Late last month I had a blast partnering with VISIT FLORIDA and Florida’s Emerald Coast to explore the Emerald Coast region of the Sunshine State. If you were following along over on Instagram you will have seen some of my #MakeYouSmileStyle adventures while I was on the go, but today I wanted to share a full Emerald Coast travel guide. The following 18 things to see and do on Florida’s Emerald Coast over everything from where to stay, what to eat, the best activities, where to find the most colorful (and charming!) spots and so much more. Let’s get started!
1. Stay at The Henderson Beach Resort Hotel
The Henderson is a relatively new property and so a few years of growth will help fill out the landscaping. The view on the other hand takes no time to mature: stunning vistas over Henderson State Park to the beach and ocean beyond will take your breath away. Elegant coastal-inspired interiors feel luxurious yet comfortable and with both family pools and an adult pool, there’s a space for every guest. Located about ten minutes outside of downtown Destin, this is the perfect place if you are looking for a quieter base for your vacation. It’s about 30 minutes drive from the start of 30A and the seaside towns that run along that route.
2. Stay at The Watercolor Inn & Resort
The Watercolor Resort is located in the charming town of Watercolor off Route 30A. It’s smaller than The Henderson and makes for a more intimate place to stay, if that’s your thing vs. a larger resort. Plus, if you plan to spend more time exploring the pretty little coastal towns off 30A (Seaside, Watercolor, Alys Beach and Rosemary Beach) then this makes for the perfect base, as it’s so close to them all.3. Spend the day at Henderson State Park Beach
Stunning white beaches and more than 6,000 feet of natural scenic shoreline border the emerald green waters of the Gulf of Mexico. I’ve been fortunate to visit a lot of coastal destinations and have to say that the water here truly stopped me in my tracks – it’s stunning!If you love being outdoors then Henderson State Park is a wonderful place to spend the day – as is the award-winning beach that lies alongside it.4. Go on a Dolphin Boat Tour
This two-hour dolphin boat trip takes you on a trip through Destin Harbor inlet and then out into the Gulf Dustin Harbor. At times there were pods of dolphins with upwards of twenty or thirty in sight, and there must have been Dolphins swimming alongside the boat about 75% of the entire trip.I highly recommend this dolphin tour along Florida’s Emerald Coast for a magical moment with nature! It was on of the highlights of my trip, for sure.5. Shop at Destin Commons Mall
If you are in the mood for a little retail therapy while on Florida’s Emerald Coast then Destin Commons Mall is a great spot to shop. In addition to home and fashion stores, there’s a lot of dining options, too.
6. Go zip lining over Destin Harbor
Harbor Walk Village offers a range of activities including rock-climbing, free fall and zip lining. The zip line allows you to soar high above Destin Harbor with views across the gorgeous emerald waters beyond.7. Explore the town of Seaside
Seaside is the incredibly charming town on Florida’s South Walton region where The Truman Show with Jim Carey and Laura Linney was filmed. Seaside was one the first towns in America designed on the principles of new urbanism. It was designed thirty years ago to be community-focused and a place where residents walked and cycled vs. using cars, as well as sharing facilities like tennis courts and pools. Every house in the town was and still is required be individual (LOVE that!), especially as they are painted an array of #MakeYouSmileStyle hues.8. Go color hunting around Seaside.
The first thing I did when I arrived in Seaside was grab my camera and go for a walk around the leafy, sleepy streets that are lined with charming and colorful buildings. It’s such a perfect little place that you can’t help but smile as you walk around!More charming corners of Seaside. Why can’t all street signs be this cute?!9. Take a tennis lesson
The town of Seaside has its own tennis courts where you can book a tennis lesson with an expert. It’s a lovely way to get some exercise and work up an appetite for a delicious lunch by the ocean.
10. Hire bikes and go for a ride
In Seaside, everyone rides around on bikes and almost all the houses are painted pretty pastel colors. Essentially, it’s as perfect as it is in the movie and makes for a lovely bike ride!11. Enjoy a grilled cheese sandwich
Stop by The Meltdown for a delicious grilled cheese sandwich and soup. This is a great little spot to do people watching along 30A.
12. Stop by The Shrimp Shack for a Lobster Roll
Seafood lovers rejoice! The Shrimp Shack is a super charming spot to indulge in oysters or grab a quick lobster roll for lunch.
13. Have dinner at Pizza Bar
Enjoy artisan cheese, fresh salads, hearty pastas and authentic Napoli-style wood-fired pizza amongst stylish surroundings. Ask to sit outside on the terrace overlooking the Gulf.Told you guys: this place is bursting with color at every turn!14. Shop at Perspicasity
Get into the boho beach spirit with stylish buys and mementos inspired by the ocean, all set amongst an open air bazaar-style market called Perspicasity.15. Refresh with a juice from Raw & Juicy Life
Raw & Juicy Life is a lifestyle boutique offers delicious juices alongside beauty, gift, home and garden options that are made with care and attention to innovation, community and ecology.16. Explore Aly’s Beach
Alys Beach (pronounced ‘Alice’ beach) is a new town that is currently in the early stages of development. It is being carefully crafted to celebrate the public realm of streets, parks, pedestrian paths, and great civic buildings in a manner reminiscent of the world’s most beloved seaside towns. As my husband and I walked around we genuinely turned to each other and said: “This place is so charming we have to buy a home here!” Maybe, one day…I loved walking around the small network of streets that have already been built – in fact, it felt like I was back exploring a new version of Spain, especially due to the half painted white tree trunks and little courtyards with their calming water fountains and irregular stone flooring.After a quick drone flight to capture Alys Beach from above, I realized that my outfit matched the color palette of the town pool!17. Drive down the coast to Rosemary Beach
A short drive from Alys Beach will lead you to Rosemary Beach, which is another equally charming coastal town along route 30A. From the sky you can see why this area gets its name as Florida’s Emerald Coast!18. Walk along the white sand beach at sunset
Round out your trip with a sunset stroll along one of the stunning white sand beaches that stretch along Florida’s Emerald Coast.
If you’re keen to visit Florida’s Emerald Coast, head over to Expedia to book a trip and start planning your own adventure!
// Photography by Will Taylor | Posted in partnership with Visit Florida and Florida’s Emerald Coast; all views my own