It’s hard to imagine two places more different than London, a cosmopolitan European city and 30A, a deep south All-American beach town, but after Covid, that’s what our family needed: a change.
Seven months ago, my husband, toddler, infant, and Spaniel moved from London to Seaside, swapping afternoon tea, the Tube, and the Thames for pimento cheese, golf carts, and the white sand beaches of the Emerald Coast. Covid was the catalyst my family needed to stop dreaming of the beach life we always wanted. It was time to live it.
At the end of 2020, we hadn’t heard of 30A, let alone visited. We spent the last 15 years in Manhattan and London chasing that work hard/play hard big city life, which prior to Covid was mandatory for our careers.
When work from home became the new normal, we returned to the States and yearned for a change of pace from city life, but the idea of strip mall suburbia terrified us. Our original goal was to harness the wanderlust spirit of our European life and bounce around to new locations every month. A friend suggested 30A for our first stop, likening it to the charm of our beloved Nantucket, but with warmer temps for our November timeframe. “The Panhandle? Really?” I remember asking cautiously, as images of 90s MTV Panama City Spring Break ran through my head. “Trust me,” she said. “You’ll love it.”
Within a couple days of our first trip here, we were captivated and enchanted by what 30A life has to offer - new urbanism at its finest, endless live entertainment, a vibrant food scene, a growing and thriving year-round community, a jam-packed calendar of cultural events, and jaw-dropping natural beauty. If there ever was a beach town that could help us transition from London with zero regrets, 30A and especially Seaside would do just that.
When we chose to pursue our dream to live at the beach, it had to be 30A. Here’s why:
New Urbanism at its Finest
30A’s new urbanism plan feels like a natural segue from London life. Unlike skyscraper focused cities such as New York and Hong Kong, London is made up of charming walkable neighborhoods, many of which feel like little villages, each with their own unique vibe, just like 30A.
Whether you prefer the Nantucket vibes of Seaside, the Swiss village ambiance of Rosemary, or the Santorini energy of Alys, they each have a cafe, bookstore, art gallery, or chic boutique just a short walk, bike cruise, or golf cart ride away.
Where Nature and Culture Collide
Cities like London and New York offer endless options of events to attend, activities to explore, food to savor, and culture to enjoy, but what if you could have all that plus unparalleled nature? Enter 30A.
Did you know that the 30A Wine Festival in Alys Beach is ranked as one the ten best wine festivals in the country? Or that the Songwriter’s Festival features over 250 musicians? What about the upcoming inaugural Crafted festival celebrating outstanding cuisine, cocktails, and crafts? The sheer number of art galleries dotting 30A rivals that of a big city, and that’s in addition to the over-the-top art festival, Digital Graffiti. Seaside is home to the REP theater, and we’ve also caught their performances, including children’s theater, at local outdoor amphitheaters.
I certainly wouldn’t refer to my family as “outdoorsy,” but one of the biggest factors in our move was the ease in which we could have a more active lifestyle. Every single month so far we’ve enjoyed the award-winning beaches while swimming with dolphins, sea turtles, and manta rays. We’ve hiked State Forests and had chance encounters with black bears. Instead of dinner and drinks, my husband and I now have SUP dates on the only Coastal Dune Lakes that exist in the Northern Hemisphere (seriously!).
Next Level Family Friendly
“Family friendly” takes on a whole new meaning here. There are always events for families and unlike London and New York, they’re usually free. There are Disney movies under the stars, Huck and Lily’s children’ music duo, tie-dye on the green, or my daughter’s personal favorite, the Hub’s DJ dance party.
Big family days out in London meant a museum and a walk through the park. Now we bike the endless nature trails (Watercolor is a magical maze) or boat to Shell Island to dig for hermit crabs. A lowkey week night consists of pizza, sunset, and sandcastles. My three-year-old is in a bathing suit more often than not and my one-year-old practices standing and walking on SUP boards. It’s safe to say that I envy my children’s childhood.
Creating a True Community
The year-round community isn’t just growing - it’s thriving. Covid was the catalyst many people needed to begin living the life of their dreams, and the result has seen the local population spike with transplants just like us. Everyone comes from different locations, but they all have one thing in common: an eagerness to connect.
Adult friendship dating is typically on par with going to the dentist, but in a place where you’re either new or you remember being new, everyone is keen to share friendly advice (don’t go to Publix on Saturdays) and an invitation to coffee, book club, or a playdate is always extended. Throw in the fact that year round day to day life is spent mostly outdoors, so it’s hard to do anything here without running into a new friend and instantly feeling like you’re part of a community.
It’s been more than half a year since we left London, and the weather isn’t the only thing that’s changed. My three-year-old’s British accent is almost gone and “y’all" has crept into my daily vernacular. We miss tea and crumpets, but we’ve become shrimp and grits aficionados. Life feels a little slower, but also fuller. Plus, you can’t put a price on a life where every day feels like a vacation.