Best Places to Live: Alys Beach, Florida
Get to know this gorgeous community on Florida’s renowned Panhandle coast, and one of the 20 Best Places to Live 2017. Get the inside scoop on Alys Beach, including where to eat, drink, play, and stay.
It all starts here with sheer beauty: bone-white beaches and the turquoise Gulf of Mexico play off bright-white buildings with exotic lines in courtyard-based layouts, plus a gorgeous community swimming pool that feels like something out of Marrakesh. But there’s more to the newest development to be crafted along Florida’s Highway 30a—a state road that connects a bracelet of New Urbanism oases including Seaside, the one that launched the movement 20 years ago. Alys Beach’s explicitly green design features narrow streets of permeable pavers to reduce storm water runoff and that run perpendicular to the Gulf to invite cooling breezes inland, and is landscaped with largely drought-resistant plants to reduce water consumption. Alys is also the home of some of the coolest arts and food festivals along this stretch of coast, lending sophistication to its barefoot lifestyle. And with the more developed Seaside and Rosemary Beach within an easy bike ride, life here feels practically car-free.
Alys Beach by the Numbers
Average July high: 90
Average January low: 37
Average commute time: 23 minutes
Number of sunny days: 226
Best Beaches and Other Attractions
It’s your back- (or front, depending on how you look at it) yard. Below Alys’s 30-foot bluffs lie a 1,500-foot-long strip of sand so pristine you’ll have a hard time convincing yourself every morning that it’s real. The Gulf really is that crystalline, as well. Welcome to your daily reality check. (Perched just above that beach, the Gulf Green, flanked by bathhouses and edged by a broad wooden deck that faces directly out on the water, is the best place in Alys to watch the sunset.)
When you’re in the mood for water that’s unsalted, Alys Beach’s Caliza Pool complex has a 100-foot zero-entry pool surrounded by a loggia and cabanas, as well as a shallow family pool, a 75-foot lap pool for serious swimmers, and a cypress-shaded spa pool. The poolside Caliza Restaurant has shared plates and an open-air bar.
For some fun on two wheels, The Bike Shop offers everything from colorful beach cruisers to surreys perfect for family outings. Take the bikes on a spin down the paved bike path along Highway 30A, around town, or down the trail in Alys Beach’s 20-acre nature preserve. If biking’s not your speed, the Bike Shop also offers kayaks and stand-up paddleboards seasonally.
RELATED: The Ultimate Guide to Florida’s 30A
Where to Eat and Drink
Right on Florida’s Scenic Route 30a in the center of Alys Beach, Fonville Press pours excellent coffee, sells newspapers and books, and offers a shaded courtyard that might even keep you from the beach, it’s so inviting. Moving on from coffee, a dense, handmade blueberry donut from Charlie’s Donut Truck beats a muffin for breakfast any day of the week — the truck holes up near the Alys Beach Amphitheatre from 6:30 a.m. until the last donut is snatched up.
At lunchtime, roll up to Piper’s Kitchen for fish tacos al fresco at one of the restaurant’s umbrella-topped picnic tables. Wash down your tacos with a cold beer or an agua fresca, which they sell by the glass and by the pitcher.
For the world’s most beautiful (and delicious) Happy Hour, sip from a rotating small menu of craft cocktails or pick up a bottle of wine at the NEAT, the town’s exquisitely appointed bottle shop and tasting room. The shop also sells craft beers, artisan mixers, and spirits from small-batch producers. It's a candy store for grown-ups.
Finally, for inspired coastal fare with locally sourced ingredients, head to George’s for dinner. And while the menu is infused with global flavors, it’s impossible to forget you’re at the beach: The restaurant is housed in an old shingled beach cottage, and they don’t take reservations because they “operate on beach time.”
Where to Stay
Alys Beach Rentals has a stunning portfolio of 27 properties, from one bedroom to five bedrooms, ranging from $280 to $1,650 per night. In nearby Rosemary Beach, The Pearl is an adults-only, French chateau-style beach resort with 55 rooms, suites, and cabana rooms. Walk to the beach in the morning, book an afternoon spa treatment, and watch the sunset from the rooftop bar for the perfect Emerald Coast day.