever you land along 30A, whether it’s right above the beach or in a top-floor condo overlooking the treetops of the land preserve next door, one thing is for certain: You’ll feel like you’re on a permanent vacation every single day.