I’d never really even heard of Seaside before going there (on a “work retreat” aka a vacation with my coworkers). I live by the beach, so I don’t have a ton of people wanting to vacation with me to a different beach, and if I’m going to Florida, I’m going to Orlando (Harry Potter, anyone?).
I always search new destinations for gluten free options and go from there. It’s fun to say that my favorite souvenir shop on any trip is a grocery store, and I plan around meals instead of attractions. My flight put me in Florida about 6 hours ahead of everyone, so I had some time to kill once I landed. In case you hadn’t guessed, I was not going to spend it in the Panama City Beach airport. I did a quick change in the airport from jeans to shorts, got my suitcase, and exited stage left.
Monday, June 14
I took a taxi from the airport to the meltdown on 30A because it was in Seaside, close to the beach and the house we were staying in, and looked like it was around some things I could do while waiting for check in. The taxi driver was hilarious and definitely pulled into the horseshoe where NO OTHER CARS were. (Google maps shows that it used to be a parking area, but it definitely isn’t anymore.) Quick note here, the lady at the information desk told me that taxis and ubers were about the same price… I think she was wrong. Just check for yourself.
The meltdown on 30A had gluten free options, so I was very not daring and got a plain grilled cheese (and a coke, since they don’t have Dr Pepper). It was great, but honestly, I don’t know if it was the environment or the actual sandwich. They have other, fancier sandwich options, but I was a little overwhelmed at the time. FYI – they don’t take cash (or didn’t when I was there), so plan for that.
Next up was gelato, because I’m forever a fan of dessert and also it was hot outside. My choice was a coffee gelato from Heavenly’s Shortcakes & Ice Cream and let me just say, wow it was delicious. I’m a little bit spoiled with my favorite local coffee shop’s gelato, so I definitely had high expectations. They were met. It was also just really great to sit outside, watch people, and enjoy myself. I definitely recommend working some of that into your vacation, especially if you’re heading to Seaside.
I had my suitcase and backpack with me (as you’ll see in some of the photos), and it wasn’t the worst it could have been… but it also wasn’t the best. If I’d been smarter and a little more daring, I would have dropped it off on the covered porch of the AirBnB we were staying at (the taxi driver took me past it just to show me where it was) and then not had to deal with it. Still, at the end of the day, I didn’t have my suitcase stolen and it was all fine, so whatever. That said, I don’t recommend taking your suitcase around with you all day. It’s super bike friendly, so if you can rent a bike, absolutely do it.
Anyway, I naturally had to go into the very cute bookstore – Sundog Books – and I think I would have been in there for significantly longer than I was if I was sans-suitcase… and probably would have spent way more money. I absolutely loved the bookstore. It was chaotic and I’m not sure if there was an organizational system aside from genre, but that made it way more fun. I bought two books (Second First Impressions and The Bookshop of Second Chances) and then forced myself to leave.
The bookstore had a record shop on the second floor, but lugging my suitcase up the stairs to look at records that I couldn’t take home with me just wasn’t in the cards for me. Next door to the bookstore was a post office, which looked so cute. It closed at 2:30pm though, and I missed my chance to look around (again, mostly because of not wanting to lug my suitcase into another tiny shop).
From the bookstore, I wandered across the way and parked myself in a chair overlooking the grassy area around the amphitheater. I was in the shade of a palm tree and read for a solid hour before giving in to my want of an iced coffee. (The photos here are from instagram, because I clearly forgot to take non-insta pictures.) I ended up with an iced chai from Amavida Coffee. It was good, but once again, I’m spoiled by my local coffee shop and this time, the iced chai did not match up. Don’t let that stop you from going though! It was cute and I’m just kind of a snob.
While I was out of my chair (realistically, on the hunt for a bathroom) and before I got back in a chair with the iced chai, I did a little more exploring and ended up at Nigels30A for a frozen banana. It’s a frozen banana, dipped in chocolate, and then the one I picked was covered in sprinkles. It was good, definitely, but it was also very strange. A frozen banana has a strange consistency and as it melts, that texture changes.
I read some more after I got back to my chair and then set off for the AirBnB. I walked almost a mile and look, it seemed like a good idea at the time. It was not. The taxi driver led me to believe that uber and lyft drivers weren’t really in the area, but I didn’t even try. A mile isn’t that far and I considered it practice for my upcoming trip to Chicago… I was wrong. Don’t walk a mile with a suitcase in Florida in June.
We had a bonfire that night, which was totally set up and maintained for us through Light Me Up Beach Bonfires. We got takeout from The Perfect Pig which was good, but also, I don’t super recommend eating a caesar salad on the beach.
Tuesday, June 15
Tuesday morning was a beach day, but we did have a little bit of a slow start in the morning (and took care of some emails. It was a work trip, after all). I’m an early bird beach girl usually, because by noon, it’s five million degrees and I hate everything. Still, it was vacation-ish, and there wasn’t a huge rush.
We got sandwiches and wraps from Publix. By we, I mean myself also. It turns out that Publix has a gluten free wrap. Let me preface this by saying that it was very tasty, I didn’t get sick, and it all worked out. Would I do it again? Possibly. Would I recommend it? Not really. It was – to borrow a term I’ve used already a couple times – chaotic. A wonderful woman helped me, and totally understood that cross contamination was a thing I needed to worry about. Her coworkers, however, weren’t quite as quick on the uptake. I ended up with freshly sliced ham, a block of cheese (not sure why exactly that one didn’t get sliced, but the lady helping me deemed it unsafe and I trusted her. Plus, I like cheese), and a handful of shredded lettuce from a fresh bag. I picked up a packet of mustard and added it as I went. Make your own choices on this one, is really all I can say. If you have a different option, I’d take it.
We got to the beach around 10am, and it was just gorgeous. Here’s the thing though. We had rented chairs and umbrellas, and all of us just kind of assumed that since we’d rented them, they’d be set up for us with a nice view and a little reserved sign. That was not the case. We used 30A Bonito Beach Rentals and their policy is that they’ll set up the chairs on a first come, first serve basis (for spots on the beach) when the majority of your party is there. It was a super quick set up once we got there, and the chairs were cool because they had foot rests that actually separated from the chairs. We were a couple rows of chairs back from the water, so it definitely had a crowded beach vibe.
The water was clear and not full of seaweed (looking at you, Corpus), and it was really chilly right when you got in but we got used to it very quickly. This part of the beach (Santa Clara Regional Beach Access) had lifeguards and when the weather turned grumpy and the thunder got too loud, they had everyone come out of the water. Nothing happened, and slowly people went back in. An hour or so later, it had gotten darker and windier, and all of the people running the chair rentals were going around, closing the umbrellas so they didn’t become projectiles. We bolted about that time, because it really did look like a storm was rolling in and it had been several hours of beach time.
Sure enough, we were a minute from the house when the downpour started. It rained for a while and then chilled out. It actually did cool things down (again, unlike I’m used to, where rain just means steam and increased humidity), and it was really nice just watching the rain for a little while.
We actually went back to the area of Seaside that I was at Monday to visit the Seaside Style store (I took no photos here, but I did get a t-shirt and a 40th anniversary koozie!) and have dinner. I had a taco from Bud & Alley’s Taco Bar (one is a snack, 2-3 is a meal, per the bartender), and then got a hot fudge sundae from Dawson’s Yogurt. It wasn’t as good as the gelato, but it was still a great hot fudge sundae.
If you’re following a gluten free diet, double check the menu if you go to the taco bar. I was told that the queso is NOT gluten free (always a bummer), and while I didn’t get sick over this taco, I was less comfortable than I would have liked to be. It was really good, though. I got water, but they did have fantastic looking alcoholic drinks.
I think if I’d been there by myself or with friends, we would have stayed in the area until it closed down. Everything in the area closes earlier than I expected during the summer, so keep that in mind. Some of them are like 9pm, which isn’t super early, but also… summer… on the beach… what?
Wednesday, June 16
We were staying in a beautiful house in Watercolor (which from what I can tell, is an area of Seaside) and it was great. We didn’t get a chance to visit the pool – it also seems to close early, so keep that in mind – which wasn’t great because that pool looked super neat. The house was walking distance from the grocery store and some restaurants. Getting from the house to the area of Seaside we went to was a little frustrating as you’re fighting a pretty busy street trying to make a left turn, but it’s doable. The Watercolor area is just gorgeous. It’s like all the houses in the neighborhood we were in are connected at the front (the prettier side) by walking paths, where the driveways are on the other side.
We had team pictures Wednesday morning, but afterwards, we headed out. Since there were seven of us, we split into two groups for the airboat ride, and that meant lunch first for me. We went to The Bay for lunch – shoutout to the fantastic gluten free bun and frankly delicious caesar salad (plus that marg) and then switched with the other half of the group to go out on the airboat.
We went out with 30A Airboat Adventures. It was fascinating. Airboats are flat bottomed, so they can go into shallow water where other boats just can’t. We took a tour of the backwaters and it was much prettier than I expected.
I mean. Just gorgeous. It was definitely hot when we were going slow (which was plenty of the time), but it was really pretty and something I don’t normally see. I’m not sure I’d do it again, but I enjoyed it.
Since the pool was closed or just about to close by the time we got back and changed, and since we’d really just eaten, we decided to go back to the beach instead of getting dressed up for dinner. We hadn’t rented chairs, so we just spread out towels. My coworker had this really cool giant beach blanket that we put down underneath our towels. As someone who has fought sand her entire life, let me just say that it was great. It basically repels the sand. I came home and ordered one myself. Best of all, it packs up super small, so it’s very much not an issue at all.
We ordered in pizza from Brozinni’s Pizzeria (we’re not going to talk about how I didn’t take a picture of the actual pizza) and their gluten free crust was very good. It still didn’t beat my favorite pizza place in Port A, but it was definitely good enough to have again. I think the closest location was a bit of a ways away from where we were in Seaside, but they have a delivery options so I’d still consider it a choice. It was such a great way to close out the trip (most of us were leaving pretty early the next morning, and it was a good 45 minutes to an hour ride to the airport) and I’m always happy when I can get a good gluten free pizza.
I really enjoyed Seaside! I’d absolutely go back. I will say that it was super busy, and I was there during the week. I can’t even imagine summer weekends. I’ve heard that fall is nice there. I essentially had most of three days in Seaside and it was a good amount since it was technically a work trip. I do think I would have liked longer in the area if it was a friends trip, especially given my fondness to sitting and people watching.
If you’re heading to the area of Seaside that I spent Monday in, check on the restaurants you’re looking at. Some of them require reservations way ahead of time. There’s so much more to Seaside, though, so I’d suggest not just sticking around that little area. I think the two places I’d absolutely go back to are Sundog Books and Heavenly for gelato, so if you’re a book lover at all, make a point of stopping by.