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.
A destination known worldwide. The town of Seaside serves as an icon of the New Urbanism movement with its “human-scale” layout that includes accessible public spaces and imminently walkable streets. Enjoy a basket of shrimp and a Red Stripe under the pavilion overlooking the turquoise waters of the Gulf. Wander through Seaside’s amazing boutiques and restaurants. It’s all right there, waiting to be explored by foot or bicycle.
The iconic 30A community was conceived by Robert and Daryl Davis with the help of architects Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk. Founded in 1981, Seaside was a forerunner in the embryonic New Urbanism movement which sought to address the phenomenon of sprawl that has plagued American towns and cities in recent decades. Seaside features a neighborhood school, a post office, playgrounds, a chapel and charging ports for electric cars. An outdoor amphitheater serves as the town’s centerpiece, while a string of Airstream trailers offers light bites. The highlight, however, may be Modica Market with its deli and stunningly good wine and beer by the glass.
Part of Seaside’s irresistible charm is its emphasis on simplicity and sustainability. Bicycles and pedestrians are everywhere, while many of the streets remain unpaved. Perhaps most significantly, the architectural sensibilities have inspired other 30A communities, combining the innovative with the traditional.
Charming cottages surround Seaside Square where you’ll find one-of-a-kind amenities, shops and restaurants – from the Seaside REP to the Seaside Amphitheater to Sundog Books to Bud and Alley’s to the Airstream food trucks to theater performances on the Lyceum Lawn. Come Saturday morning in the summer months, the Farmer’s Market fills the amphitheater.
Wherever you go, the sugar-soft sand and turquoise waters of the Gulf are just steps away. By any measure, Seaside is as much an experience as a destination.