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Grayton Beach State Park Named Among Top 10 Beaches in U.S.

Grayton Beach State Park has once again been named among the Top Ten Best Beaches in the 26th Annual Top 10 Beach List produced by coastal expert Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman, professor at Florida International University, better known to many as Dr. Beach. Grayton Beach State Park features sugar-white sand and emerald-green water where development has been restrained so big sand dunes still dominate the landscape. At the same time, all the amenities of great restaurants and accommodations are close by in the old town of Grayton Beach or bustling Seaside.  Many people choose to camp in this wonderful state park that also features tidal lakes and freshwater ponds. “More attention is being paid to safety and management this year and extra credit is being awarded to beaches that prohibit smoking,” said Visit South Walton Director of Marketing Jon Ervin. “These changes allowed the list of best beaches to begin anew. This is why Grayton Beach, which has been recognized before by Dr. Leatherman, has once again made the list.” Check out this live tour of Grayton Beach State Park: It’s the first day of summer and we went LIVE from Grayton Beach State Park. Tune in again tonight around 5 p.m. C.S.T. for a very special announcement about some amazing news from The 30A Company! Posted by 30A on Monday, June 20, 2016 As “Dr. Beach,” Leatherman has selected the annual Top 10 Beaches since 1991. Fifty criteria are used for evaluation including water and sand quality, safety and management. Dr. Leatherman is an internationally known coastal scientist who has published 20 books and hundreds of scientific articles and reports about storm impacts, coastal erosion and ways to improve beach health and safety. For more info, visit Grayton Beach State Park.
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New Vending Machine Concept Carries 30A Gear

Vending machines are not just for chips and candy bars any more. At least not the kind Scott Turner runs. Turner’s business, TBOX, operates a series of high-tech vending machines across Northwest Florida where customers can purchase t-shirts, hats and now even 30A Gear. Turner’s concept is part of a growing movement for businesses to provide higher-end products in vending machines. Red Box, the movie rental kiosks, may be the most popular in the United States, but people across the globe have started using vending machines to sell everything from iPods and phone chargers to shoes. “Once we got into researching it ourselves, we found these kind of machines are popular in Asia and Europe, but not a whole lot of people are doing it in the states,” said Turner, who started out with ice vending machines, but quickly saw a need for something more. A vending machine can serve as a pop-up store — without the expense of overhead — and the concept is catching on. “It helps businesses expand to an area they might not be able to otherwise, to have a presence without having to have a storefront, staffing and all that goes with it,” said Turner. The technology has come a long way since the days of coin-operated soda and snack machines. Turner’s machines use LED lights and a system of infrared sensors so the machine conserves energy when not in use. All merchandise is tracked electronically, as well, which helps decrease the business’s ecological footprint. In years past, vending machine stockers had to travel with a big semi-truck full of products and assess what needed to be restocked on site. Turner can use a compact car to visit and restock machines. He knows exactly which products and how many he needs before he ever leaves the warehouse. Customers make purchases with credit cards and if any problem arises, the machine sends a text to Turner and he can operate it remotely to provide whatever customer service is needed. 30A Gear vending machines are in place at HarborWalk Village, Destin Commons, Silver Sands Premium Outlets and Pier Park. You can buy t-shirts, hats, drink huggies, license plate decals, Tervis tumblers and even coffee. “With the technology available, these things are pretty amazing,” Turner said. “They’re eco-friendly, business and customer friendly. We’re really excited to have them out there for people to use.”
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30A Launches Apparel Line Made From Recycled Water Bottles

The 30A Company launched a new line of sustainable apparel designed to decrease human impact on the environment, while celebrating the unique aspects of small-town beach life along Scenic Highway 30-A. Called Dumpster Diver, the eco-friendly product line features shirts made from water bottles and other recycled plastics and materials salvaged from southeast landfills. With 13 designs now available in multiple styles and coastal colors, each shirt features a beach-inspired theme, including words, phrases and images associated with 30A lifestyle and culture. Dumpster Diver is the latest product line from The 30A Company, a lifestyle media and merchandising brand founded in 2007 by entrepreneur Mike Ragsdale in South Walton, Florida. The brand has built a loyal fan base around the country, shipping more than 13,000 orders of its 30A Gear merchandise to customers in all 50 states. “We’ve spent nearly two years researching and developing 30A’s Dumpster Diver brand and could not be more excited to finally launch,” said Ragsdale. “Dumpster Diver embodies everything that represents the 30A brand — a love of the fun, laid-back vibes of the beach and a commitment to protecting and preserving beach environments for future generations.” Interesting facts about 30A Dumpster Diver shirts: — The shirts are produced using a ‘trash-shred-spin-wear’ manufacturing process in which discarded plastic waste is collected from landfills, shred, spun into yarn and woven with recycled cotton. — Plastic materials collected and recycled in production include water and soda bottles, lunchroom food trays, discarded film and plastic beer bottles. — Each shirt saves approximately six to ten 16-ounce water bottles from landfills, depending on the color. — Designs are imprinting using a digital printing process, which is more advanced, uses fewer harmful chemicals and is an environmentally cleaner approach than traditional screen-printing. “As a brand, we wanted to create a product that not only reflects our sincere love of the beach, but also demonstrates the responsibility we maintain to leave the lowest impact possible on the environment around us,” said Ragsdale. Sustainable and stylish, 30A Dumpster Diver shirts are available now at 30AGear.com and at our official 30A Stores located in Gulf Place, Seagrove Plaza, Rosemary Beach and Pier Park. Check out this behind-the-scenes peek at the new line: Behind-the-scenes sneak peek of our new line!3…2…1… and we’re LIVE with a behind-the-scenes sneak peek of our new line! Posted by 30A on Monday, June 20, 2016
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Sonder Project Returns from Malawi, Africa

The Sonder Project, a Santa Rosa Beach-based nonprofit that works locally and around the world, recently returned from an educational expedition in Malawi, Africa. Three Santa Rosa Beach residents joined the trek, including Sonder Project and 30A Company board member, Travis Meyer, of Southeastern Retail Development, Rachel Meyer, a teacher at Freeport High School and Sarah Hockett, executive director of The Sonder Project. “It’s one thing to understand there are children and adults living on the other side of the world whose lives and circumstances are much different from our own. It’s another thing entirely to visit and see this firsthand,” Rachel Meyer said. During their visit, the trio managed to visit five remote villages, work on a construction site for a new primary school structure, visit adult literacy classes and learn their importance, meet with the district education manager and gain knowledge of some of the community initiatives helping remote areas break the cycle of poverty such as goat programs, meal programs for school children and honey bee hives. They also had the opportunity to hear some of the stories of this country, understand the difficulties faced here and see how the organization’s work has an impact. “It takes so little to change the futures of these kids, and that’s exactly what The Sonder Project is doing — changing lives,” said Travis Meyer. The 30A Company is a founding partner of The Sonder Project, which works to end poverty locally, domestically and across the world. “We couldn’t be more proud of the work The Sonder Project is doing,” said Mike Ragsdale, founder of The 30A Company. “We look forward to joining a future trek to experience firsthand the good that our little nonprofit is accomplishing.” The purpose of this endeavor was to help The Sonder Project learn and grow as a nonprofit and with everything discovered, the trip was definitely a success, said the organization’s executive director, Sarah Hockett. “Knowledge gained on this voyage will be applied in future projects both locally and around the world,” she said. On the topic of future projects, be on the lookout for these upcoming ventures: — Construction of a school in Burkina Faso, Africa, in memory of Ahmed Kere — Construction of a water well in Burkina Faso, Africa — Construction of a school in Nicaragua — First undertaking of new program, PROJECT: agriculture – launching beekeeping in Nicaragua — 2017 Trek and Project Schedule For more info, or to learn how you can help, visit The Sonder Project.
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Unique 30A: Hit the Water for a Dinner Cruise

Cruising every week from Sandestin‘s Baytowne Marina, Sunquest Cruise’s SOLARIS yacht is a truly unique 30A experience, and it happens to be one of the very best places to enjoy a South Walton sunset. (In the summer months, the sun sets over Choctawhatchee Bay, not the Gulf). The family-owned 5,300-square-foot fine dining and dancing yacht (built right here in Walton County) features two dining salons, a full-service gourmet galley and a full-service bar. Enjoy an afternoon or evening cruising around the Bay, hanging out on one of the yacht’s open-air decks, dining on a gourmet meal, kicking up your heels to a live band and dancing under the stars. Book your cruise now. Learn more about the story behind the SOLARIS in this interview with owner James Murray: After the cruise, hop on the boardwalk that leads away from the marina and meander through moss-draped oak trees over to The Village of Baytowne Wharf. There you’ll find some seriously fun and funky blues, a dueling piano bar and tons of other nightlife options. It’s the perfect way to wrap up an evening on the bay. The Solaris is also a perfect venue for special occasions, including banquets, corporate retreats, V.I.P. functions, and of course, weddings and rehearsal dinners. Learn more at 30aweddings.com. Check out this 30A Video Tours episode, featuring the Solaris: Book your cruise now.
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SATURDAYS: Join 30A YOLO Bike and Beach Club for Group Bike Rides

The 30A YOLO Bike & Beach Club has officially launched, bringing locals of all skill levels together for some laid-back exploration of South Walton’s natural habitats. Group bike rides are free and take place every Saturday from 8:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. Participants at the YOLO Bike + Beach Store in Gulf Place every Saturday morning at 8:30 a.m. The ride through the trails of Point Washington State Forest leaves at 9 a.m. All skill levels and bike brands are welcome (“ride what ya got!”). Even if you don’t want to ride, join in for coffee and fun! Download the free 30A YOLO Bike and Beach Club App for iPhone/iPad and Android for exclusive membership perks. Jeff Archer, CEO of YOLO Board, and Mike Ragsdale, founder of The 30A Company, came up with the idea for the club as part of the companies’ recent partnership. Check out this interview with Archer and Ragsdale about the new club: “We wanted to bring together a fun group of people who enjoy taking advantage of everything that South Walton has to offer,” said Archer. “It’s a really laid-back chance to hang out with old friends and to make new ones.” “Some days we’ll explore nature trails, some days we’ll do a pub crawl or cafe tour; whatever the club wants to do,” said Ragsdale. “It’s almost like a mobile speakeasy.” In better weather, the group organises Group paddles, which are also free to join. The special mobile app (for iOS or Android) features club info, as well as access to official 30A YOLO Bike and Beach Club shirts and swag. The 30A YOLO Bike and Beach Club is free to join, and it’s open to all skill levels. Watch 30A.com’s events calendar for weekly meeting dates, times and details. Contact feedback@30a.com for more info.
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11 Best Places to Grab a Drink with a View

By Caroline Giddis With so many gorgeous views and an impressive selection of delicious beers, cocktails and wines, it’s hard not to say “it’s 5 o’clock somewhere” here in South Walton. Whether you’re looking for a view of the gulf, rolling dunes or a beautiful lake, there are so many places in the area that allow you to sit back, relax and enjoy a cold one. It’s even a cultural norm here to find a spot each night where you can see the sunset. Here are 11 places that are perfect for getting your drink-in-a-beautiful-place fix. Havana Beach Rooftop Lounge at The Pearl Hotel Located in Rosemary Beach, the Havana Beach Bar & Grill Rooftop Lounge provides visitors with an eclectic, relaxing feeling. Although the lounge overlooks the stunning European-style hotel pool, it has a breath-taking view of the gulf as well. The drink menu offers everything from Ernest Hemingway-inspired classics to Cuba Libres and Mojitos. The lounge has a variety of seating options from comfy couches and hammocks to high-top tables. Happy hour lasts from 3 to 6 p.m. Sunset Bay Cafe The gulf isn’t the only thing you can see from bars and restaurants. Located on the glittering Choctawhatchee Bay, Sunset Bay Cafe shows it’s appreciation for the Floridian lifestyle with a full bar, Tiki bar and outside dining. From the cafe, the view of the bay spans for miles. With a name like Sunset Bay Cafe, it’s obviously the perfect place to say “cheers!” and watch the sun go down. I’ll have one piña colada please! Bud & Alley’s When many people think beach bar, they think Bud & Alley’s … and they’re right. Nestled between the dunes and overlooking the gulf in Seaside, Bud & Alley’s is where families and friends go to experience what Kenny Chesney sings all about: beautiful views, great beer and no worries. A 30A go-to for over 30 years, Bud & Alley’s is a wonderful place to enjoy for a few minutes or a few hours. The best view for grabbing a drink is from the roof deck bar. Say hi to Mo the bartender who has been slinging refreshing beach cocktails for almost as long as the bar has been open. Try the Seaside punch, a mouth-watering blend of Stoli vodka, apple, peach and black raspberry puree, pineapple juice and house-made sour mix — a perfect beach-side thirst-quencher. If you’re there at sunset, join in the longstanding tradition of ringing the sunset bell and cheering as the sun sets into that beautiful gulf. It can’t be beat. The Porch at Old Florida Fish House For a more “hidden” hangout, check out The Porch at Old Florida Fish House in Seagrove Beach. Overlooking Eastern Lake, The Porch is the ideal place to just chill. A number of big-screen TVs make it a great place to bring your friends when there’s a big game on. However, when you want to escape, you can just look out into the uncharted wilderness that surrounds the beautiful coastal dune lake. It’s the perfect hideaway. The Beach House Appetizers, moonshine and a gorgeous view …  what sounds better than that? Enjoy all three at The Beach House in Sandestin, which sits right on the beach and allows you to soak up some sun and soak in an incredible view of the Gulf. Enjoy a drink in their double insulated solo cups and listen to live music on Tuesdays during their open mic nights. You can find a wide variety of wines on their drink menu, including our 30A Chardonnay and 30A Red Blend, which both go really well with their shareable appetizers – YUM. The Bay Whether you get there by car, boat or paddle board, The Bay is a waterfront-lovers dream. Grab a seat inside, on the covered outdoor lounge,  or at a picnic table with your toes in the sand. A beer haven, The Bay has 12 different beers on tap, many brewed locally. Their Sunday Bayside Brunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. is an especially great time to enjoy the scenery of the Choctawhatchee Bay. Marina Bar & Grill at Sandestin For a unique right-on-the-dock experience, try Marina Bar & Grill. Sitting directly on the Baytowne Marina in Sandestin, the restaurant invites shoe and flip-flop wearers alike to join the party. Marina Bar & Grill celebrates sunset every day as if it were a special occaision, shooting off a cannon and ringing a bell as the sun goes down. Order a brew and watch the boats pull into the Marina with their fresh catches. What could be better than that? Growler Garage In a growing craft beer community, it’s important for there to be a place that focuses on the same passion — a good, cold beer. Hoppy, pale, blonde, however you like your beer, Growler Garage has it. Their focus is beer brewed locally or in different Florida micro breweries. With a constantly changing draft menu and a great view of the gulf from their patio out front, Growler Garage is beer heaven. Wanting to sip that beer a little closer to the waves? Fill up one of their signature growlers and stroll across the street to the beach. Plastic and stainless steel are available of course. Remember, no glass on the beach! Chiringo Here’s a little secret: Chiringo is the only place in Grayton Beach where you can drink a beer with a gulf view. With great open-air spaces, Chiringo aims to present its visitors with vibes of a Spanish beach restaurant. The building and furniture are covered in bright, inviting colors, which show off Chiringo’s desire for beachgoers to come on in and grab a drink. They have a variety of beers on tap and a even a fresh juice bar. Get yours virgin or spiked for the ultimate refreshing cocktail. Watermelon and vodka makes a great combo! Vue on 30A Like it says on their website, “as if the view was not enough,” Vue on 30A also offers a great cocktail or dining experience. Dolphins frequent the shore near the restaurant and the location is great for watching for boats on the horizon. Seasonal, import and domestic beers are all options to enjoy while watching the gulf. Or try a refreshing Emerald Coast Martini, a tricolor treat that mimics a gulf view with Malibu rum, Midori, Blue Curacao, house sour mix and a splash of Sprite. (Learn about more thirst-queching cocktails on 30A.) Brunch on Sunday runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., which is a definite chance to have a wonderful Sunday Funday. 723 Whiskey Bravo Another amazing rooftop bar, 723 Whiskey Bravo, looks over Seagrove Beach and celebrates a clean, modern atmosphere. Their Happy Hour lasts from 5 to 6 p.m. daily and is a great way to start off a night. Umbrellas are set up on the rooftop to block out any unwanted sun during the day, and the comfy lounge chairs help set the mood for relaxation station. Bravo! Caroline Giddis is a summer intern at The 30A Company. For more on this topic check out: Secret Bars of South Walton 15 Thirst-Queching Cocktails on 30A
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Sunset Bay Cafe Now Serving Dinner

Sunset Bay Cafe, located near the Linkside Conference Center in Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort, is now serving dinner from 4 to 9 p.m. The family owned and operated restaurant uses local produce and seafood, delivered fresh daily from the docks in Destin. Menu items include homemade spinach and artichoke dip, beer braised pork belly, lemongrass yellowfin tuna and a number of sweet desserts made daily. Overlooking the Choctawhatchee Bay, Sunset Bay Cafe is known for its spectacular views, excellent service, breakfast favorites and innovative twists on the classics. “We’ve had amazing success with breakfast and lunch, but we don’t want that to become all we are known for,” said Bryce Jarvis, owner of Sunset Bay Cafe. “We are excited to offer a variety of dinner options made with the same commitment to locally sourced ingredients and sustainable seafood.” Reservations are not necessary for Sunset Bay Cafe’s dinner service, but are suggested for large parties. For more info, call 850-267-7108 or visit Sunset Bay Cafe.
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Parking Woes? Sunshine Shuttle Aims to Help

Tired of spending time searching for that perfect parking spot? Sunshine Shuttle is trying to help with free public transportation in South Walton. This year, the trolley service has expanded to an 11-mile stretch of Scenic Highway 30A, running west from Seaside almost to U.S. Highway 98. The free trolley runs from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week between Memorial Day and Labor Day. John Finch with Sunshine Shuttle said the company is trying to help change the culture along Scenic Highway 30A to support greener, more community-based transportation. He hopes the effort can be a step towards alleviating congestion and protecting the environment. You can easily track the location of the trolley using the free 30A App for Android and iPhone or on Sunshine Shuttle’s website. Over 6,500 people rode the trolleys last year and Roberts said he hopes to see that number grow even more this season. This year’s stops include: — Cypress Dunes — 30A Suites, Stallworth Beach Access – South Bishop entrance — Gulf Place – Resort Quest and corner of 30A — Highland Parks, — Dune Side at Blue Mountain: East Bound Stop – White Cliffs entrance, West Bound Stop – Corner of Dune Side Lane and Hwy. 30A — Blue Mountain Beach Beach access at corner of S. Co. Hwy. 83 and Blue Mountain Rd — Grayton Corners – In front of the General Store — Seaside – In front of Great Southern Café in Central Square For more info, visit Sunshine Shuttle. Check out this 360-degree video from inside the trolley. Use the controls to scan around. Sunshine Trolley on 30A
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