By the 30A Company Editorial Staff
While a handful of die-hard locals have no doubt sampled all of South Walton’s wonderful watering holes, out-of-town visitors don’t always have a lot of extra time to venture off the sandy path.
And although the following bars are somewhat hidden away from public view, there’s certainly no reason to keep any of them confidential. Even if you’re a local, we bet you’ll still find something new to try on our list.
1. The Perfect Pig. While you might have sampled the Perfect Pig’s meaty “Praise the Lard” menu, it’s easy to overlook the full bar tucked away in the back of their Gulf Place location. There’s more than ample ambience at the bar, a couple of bistro tables for those cozy encounters, a TV or two for sports, and a creative cocktail menu with happy hour specials.
2. NEAT. If NEAT is a secret, it’s only because it’s so new. This swanky, cozy and uniquely Alys Beach hangout is located directly on 30A, just a frog hop across the cobblestones from George’s at Alys Beach. There’s a tiny store that purveys hard-to-find craft liquors, with a special emphasis on regional brands. NEAT’s Tasting Room next door is a magical new spot to sip.
3. The Porch. During renovations at the Old Florida Fish House in the spring of 2014, new owners Jill McDonald and Sandy Thomas discovered a really scenic spot on the restaurant’s lake side that had been wasted as a storage and office space. Make room for the Porch, a screened-in bar area perfect for catching a breeze off the beautiful coastal dune lake. (In the cooler months, the porch’s windows are covered with glass for a warmer view.) Plenty of televisions are available for your favorite games as well.
4. Highlands House. While the Highlands House B&B has been on 30A’s lodging and wedding menu for decades, the cafe and bar is relatively new and unknown to visitors. Located on the south side of 30A just west of Gulf Place, this al fresco beer and wine bar also features an excellent lunch and dinner menu. You can hear the Gulf churning just beyond the manicured lawn, making this a relaxing, charming and hidden watering hole.
5. Redd’s Fueling Station. Tucked away behind Sally’s by the Sea Store (an old-school convenience store that sits right atop Blue Mountain Beach), Redd’s features food, a full bar and live tunes many nights of the week, including open mic nights. The proprietor is famous for her larger-than-life “Singing Bartender” personality, routinely belting out her unique brand of show tunes and rowdy fun to the delight of locals and visitors alike.
6.WaterColor’s Gathering Spot. Everyone knows about the world-class cocktails the mixologists serve up at Fish Out of Water, but not as many people frequent the bar downstairs, just off the main hotel lobby. WaterColor calls it the Gathering Spot, and they feature a fantastic Happy Hour every day from 5 to 6 p.m., including cocktail and sushi specials. We recommend the cucumber martini. There’s often live music and even an outdoor patioarea with fire pits and rocking chairs.
7. Crabby Steve’s. The fabled Crabby Steve’s is a Gulf-front bar that can only be accessed from the surf side. It’s located behind High Pointe Resort in Seacrest between Rosemary Beach and Alys Beach. And although you can’t walk through High Pointe Resort to get there, you can use a public beach access point and then make the long scenic barefoot hike to get there. From the beach, you can walk up to Crabby Steve’s and enjoy delicious food, cocktails (they have a full bar) and an absolutely spectacular Gulf view.
8. Growler Garage. Grab a cold one at the chrome bar and check out all the specially crafted motorcycles, surf boards and guitars at Growler Garage. Behind the beautiful chrome bar at Growler Garage near Gulf Place, you’ll find 40 craft beers, a few wines, and often Mitch Omar, who is living out his dream of owning a beach business on 30A. Omar sells growlers of beer to go, perfect for taking to the beach across the street, but as the regulars know, the patio is a great spot for hanging out, sipping a cold one—or two—and meeting other beer aficionados like yourself.
9. Havana Beach’s Rooftop Lounge. Havana Beach Bar & Grill at the Pearl has made a splash among foodies and visitors since it opened a few seasons ago. But many people still haven’t sampled its more casual counterpart out back. A trendy rooftop bar with just a slice of Gulf view, it’s perched above the Pearl’s gorgeous pool deck and spa. The lounge is open to the public and features a full bar, dreamy cabanas, fountains, ambient lighting and appetizing small plates.
10. The Wine Bar at Grand Boulevard. A popular hangoutamong Sandestinites, the Wine Bar at Grand Boulevardremains largely undiscovered by the 30A crowd. Located in the very back of Chan’s Wine World (next to Publix), the Wine Bar is one of South Walton’s more cosmopolitan hangouts, with a beautiful full bar, a gourmet late night menu and, of course, an excellent and extensive wine selection.
11. Hidden Haunts on Scenic 98. Scenic Highway 30A is home to many wonderful things, but an abundance of bars where you can stick your toes in the sand while watching the fruitcake parade roll by isn’t one of them. Such sandy hangouts are much easier to find over on Scenic 98 in Miramar Beach. Hidden directly in plain view, the Tiki Baris a small thatch hut propped up just steps from Seascape.
There are only a few bar stools to be found here, and shade is at a sky-high premium on those sweltering summer days. So if you crave a little more shade (not to mention bathrooms), head over to the bar that’s tucked underneath Whale’s Tail just a few hundred yards to the west.
Venture a few miles further to the bar that’s back behind Pompano Joe’s, where you can watch the beach volleyball games underway when things warm up.
A short way east of the Tiki Bar, tucked inside the actual beach walkover from Surfside, is Royal Palm Grille’s Beach Bar. It offers one of the best views you can find and a perfect spot to grab a bite, a refreshing cocktail and a bit of shade during a day out in the sun.
12. The Outpost. You need to venture out across Choctawhatchee Bay and up the river to reach this frontier-like outpost. You can get there by car or creek (the Outpost is on Black Creek, which is accessible through Jolly Bay or via the tangled tendrils of the Choctawhatchee River), although you’ll probably fit in best if you show up on a Harley. The Outpost is a biker-owned-and-operated boondocks bar, serving up grilled burgers, wings, boudin sausage, and of course, all the ice cold beer you can safely slam down. It’s a real adventure to go by boat, which is our preferred method.