If you spend any time in the beach communities along 30A in South Walton County, Florida, you’re sure to find that each has its own personality. In some cases, the variety is reflected in the architecture. Take one look at Seaside, Alys Beach or Rosemary Beach and the distinctions are clear. Further west on 30A, near Destin, the vibe is more eclectic in areas such as Grayton Beach and Blue Mountain Beach.
I hesitate to label any of these communities because each time I visit the area, I discover something new. Perhaps that discoverability, not to mention the natural beauty and small town charm, is what draws visitors back to these areas year after year.
My latest trip down 30A took me to Gulf Place, a mixed-use development in Santa Rosa Beach with condos and retail space, just across from public beach access at the intersection of County Hwy. 393. What I found most intriguing about Gulf Place was not the restaurants or shops, although they are no doubt worth trying, but the space behind the storefronts. That’s where I found a collection of colorful, wooden huts representing the Artists at Gulf Place, where individual artists have come together to offer original works of art, jewelry and gift items for sale.
Far from a souvenir stand, the artists’ space allows shoppers to browse the varied creations and take home a small piece of the local art scene. During designated times, you can also create your own art. Several art classes are offered on a weekly basis. My daughters and I attended a jewelry making session. Choosing from a wide assortment of beads, my girls each created her own unique design. One chose to make a necklace ($20) and the other made a bracelet ($15). My niece opted for a separate project led by another artist, creating bottle cap wind chimes ($10). All the girls enjoyed their crafts, and the time spent was a nice alternative to shopping for the typical trinkets you might find at a tourist trap T-shirt shop.
Other classes offered by the Artists at Gulf Place include tie-dying T-shirts and painting metal flowers. All of the sessions are first come, first serve. Gulf Place and the Artists at Gulf Place regularly publicize the classes and other events via their Facebook pages so it is easy to follow along with what is happening during your visit to the area.
If art is not your thing, Gulf Place regularly hosts live music events. Greg Allman and Junior Marvin are two of the acts to grace the outdoor stage in recent months. A small farmer’s market is set up each Sunday morning. Selection may vary, but on our recent visit local vendors offered fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs, grass-fed beef, honey, candles and other crafts.