Personally, I feel like January and February are the longest months on the calendar. I can only assume it's a combination of just coming down from a holiday high, not having another three day weekend in near sight, and the frigid temperatures. Outdoor music festivals, patio dining, and fresh open-air markets are only a distant yearning. When the gloomy weather starts festering deep in my bones, I like to take a trip down memory lane. My husband and I used to live only a hop, skip, and a jump from some of the most beautiful beaches in all of the land. Five o'clock on a Friday afternoon didn't mean happy hour; it meant pack the car, roll down the windows, blare the music, and soon we would have our toes curled up in the sand watching the sun set over the crashing waves. Don't get me wrong, I adore the mountains of Tennessee but there is something about the Florida coastline that has a tight grip on my heart. Our favorite area to visit is the unique communities along the scenic 30a highway. In case you need a mental vacation from this time of year, I've put together a visual escape for us all.
Rosemary Beach, FL: From the homes to the restaurants and shops, this neighborhood as a European glow about it. The winding sidewalks meander their way through lush greens, blooming vines, and hidden dwellings. One may never know what is tucked away behind each turn; perhaps a community pool waiting to be dived into, tennis courts ready for a friendly match, a grassy clearing perfect for a picnic lunch, fountains of trickling water ready for a penny and a wish, and of course, the white sandy beach is always welcoming visitors.
Favorite activities: renting a bike, getting lost, lounging on the private beach. Favorite eats: Wild Olives, Summer Kitchen Cafe, La Crema Tapas & Chocolate, Onano Neighborhood Cafe.
Seaside, FL: This tight-knit community reeks of happiness and joy; you just can't help but grin from the beginning to the end of your stay. The colorful, pastel cottages and white picket fences are the perfect back drop to the beach theme. During the summer, the center of town is home to a jaw-dropping market and plenty of foot-tapping live music. There is no shortage of shopping options in this small village, each with it's own unique offering. Stationary food trucks and a constant salty breeze warms your soul and fills your mind with thoughts of "we should move here right now!" Favorite activities: laying on a blanket in the central park, walking around the narrow streets, browsing the aisles at Central Square Records. Favorite eats: Bud & Alley's, Pickles Beachside Grille, Great Southern Cafe, Raw & Juicy, Modica Market.
Santa Rosa Beach, FL: This particular beach town would be best described as Caribbean-style artsy. There is always a reggae tune pouring out of the speakers and I can't help but have a little more pep in my step. It's centered around a circle of brightly-colored artist booths displaying funky paintings, hand-made clothing, and local jewelry. It may seem smaller than the others but will definitely leave a lasting impression. Favorite activities: treasure hunting for our next piece of artwork, sharing an ice cream cone at Miss Lucille's Gossip Parlor, admiring the view. Favorite eats: Fish Out of Water, Cafe Tango, Hibiscus Coffee & Cafe, Amore Pizzeria, Smiling Fish Cafe.
There are plenty of other sights to explore dotted along 30a but that should get you warmed up for now.