Consider it a piece of the Greek Islands—Santorini, say—plucked out of the Mediterranean and plopped down on South Walton’s Emerald Coast shores. That’s the illusion Alys Beach creates with its spectacular architecture and landscaping, which together make it just about the most uniquely photogenic of Florida Scenic Highway 30A’s beach towns.
The “New Urbanism” design of 160-acre Alys Beach, set between Seacrest and Rosemary Beach, draws on multiple geographies and architectural styles in its airy presentation. The hundreds of white villas and cottages with their courtyards take inspiration from Bermuda, Antigua, and Morocco, and the cobblestone roads, date palms, fountains, and town squares present an overall Mediterranean vibe. It’s all quite spectacular, and you’ll find yourself having to regularly remind yourself you’re on the Florida Panhandle, just a stone’s throw from Panama City Beach.
The entrance to Alys Beach comes marked by white, minaret-esque “butteries,” based on the striking structures historically used in Bermuda to store butter and milk. These spired pillars are further enhanced by more than a dozen mosaic murals by the artist Concetta Rothwell Morales that portray aspects of the area’s history and culture.
This rather dreamy ambiance plays host to fine shopping at boutiques and beach shops, including the Alys Shoppes, as well as wining and dining at a number of eateries and lounges, including Piper’s Kitchen, George’s, Raw and Juicy, the NEAT Tasting Room and Bottle Shop, and spectacular Caliza, which combines a celebrated restaurant with a gorgeous pool-scape in a package schemed up by the town’s architects.
You’ll also find quite the decked-out fitness and wellness complex in Alys Beach, complete with tennis courts.
Those whitewashed walls of the Alys Beach buildings liven up with projection art during the Digital Graffiti festival, which features the talents of international artists who are specially invited to take part. Meanwhile, the Alys Beach Amphitheatre plays host to concerts and other happenings throughout the year.
You can and should, of course, take in the neighborhood’s namesake: A couple of access points reachable from the town center by foot lead you to Alys Beach itself, a grade-A example of Emerald Coast sugar sand. But don’t miss the three-quarter-mile trail through Alys Beach’s own 20-acre nature preserve, either: There’s beautiful pineland, cypress forest, and wiregrass meadows to be found here, and the trail—much of it consisting of an elevated boardwalk—is wheelchair accessible. This showpiece of Emerald Coast ecology is a wonderful complement to the refined townscape alongside it.
Come track down a bit of Mediterranean (and Bermudan, and Caribbean) romance on the South Walton seaboard in Alys Beach, where luxurious coastal pleasures and irresistible photo ops abound!
– You’ve got the option of renting beach chairs and umbrellas in Alys Beach, in case you don’t have your own. (You’ll also find kayaks and standup paddleboards for rent as well!)
– They do not allow photography on the beach at Alys Beach.