By Susan Vallee
Seagrove Beach is like the classic beach town of your daydreams. A place for families to gather and relax, go on a bike ride, toast the sunset or try SUP for the first time ever.
While the community has grown and changed over the years — homes have gotten larger, restaurants have opened and boutiques now dot the landscape — it has never lost its original character.
The community was founded by C.H. McGee in the late 1940s. His vision included 170-acres with deeded beach, concrete block cottages, sand roads and a general store. Back then, traveling to Seagrove Beach felt like an adventure as there was nothing there but sand dunes, forest and a narrow little road.
The place felt wild and untamed, a nature lover’s paradise. McGee worked with what he had to sell the idea to folks curious enough to venture off the highway. He somehow managed to befriended a deer. It was soon following him around so much he named her Bambi and took pleasure in greeting visitors to his general store with Bambi by his side.
Today, the Surfing Deer restaurant in Seagrove honors this history with its name. The Surfing Deer has old photos of McGee and Bambi hanging on the walls of the restaurant. The Surfing Deer offers a fine dining option for Seagrove and specializes in fresh, local seafood.
BEACH HAPPY 🏝️😎 visits Seagrove along Florida’s Scenic Highway 30A, including a stop at the famous Seagrove Village MarketCafe.
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Posted by 30A on Tuesday, 5 May 2020
In 1949 McGee built a small general store and gas station, called the Seagrove Village Market. It was the place to stop for needed supplies, gossip about local real estate and use the payphone before hitting the road. Eventually Ernie’s opened in the back and Seagrove locals now had a place to grab a burger or buy a beer.
When the Viridian at Seagrove was constructed, a new Seagrove Village Market was built behind it. “The Market” as most locals refer to it, continues to serve the same “Deep Fried Love” recipes that have been pulling people in for generations. Their grouper sandwich is the stuff of legend, try it yourself if you don’t believe us.
If you head east on 30A you’ll find another local favorite, Cowgirl Kitchen Market. Here you can grab a hearty breakfast, or create a picnic to take with you to the beach. The food is as full of flavor as it is personality. Big Bill’s Burrito, Drunken Shrimp Tacos and the Texas Pimento Cheese Sandwich are a handful of local favorites.
A quick bike ride further will get you to the Santa Clara Regional beach access. This dune walkover is handicap accessible and has a lifeguard on duty. The access also provides restrooms, ample parking and even a free lending library if you forget to bring a book.
Nearby is Seagrove Plaza, a perfectly-sized shopping center that offers just about anything you’d need. Here you’ll find eight local businesses that include 30A Jewelry, the 30A store (for some great souvenirs), A-List Hair Salon, Liz Fashions and Sweet Henrietta’s Bakery (the cupcakes are divine).
Across the way from the Seagrove Plaza is Goatfeather’s Seafood Market East. Here you’ll find fresh, locally caught fish you’ve been craving. Goatfeather’s Seafood will also steam your shrimp or scallops, or pack your fish in ice or a cooler if you have a long drive ahead.
Next door you’ll find the largest selection of freshly baked donuts on 30A at the Donut Hut. They have glazed donuts, filled donuts, cake donuts, maple bacon donuts, chocolate donuts with sprinkles, and lots, lots more. They even venture out with muffins, beignets and a full breakfast menu.
If all those donuts have gotten you hungry for lunch, Brozinni Pizzeria is next door. They deliver their New York style pizza, garlic knuckles and salads along 30A.
For a night out, you can’t forget Cafe Thirty-A. This casual fine dining restaurant has wowed locals and visitors since 1995. Cafe Thirty-A prides itself on being “consistently delicious” and the packed parking lot is proof that they know what they’re doing. Fresh seafood, steaks, an extensive wine and cocktail menu and scrumptious desserts are on the ever-changing menu.
Seagrove Beach is also home to two of South Walton’s rare coastal dune lakes. Eastern Lake can be seen while driving or biking along 30A, and the popular restaurant Old Florida Fish House graces its shores. Deer Lake is tucked away from sight in Deer Lake State Park. This secluded state park has a small walking trail and one of the longest dune walkovers in the county. It’s also home to the endangered Choctawhatchee Beach Mouse. If you’re lucky, perhaps you’ll spot one in the dunes as you make your way to the beach.
Seagrove Beach may not be as secluded as those early days when C.H. McGee was trying to convince people to build a small, one-story concrete block cottage. But it hasn’t lost its beauty or its magic. It’s still the beach town of your dreams.