South Walton, Florida, is comparable to that creamy, can’t-resist cheesecake that’s just too good not to share. Tucked between two popular travel destinations (Destin and Panama City), this 26-mile stretch along the Gulf boasts 16 pristine communities that are as picturesque as their powdery white-sand beaches. It’s easy to get lost in a daydream about calling South Walton home. Here are the area’s top five must-visit beaches.
Driving into Alys Beach feels like arriving in a small Greek town. The defining quality here is the stark white architecture. The green spaces and intimate walkways compel both locals and tourists to slow down. Fonville Press is an ideal stop for breakfast. The cozy café is flooded with sunshine thanks to its large windows and doors, and the covered patio is a pleasant place to sip your morning coffee. Just past the patio is Fonville Park, which features a playground, a climbing wall and sculptures for families to enjoy.
The motto here is “Nice Dogs, Friendly Folks,” which is a sure-fire sign that this neighborhood has its priorities straight. Musicians like Jason Aldean and Sheryl Crow have homes here, so celebrity sightings are definite possibilities. The Red Bar has an incredible vibe and an even better shrimp basket, making it a standout spot for lunch after a day spent on the beach. Grayton Beer Company, meanwhile, is a local hangout pushing the boundaries of the modern brew process. The two must-try brews here are the light, refreshing 30A Beach Blonde Ale and the surprisingly delicious rosé beer.
Visitors to this charming community find themselves in what looks like a mix of New Orleans; Charleston, South Carolina; and the West Indies. Highlights include the high-end spa, farm-to-table eateries and tranquil swim spots — plus every boardwalk here leads straight to the beach. La Crema is the place to be any given night for tapas and chocolate (the chocolate-chip cookies are a non-negotiable). And not to be missed is Rosemary Beach’s French Quarter, which offers a sense of both intimacy and community — perfect for getting away from it all for a moment.
Strolling through Seaside feels like walking through a Hollywood set. No matter how far visitors stray from the town square, it’s no more than a five-minute walk back to the center of the action. Locals feel a strong sense of ownership and are constantly improving the beach, storefronts, restaurants and other town amenities. Every Saturday morning, tourists and residents alike flock to the Seaside Farmers Market. Insider tip: The chocolate-stuffed waffles at 45 Central are to die for.
This breathtaking beach town proudly preserves nearly 500 acres of land dedicated to natural beauty. Indoor and outdoor adventures are seamlessly married, making it easy to jump from an art class to paddleboarding without skipping a beat. WaterColor’s sugar white sands are as tantalizing as the wine and cheeses served at The Wine Bar. It’s easy to lose track of time on a casual jaunt through town admiring the colorful buildings and the greenery, and it’s not uncommon to stumble upon a quiet outdoor Southern wedding.
South Walton’s Digital Graffiti Festival
Taking place each year in May, the two-night Digital Graffiti Festival is not just for art aficionados. This awe-inspiring event brings digital artists from across the world to quaint Alys Beach to display their work on the ideal backdrop: the town’s white buildings. Friday is family night, giving children a chance to be hands-on with the projections (think running through flashing lights and manipulating projections on the sidewalks). Saturday is adults-only, letting guests enjoy a complimentary glass of wine or beer while strolling the winding streets and taking in the art-covered walls. Some of the artists can be found next to their work, ready to chat with those who have fallen in love with this artful tradition Alys Beach has brought to South Walton.