Aerial view of the coastline and town of Destin, Florida.

8 Coolest Towns in Florida's Emerald Coast for a Summer Vacation in 2024

Few can resist the call of the cool breezes, sparkling golden sands, and crystal-clear waters of Florida's Emerald Coast. Clustered along the state's Gulf coastlines are beautiful and inviting towns that inspire hundreds of family vacations, romantic getaways, and festive celebrations every year. No town lacks charm, history, or local activities along the Emerald Coast. They offer not only sun-filled days at the beach but also private country clubs, luxury shopping, and even deluxe accommodations available to fit any group's specific needs. Take a tour through these eight cool towns and discover what makes Florida's Emerald Coast the perfect destination for summer vacations this year.


Aerial view of homes along the coast in Seaside, Florida.
Aerial view of homes along the coast in Seaside, Florida.

Seaside, established in 1981, shines as one of the first New Urbanist communities, making it a pioneer in modern town planning. This innovative design features pastel-colored houses and white picket fences, giving the town a distinct, appealing aesthetic. Every Saturday morning, the Seaside Farmers Market brings together locals and visitors, providing fresh produce and artisanal goods.

Film lovers will recognize Seaside as the backdrop for The Truman Show, starring Jim Carrey. The town’s amphitheater is a vibrant spot for outdoor movies and live music, creating a lively atmosphere great for a family evening out. Seaside also makes for a great lovers' getaway with romantic hotels like The Court, offering private and charming coast-themed accommodations. Additionally, the Seaside REP Theatre offers a range of live performances year-round, ensuring that arts and entertainment are always on the agenda.

Grayton Beach

Aerial view of the coast at Grayton Beach, Florida.
Aerial view of the coast at Grayton Beach, Florida.

Grayton Beach is a gem of the Emerald Coast. It is home to Grayton Beach State Park, which has over 2,000 acres of protected land. This pristine environment includes Western Lake, a rare coastal dune lake perfect for kayaking and paddleboarding. After the outdoor fun, The Red Bar, an iconic local restaurant, serves as a hub for both nightlife and dining.

Accommodations like the Hibiscus Coffee & Guesthouse offer endless selfie-worthy moments for perfect social media moments. Art enthusiasts will appreciate the local art scene, featuring numerous galleries and studios. The annual 4th of July parade, with its quirky and creative floats, demonstrates the community's patriotic American spirit. Meanwhile, historic homes dating back to the late 19th century add a touch of historical significance, reflecting the town’s rich past.

Rosemary Beach

Pearl Hotel on Main Street in Rosemary Beach, Florida.
The rustic Pearl Hotel on Main Street in Rosemary Beach, Florida. Editorial credit: Alan LeStourgeon /

Rosemary Beach brings a European flair to Florida's Emerald Coast with cobblestone streets and beautiful Dutch architectural design. The Town Square is the heart of community life, hosting seasonal events such as the Spring It On festival. Beachgoers will love the sugar-white sand beaches, accessible via charming wooden boardwalks.

Tennis enthusiasts can enjoy the facilities at the Rosemary Beach Racquet Club, which offers a variety of programs. Local shops offer an array of specialty boutiques and art galleries, catering to diverse tastes. Moreover, outdoor concerts and movies at Barrett Square make for delightful summer evenings, ensuring entertainment is always within reach.

Alys Beach

View of beautiful homes in Alys Beach, Florida.
A beautiful society in the town of Alys Beach, Florida. Editorial credit: Fotoluminate LLC /

Alys Beach is a town of distinctive romantic white-washed buildings and Mediterranean architecture, offering much social media visual appeal. The luxurious Caliza Restaurant is an award-winning spot featuring elegant cabanas and exceptional amenities such as open-air restaurants, perfect for a relaxing summer day.

On the other hand, nature enthusiasts can explore winding trails that are ideal for biking and walking. Alys Beach also hosts the annual Digital Graffiti Festival, where artists project their works onto the town’s buildings, creating a vibrant, interactive experience. The town's commitment to eco-friendly design and sustainable practices makes it a forward-thinking destination for environmentally conscious travelers.


View of people relaxing along the beach in WaterColor, Florida.
People relaxing along the sandy beach in WaterColor, Florida. Editorial credit: Joni Hanebutt /

WaterColor, situated next to Western Lake, offers easy access to swimming, boating, and jet skis, making it a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. The luxurious WaterColor Inn & Resort provides top-notch accommodations and dining options, ensuring a comfortable stay. Nearby, the community's Boathouse is perfect for renting kayaks and paddleboards, allowing visitors to explore the lake at their leisure.

Exclusive to residents and guests, the WaterColor Beach Club offers a private retreat with stunning views and excellent service. WaterColor also hosts the MountainFilm on Tour festival, showcasing a series of inspiring films that celebrate adventure and the great outdoors. Speaking of the outdoors, with numerous parks and green spaces, it’s an ideal spot for picnics and other summer activities.

Miramar Beach

The shoreline along Miramar Beach in Florida.
The scenic shoreline in Miramar Beach along Florida's Emerald Coast.

Miramar Beach is a shopper’s paradise. It is home to the Silver Sands Premium Outlets, which feature a wide range of retail options, from Nike and Disney stores to Designer boutiques like Michael Kors and Saks Off 5th. The Seascape Resort offers a plethora of activities, including golf, tennis, and beach sports, catering to all interests. Dining options in Miramar Beach range from casual eateries to upscale restaurants, providing a variety of culinary experiences.

Baytowne Wharf is a hub of activity, offering a vibrant nightlife, diverse dining options, and family-friendly entertainment. The beaches here are renowned for their clear waters and soft, white sand, perfect for a summer escape. Regular dolphin-spotting tours and fishing charters add an adventurous element, making Miramar Beach a comprehensive summer vacation destination.

Panama City Beach

Buildings along Front Beach Road in Panama City Beach, Florida.
Buildings along Front Beach Road in Panama City Beach, Florida.

Panama City Beach is a lovely Emerald Coast town home to around 18,000 residents. Mornings here can start with a hearty breakfast at Andy’s Flour Power, known for its delicious pastries and hearty brunch options. Those who prefer to begin relaxing vacation days with lunch can head to Pineapple Willy’s to savor their famous BBQ ribs while enjoying views of the Gulf. When it comes to lodging, the Holiday Inn Resort offers beachfront rooms, a lazy river pool, and family-friendly entertainment.

Spend a day at nearby St. Andrews State Park, where you can snorkel, swim, and hike in beautiful natural settings. For an adrenaline rush, walk along the coast to Gulf World Marine Park, which provides interactive dolphin encounters and entertaining sea lion shows.


Aerial view of the marina and waterfront buildings in Destin, Florida.
Aerial view of the marina and waterfront buildings in Destin, Florida.

Destin, famously known as "The World's Luckiest Fishing Village," is a prime location for fishing enthusiasts due to its abundant fishing spots. The Destin Harbor Boardwalk is a bustling area with dining, shopping, and various water activities, providing endless entertainment options. Crab Island, a popular sandbar, attracts boaters and swimmers looking for a fun day in the sun.

The annual Destin Fishing Rodeo, held every October, draws anglers from around the globe and showcases the town's strong fishing heritage. Families can enjoy a fun day at Big Kahuna’s Water and Adventure Park, which offers numerous water attractions. Similarly, Henderson Beach State Park features protected beaches and nature trails, perfect for those seeking natural beauty and tranquility.


From diverse architecture to bustling shopping centers, Florida's emerald coast provides ample opportunity to plan the vacation of all vacations. A visit to the Gulf Coast is the best way to enjoy the hot summer season and escape the pressures of everyday life. The family can enjoy abundant water sports activities, delicious southern cooking, and shopping centers that will make checking out all these lovely towns a must.

  1. Home
  2. Places
  3. Cities
  4. 8 Coolest Towns in Florida's Emerald Coast for a Summer Vacation in 2024

More in Places