It’s been many, many years since I’ve visited the Florida Panhandle- in fact, we were staying in Destin when I first watched the movie Jaws! Not the best choice for a beach vacation, haha! But this summer we made it back and absolutely loved it. Our family drove (yes, 15 hours one way!) to Seaside, Florida a few weeks ago and could not believe how family-friendly it was.
About 30 minutes east of Destin, the entire town of Seaside is idyllic and literally picture perfect- they filmed The Truman Show there! The perfectly-planned streets are lined with palm trees and beautiful beach “cottages” (some are much too large to be called a cottage!). People are biking or walking everywhere, and there are plenty of opportunities for a shopping, a snack, or a delicious meal.
One of the biggest pros to Seaside for us was the ability of nearly every restaurant to accommodate our large group quickly. In all, our group totaled 13 people- my side of the family came with us and we had 5 kids in that group. So, we are used to long wait times at restaurants and difficult table configurations- but had zero issues in Seaside!
There are many, many places to stay in Seaside, and condos or homes outnumber hotels by far - which is our preference, anyway. After doing some research, we decided we could save quite a bit by staying just on the other side of 30A (the main thoroughfare that the area is named after- it follows the shoreline). So, while we didn’t have an oceanview, we were able to walk there quite easily and felt it was a really good decision!
Our condo was perfect for our family and had two bunk beds, a pullout couch and 1 king bed with 2 bathrooms, a small kitchen, living area and enclosed balcony. One major perk of the place (besides the location) was the huge crate full of beach toys, chairs and even a beach cart. It was also above an ice cream shop, urgent care clinic, and surf shop which we utilized at different times throughout the trip. The condo we stayed at is called Cassine Station, so look for that when searching vrbo or AirBnb.
Our property also had access to a pool which was handy when there were 2 red flags up at the beach and we were unable to get in the water. This happened 2 days we were there, but it wasn’t a huge issue- the kids still played in the sand and then we swam in the pool.
FOOD…because it’s our favorite souvenir
There were so many great spots to eat around Seaside, and we didn’t scratch the surface- but here are some we’d definitely visit again and enjoyed-
Pizza By The Sea- my favorite meal! Wine and pizza and the beach…welcome to my dreamland. The pizza was amazing and went beyond basic ingredients. They also had a shelf of children’s books to entertain while waiting on food. We ate here the first night, and it worked out really well because Publix is next door and we were able to buy groceries after dinner.
Great Southern Cafe- This was a delicious meal! Of course, we all ordered seafood and it did not disappoint. I would say this is more adult-friendly, but it was no problem to have the kids there. We also hit up the little stand right next to the restaurant for some frosé before our meal which was totally overpriced but delicious and hey….vacay!
Cafe Thirty-A- My parents volunteered to babysit one evening, so we got to go out with my sisters and brothers-in-law for dinner. This is the most upscale place we ate, and it was so delicious. Great service and menu variety- everyone loved their food and the drink list was extensive. Great for a date night.
Seagrove Village Market Cafe- We ate on the patio for this dinner and it had a great atmosphere. This place knows how to fry food, for sure- most of what is on their menu is fried (but good!).
Frostbites- We had to stop by this Seaside staple for a snow cone one day! It was a great break from the heat and the entire area beside this food truck is adorable. There are several more food trucks in this area and space to play for the kids.
It’s Heavenly Shortcakes & Ice Cream- We ordered wayyyy to much here (read: lots of sticky ice cream mess) BUT everything was so yummy. Centrally located in Seaside Circle.
Bud and Alley’s- This restaurant has a casual bar with an ocean view, or a more formal restaurant. The night we dined at the restaurant, it was getting late and we had cranky kiddos, so the formal setting was a bit much for us. We should have just gone to a burger joint! But, the food was great. However, this was one of the more expensive meals we had.
The Perfect Pig- This was a great breakfast/brunch place just a short walk from our condo, and was so delicious! Great coffee and GRITS!
Now for our Tips for Seaside:
Buy groceries (but don’t overdo it!)- We planned to eat breakfast and lunch at the condo, and that worked really well for our family. I made sure to buy things that were super portable, and didn’t require any real cooking, haha. Pop tarts, sausage biscuits, Lunchables (our kids don’t get these first three at home very often so this felt special to them, haha!), snack cheese, turkey pepperoni, crackers, etc. We also grabbed paper towels, extra wipes, sunscreen, and a couple of inner-tubes. The Publix in Seaside has plenty of beach toys if you need any!
Consider skipping the ocean view- Let’s be honest, if you’re traveling with kids, there won’t be a lot of time for porch-sitting and basking in the view from your condo- unless you wake up super early, and on vacation, we don’t. :) It was such a huge savings for us to be just off the ocean, and we’d do it again.
Set a timer for sunscreen- I mean, this isn’t that revolutionary, but we needed to! After we forgot to reapply the first day and had several bad burns, we were pretty hard core about it. We aren’t used to that extra sun at the beach, and so we literally needed a reminder.
Take a break in the afternoon. Most days, we had an intentional slow start to the day and wandered out to the beach by 10-ish, and stayed until 1 or 2 when we’d come back to the condo, eat lunch and make the girls take a nap. This worked really well for us and that rest time was my only “peaceful” moment to read, nap, etc.
Don’t bring it to the beach unless you want sand on it. Again, obvious, but worth remembering when packing! We designated a waterproof cosmetic bag I had for our phones, wallets, etc. and that worked really well.
Hit up the beach in the evening. We did this one night and loved it so much. At 5 pm, condos that set our beach chairs for their guests pick them back up for the night, and many people leave for the day. It was cooler and much less crowded in the evenings, and in the future we’ll visit more often during this time.
Don’t reserve rentals ahead of time- I wondered if we needed to reserve rentals in advance (there are a TON of rental places that rent everything from beach chairs, to bikes, to baby cribs), but I’m glad we didn’t, because our condo had everything we needed.
Double check amenity deals before you go. Our condo offered some special deals on fun things like parasailing, jet skis, mini golf, etc.- but there was a catch- one free adult per day (and you can’t stack your days) AND most of the activities were at least a 30 minute drive. We considered doing one or two of them, but decided that this trip, we’d rather just have more beach time. I think we will probably be into this stuff once our kids get older and can participate.
Get a condo with washer/dryer and do your laundry the day before you leave. I would assume that most condos have one, but it was SO handy. The condo provided one extra pack of laundry detergent, which wasn’t enough for us, but I brought some travel detergent. So, you may need to buy that or bring some extra.
Whew, lots of info and that’s not even half of what I could tell you about! All in all, we will definitely be back. Seaside was charming, laid-back, and that sugary white sand was the best we’ve ever experienced.
I hope this post was helpful, and if you have more Seaside tips, please let me know! Also, if you haven’t checked out my Road Trip Travel Hacks & Must-Haves, you’ll need to! That was a whole other portion of this vacation I didn’t get into this post. :)