WaterSound Wonders: Explore the Hidden Jewel of the Emerald Coast - 30A


WaterSound Wonders: Explore the Hidden Jewel of the Emerald Coast

By: Michelle Garrett | Posted Jan 19, 2024

There are few coastal destinations along the Florida panhandle that rival Watersound Origins. Nestled amongst dune lakes and pine forests, Watersound Origins is an invitation to experience laid-back, luxury living just three miles from the Gulf of Mexico. It is a destination so appealing that in one visit, you may decide to pack up and settle within this amenity-rich enclave along 30A.

Navigating to WaterSound: Your Gateway to Coastal Tranquility

WaterSound is a master-planned community located 17 miles northwest of Panama City Beach and 30 miles east of Destin. Travelers to WaterSound will appreciate its close proximity to the Northwest Florida Beaches airport in Panama City and US Interstate Route 10. WaterSound is nestled amongst the picturesque beach communities along Florida’s scenic highway 30A, making it an ideal starting point for exploring the Emerald Coast.

Discovering WaterSound: What to See

For more local guides 

Visitors to WaterSound will delight in its meandering boardwalks that accentuate the coastal dunescapes along the shoreline. You’ll find saw palmettos, scrub oaks, and wax myrtles, with views of the sparkling gulf waters in the distance. A stroll along the boardwalks is a quiet respite for those in search of peace and tranquility from some of 30A’s more popular beaches.

WaterSound is home to Deer Lake State Park, a 1,900-acre area on the western border of WaterSound Beach. The recently renovated Deer Lake State Park features two hiking trails and a scenic overlook that offers views of the coastal dune lake with which it shares its name. Within Deer Lake State Park, visitors get to experience walking amongst pine forests and ancient dunes or head straight to the water for picnicking, swimming, and fishing.

To the east of Deer Lake State Park is the 70-acre Camp Creek Lake. Camp Creek Lake is another of South Walton’s rare coastal dune lakes, ideal for kayaking, paddle boarding, fishing, and birdwatching. Here, you can enjoy both freshwater and saltwater adventures. If you plan to drop a line, you’ll need to have a combo freshwater and saltwater fishing license.

Retreating in Style: Where to Stay in

WaterSound boasts two hotels within a private 1,400-acre gated community. Guests enter through the shingled New England-style Gate House modeled after the 1887-era William G. Low House in Bristol, Rhode Island. The Gate House is a commercial center for residents and visitors, with dining options, a post office, and retail.

The WaterSound Inn features 11 spacious, airy condo-sized suites, while the Camp Creek Inn boasts 75 hotel guest rooms. Both locations offer “member for a stay” benefits, allowing access to the Wellness Center, tennis & pickleball courts, three private dining rooms, golf courses, and a state-of-the-art fitness center. Of course, these perks include access to the 7,000-square-foot zero-entry pool at the WaterSound Beach Club. Fun fact: The sprawling pools mirror the natural shapes of the rare coastal dune lakes.

Savoring the Flavor: Where to Eat in WaterSound

The Big Chill is an open-air and family-friendly gathering spot along 30A. This award-winning complex is a popular spot for dining, shopping, and entertainment. At the heart of The Big Chill is an amphitheater for live music and a 25’ jumbotron for watching sports and movies. Within the complex, you’ll find communal dining tables shared by multiple restaurants, depending on your mood for that day. Don’t forget to grab a bucket of beer, wine, or your favorite cocktail from the onsite bar.

The WaterSound Town Center opened in 2021 and is home to a growing collection of restaurants, shops, and event spaces.

  • The upscale Ambrosia Prime Seafood & Steaks is a stylish and sophisticated seafood restaurant in the heart of the Town Center. The Ambrosia menu offers fresh oysters, gulf shrimp, and their signature filets.
  • The Watersound Village Market at Town Center serves fresh local seafood, southern classics, and uniquely crafted dishes inspired by global travels and family traditions.
  • For a quick bite or a refreshing treat, check out Marco’s Pizza and Bahama Buck’s, both located in the Town Center.

Along 30A, locals and visitors in the know will pick up a slice of classic pizza from Bruno’s Pizza. Bruno’s Pizza holds the distinction of the oldest pizza shop on 30A, and guests often see pizza makers hand tossing dough in the air from behind the counter. More than just pizza, Bruni’s offers a full menu, adult beverages, and occasional Bingo nights to keep you stuffed, happy, and entertained. 

Retail Therapy in WaterSound: Where to Shop

WaterSound Town Center

WaterSound Farmer’s Market: The WaterSound Farmer’s Market pops up year-round on Sundays from 9:00 am – 1:00 pm in the WaterSound Town Center. It features the freshest produce, local artisans, food trucks, and live music. A consistent set of vendors returns each week, selling a wide range of produce and artisanal goods for your next farm-to-table feast. Be on the lookout for more retailers coming into the WaterSound Town Center to join existing merchants like the Grand Nail Salon, Aqua Medical Spa, and the Fleet Feet Shoe Store. Be sure to check out the Fleet Feet social media channels for announcements about group and training runs open for anyone and everyone who likes to hit the pavement.

Publix Supermarket: Rumored to be the world’s largest Publix grocery store, the Publix Supermarket at WaterSound Town Center opened in November 2022. The 48,000-square-foot grocery store includes a pharmacy, deli, bakery, and liquor store, perfect for picking up groceries and beverages for your day’s adventure. Unique to the WaterSound Publix is a second-floor balcony where you can relax and eat food from the grab-and-go section, recharge your batteries, and tap into the free Wi-Fi.

The Big Chill: In addition to its cool eateries, The Big Chill has a hip and coastal-inspired collection of retailers, including Live Well 30A, High Tide, Coast 30A & Coast Kids, The Lens Bar, Nicole, and Paloma. Sophisticates can shop for fine jewelry at Anthea Le Jardin or be inspired by the collection at Adaro Art. For the younger crowd, retailers like Build-A-Bear and Sugar Wave keep the kiddies entertained.

WaterSound Beach Store: Rep the WaterSound coastal lifestyle wherever you go with official WaterSound Beach apparel. Whether you’re looking for vacation essentials or lifestyle clothing and accessories to remember your stay, the WaterSound Beach Store is worth a visit. The WaterSound Beach Store is located on the first floor of The WaterSound Gate House. 

Circle the Dates: Watersound’s Annual Events

Watersound Porchfest: WaterSound Origins Porchfest (annually in October)- This free musical event takes place on the front porches and lawns of the WaterSound Origins community located north of US 98 in WaterSound. Bring a lawn chair for a leisurely afternoon of good music and food that culminates with a headliner on the festival’s main stage at the Village Commons.

Run WaterSound 5k & 10k (annually in October): This running event features a flat, scenic course along the paths and streets of the WaterSound Origins community.

Flutterby Arts Festival (annually in November): This beloved art event sponsored by the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County takes place annually in November at The Pavilion at WaterSound Town Center. A free and family-friendly event, the Flutterby Festival celebrates the Monarch butterfly’s annual migration through northwest Florida with live music, theater and dance, student art exhibits, and more.

Dip Your Toes: Discovering the Closest Beach Accesses from WaterSound

Deer Lake State Park: All visitors to the park pay a daily fee ($3.00 per vehicle (2-8 passengers) and $2.00 for pedestrians, bicycles, and extra passengers). 

Camp Creek Lake: Most of the lake is surrounded by private property, but public access is available along Camp Creek Road. Park only in the county easement and pay attention to restricted parking areas and driveways.


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Michelle Garrett is an occasional metalsmith, baker, and wine drinker, not necessarily in that order. Her work has been featured on Run Wild My Child, Every Avenue Travel, and Daily Mom, and she is a co-host of the Run Wild My Child podcast. An outdoorsy mom, Michelle loves everything about living on the  Emerald Coast from the beaches and bayous to the pine forests and night skies. You can find Michelle on Instagram @emeraldcoastoutside.