Okay, so I finally get what all the hype is about Rosemary Beach in Florida. If you’re not familiar with this area, I recently did a post all about 30A in the Florida Panhandle so I suggest starting there.
We booked this trip last minute, in true Kara fashion, when we realized this may be our only opportunity to get away before the baby arrives. It was a baby moon, family vacation, spring break and a celebration of me going back to work all wrapped up into one trip. We traveled with Palmer and Kevin was working remotely Monday – Wednesday so it wasn’t a super relaxing vacation by any stretch but it was a nice change of scenery and a chance to see some sunshine.
March 6, 2021 – Travel Day [Chicago – Birmingham]
We left Chicago around 9AM Saturday and arrived in Birmingham just after 8PM. We got BBQ from Dreamland BBQ and then booked a last minute room at the Hilton Birmingham UAB. The drive was super easy and we actually only stopped 2x. Once in Indiana for lunch and once in Kentucky for a bathroom break. Palmer did amazing the entire time and didn’t fuss once. I honestly couldn’t believe it but she just read books, napped and snacked. I did an entire post on Toddler Road Trip Tips in case you’re interested!
March 7, 2021 – Arrive in Rosemary Beach
The next day our drive was just over four hours [Birmingham – Rosemary Beach] and we hit the road early purposely so we could decompress after the drive and explore the area a bit. Our fist stop after arriving in 30A was George’s at Alys Beach for a late lunch. I got the Sesame Crab and Avocado Salad and Kevin got the Fish Tacos, both were tasty and fresh. After lunch we left the car to walk along 30A and got our first real look at Rosemary Beach. We immediately fell in love with the beautiful homes, manicured landscaping and charming downtown area.
Around 4PM we made our way back to check into our Airbnb for the night. Since we booked so late, we had trouble finding a spot with availability Sunday-Saturday but we booked this spacious studio the morning of for only $15 [+$150 cleaning fee & taxes] – a great price all things considered. After quickly unloading only what we would need for one night, we made our way to the beach just in time for sunset. And wow – the sunsets are beautiful along the Emerald Coast.
After the sunset, we walked back into Rosemary Beach looking for a good dinner spot and after checking out a few menus, we opted for Italian delivery from amici 30A Italian Kitchen. If I’m being totally honest, I didn’t love the Spaghetti Bolognese that I ordered and it actually gave me terrible acid reflux that night [probably due in part to my pregnancy but it’s also the only time I’ve gotten acid reflux this pregnancy so take what you will from that]. I will say, it was a convenient choice after two long days of traveling. I think that if we hadn’t given up pizza for lent this year, we would have eaten at Pizza by the Sea which was literally across the street from our rental.
March 8, 2021 – Community Pool
The next morning we got up and walked over to Amavida Coffee Roasters. Since we were changing Airbnb’s we had to check out by 11AM which left us a bit homeless until our check in at 4PM. After leaving Kevin at the coffee shop to work, Palmer and I walked around Rosemary Beach and then ended up at the Village of South Walton community pool. The kiddie pool wasn’t heated and it was just a tad too cold to enjoyably swim but Palmer didn’t seem to mind and we spent most of the morning walking circles around the pool and wading in the shallow end Note, pretty much every community in Rosemary Beach/Seacrest has a community pool that you can access as a guest. I’m really not sure why since you’re right next to the Ocean but it’s a great alternative if you’re not looking to get sandy.
Luckily our next Airbnb was ready early so around noon we met back up with Kevin and checked in. Ironically, it was just next door in the Seacrest neighborhood and only about a 3 minute walk from our first rental so it was an easy transition, logistically. After unloading the rest of our things, Palmer and I went in search of a light lunch and ended up Seacrest Sundries Market & Cafe. It was nothing special but it was quick, casual and inexpensive. When we finished lunch, we made our way back to the Airbnb where I put Palmer down for a nap then decided to head to the beach and relax for a bit. It was still just a tad too cold and super windy to truly sunbathe so I just read my book and enjoyed the view for a couple hours.
That evening, we walked into Rosemary Beach and put our name down at La Crema Tapas & Chocolate for dinner. The wait was about 20 minutes so we walked over to the common green area by the town’s main beach access [access G] and let Palmer run around while we waited for our table. We ended up sitting outside at La Crema and enjoyed the vibrant ambiance of downtown Rosemary Beach despite the cooler temperatures that had settled in since the sun set.
March 9, 2021 – Mommy Daughter Beach Day
The next morning started in much of the same fashion with coffee from Amavida and donuts from The Daughters Kitchen. Palmer and I then drove out to Publix in Panama City Beach [less than a 10 min drive] to grab some essential supplies and foodstuffs for the week. By the time we got back, it had warmed up a considerable amount so I decided to brave the beach alone with Palmer.
The Seacrest neighborhood offers a free tram service that basically picks you up right outside your place and drops you across the street at the beach access. It’s really only a 7-minute walk but they’re pretty strict about using anything with wheels which makes solo trips to the beach with a toddler a little tricky. Luckily Kevin was able to take a quick break from work and help us get set up. The weather was great and the beach was so fun but I don’t think I got to sit for more than 5 minutes without Palmer running off. She had the best time though so it was worth it. After a solid few hours of splashing in the water, playing in the sand and a picnic lunch at the beach, Palmer and I made our way back for nap time. I left most of our gear since I was planning to head back and read again after dropping Palmer off at the house.
That evening, we walked into Alys Beach to explore a bit more. While Alys Beach is incredibly beautiful and the perfect backdrop for any and all Instagram pictures, it’s also a bit lonely feeling. There isn’t nearly as much pedestrian traffic or a bustling downtown area like in Rosemary Beach or Seaside. Regardless, we loved walking the cobblestone streets and admiring all the beautiful houses. Dinner that night we kept simple and ate at La Cocina. It’s pretty basic Mexican food but great for families and the type of casual meal we were looking for.
March 10, 2021 – The Pearl Pool & Spa
The following day started in much the same fashion, coffee from Amavida followed by another morning at the beach with Palmer. After lunchtime, we made our way back to the house for Palmer’s nap and then I took off for a little R&R. I had a prenatal massage scheduled at The Pearl hotel and arrived early so I could take advantage of the beautiful facilities and lounge at the pool beforehand. The Pearl’s spa is somewhat unique in that all treatment rooms are directly off of the pool deck and there don’t seem to be normal ‘spa’ amenities [i.e. sauna, steam room, lounge, etc.]. I didn’t mind since I couldn’t really take advantage of those things anyway and simply enjoyed the actual treatment.
After my massage, I met Kevin and Palmer for ice cream at The Sugar Shak in downtown Rosemary Beach. It was Palmer’s first ever ice cream come and she enjoyed it way too much! Ice cream in hand, we slowly strolled home to shower and get ready for dinner. That night, we drove to Seaside and put our name down at The Great Southern Cafe for dinner. We didn’t mind the wait since there’s an awesome green space in the center of town where Palmer enjoyed running around with all the other kids. I will say, I didn’t enjoy our dinner experience at The Great Southern Cafe. We were seated on the covered patio near the kitchen and it was super loud and the waitstaff was constantly coming in and out of the kitchen door next to our table and bumping into our chairs. Our waited seemed frazzled and hurried, the food was super slow to come out and in my opinion, nothing special – even though we both ordered recommended dishes. It probably didn’t help that Palmer had a complete meltdown towards the end of dinner so her and I rushed out of the restaurant while Kevin paid the bill and packed up our leftovers.
March 11, 2021 – Family Beach Day
The next morning was Kevin’s first full day off from work. To kick it off, we went to Raw & Juicy in Alys Beach for breakfast. I think my expectations were extremely high because the ambiance is picturesque but the food was average. My acai bowl was too liquidity, they were out of chai tea and their wifi wasn’t working so they couldn’t take credit cards. Regardless, we enjoyed our breakfast and hung out at the playground next door before walking back to our rental in Seacrest to change for the beach.
The rest of the afternoon was spent playing in the sand and chasing Palmer in and out of the waves. It was honestly a huge relief to have Kevin there and a second set of eyes and hands to help with Palmer. She LOVES the water and is completely fearless and we both enjoyed seeing how much she loved the beach. Around mid-afternoon Palmer took a nap on me [which might be my high from the entire trip] so we just sat back and enjoyed the sun, sand, and waves lapping at our feet.
When Palmer woke up, we packed up our beach gear and made our way back to the house for dinner. That night, we went to Havana Beach Bar & Grill in The Pearl Hotel for dinner and it was my favorite meal of the trip. I think coming off the craziness of The Great Southern Cafe, Havana just felt more refined, relaxed, calm and quiet. We had a great table with a view of the sunset and the food was all incredible – we shared the Mandy Burger and Pan Seared Scallops.
March 12, 2021 – Last Family Beach Day
Our last full day in Rosemary Beach began with coffee from Amavida, donuts from Donut Hole and another full beach day. We left mid-afternoon so Palmer could catch a quick cat nap at the house before getting ready and going back to the beach for family photos at sunset. It was kinda of a pain to get all sandy again after cleaning off but ‘m honestly so glad we did this because the pictures turned out amazing and are some of my favorite pictures of us!
For dinner, we had reservations at Restaurant Paradis but not until later in the evening and timing wise, with sunset and family photos, it didn’t make sense to wait around so we bailed and had an impromptu dinner at Edward’s Fine Food and Wine. I thought the food was unmemorable but I enjoyed the ambiance and appreciated being able to easily walk in without a reservation.
March 13, 2021 – Bike Ride along 30A
We really wanted to maximize our time in the warm, sunny weather so Saturday morning, before hitting the road, we rented bikes from Peddlers Pavilion in Seacrest’s Village of South Walton. Renting bikes in 30A is a thing and most people do so for their entire stay. We really didn’t have a need but wanted to cruise along County Road and explore the area more closely.
We rode from Seacrest to Seaside, about eight miles, mostly flat and it took us about an hour. We originally were aiming for Black Bear Bread Co. near Grayton Beach but it was further than we anticipated so we stopped in Seaside in search of food. Despite our previous experience, and in lieu of another brunch alternative, we opted to eat at The Great Southern Cafe [again] and it completely redeemed itself. This time around we loved our table, the food and the service.
To walk off breakfast, we decided to explore the Seaside neighborhood a bit more. Compared to Rosemary and Alys Beach, Seaside just feels more established and family friendly. It’s just as charming as the other 30A towns but in a more lived in kind of way. The cobblestone sidewalks are dusted in sand, the landscaping feels more natural/organic and the white picket fences bear name placards about their home’s owner.
Then we were back on our bikes heading towards Rosemary Beach. We stopped quickly to grab some gear from RB Trading Company and a post bike ride smoothie from Amavida before hopping in the car and heading out of town. Even though Rosemary Beach isn’t a huge town, it still feels like we left so much of 30A unexplored and we’re already itching to go back!
March 14, 2021 – Travel Day [Nashville – Chicago]
We arrived in Nashville late the previous night and booked a last minute room at Loews Vanderbilt Hotel. In the morning, we grabbed breakfast at Biscuit Love then hit the road for the final stretch to Chicago. I don’t know why or how, but again we lucked out with Palmer. She sat quietly in the back for the entire return trip and didn’t fuss once! Definitely sending up a thanks to all the travel Gods and crossing my fingers she’ll love travel as much as we do so we can continue to make trips like this in the future!
Accommodations & State Specific Details
Large Studio Condo in The Village, Seacrest [1 night]
We had a tough time finding suitable accommodations for our entire stay in Rosemary Beach. Rental inventory was limited, too expensive or was outside of our target location and there is only one hotel. Many of the spots available were all studio condos which didn’t work for us since we knew Kevin would be working during the day and Palmer would need a separate space to nap. That said, we were pretty desperate to find something for Sunday night and the rate/reviews on this studio were too good to pass up.
In the end, I think I actually preferred this Airbnb to the second place where we stayed for the majority of our trip. It was clean, modern, bright, airy and everything felt new. Even though it was a studio, it was actually quite spacious and larger than the one bedroom we rented. It also included more thoughtful amenities like beach chairs, beach towels and literally the most comfortable mattress I’ve ever slept on. Location-wise, it was super close to both Rosemary Beach and Alys Beach – just a short walk in either direction. You have access to the community pool just downstairs and can easily pick up the beach tram in the Seacrest neightborhood. Plus it’s right behind the Village of South Walton which has a ton of shops and restaurants.
Overall, we really enjoyed our stay. The host was super communicative and provided tons of local recommendations. If Kevin and I ever make a solo trip back to Rosemary Beach, we would definitely consider staying here again.
One Bedroom Carriage House in Seacrest [6 nights]
We were super excited to find this one-bedroom Carriage House in the Seacrest neighborhood of 30A. It wasn’t huge but it helped having a dedicated bedroom [as opposed to a studio] where Palmer could nap during the day or go down for bed at night while Kevin and I hung in the main living space.
Compared to the first place we stayed, it did feel a bit more dated, decor-wise, but it was clean and comfortable. Amenities were a little sparse [e.g. no beach towels, no beach chairs, only one role of toilet paper and paper towels, one trash bag, four bathroom towels, etc.] but we didn’t mind and brought most of our own things anyways. The wifi also wasn’t super strong and I think the TV was just basic cable which was frustrating at times throughout the stay but certainly not a deal breaker. In hindsight, I do wish we had stayed somewhere with a kitchen [neither spot had one] because we were forced to eat out every meal which can get tricky with a toddler and, not to mention, expensive.
Overall though, it was a great location and a quick walk to Rosemary Beach, Alys Beach and The Village of South Walton. We could easily access the beach tram just outside of our house and even though we couldn’t park in the main driveway [it is reserved for whoever rents the main house], there is a lot of open street parking a stone’s throw away. The neighborhood was great, super quiet and very safe feeling. For the price, it was a great find but if we were to go back, I may opt to find something a little bigger.
To Rosemary Beach: We drove from Chicago! In total it took about 15 hours each way but we broke the drive into two days, stopping in Birmingham on the way down and Nashville on the way home.
Around Rosemary Beach/30A: We mostly walked! We did rent bikes one day and rode them to Seaside for brunch.
Currency: US Dollar (USD)
Outlet Adapter: The standard voltage is 120 V. The standard frequency is 60 Hz. The power sockets that are used are of type A and B. Standard United States adapters.
Passport/Visa Requirements: No U.S. Passport required.
Weather: We visited Rosemary Beach in early-mid March and the the weather was near perfect. The first two days were in the 60’s and just a tad too cold to be true bathing suit/beach weather [for me at least] but it warmed up significantly the rest of the week and we comfortably hung at the beach. We lucked out and it was sunny the entire week with no rain and very little cloud coverage. The evenings and mornings were more chilly though so definitely recommend layers for dining outside. I actually did an entire post on Outfit Types for 60-70 Degree Weather inspired by this trip if you’re interested in what we packed [or wish we had]!