Architectural Landmarks of the Emerald Coast

Abbott Martin Group Press

Architectural Landmarks of the Emerald Coast

The Emerald Coast, a stretch along Florida's Gulf Coast known for its shimmering, emerald-green waters and fine, white sand beaches, is a natural wonder and a showcase for distinctive architecture. This region, from Miramar Beach to Inlet Beach, is home to a unique texture of communities that boast a blend of traditional and innovative designs, especially along the scenic corridor of Highway 30A.

Let's explore six significant points of distinction between these locales, highlighting what makes this area a magnet for luxury home buyers and aficionados of refined aesthetics.

1. The Village at Baytowne Wharf, Miramar Beach

Our architectural tour begins with The Village of Baytowne Wharf. Located in the northern half of Miramar Beach, part of the popular Sandestin Resort, Baytowne Wharf makes our list, not because of how it stands out but how well it blends in. Overlooking Choctawhatchee Bay, the village is a unique gathering spot with quaint boutique shopping, world-class dining and entertainment, and a marina and residential district that evokes the best of backcountry Florida.

Designed by Eldon Beck, the same architect who created Whistler Village in Whistler, British Columbia, Canada, and Vail Village and Snowmass Village in Colorado, Baytowne Wharf is structured with a similar ethos as its Alpine cousins—highly walkable; views of a primary natural feature at every turn. It's a picturesque and welcoming piece of Southern hospitality that feels like it's been here forever.

2. The Retreat, Blue Mountain Beach

There's no shortage of magnificently planned communities dotting the otherworldly Scenic 30A, the most coveted stretch of Florida's Emerald Coast. Most, however, are publicly accessed affairs, free for owners, renters, and visitors to come and go. For a more intimate, hyper-luxe home owning experience, few places compare with the rarified beachfront aesthetics found in The Retreat on Draper Lake.

The gated community is known for its exclusivity and emphasis on privacy. Situated in the heart of Blue Mountain Beach, The Retreat is designed to maximize views of the Gulf of Mexico and the community's natural dune lake, Draper Lake, creating a seamless connection between indoor and outdoor living spaces. Architecturally, it offers a collection of luxury homes that blend modern design with environmental sensitivity, inspired by the vibrance of the Caribbean and West Indies. The Retreat's grand architecture and elegant lifestyle-driven homes set a standard for luxury coastal living.

Grayton Beach

Grayton Beach, a historic community with deep roots, represents the essence of "Old Florida." Unlike the other communities on our list, Grayton Beach wasn't as much planned as it arrived, as if reeds sprouting amongst the area's three coastal dune lakes—Little Redfish Lake, Alligator Lake, and Western Lake. The result is a brilliantly tight-knit coastal community representing the Emerald Coast's best representation of a beachfront enclave.

The gateway into the bucolic Grayton Beach State Park, here, the architecture is a blend of classic Florida cottages, characterized by their metal roofs, large porches, and weathered wood, juxtaposed with opulent and grand contemporary luxury homes, but ones that maintain the community's laid-back vibe. Grayton Beach is where architectural history is preserved yet seamlessly integrates modern comforts and design.


The planned community of Seaside is arguably the most famous community along the Emerald Coast and Scenic 30A, thanks largely to its starring role in the 1998 movie The Truman Show. But before Hollywood came calling, Seaside was already heralded as a pioneer of the New Urbanism movement, emphasizing walkable neighborhoods, community engagement, and functional yet beautiful public spaces. At only 80 acres, Seaside is small compared to other 30A communities, but its legacy is lasting.

The architecture in Seaside is instantly recognizable for its pastel-colored houses, picket fences, and interconnecting footpaths that encourage exploration and communal living. It all converges at Seaside's iconic Town Square, a mix of trendy beach shops, restaurants and high-end food trucks built around a central natural amphitheater, all steps away from the beach. Among the region's most popular destinations, Seaside is the original model for thoughtful, community-oriented development.

Alys Beach

If Seaside represents original New Urbanism, Alys Beach is the design movement's natural, lavish evolution. Development first began in 2004, and 20 years later, while only 50% complete, the slow, methodical attention to detail is paying dividends across Alys Beach's 158-acre expanse, including luxury homes and condos, high-end shopping and dining, pocket parks, and luxe amenities, including a 20-acre natural preserve—all within walking distance of the neighborhood's namesake beach.

Influenced by exotic locales, including Antigua, Bermuda, and Guatemala, with Mediterranean and Moorish design elements, Alys Beach is a testament to elevated architectural thought, focusing on sustainability, functionality, resilience, and beauty. Stark white exteriors, made of durable materials capable of withstanding the Gulf's harsh climate, contrast beautifully with the vibrant greens of the native flora. Unsurprisingly, awards and recognition single out Alys Beach's design acumen, but its most notable achievement is a harmonious luxury lifestyle that blends both natural and built environments.

Rosemary Beach

Finally, situated at the far eastern end of Scenic 30A, just before entering the quaint Inlet Beach, sits Rosemary Beach, a wonderfully unique enclave that emulates the planning and principles of Seaside while foretelling the luxury of Alys Beach (it's no accident the same firm, DPZ CoDesign, laid out all three communities). The result is a more whimsical, free-flowing form of New Urbanism with a diverse architectural palette that draws inspiration from the West Indies, the Caribbean, and American and European colonial styles.

This eclectic mix creates a rich architectural tapestry that feels exotic and familiar. Public spaces and private homes are intricately designed to foster community ties, with courtyards, balconies, and alleyways that invite interaction and communal living. Allowing Rosemary Beach's natural surroundings to flourish, from the majestic live oak trees lining 30A to dense verdant canopies hanging over pathways to the thick dune scrub, is akin to living in a seaside garden.

Interested in exploring more of the Emerald Coast architectural landmarks?

From Miramar Beach to Rosemary Beach and the brilliance of Scenic 30A that lies in between, Florida's Emerald Coast is a stunning locale you'll want to call home. To discover more about the Gulf Coast lifestyle, contact the Abbott Martin Group today to start your real estate journey and uncover your perfect home in one of Florida's most celebrated and sought-after luxury real estate markets.

*Header image courtesy of Abbott Martin Group

Work With Us

We pride ourselves in providing personalized solutions that bring our real estate clients in Miramar Beach closer to their dream properties and enhance their long-term wealth. Contact us today to find out how we can assist you!