17 Feb 2021
Everyone knows the famous names of Florida recreational spots such as Miami, Orlando and the Keys, but you should add the Emerald Coast to your list of hot spots in America's favorite vacation state. This stretch of coastline is in the panhandle of Florida, the northwestern part of the state, curving along the southern coastline of the United States, and directly facing the teal-green waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
In the middle of the Emerald Coast is Seaside, Florida, a quaint walkable community that caters to those who want more of a relaxing, beachfront experience in a town that time seems to have forgotten. So where exactly is Seaside, Florida?
Seaside is located along the beautiful 30A highway in the northwestern part of the state. It’s only two hours from Pensacola and two and a half hours from Tallahassee. From Miami you can hop a plane to just north of Panama City (ECP airport) 90 minutes away - and just an hour from Tampa - and then drive an hour along the coast to get to the beautiful Seaside beaches. And if you're in Destin, along that sugar-sand coast, Seaside is only 24 miles away, and worth the trip.
If you're in a road-trip mood, driving Florida’s Emerald Coast will offer roughly 100 miles of journey, extending from Panama City Beach on the eastern end to Pensacola on the western end. But the jewel in the crown is the almost 30-mile Highway 30A that will introduce you to the distinctive Florida beach towns located between Panama City and Destin, with Seaside in the middle of that shoreline driving trip.
Seaside is mostly known for its picturesque architecture, its proximity to the powder-white sandy beaches, and for being the onsite location for the filming of The Truman Show starring Jim Carrey. It is the pinnacle of new urbanism as well, with storybook cottages and white picket fences.
The town is meant to be walked or biked; the narrow roads were intentional so it is known as one of the most walkable areas in the state of Florida. The main draw of Seaside may be the beaches, but there are also many day trip options to explore. Seaside is near many state and national parks that are noteworthy in their own right. You can visit any of the following during your stay at Seaside:
- Eden Gardens State Park is a 163-acre state park that is 4.7 miles away in Santa Rosa Beach. It boasts fishing, hiking, paddling, picnicking, a canoe/kayak launch, and the beautiful ornamental gardens that are absolutely stunning. Camellias, azaleas, roses, even a butterfly garden can be found on the grounds, as well as a reflection pond filled with water lilies and koi fish.
- Grayton Beach State Park is a pristine and beautiful beach that is located 1.5 miles away in Santa Rosa. Nearby Western Lake offers both fishing and paddling, as well as four miles of trails to hike through a coastal forest. Two thousand acres allow for all the hiking, fishing, and beachfront adventure you could possibly ask for. You can also stay longer in one of the rustic cabins or campgrounds if you prefer to “rough it.”
- Deer Lake State Park is known for its rare dune lakes and is located 5.3 miles away from Seaside. Coastal dune lakes are extremely rare and only occur along the Gulf Coast in the United States. Enjoy birding, surf fishing, swimming, and other features of the coastal dune habitat as you explore the almost 2,000 acres of nature and wildlife that includes Florida black bears, coyotes, snowy plover birds, and deer.
- Conservation Park offers hiking, biking, and lots of wildlife only 23.6 miles away. Boasting 2,900 acres, Conservation Park lives up to its name by working to conserve the native wetlands, wildlife, and pine forests. The park also has boardwalks and 24 miles of unpaved trails to hike, bike, and walk on to experience nature and the Florida sun. It’s also a great place to go bird watching, as the birds are attracted to the rehydrated wetland areas as well.
- St. Andrew’s State Park, around 35 miles away, boasts five distinct ecological landscapes in one location. St. Andrew’s is unique in that the Gulf of Mexico is on one side and St. Andrew’s Bay is on the other. This means swimming, snorkeling, fishing, and surfing are the main attraction to this park.
For even more excursions out from Seaside, take a look at our guide to Day Trips From Seaside, Florida. But if you're like many of the visitors to Seaside, you may never want to leave the town - and that's fine, because Seaside itself is a spot worthy of vacationing even if you never leave the town proper. You have award-winning restaurants, Cabana Man to set you up on the beaches, many shops and activities, and even a grocery store if you prefer to eat in. There are several outdoor events scheduled throughout the year because of the warm sunny weather, such as the Seeing Red Wine Festival, an annual Fourth of July parade, the annual 30A 10K and Fun Run, and even a 30A Songwriters Festival. Wherever you are coming from and however long it takes you to get here, time spent in Seaside will be memorable, relaxing, and a great way to get away from it all.