There’s a gorgeous sameness about the beaches of the Emerald Coast—just one mile after another of soft quartz sand running alongside an aquamarine shoreline that appears aglow, lit from within. The communities that populate this realm, however, are a different matter altogether. All they have in common is their distinctiveness from one another. From east to west, we’ll be highlighting the eleven independent townships that together comprise what the world now recognizes as 30A.
Nice dogs. Strange people. That’s what they say about Grayton Beach.
This funky little beach sits centered on 30A, where everyone’s friendly and things hardly ever change. This tiny hamlet is the longest standing community on 30A, and has been consistently ranked as one of the top beach destinations in the country. Locals and visitors alike are passionate about protecting its charm. A U.S. Army general named Charles T. Gray founded the settlement around 1911.
Gray created a homestead of small beach shacks (also known as “wash-aways”) tucked behind the native oak trees. Grayton’s pristine beaches were difficult to access for a lack of a passable road through the surrounding forest. The streets are still lined with trees and covered in oyster-shells. Everywhere you’ll see handmade store signs and spirited artwork. For years there were more dogs than people––at least until the 1980s when tourism finally began to boom. Hence the “Nice dogs. Strange people” motto stuck.
Today, nightlife thrives with local hot spots to grab a drink, such as the famous Red Bar, Chiringo, AJs, Grayton Brewpub, Hurricanes Oyster Bar, and Bar Room. In the morning, there are also several delicious breakfast options from Hibiscus Vegetarian Café and Black Bear Bread Company to Crackings and Bad Ass Coffee in uptown Grayton. Of course, you can’t get the full Grayton experience without visiting the Grayton Beach State Park. Acres of protected land sit in the middle of the community, spanning north of 30A and south at the Gulf. You may even spot a deer on the beach in the early morning hours. The state park is the perfect place for families with small children to play on the beach as there is plenty of parking and restrooms that are readily accessible. Many locals also enjoy camping in one of the several campsites spread throughout the park (including on the beach!)
Many think of Grayton Beach as the soul of 30A, as it’s preserved by the residents who vow to keep Grayton great. With vibrant beach cottages and even more vibrant, original artwork throughout, the character Grayton Beach possesses is irreplicable.