Helpful Tidbits for Tourists

Helpful Tips for Walton County Vacationers

Welcome to the beautiful beaches along the Emerald Coast!  Each week, a new group of tourists settles into their rental, with thoughts of a restful and fun week for the whole family.  With that in mind, below is a list of helpful information and my suggestions for ways to be mindful and maximize your stay while visiting the area.

During the vacation season along the Emerald Coast, locals work really hard to make sure visitors enjoy their vacation.  When you have questions, feel free to ask a local.  This includes anyone from law enforcement, to the beach ambassadors or lifeguards and all others in the service industry.  You can also click on the numerous links within each section of this article to get more detailed information on topics like beach safety, current ocean conditions and flag colors, South Walton Turtle Watch or riding the 30A Trolley.  We are glad you are here and want your stay to be a memorable one!

1. Golf Carts30A Gulf Cart Rules

While some owners include a golf cart in their rental for easy travel, tourists can also rent one during their stay.  It is important to understand that you must operate the golf cart in the street, along 30A, and it should have head and tail lights and turning signals.  In short, don’t be “that guy” on the sidewalk, operating the golf cart, prepared to get a ticket from the Walton County Sheriff’s Department:)  The sidewalk is for people walking and biking.

Here are the links to the motor vehicle ordinance relevant to golf carts in Walton County and Florida bicycle regulations for your review. 

2. Beach Flag System

The public is expected to honor the flag system to help keep everyone safe.  The flag system utilizes four colors, three of which are similar to our universal traffic system.  Green means the water is fairly calm and conditions are safest to enter the water.  Yellow means use extra caution when entering the water.  Red means the water is angry and you should stay less than knee deep.  A Double Red flag means the ocean is very angry and dangerous and the water is closed to the public.  When a double red flag is present and you choose to enter the water, beach safety officials have the authority to ticket you.  A Purple flag means there is marine life present in the ocean, such as jellyfish.  Use the South Walton Fire District website to monitor daily beach conditions in Walton County.

For an overview of additional beach ordinances and rules, such as no glass containers allowed on the beach, only 6 x 6 x 6 or smaller tents allowed on the beach, only Walton County residents or owners of Walton County real property who have a permit can have dogs on the beach and no bonfires on the beach without a permit Click Here.

3. Crosswalks

It is Florida state law that drivers must stop when pedestrians are waiting to cross the street at crosswalks.  If you are driving and see pedestrians waiting to cross on either side of the street, STOP and let them cross.  If you are a pedestrian waiting to cross, make sure you are certain that cars on both sides of the street are stopping for you before stepping out into the roadway. 

4. Turtle WatchSouth Walton Turtle Watch

Each morning the South Walton Turtle Watch walks the beach in an effort to locate and protect any eggs that have been laid overnight by turtles.  If you see an area on the beach that is marked off, it is likely a turtle nest.  Please leave it alone.  If you like to get to the beach early, you can check with any beach chair vendor service to see if the beach has been searched for nests before putting your beach gear up.  The beach chair vendors put their chairs up after they have been given clearance from the trained volunteers at South Walton Turtle Watch.

5. Use Common Sense

Everyone wants to have fun on vacation.  There are things that most of us do while on vacation that we may not do at other times during the year.  These might include eating more “bad” food, drinking more alcoholic beverages and being lax about rules we usually follow in our everyday life.  Please be mindful that your vacation choices have natural consequences, and sometimes those consequences can have bad outcomes.  The solution is simple.  Most negative outcomes are avoidable when we make the smartest or safest choice.  It may not be the easiest choice, and one may have to play the bad guy or the “crazy relative,” but, on vacation, you have nothing but the gift of time.  Below are some scenarios and guidelines:

A.  Who should ride in a golf cart, you ask? The answer is simple.  Use your common sense, folks.  If it’s not ok for us to let our children ride without being in a car seat when we are driving our own cars, how can it be ok to let our small children ride open along 30A in a golf cart?  It’s really not, (even with the child in a car seat in the golf cart) and all it takes is one unintentional wrong move for a child to be injured and a parent to feel unimaginable regret and grief for making a bad choice.  The Simple Solution? 

  • Get a Babysitter. There are babysitting services all along the Emerald Coast as well as national websites that provide local childcare providers.  As a local, I have had many positive experiences using these sites and encourage families with children to do some planning and line up a babysitter for at least one night while you are here.
  • Want to include all family members while having fun and traveling safely? No Driving?  Free?  Take the 30A Trolley!  It runs every 30 to 45 minutes at each stop along 30A from Gulf Pace to 30 Avenue.  
  • Rent a bike with a baby seat or attachment for a child and use the sidewalk/bike path.

B.  You are leaving your rental or have parked your car and are in a hurry to get to the beach or pool. Leaving your doors unlocked, you have just set yourself up as a target for the very few unethical people in this world who could choose to steal your valuables.  It usually doesn’t happen, but sometimes it does. The Simple Solution? Lock All Doors to Your Rental/Vehicles! Problem Solved! 

C.  Make the safest drinking choices. When you are drinking, avoid getting in the water or driving.  There are plenty of other things to do along 30A that are fun and safer modes of travel.  Speak up when you have someone with you or are witnessing someone else making a bad choice that involves alcohol (or just a bad choice) and be brave enough to reach out to local officials (police, fire officials, lifeguards, you name it) when your gut tells you “this is going to end badly if I let it continue.”

Let me just be as real as it gets for a minute in my writing.  We are all human beings, friends, and it is better to feel embarrassed asking for help with a good outcome rather than letting something play out with the consequence of a hospital visit or even the worst possible outcome.  So take the keys if you need to from your cousin John or get help from a lifeguard knowing within your soul that you are doing the right thing keeping your drunk friend out of the water.

6. Stay off the Beach Sand Dunes30A Sand Dunes

Please stay off the sand dunes on the beach.  Many of them are marked off with rope and most of them have a sign indicating that the dunes are a restricted area.  They are there as part of a natural vegetation process and when you stand on them or dig around them, it disrupts that natural process.  Additionally, it is not safe. 

7. Take Care of your Rental House

A. Read of rules of your rental house/HOA upon arrival.

B. Turn on the bathroom vent when showering. With so many people showering in a rental, this keeps the bathroom walls from getting too moist.

C. Hang wet towels and clothes on racks, keep them off of the floor.

D. When putting trash out at the end of your stay, make sure it is contained in the cans provided or in such a way that it won’t blow all over if it is a rainy or windy day.

E. Give constructive feedback to the owners of your rental so that they know what they are doing right and what to change when they can do better. An example:  “We really enjoyed making frozen drinks in your nice blender during our vacation.  It might be helpful to have a couple of extra towel racks to hang wet pool towels”.

8. Tipping

Whether you are eating at one of the great restaurants along the Emerald Coast  or saying thanks to the valet or the person that cleans your rental home after you leave, remember to leave a nice tip for those providing a service to you.  People working in the service industry depend on your tipping to make the living wage they need to pay their everyday bills.  The standard tipping for great service at restaurants is at least 20%.  It’s generous to tip someone if you feel they deserve it and have gone above and beyond to make your vacation an enjoyable one.

9.  Take a Picture of your kids when you get to the beach

Take a picture of your child or children when you get to the beach, so if they get lost and you need assistance finding them, you have the most recent photo to provide of what they are wearing.

Thanks for choosing the Emerald Coast to enjoy your peaceful vacation!  Feel free to join the 30A Prime Forums if you have any questions during your stay or you would like to add your own suggestions that would be helpful.  Have fun and stay safe!

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