30A is a place that I hold near and dear to my heart. Not only is it my family’s happy place, but we also own several Airbnbs there. Living only an hour and a half away in Dothan, Alabama, we visit frequently and are quite knowledgeable about the area. Today, I would like to share with you some of my favorite day trips from 30A.
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This article was written by one of our contributors, Sarah Blevins, and originally appeared on her site OurLittleLifestyle.
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What Is 30A?
Nestled along the Gulf of Mexico and the Florida Panhandle’s southern coast, you’ll find the beaches of 30A. It’s no doubt that visitors are flocking to this area, both for the white sand beaches and the laid-back, family-friendly atmosphere. Beloved by families for generations, 30A is a vacation destination where the days revolve around the beach, pool, biking, eating, and quality time with your loved ones.
But, if you are looking to explore the area more, plenty of day trip destinations offer a diverse range of activities for the entire family. From natural springs to charming coastal villages, here are six fantastic day trips from 30A for your family to try! Most are within a one-hour drive from 30A, but all are within two hours.
30A Day Trips You Don’t Want to Miss
1: Experience the Magic of Shell Island
Located just off the coast of Panama City Beach, Shell Island is a hidden gem that offers pristine, white sandy beaches and crystal-clear turquoise waters. This 7-mile-long, uninhabited barrier island is only accessible by boat, and you have a few different options for getting there by boat.
Book a Catamaran Tour to Shell Island
Local tour companies offer guided tours that include snorkeling, dolphin watching, and exploring the island. Our favorite is Paradise Adventures, and they offer a few different daytime tours that even include inflatables in the bay.
Rent a Pontoon Boat in the Grand Lagoon
Another option, probably the most popular, is renting a pontoon boat and heading there yourself. We have personally done this on multiple occasions, and it makes for such a great day! A few reputable companies include Lagoon Pontoons, Paradise Adventures, and Adventures at Sea.
Hop on the Shell Island Shuttle
The alternative is taking the Shell Island Shuttle from St. Andrews State Park. You can click here for the current Shell Island Shuttle schedule, which does vary seasonally.
The downside is that you must carry everything off the boat, which can be cumbersome. The other options allow you to store your snacks, coolers, and towels safely.
Shell Island Tips
For these boat trips, you typically dock on the bay side and can walk across the island to the white sand coastline and emerald waters. The water you will initially see on the bay side is brackish. However, we have had fantastic luck snorkeling and spotting sea critters there!
I do want to point out that Shell Island is very primitive. There are no bathrooms, snack shops, chair rentals, etc. So, plan accordingly. This is also what makes it so unique. On some occasions when we have been there, we didn’t see another person in either direction.
2: Underground Adventures at Florida Caverns State Park
Located in Marianna, about 90 minutes from the east end of 30A, Florida Caverns State Park offers visitors a unique opportunity to explore the state’s only dry cave system. Five days a week, guided tours take visitors through the caverns home to an impressive array of stalactites, stalagmites, and other geological formations. The temperature inside the cave system stays 65 degrees year around, making it a nice place to cool off in the summer or warm up in the winter.
Florida Cavern Tickets
The Florida Caverns guided tour tickets are sold in person on a first-come, first-served basis at the Florida Caverns Gift Shop. There are also a limited number of online reservations available, and I recommend that you only go if you can book your tour in advance. The tours sell out, and I would hate for you to drive that far only to be turned away.
Click here to learn more about Florida Caverns State Park and see photos from our visit.
3: Paddle to Cypress Springs
Located just up Highway 79 in Vernon, Cypress Springs is a natural freshwater spring that boasts crystal-clear waters and a sandy bottom. The spring is surrounded by lush vegetation, making it an ideal spot for swimming, picnicking, and sunbathing.
The best way to access this freshwater spring is by taking a kayak or canoe to Cypress Springs, and it makes for a nice half-day outing for families and couples.
4: A Day of Play at Vortex Spring
If you are looking for a fun way to entertain your older kids, Vortex Spring is a great option. Located less than an hour north of Seaside in Ponce De Leon, Vortex Spring is a natural spring popular among divers and snorkelers. Here you will find a primitive waterpark with slides, rope swings, and high dives. The spring offers crystal-clear water, but remember that Spring water is cold. The water temperature will be around 70 degrees, which is refreshing in the summer.
To avoid crowds, you’ll want to visit during the week. Vortex Spring is a popular hangout for locals on the weekends and can get very crowded. If the activities here don’t interest you, there are a couple of other more natural springs in the surrounding area, including Morrison Springs and Ponce de Leon Springs.
5: Shop and Dine at Harborwalk Village
If you head east on Highway 98 from 30A, you’ll run straight into Destin, Florida. Harborwalk Village is a fun coastal village that offers a variety of shops, restaurants, and activities. Visitors can stroll along the waterfront boardwalk, take a sunset cruise, or even try deep-sea fishing. The village also hosts various events and festivals throughout the year, including weekly fireworks shows during the summer.
Harborwark Village can be a short two-hour outing, or you can make a day of it but booking a boat outing from the Destin Harbor at Harborwalk Village. Plan an afternoon dolphin-watching trip and then stay for dinner at AJs Seafood and Oyster Bar!
6: Follow the Coastline to Gulf County, Florida
Located along Florida’s Forgotten Coast, Gulf County is a hidden gem that offers visitors a taste of old Florida. The area is home to miles of pristine beaches and quaint coastal towns like Port St. Joe and Cape San Blas. Visitors can explore nature trails, go birdwatching, or take a scenic drive along the coast. Gulf County is also known for its fresh seafood, including scallops, when in season. You can’t go wrong with a stop at the Indian Pass Raw Bar.
This is a fantastic option if you enjoy rolling the windows down and taking a slow drive along the coast!
Plan Your Next 30A Day Trip
As you can see, there are plenty of amazing day trip destinations to explore from 30A Florida. From pristine beaches and crystal-clear springs to natural cave systems and charming coastal villages, these six destinations offer diverse experiences for visitors of all ages. Whether you’re looking for an adventure-packed day or a relaxing getaway, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.
These day trip destinations offer visitors a unique opportunity to explore the best the Florida Panhandle offers. Whether you’re a local or a first-time visitor, add these destinations to your bucket list and experience the magic of the Sunshine State!