The Best Tailor-Made Adventures Along Florida’s Emerald Coast
Northwest Florida, along the Emerald Coast, is where you’ll find 26 miles of pristine, sugar-white beaches. South Walton is home to the kind of quartz-filled sand that looks like snow and creaks with every step. A visit here gives the outdoor traveler unlimited experiences in 16 distinct beach towns, including Rosemary Beach, Sandestin, Grayton Beach, Aquarelle, Seaside, and Alys Beach.
From eco-kayaking tours to private fishing trips along the shore to luxury picnics on the beach, here are the best tailor-made adventures to make this vacation a dog age one to remember.
Paddle your heart to Choctawhatchee Bay
Take the whole family on a personalized two-hour eco-kayaking excursion with Vacayzen. Your educated guide will show you how to use the innovative pedal Hobie kayaks before setting out to explore the endemic flora and fauna of the bay’s forested wetlands and marshes. You are likely to see people fishing from boats for rockfish, plaice, and spotted trout, as well as other populations, while you are on the water. Make sure to keep your eyes peeled for dolphins, especially at dawn or dusk, and have your camera handy.
Where to eat and drink: Take some time to enjoy the back patio at The Bay, a waterfront restaurant specializing in southern Gulf Coast dishes. As you admire Choctawhatchee Bay from your table, you’ll fill your stomach with classic shrimp and grits, tangy pesto snapper, or hearty grouper ravioli. Don’t skip the desert – you’ll undoubtedly want to try the lime pie, a local favorite.
Relax at the beach with a luxury picnic and bonfire
For a truly unique sunset experience that your family will remember for years to come, take advantage of the services of 30A Blaze, a small business owned and operated by a husband and wife dream team. Davin and Lyndsey Hand, the affable founders, or a seasoned member of their team, will set up, manage and clean a bonfire on the beach which includes chairs, tables, tiki torches, roasting sticks and an attendant. .
Maybe you’d like to toast marshmallows, listen to live music, or have a deli board delivered from Blue Magnolia, a father-daughter catering company? 30A Blaze can handle all of this as well. Are you a romantic who wants to surprise your loved one with a Balinese-style beach picnic, complete with large lounge pillows, a fringed umbrella, and an imaginative table with fresh flowers and candles? 30A Blaze will partner with PIC-NIC and bring your al fresco dining imaginations to life.
Good to know: One of the best byproducts of a campfire and beach picnic is that you’ll likely be enjoying the outdoors for a lot longer than you normally would. Your family can unplug, get off the grid, and spend quality time together. Bring a frisbee or a soccer ball, extra towels for swimming if the ocean waves call, or anything else that will help you let off steam, in the open air, for as long as possible.
Experience a self-guided tour of Grayton Beach State Park
For $ 5, day visitors can explore Grayton Beach State Park, one of the best spots for families along the Florida Panhandle. Bring the kids and take a walk on the nature trail, full of oaks and magnolias. Linger at the beach and play in the turquoise waters.
Located in the region of the coastal lowlands and sculpted by salt spray, roving sand and wind, you will have the rare opportunity to discover 13 diverse bio-networks in a single park: beach dune, flat mesic woods, dunes, scrub, brushy flatwoods, laurel, depression marshes, dome, infiltration slope, moist flat forests, rare coastal dune lakes (including Western Lake, Alligator Lake, and Little Redfish Lake), estuarine intertidal marsh, and unconsolidated marine substrate. And if you want to spend the night, 59 camping pitches and 30 chalets are available for reservation.
Where to eat and drink: Nestled next to the WaterColor Inn, FOOW, or Fish Out of Water, offers beautiful views of the Gulf of Mexico, live music, and tasty drinks. This indoor / outdoor restaurant, located 1.4 miles from Grayton Beach State Park, serves family-style meals and the finest iced teas, juices, refreshments (order the Georgia Peach at the Beach for a real treat) and special cocktails.
Good to know: Grayton Beach State Park takes its name from Grayton Beach, an artistic seaside community teeming with art galleries, shops, and a popular dive bar called The Red Bar. One of South Walton’s original beach neighborhoods, Grayton Beach has a certain Old Florida charm that’s hard to find. Make sure to try a local beer at Grayton Beer Company, a bar and brewery; cinnamon rolls or cookies with vegan sausage sauce at Hibiscus Coffee and Guesthouse; and freshly ground coffee and avocado toast from Black Bear Bread Co., one of eight bustling businesses located in the Shops of Grayton.
Learn to surf fish from an expert guide
People come from all over to fish along the Emerald Coast. For a personalized guided surf fishing adventure, including expert instruction and all equipment, Reel 30A has you covered. Perfect for first-timers, as well as kids and families, the surf charter package will ensure you have a great time, without worrying about logistics. Book a sunrise adventure and watch the sky change from pink to orange to blue as you work on today’s catch.
Where to eat and drink: Since your morning will start early for fishing, stock up on treats and drinks at Blue Mountain Bakery, perfect for a take-out order. From breakfast burritos and yogurt granola bowls to cinnamon buns with homemade vanilla frosting, you’ll get exactly what you need to spice up your walk.
Another great option is the Donut Hole CafÃ© and Bakery, a South Walton staple for delicious donut flavors like red velvet, blueberry, frosting, and coconut.
Put your feet up while a personal chef cooks dinner
Once you’ve set up a cooler full of fish, hire a personal chef to clean and cook your catch. Chef Dan Vargo, the talent behind Fine Coastal Cuisine, will whip up the meal of your dreams while you relax in the comfort of your own vacation rental.
With over 25 years of experience, Chef Vargo has been a cooking virtuoso at the Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa, the Ritz-Carlton Naples, the Boathouse & Field Club in Martha’s Vineyard and other venues. Do not hesitate to ask him questions about surfing or about his stay in Ireland, South Africa and Peru.