Growing up at the beach, I definitely never appreciated it. Truthfully, I’m rather pale. And sitting in the heat for a long time doesn’t appeal to me. But when I moved away to Atlanta, 30a became one of my favorite places. It’s always felt like the best version of home.
Unfortunately, it’s not always the most budget-friendly place to visit. You can absolutely find a few gems (as noted in today’s post). But figuring out how to do 30a on a budget can be a challenge. So today I’m giving you all my tips as a local. Things like where to stay, where to eat, the places that are actually worth the $$$, and what to skip. The essentials if you will.
If you’ve been dying for a beach vacay or just want to do a staycation like us, today’s post is for you. Let’s get started!
How To Do 30a On A Budget
Where To Stay on 30A
Now at the time, I’m writing this the adorable Airbnb we stayed at was new. But the price is amazing and it’s incredibly close to the beach. So be sure to jump on it if you’re looking for somewhere to stay on 30a on a budget.
It’s a camper/rv that’s perfect for 2 people. You could absolutely accommodate more pending host approval. However, it was exactly what we needed for our little staycation.
Located 1.5 miles from the center of Seaside, it meant we could walk or bike to the square. And with the recent parking changes (parking in the oval was removed to accommodate outdoor seating due to Covid & parking behind the shops is now $15 for most spaces), it was nice to be able to hop on our bikes and ride over for breakfast. This location also includes 2 bikes in the rental.
Where To Eat on 30A
If you’ve read any of the other travel food guides on the blog, you’ll most likely know I’m a bit of a foodie. You’ll also see this if you follow me on Instagram. Personally, I tend to do at least one nice dinner with every trip we take. And the other ones I’ll go a bit more simplistic.
Perfect for brunch or a more budget-friendly option. We go here often as it’s closer to Grayton Beach and a bit more out of the chaos. Be sure to use Yelp to skip the line and join the waitlist earlier. Also, they have great mimosas and gluten-free options.
On my list to try but is super close to the Airbnb we stayed at. They have a great menu if you want something post-run or love an acai bowl.
I have a gluten sensitivity but I find I can tolerate their bread most of the time. They also have AMAZING homemade pop tarts if you don’t have any food allergies. I always sneak a bite when my friends order one.
This gets packed around 9am so be sure to go early. It’s closer to Red Bar but not so far you couldn’t bike if you wanted to. They also have good meals as well as a bar room that’s good for a chill dinner. It’s a local fave for a reason.
I’m obsessed with Amavida for a lot of reasons. But they have several locations (Seaside, Rosemary, St. Andrews). As well as, their coffee is served at a few local shops (Kith & Kin, Beachy Bean). However, I would 100% recommend them for their matcha and cold brew.
We popped in here after going for breakfast on our first full day. Then we sat in the square, drank our coffee, and enjoyed the sunshine after we snagged new books for the beach. It was divine.
A classic Seaside staple that offers quite a few breakfast options. Beignets, mimosas, avocado toast, grits a yaya, etc. They also currently have the most seating available with both patio and tent options.
While there are quite a few places for pizza along 30a, B+A’s will always have a place in my heart. They offer vegan cheese options as well as good gluten-free crust (a rarity). Typically, we will split some kind of pizza and maybe an appetizer if we’re feeling extra hungry. But you could do two slices and be good.
This is one of the few places that I feel like you’ll often find a good mix of locals and tourists. They have a great beach view up top if you’re looking to slow down for lunch and enjoy the scenery. They also make all of their juices from scratch. So if you love a pineapple mimosa, you’ll want to snag one here.
In general, I have mixed feelings about Pescado. But their lunch is absolutely one of my favorites and pretty much when I would tell everyone to go. The exception to this rule would be to snag a drink at the bar during sunset before dinner somewhere else. Nevertheless, their lunch is one of my regular favorites and something I try to recreate at home.
The caveat with going to Pescado is that they take reservations. So oftentimes, they will tell you they are booked up but there may be availability at the bar/outdoor seating. Honestly, this is where you want to sit if you’re going to Pescado because it’s the best view. Also, their lunch menu is the more affordable option. See the dinner section for my recommended alternative.
A new discovery that isn’t on 30a but is about 15 minutes away on the other side of 98. They have SO many food options. For those of you traveling with kids, this is a great pre-nap stop to let them run out their energy.
You can also snag some of the more famous local meals. Or a basic burger. Eater’s choice. The restaurant is on the water and has its own mini beach. We did this for dinner our first night but I would happily choose it for lunch as well.
30A DINNER ON A BUDGET
I absolutely adore Surfing Deer. And it fits nicely with my Bougie on a Budget lifestyle. Or in the case of today’s post, the one fancy meal we did during our 30a On A Budget stay. They can accommodate all kinds of diets. You’ll need a reservation for this one. They book via Resy. But I highly recommend the 7 pm outdoor option so you can watch the sunset over the beach.
This will take you down towards Rosemary but it’s one of my favorite 30a locations. I desperately miss my favorite tapas places living in Florida. So La Crema is where we go when we want something bite-sized or just feel like celebrating. They do cheese fondue, chocolate fondue, and all sorts of other incredible dishes.
If you read my how to go gluten and dairy-free post, I featured several of their dishes in the photography. I highly recommend their Brussel sprouts and fish tacos (sub corn shell for the flour).
The team at Edward’s kindly invited us to come check out their lunch menu recently. It was divine but I would also suggest this for a lush dinner out. They can easily accommodate any dietary restrictions you may have. Just let them know when ordering as they have items available that aren’t on the menu. See my 30A highlight on Instagram for a more in-depth review.
A newer addition to the 30a stretch, you’ll need a reservation for this one if you have a group. However, I highly recommend sitting at the bar because you get more menu options. I did a round-up post on our recent adventure here to be sure to check this post on Instagram. But they have lots of fun drinks, a great vibe, and amazing fries (a priority in my life).
If you’re looking to live your best early bird special life and/or want to make of the most of your dinner out budget, Amici or Amigos are your best bet. These restaurants are side by side in Inlet Beach at the light where you’d turn left off of 98 to get on 30a.
They offer happy hour from 4-6pm. Amici’s is primarily Italian food. I often order their veggie appetizer + a grilled meal as I find their gluten-free pizza isn’t all that great. However, if they’ve added a vegan cheese option (hopefully soon), then it might be better. But it’s not something I would recommend if you’re GF.
Amigos has amazing options across the board. I tend to order either tacos or salad. And of course, because I’ve eaten too many chips, I end up with leftovers which means I’ve stretched my food budget even farther. But I would 100% suggest either for a dinner out/30a on a budget option.
Another option for happy hour, The Pearl is great for drink/snacks with a view. I always forget about the Pearl but I’ve enjoyed my girl’s nights there. I don’t believe they take reservations. But this is another nicer location to unwind and enjoy being at the beach without the sand.
There aren’t too many strictly drink options along 30a. But if you’re looking for a place to maybe grab a drink pre-dinner or as a fun outing with dinner in, Neat is a top fave. Their cocktail menu rotates but they will do the traditional options as well. And if you’re not a drinker, they tend to stock kombucha for mixing so it’s always a good idea to ask.
In the past, they’ve had random bites and chocolate. As with many things, this has adapted with Covid. But they do offer both indoor and outdoor seating as well as music once a week. So it’s a great option if you just need a chill moment.
Directly beneath Pescado, you’ll find their newest expansion that offers cocktails, a few desserts, and a few bites to eat. We went when they first opened and I’m still dreaming about their smores dessert (definitely not gluten or dairy-free).
Their menu is very limited so I would absolutely plan to eat somewhere else after. But if you just want a nibble or to get something sweet, highly recommend.
WHERE TO SHOP ON 30A
If for whatever reason, you’ve landed at the beach and forgotten something essential, let’s talk about where you can replace it on a budget. Aka not on 30a. The one not-so-beneficial thing about the 30a stretch is that almost everything you would need is back towards Panama City Beach or deep in Destin.
However, you can find things at Becasa (Inlet Beach), Target (Pier Park), or Walmart (Pier Park). I’m a massive fan of the local bookstores (Sundog Books for Seaside, The Hidden Lantern for Rosemary). And for last-minute outfits, I would personally pick something from Disco 30a.
WHAT TO DO ON 30A ON A BUDGET
For our staycation we did a mix of biking, beach reading, eating, and relaxing. However, if you’re looking to mix it up and add in some fun activities there are a few other location options available.
I’d recommend using the AllTrails app for this to make sure you are doing a trail that works for how long you want to be in the sun. We’ve previously done the Flatwood trail which is around 4.8 miles. It loops back and goes by the lake. Highly recommend it as a free activity.
I would suggest trying this not in the gulf. The water’s tend to be a bit choppy and more challenging if you’ve never tried. I pretty much sat on my board to paddle the first time we went out.
However, if you don’t mind sitting, the Gulf of Mexico water is gorgeous. And I’ve spied more than one friend share their up-close encounter with a dolphin.
There are a few local companies that offer this but I’d suggest Salty Girls Beach Set-Ups.
If you’re looking to do something fun and new, this is also a great option!
A recent addition to the Blue Magnolia menu, they offer a full afternoon tea set up. There are several package options so this would be perfect to split with a group.
THINGS TO AVOID ON 30A
Buying your seafood and groceries on 30a. While I love where I live, there is a price increase the moment you go from Bay County to Walton County. For seafood, I’d suggest stopping at Buddy Gandy’s. As for groceries, The Fresh Market & Publix are my top picks. Winn Dixie is one of the best for budget liquor options.
LOCAL TIPS FOR DOING 30 ON A BUDGET
If it’s in a centralized area, aka Seaside or Rosemary, you’re likely paying for the convenience. A quick search will find you options that might require a short drive but will save you on time, money and often get you a seat for meals faster. Places like Grayton Beer Brewpub, Beachy Bean Cafe and For The Health Of It are my favorites for quick and/or healthy bites that are often more overlooked.
You’ll see everyone with bikes and for a good reason, traffic can be slow along 30a. It might seem like an extra cost that isn’t worth it but you’ll get way more out of your vacation time by renting one.
Watercolor has several hidden gems and is often overlooked. It’s also the perfect place for a picnic. Seaside has a farmer’s market on Saturday morning. Rosemary does theirs on Sunday. Both feature amazing pre-made local dishes that would be perfect for a low-key easy lunch option.
FAVE HIDDEN LOCAL 30 A GEMS
There will be a post up soon on all my favorite coffee places along 30a. However, I would suggest both Beachy Bean and Kith & Kin if you want to skip the lines that come with most coffee spots.
Pescado and Chiringo are really some of the best options for getting a meal with a view on a budget.
And if you’re looking to get in a good workout, both Alive 30a and Sculpt Studio offer tons of classes throughout the week. My personal favorite and the class I attend most often is pilates however, it’s closer to Panama City Beach. But if your vacation is longer, definitely check it out!
My other big suggestion is to venture to Vintji in San Destin for a meal. Their menu is constantly evolving with specials you’ll actually want to eat. Plus, Vintji is hands down one of my favorites that makes amazing dishes that aren’t generic copies of every cliche tourist spot you’ve ever been to.
Whew. That was a lot of info. If you’re still with me, you deserve extra cherries or toppers in your drink, or maybe an extra vacay day! But I hope you found today’s post helpful. If you have any questions, either leave them below or come find me on Instagram. Also, be sure to sign up for the newsletter as I’ll be dropping more travel/30a content soon. But if you want to stay up to date on all the fun things that happen in your fave vacation area in real-time, Instagram is where it’s at. Until next time. Xoxo, Savvy
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