Visits to 30A in Florida are a family tradition that started 5 years ago. This year, with international journeys on hold, two weeks were assigned to 30A, and Rosemary Beach is where we landed.
Good to Know
Rosemary Beach is located in Florida’s panhandle on the Gulf of Mexico. It’s referred to as the Emerald Coast, named for the gorgeous green waters. Other references include 30A, the county road that runs through the region.
Rosemary Beach has a Main Street, filled with restaurants and shops. Most establishments close at 9:00 pm. If the all-night bar and dance scene is your space, this is not your place.
Government buildings and street signs are Instagram-worthy. Dress is snappy casual. Men, skip the blazer. Golf attire is right on the money. Ladies, go for the bling. Wedges are great. Pack shoes for pedaling too.
Best Time to Visit
The website weather-atlas is a great planning tool. April, May, and October are top months to visit with amazing temperatures, lower rates, and fewer visitors. The summer “season” late May to late August is popular, though expect higher temperatures, higher rates, and more visitors. Hurricane season runs June to November, and peaks in September. November and December are popular with holiday visitors.
Airline Travel & Car Rental
Look first for flights into Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport (ECP) which is 20 miles from Rosemary with nonstop service to 12+ cities in the south, central, and eastern United States. Next, check Destin Fort Walton Beach Airport (VPS), 45 miles away. Some flights are seasonal. FlightsFrom.com provides nonstop data.
You do NOT need a car. That is a good thing since rental car inventory across the USA is a disaster, with sky high rates and/or no availability. The rental car system at ECP was unorganized and understaffed. I normally check my reserved rental car rate a day or so before my flight. Prior to COVID-19, rates frequently dropped, and if the change was material, I rebooked and canceled, in that order. That is not the case now. Check rental car rates before booking flights to be sure cars are available. Book the car ASAP. Strategy Workshops for the Expert Traveler cover topics guaranteed to ramp up your travel experience. Register for the workshops.
Cars are best parked and not used, where possible. Here’s what you need to know.
Airport Ride Shares
The rate for an Uber XL, seating for 5, on my travel day was $55 from ECP airport to Rosemary Beach. Ride share services are also available from VPS.
Walking & Biking
Walking and biking get you where you need to go. Cruiser bikes are provided with most lodging. Rentals are available too. Sidewalks and/or a bike path follow 30A and stop at Hwy 98 on the east side, and continue 19 miles to the west, at a second intersection with Hwy 98. This trail is called the Timpoochee Trail. Folks who bike infrequently are on bikes in Rosemary. Be alert.
Golf Carts & Other
Golf carts are not allowed in Rosemary Beach, nor all-terrain vehicles (ATV’s), low-speed vehicles (LSV’s), motor scooters, or similar off-street vehicles.
Rosemary is not a public beach. A code is required for access, and is provided with lodging. Visitors staying in Rosemary Proper will have access to Rosemary Beach.
Beach chair and umbrella rentals are available from Rosemary Beach Property Owners Association (RBPOA) Beach Service. Rentals are collected at 4:45 pm.
Our home rental came with 4 beach chairs. Two umbrellas were purchased at the nearby Target. Alternatively, chairs and/or umbrellas could have been purchased on Amazon in advance of the stay. Amazon Prime, by the way, is slow in these parts, so plan ahead. Passing on rentals netted a savings of $2K over our two-week stay. BYO beach gear is permitted on Rosemary Beach, and allows for a later stay.
There are 9 walkovers, or beach entry points, assigned letters “A” to “I” on Rosemary Beach. Walkover “C” has restrooms and an outdoor shower. The map is here. Walkovers provide a great spot for coffee or cocktails, to watch the sun rise or set. Walkover “E” has 4 chairs and 2 umbrellas. Others have the same. Walkovers and BYO beverages in 12-ounce spill free tumblers were our thing while on the waitlist for Main Street dining.
We keep a spill free tumbler in our “personal Item”, and fill it with coffee before boarding all planes. No spills here. We keep another tumbler in our suitcase for adult beverages and sunsets. Why? Coffee is unforgiving and flavor can linger after dishwashing. In the picture below is my travel companion, packed for 2 weeks in Rosemary, with his carry-on only luggage, tumblers included.
Bullseye Packing is a 60-minute workshop for the Expert Traveler that includes secrets for carry-on only packing. Recommended travel items can be purchased on TravelToolsTips.com including 12-ounce tumblers. Purchase a tumbler or two, pack them, and register for the workshop.
Bon Fires are available for rent through RBPOAG Beach Service. They come with a steep price tag, and perhaps best for an engagement or other special occasion.
Lodging in Rosemary Beach
Lodging is distinguished by north or south of 30A. Consider lodging on 30A as far east as Hwy 98, and consider communities to the west on 30A just before Alys Beach. Avoid nearby Alys Beach. It’s under construction. Cranes and noise are an issue. All lodging options in this area, west of Hwy 98 and just before Alys Beach, are an easy walk or bike ride to Rosemary.
Rosemary Beach Proper
The Pearl is the sole hotel, and four diamond rated, located on Rosemary’s Main Street. Renting a house or condo is my preference. Houses are the kind you see in Southern Living. The architecture is Colonial Caribbean.
Rosemary Beach properties south of 30A are excellent choices, with porches and lots of trees. Their proximity to Main Street and the beach fetches a premium.
Many homes have a carriage house, that rents separately. Carriage houses make an excellent option for smaller groups.
If the beach is not your top priority, then consider properties north of 30A that have greater proximity to the Rosemary Racquet Club and Fitness Center, plus two pools. Smaller homes and condos are abundant in Rosemary Proper, north of 30A. Large homes are there too.
Outside Rosemary Proper
The Pine Crest subdivision, just west of Hwy 98 and south of 30A, has its own pool, a blanket of trees, plus its own beach access. Consider Pine Crest, provided rates are discounted relative to Rosemary Proper.
Rentals on nearby Winston Lane, south of 30A and closer to Hwy 98, are favorable too, but with fewer trees. Once again, consider those properties if discounted relative to Rosemary Proper. Across the street from Pine Crest is The Pointe, north of 30A at Hwy 98. That is an excellent choice with 1-2-3-bedroom condos, with balconies, perhaps for the younger set on girls’ weekends or baby moons. Bikes are complimentary.
I use VRBO to find properties, and for unbiased reviews, but book directly with the property manager. For this trip, I found the house in Rosemary Proper south of 30A on VRBO, but booked directly with AllSeasons30A. The property manager was exceptional start to finish. Strategy Workshops for the Expert Traveler discuss third-party lodging, e.g. VRBO and Airbnb, and how to save 20% or more by booking direct. Lounge access, flight rights, and award travel are covered too, along with other topics guaranteed to ramp up your travel experience. Register for the workshops.
Rosemary Pools & Parks
The four Rosemary Beach Community Pools in Rosemary Proper are not the kind for cannonballs. Neither food nor beverage service is provided. Bring your own. The Coquina Pool is located south of 30A and east of Main Street. Codes are required for entry. Use is limited to visitors staying in Rosemary Proper.
The Barbados Pool is located south of 30A and west of Main Street, and provides more shade.
There are two other Rosemary pools located north of 30A. The Cabana Pool has a playground for young kiddos. The Sky Pool for adults only is indoors, heated, and has lanes for lap swimming.
Park spaces are abundant. The “Western Green” below is opposite Walkover C. Community Events take place here. More on that below.
The Rosemary Beach Fitness Center is located at 9 East Water Street, which is north of 30A and near the Sky Pool. Daily passes are offered for a fee. Fitness Classes are also offered for a fee. All visitors to Rosemary can utilize the facilities, including those lodging inside or outside of Rosemary Proper.
The Rosemary Beach Racquet Club is a top one in the country, and passes are also offered for a fee. Clinics and private lessons are available. All visitors to Rosemary can utilize the facilities, irrespective of lodging location.
Dining is excellent. Fine dining options provided below take reservations, but the others mentioned do not. Most restaurants close at 9:00 pm. All offer vegetarian choices.
Pizza By the Sea (Italian) in Seacrest has limited tables inside, but has an excellent space outside to pair with order pick-up. The walk is 1/2 mile. There are plenty of tables and green space, plus an outside bar with beer and wine on tap. When we visited, we took our own wine and skipped the tap. Check hours. Pizza By the Sea was closed on Mondays and Tuesdays during our Rosemary stay.
Lola Coastal Italian (Italian) in Rosemary has a bunch of indoor and outdoor tables, phenomenal food, and excellent service. The place was packed on a Friday night, but we got a table pronto. Orders are taken at a walk-up counter, then delivered to your table.
Cowgirl Kitchen (American) and The Summer Kitchen Café (American) are family favorites located on Main Street and offer excellent indoor and outdoor dining. Get on waitlists in person. Earlier is better.
George’s (American, Seafood) is located just under a mile away in Alys Beach. Dining is indoor and outdoor. Get on the waitlist in person. Earlier is better. During your wait time, hang out on the second level of the bar in back, and catch the sunset. Alternatively, take a stroll around Alys Beach. Soak up its cool Greek vibe, tumbler in hand.
La Crema (Spanish) is located on Main Street and offers excellent indoor and outdoor dining. Get on the waitlist in person. Earlier is better. Indulge in dessert.
Restaurant Paradis (American, Seafood) takes reservations by phone, is highly rated, and allows children. Newly added outdoor tables got my attention. The inside dining room is a formal and sophisticated one.
Pescados (American, Seafood) is adults only and located inside a fourth-floor open air dining room just off Main Street. It gets a bunch of buzz. They take reservations, but “reserved” dining is inside. If you want to check out this hot spot, skip the dinner reservation, and jump on the wait list for outdoor patio dining and enjoy the view. Early is better. Target Monday – Wednesday. The Cheese Board is great.
Shopping & Groceries
Rosemary Beach is not a t-shirt and taffy kind of beach town. Shopping is the upscale kind and boutiques are abundant, primarily concentrated in North and South Barrett Square. If, however, you want a t-shirt, or golf shirt, Rosemary Beach Trading Company is your place in North Barret Square.
The Hidden Lantern Bookstore, also in North Barrett Square, is a treasure for every age. Book signings are posted at the door and on their Facebook page.
Seacrest Sundries on County Road 30A will square away limited grocery needs, ready-to-go food, plus beer and wine. It’s an easy walk. The store also has a kitchen in back, with a great breakfast and lunch menu. Order onsite or in advance.
Cowgirl Kitchen Feed and Supply on Main Street also has beer and wine, along with other snacks and appetizers to-go.
Publix at Ocean Park Pavilion and Winn Dixie at Panama Plaza are 3 miles away, by highway. A bike will not get you there, but both offer pick-up and delivery. A Tom Thumb is also nearby. Kwiker Liquor is next door to Publix and also delivers, based on driver availability. If your check in is on Saturday, stock up at the Sunday Farmers Market. More on that below.
Movies, Music, Magic & More
Rosemary Beach hosts complimentary family events during the summer season, that runs end of May to end of August, and are found on the Calendar of Events. A thin lightweight square tablecloth is packed for every warm weather journey, and is essential for these events.
The Rosemary Beach Farmers Market takes place every Sunday from 9 am to 1 pm at 28 N. Barrett Square. This market is a big one. You will find seafood, grass fed beef, guacamole, fresh breads, just to name a few, along with fruits, vegetables, and tamales. Try to visit this market before hitting a supermarket.
Day Trip to Seaside & Watercolor
Seaside, a popular family resort town, is an easy 8-mile bike ride away. Little known fact – Seaside is where The Truman Show with Jim Carrey was filmed. Kids, cannonballs, and food trucks are the rhythm. Tweens run free. Seaside and nearby Watercolor have great dining and shopping too.
If you bike there, go early in the day. At certain points you will be riding close to cars that are generally traveling at low rates of speed.
Ruskin Place Park is a favorite spot with bunches of benches. When visiting Seaside in May, 2021, crowds were explosive. This park makes for a welcome retreat, and it’s also a famous place in the Truman Show. Look familiar? Places From the Truman Show You Can Still Visit Today is a great read.
The Chapel at Seaside is at the north end of Ruskin Park, and has inter-denominational service on Sunday morning. If you go, drive there. Folks dress up. This is the South.
Tips on Rosemary Beach
Rosemary is great for families with young children and older kids, but tweens may enjoy Seaside up the road more. Choose lodging wisely, and avoid ones near construction. Carriage houses are lovely too. While waiting for a table, enjoy a walk, walkover or green space. Catch the Truman Show before you go. Pack tumblers. Be prepared. Rosemary Beach is like a five-star camp for adults and kids alike. You might get a lump in your throat when it’s time to leave.
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