Important Things to Know and Fun Things To Do in Seaside, Florida
People who vacation or live in South Walton often like to debate which 30A community is the best and a case can be made for them all. One thing that is not debatable however is that Seaside, Florida is easily among the most well known and frequented of all the SoWal beach towns. Seaside is one of the original communities on 30A and was the backdrop for the 1998 hit movie The Truman Show which starred Jim Carrey.
Seaside was one of the first master-planned communities in the United States designed on the principles of New Urbanism which centers around walkable neighborhoods. Centrally located along the 30A corridor, it is known for its pastel-colored cottages, Airstream food trucks, beach Pavilions and beautiful Amphitheater. Just about everything in the town revolves around Seaside Central Square. The Seaside Amphitheater is the centerpiece of Central Square and it is lined by palm trees to the east, north, west and food truck row to the south.
Bathing suits and bikinis are the only attire needed most of the time in Seaside, Florida. The town is full of positive energy and has so many great things to offer. Boutique shops, restaurants, community pools are all within walking distance and the beach is always just a stone’s throw away. It is my hope that this guide to Seaside, FL helps you better plan your 30A vacation so let’s get started…
The 9 Seaside Pavilion Beach Access Pointes
Beach access points in Seaside, Florida are referred to as “Pavilions” and there are 9 of them in total. All of the Pavilions are unique in design and were created by individual architects. The Pavilions mark the entrance points to the Gulf of Mexico for each individual street homeowner association. Please note that most all of the Seaside Pavilion beach access points are private meaning you’ll need a wristband or code in order to gain entrance.
Below is the list of the 9 unique Seaside Pavilions, from west to east, that mark access points to the white sand South Walton beaches…
Natchez Pavilion – You’ll find Natchez Beach Pavilion on the far west end of town. Like all of the Seaside Pavilions, the design is beautiful and the steps are gradual making is accessible to most all people as you’ll see in the photo below…
Odessa Pavilion – The Odessa Street Beach Pavilion has a gate that you will need a punch code to open so make sure to get that from your property manager.
Pensacola Pavilion – The rotunda design makes the Pensacola Beach Pavillion unique in so many ways.
West Ruskin Pavilion – Located on the west side of Seaside Central Square, West Ruskin Beach Pavilion is triangular in shape and offers stunning Gulf views.
Coleman Pavilion – The central, main beach access point in this classic 30A community. Coleman Beach Pavilion is the most stunning Gulf access point in Seaside and is an extremely popular spot to snap family photos. Coleman Pavilion is unique in that it’s surrounded by restaurants, shops and offers access to restrooms.
Seaside Pavilion – Located just east of Coleman Pavilion behind the Shimp Shack and Amavida Coffee is where you’ll find the Seaside Beach Pavilion.
East Ruskin Pavilion – Just east of Seaside Central Square is where you’ll find East Ruskin Beach Pavilion.
Savannah Pavilion – Tom Crist is the architect of the Savannah Beach Pavilion which is on the eastern end of town.
Tupelo Pavilion – In my opinion, Tupelo Beach Pavilion is the best of all the Seaside Gulf access points. It is the easternmost pavilion and has a ramp instead of stairs which is great for many folks.
Although not a Pavilion and not technically in Seaside, Van Ness Butler Jr. Regional Beach Access is another great option for people staying in the area. It’s literally on the western edge of town and offers a huge parking lot, bathrooms, outdoor showers, ramp access to the beach and lifeguards during the busy season. So if you’re staying in WaterColor or Seaside, Van Ness Butler Jr. is another great way to access the Gulf of Mexico. In the video below, you’ll see aerial views of Van Ness Butler Jr. Regional Beach Access and Seaside, Florida…
Also, if you have trouble finding parking in Seaside (which is often the case during the summer months), consider using the Van Ness Butler Jr. Beach Access lot as it’s large and there are usually a few open spots. It’s an easy walk to Central Square from the Van Ness Butler Jr. parking lot.
Take a couple minutes to watch our Tour of the Van Ness Butler Jr. Regional Beach Access point below…
You can view all of the Seaside Pavillion Beach Access Points on our interactive 30A Map here… 30A Prime Map
My Favorite Restaurants in Seaside, Florida
Despite the fact that Seaside is not particularly large in comparison with other 30A communities, it has a great portfolio of restaurants. Below is a list of some of my favorite restaurants…
Bud & Alley’s is one of the original restaurants in Seaside and it offers stunning views of the Gulf. The 30A corridor does not have many Gulf-front restaurants which makes Bud & Alley’s a special place. They have a large deck upstairs with a bar that is the perfect place to enjoy Happy Hour on 30A.
Great Southern Cafe is a top Seaside and top 30A restaurant in my opinion. It’s owned by Jim Shirley who is widely regarded as one of the best Chefs in South Walton County and it serves up southern cuisines with an international twist. Great Southern Cafe is located in Central Square and is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Pickle’s Beachside Grill is my go-to-place when I’m craving a burger and fries in Seaside. It’s a classic outdoor diner style walkup restaurant that has everything from sandwiches to hot dogs to corn dogs to fried pickles and more. Pickle’s is located on the south side of 30A next door to Amavida.
45 Central is much more than just a Wine Bar in Seaside. Yes, they have 45 different wines by the glass and one of the best happy hours on 30A, but they also have great food. This is another Jim Shirley owned restaurant and so the food is absolutely fantastic. I recommend going to 45 Central Wine Bar for “Paella Night” which is every Wednesday during the SoWal summer season.
Take a few minutes to watch our Interview with Chef Jim Shirley at 45 Central in Seaside, Florida…
My Favorite Seaside Food Trucks
In addition to great restaurants, Seaside is well known for its food trucks which line the north side of Hwy 30A. All of the food trucks in town are Airstreams which keeps it uniform and is kind of cool. Below are a couple of my favorite Seaside food trucks…
Barefoot BBQ has been a Seaside Airstream staple since it first opened in 2009. It has consistently been regarded as one of the best barbecue food spots on 30A. The Beef Brisket Sandwich is what I usually get and it’s been really good every time.
The Meltdown On 30A serves up some of the best grilled cheese sandwiches in South Walton. It is consistently one of the most popular food trucks in Seaside, FL year in and year out. Take a couple minutes to watch our interview with Meltdown On 30A owner Chef Jim Shirley…
Some of the other Seaside food trucks include Five Daughters Bakery, Frost Bites (Hawaiian Shaved Ice), Wild Bill’s Beach Dogs and Raw & Juicy.
To view all of the restaurants in Seaside check out our interactive 30A Map here… 30A Prime Map
See our complete list of the best restaurant in Seaside
My Wife’s Favorite Seaside Shops
Like most guys, I’m not a huge shopper. Therefore, I asked my wife (who does love to shop) to help me with this section of our Seaside visitor’s guide. Below is her list of favorite shops in Seaside, FL and what she likes most about each of them…
Duckies Shop of Fun is her go-to-spot for kids toys, clothes and awesome gifts. It’s located right next door to 45 Central Wine Bar and it is one of the best shops on 30A.
Sundog Books is a really cool bookstore that has been in Seaside for over 30 years. Sundog Books is a family owned business with a ton of local items you won’t find anywhere else. You don’t see too many traditional bookstores around anymore and so Sundog brings back some of that nostalgia you might have once had.
The Art of Simple is an awesome store located in Seaside Central Square. You’re sure to find something unique for your home at The Art of Simple. If you’re searching for a great gift to give, you’ll want to make this one of your first stops.
The Seaside Style is where you’ll want to go to load up on official Seaside, Florida gear. They have apparel for the entire family as well as neat accessories such as bags, hats, jewelry and much more.
To see more shops in Seaside, check out our interactive 30A Map here… 30A Prime Map
See our complete list of the best shops in Seaside
Lock Up Your Bikes in Seaside
Beach cruiser bikes are by far the best way to get around Seaside and most all of 30A for that matter. They are a great way to explore the area and you’ll find a ton of fun trails throughout the community. Unfortunately, bike theft has become an issue not only in Seaside but all along the 30A corridor. It’s not that people are cutting locks, it’s that unlocked bikes tend to get taken for joy rides and ditched.
Most of the vacation rental properties in Seaside include bikes for the guests to use which is great. The downside of that, however, is that the responsibility for returning the bikes falls on the renters and it’s easy to forget to use the locks provided. My first 4 years on 30A I worked in the bike rental business and have seen the bike theft issue grow each year first-hand. Seaside is one of the 30A communities that is notorious for bike theft.
So if you take nothing else from this guide, please take this one piece of advice as it will save you heartache and dollar bills… Lock your bikes up at all times when not in use and you’ll be just fine.
Take a couple minutes to watch our Bike Ride Tour of Seaside, FL below…
Renting Bikes in Seaside
If your vacation rental house or condo does not include bikes, my recommendation would be to call one of the 3 companies below…
- Live Well 30A – 850-534-0183
- Rent Gear Here – 850-213-0003
- Salt Air 30A – 850-710-0119
Those are currently the top 3 bike rental companies on 30A in my humble opinion.
Beach Equipment Rentals and Services in Seaside
If you’re looking to rent beach chairs, stand up paddle boards and/or kayaks Live Well 30A and Rent Gear Here will have those items. Also, beach bonfires are a popular thing to do in South Walton and for those, I recommend Live Well 30A. I’ve used them multiple times and they do a fantastic job of putting on a 30A beach bonfire. If you’re staying in Seaside, my recommendation would be to schedule your beach bonfire at Van Ness Butler Jr. Regional Access or at Santa Clara regional Beach Access which is just down the road in Seagrove Beach. Below is a video we shot during a beach bonfire party just west in Seagrove Beach…
Golf cart rentals are restricted in Seaside, FL to special case uses only. SoWal Beach Buggys is the exclusive golf cart provider for those staying in Seaside. However, in order to rent a golf cart, you’ll need to obtain a special permit from the Town Council. Give SoWal Beach Buggys a call and they will help guide you through the process.
Seaside, FL Vacation Rentals
Hotels do not exist in Seaside so you’ll need to rent a cottage or condo if you want to stay there. The WaterColor Inn Resort is located just west of town and is the closest thing to a hotel. It’s a great option if you want easy access to Seaside but don’t need a full-size cottage.
Cottage Rental Agency is the main player in terms of Seaside vacation rentals. They have a vast selection of properties including Seaside pet-friendly vacation rentals. Also, if you’re looking to get married in Seaside, Cottage Rental Agency specializes in guiding couples through the process and have special packages available.
Other popular places to find vacation rentals in Seaside, Florida are VRBO, Airbnb and TripAdvisor. Just note, you typically save money when you book 30A vacation rentals directly from local property management company sites vs the big national listing sites. Two local listing sites that Do Not charge booking fees are Rent30A.com and Emerald Coast By Owner so make sure to check them out.
When you vacation in Seaside, FL you’ll have access to all of the amenities that have become standard on 30A. Some of the Seaside town amenities include…
- Paved paths perfect for walking, jogging and biking
- Community pools are located throughout this 30A beach town and most of them are heated during holidays and spring break
- Fully functional Post Office which is nice to have access to while on vacation
- The Fitness Center is open seven days a week and has all the standard cardio equipment
- There is a non-denominational Chapel for those that like to attend church service without leaving town
- The REP Theatre is located in Seaside and it’s one of the best in Northwest Florida
- The Croquet Lawn is always a lot of fun for those that like the game
- The Tennis Courts in Seaside have lights and are open until 10 pm
Hopefully this guide to Seaside, FL was helpful to you in some way. It will be continuously updated with new content as the area continues to develop over the coming months and years. Please check back often and feel free to leave a comment below telling us what you like about Seaside and 30A in general!