By Teri Cook
In today's wired world and on-the-go lifestyles, it's easy to get lost in our daily commitments. We always remember to recharge our phone or iPad batteries, while often draining our own battery down to nothing. It can be difficult to slow down, but the west end of 30A FL offers plenty of opportunities to stop, enjoy the moment, and recharge.
If your vision of a restful vacation includes unwinding by connecting with nature, the outdoors, people and great food the beach communities of Grayton, Blue Mountain and Dune Allen have much to offer during your stay along 30A West. Leaving your phone at home, an early morning bike ride to explore the area with friends or family can easily turn into an all day event. Let's use our imaginations and visualize our ride now...
Riding your bike through the serene community of Grayton Beach, you happen upon Grayton Beach State Park. Probing, you decide that renting a canoe and paddling along Western Lake sounds like fun. Listening intently to the sound of the water on your journey allows you to stay in the moment and forget what you are doing, until a fish jumps up, bringing you back.
After several hours of canoeing the growl in your stomach reminds you that you need to eat. Paddling to shore in search of fabulous food you bike to the Red Bar (a local watering hole) finally silencing your rumble. Enjoying the feel of the gathering spot, you decide to stay a bit longer to nourish your soul with music from a local band.
Energized, you bike further along the 30A trial to Blue Mountain Beach. Noticing a long line of people, you stop to check out the yellow building, realizing everyone is waiting patiently in line for DELICIOUS homemade ice cream from Blue Mountain Creamery. Reaching the front of the line you begin to understand why the wait is long. With a multitude of ice creams made daily to choose from, it can be difficult to decide on a flavor. After trying a few samples, you practice restraint and settle on two.
After finishing your ice cream you see a public beach access in the distance and decide to bike down the street to check it out. A green flag signifies tranquil waters so you stop and meditate for a few minutes. Staring at the water, you forget about the people on the beach having fun, listening instead to the sound of the calm waves. Suddenly, your eye catches a pod of dolphins far out in the ocean. Your eyes become fixated on their next move. They are so fun to watch, you know they are putting on the show just for you. Thirty minutes pass by, the dolphins retreat under water, and it's time to move on. You maneuver to check your phone out of habit before you get on your bike, feeling relief when you remember you left it at home.
Riding further down the west end of 30A you discover Gulf Place a town center with ample stores, art and interesting places to eat. After parking your bike on one of the racks you see a sign advertising Happy Hour and another with an invitation to listen to music at the Gulf Place Amphitheater. The time passes with engaging conversation and a few drinks while you listen to the ocean waves roaring from across the street at the Ed Waline Public Beach Access. You walk over to explore the local artist kiosks in Gulf Place, admiring one-of-a-kind handmade art, settling on the purchase of a ceramic piece for your friend back home.
Your noisy stomach growls lead you to your subsequent stop, Dune Allen Beach, to enjoy fresh seafood at Stinky's Fish Camp. You notice a bait shop next to the restaurant, reminding you of a favorite pastime you often neglect...fishing. As you wait for your table, you realize the day is winding down and put fishing at Topsail Hill Preserve State Park on your agenda for tomorrow. After a relaxing and peaceful dinner, you ride across the street to the public beach access and admire the sunset, grabbing for your phone to take a picture to capture the moment. Remembering your phone is at home, you step into the moment, creating a picture of the beautiful sunset for your memory, before riding home to plan for tomorrow's fishing adventure.
30A West is a 45-minute drive from either Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport or Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport. Each community offers public beach accesses with varying amenities depending on the location. These include parking, lifeguards, restrooms and picnic tables. Numerous state parks from the east end of 30A to the west provide opportunities to enjoy outdoor activities such as biking and hiking trails, canoeing, kayaking, camping and boating on the water. A vast selection of awesome restaurants, shops, art, outdoor fun and planned seasonal activities guarantees fun for all ages in Grayton, Blue Mountain and Dune Allen Beach.
Recharging your human batteries is an important component to maintaining a quality and happy life. Leaving your cell phone at home during vacation permits you to truly explore and stay in the moment, and allows you to create pictures in your memory that are better than any phone camera. Enjoy engaging in all the outdoor fun while recharging the most important battery...you!