10 Amenities at The Beaches of South Walton
Guest Blog for Thicket Magazine
by Murray Balkcom
Published by Thicket Magazine (Mar/Apr 2009)
You haven’t been to South Walton if you haven’t been to the world-famous Red Bar, tucked away in the sleepy little community of Grayton Beach. The Red Bar is open for lunch and dinner, and recently added breakfast. No reservations accepted, so be patient, because the Red Bar is very popular. Be sure to catch the Red Bar Jazz Band on Fri or Sat evenings, or Dread Clampitt on Sundays from noon-3pm.
Want to see some of the best live entertainment along the Emerald Coast? The Repertory Theatre hosts excellent plays, movies, and comedy, and also has acting camp for kids. Check their schedule online and reserve your seats in advance, as the tickets to the small theatre sell quickly.
For a great escape from people, there are several must-see State Parks along the beaches in South Walton. Tops’l State Park, Grayton Beach State Park, Deer Lake State Park, and Camp Helen State Park are among the best in all of Florida. Cabins fill early, so make your reservations well in advance. Eden Gardens State Park, located four miles north of the beach on the Choctawhatchee Bay, is a great place to have a picnic lunch on the grounds, under the canopy of 20- year-old oak trees.
If you need an escape from the beach, stroll through the back of Seaside, known as Ruskin Place. The art galleries in Ruskin Place are a treasure. One of my favorites, Eileen West Gallery, features folk art, and some of the artists have works on permanent display in the Smithsonian.
For all of the coffee fans, Amavida Coffee, featuring Seaside and Roesmary locations, roasts its own beans. Owners Dan and Sally know so much about coffee roasting that they roast their “Fair-Trade” beans for many coffee houses located along the entire Emerald Coast of Florida. Amavida Coffee also serves some delicious food, great wines, and organic beers, and often has local musicians performing on the patio.
When you begin to crave a traditional breakfast, fresh donuts (you haven’t eaten a donut until you eat one from this place), big burgers, or other sandwiches, the very casual Donut Hole Bakery Cafe is the place to go. Sunday mornings are probably their busiest time, so expect a wait. Open breakfast, lunch and dinner.
6745 US Highway 98 E, Santa Rosa Beach – (850) 267-3239
Long ago, in the early years of the development of Seaside, Scott and Dave opened Bud and Alley’s, named after a dog and cat. After 23 years of being open, they still pack the house with a good mix of locals and tourists. Being open that long doesn’t happen by chance. Their rooftop bar is THE place to see a sunset overlooking the beach and Gulf, while enjoying a drink from the full service bar. They celebrate the sunset every day, as though it was the last. Also visit Bud and Alley’s Pizza Bar which has one of the best patios in South Walton. Oh, and let’s also remember that Bud and Alley’s Taco Bar is also a hot-spot in Seaside.
WaterColor, nestled between Grayton Beach and Seaside, is home to Fabrice. A French Patisserie and Café, they bake and prepare some of the finest food in South Walton. Enjoy dining in the warmth of the sun, or if you can resist the temptation of all of the many pastries, try dining in the quaint dining area inside. Every sandwich is served on freshly made bread, and is absolutely delicious!
There is much debate about which is the best pizza in South Walton. I recently learned about what may be a contender for the best. With a small dining room, excellent service, and authentic Italian pizza, Fat Clemenza’s Brick-Oven Pizzeria is some of best around. Located west of the Outlet Mall at Sandestin, it is only a short drive from the Scenic 30A area, and well worth it.
Pizza varies from place to place. Two other of my favorite pizza places are Pizza by the Sea, located next door to the WaterColor Publix on Hwy 395, and Pickle Factory, located a few hundred yards, north of 30A and Grayton Beach.
Pizza by the Sea has big pizzas, the best crust, great for lunch specials or to go pizzas, and the atmosphere is kid-friendly. Family owned and operated, and even the employees seem like close family to all the customers. I love this place. 850-231-3030
Pickle Factory‘s owner’s are probably often asked why they have a name which has nothing to do with pizza. I don’t know that anyone has ever received a straight answer. Co-owners, Jeff (#1) and Jeff (#2) opened this eclectic pizza joint complete with that cozy coffee house feeling. Great pizzas, great atmosphere and reasonably priced. It is off the beaten path, and a hit with locals. Please don’t tell everyone about it because it has very limited seating. I think I have sampled every pizza, even the ones with olives (which I don’t like), and they were all fabulous. The pizzas are smaller in size and gourmet-like, which is great for a boy like myself, thinking about swimsuit season.
38 Clayton Ln / Santa Rosa Beach, FL
(Full article available at Thicket Magazine)