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Alys In Wonderland

You'll know you've arrived once you see the butteries: the tall, crisp white structures with their domed bottoms and stairstep tops. Two on either side of the road, four in total, marking your entrance and exit points. A palpable feeling hits you; this area is different from the other stretches of coastal highway 30A.  

Of all the quaint beach towns along this popular county highway, each one with its own vibe, patrons, and food, to me, Alys Beach stands apart as the most unique. It's tucked away but also demands to be seen.

Marieanne Khoury-Vogt and Erik Vogt of Khoury Vogt Architects planned this walkable, luxury seaside town on 158 acres with influences of Moorish, Mediterranean, and Guatemalan architecture. The water here along highway 30A is as clear as the Caribbean. The seafood rivals Nantucket's. The homes are lavish. Even the palm trees are clipped just so. But the real charm is all Southern.  

Whether you enjoy Alys Beach for the weekend or two weeks, here are the spots to put on your itinerary:

For sundries, steaks and strong, glorious coffee, head to Fonville Press. Ride your bike to the front and walk up to the made-to-order bar window with their flamingo pink seats and sun umbrellas. The market carries everything from Momofuku seasonings to Blackberry Farm jams. Try their made-in-house hot sauce. 

Alys Beach's most notable restaurant (aside from George's which is also delicious), is The Citizen. It's big city glamour with small beach town local fare. Every inch of the space is gorgeous with brass accents, nautical paint colors and perfect lighting. It evokes summer all year round. Get the oysters and Chartreuse Swizzle cocktail. The whipped feta is also a big hit. 
Neat is Alys' own bottle shop and tasting room. An incredibly friendly and knowledgeable staff greets you upon entering either the retail or bar side. You can give a flavor profile of what you're into and let them take it from there. With constantly rotating seasonal cocktails, mocktails and hard-to-find bottles of liquor and wine, it's bespoke and intimate. 

Zuma is the sleek and quiet private health club within the community. With all top-of-the-line exercise equipment, a spa, a lap pool, basketball courts and tennis courts, the center is a haven of health. In-stock Lululemon and Osea skincare products (their algae body oil is divine!) add to the appeal. To continue on the health train, walk over to Raw & Juicy for organic and clean everything - juices, adaptogenic lattes, smoothie bowls and salads. 

One of the best amenities that Alys Beach has to offer its guests is Caliza Pool. An enormous entrance flanked by beaded curtains ushers you into a complete refuge. You'll find a perfect oval pool surrounded by loungers with more private cabanas in the back. The A++ poolside service makes you want to linger here all day. Order the tuna poke bowl and a frozen piña colada. 

And then there's the shopping. Bebette will have you clamoring over its adorable inventory of items for littles. This shop has everything from precious doll bassinets and wicker prams to electric blue water pails and white broderie anglaise dresses. The Alys Beach Shoppe is another must-visit and not just for Alys logo'd clothing. They carry an array of luxury resort wear for women and men as well as a beautiful collection of handbags and sun hats. Also shop SummerStory and Parasol for gorgeous home decor and beautiful women's apparel. 

Many say that with so much to see and do in Alys Beach alone, there's no real reason to leave the community, and this is true. If in need of special entertainment, Alys has its own amphitheater that frequently shows films and hosts musician series. There's also Digital Graffiti, "a one-of-a-kind projection art festival where artists from across the globe use the latest digital technologies to project their original works onto the iconic white walls," currently in its 16th year. Alys also hosts the 30A Wine Festival and Crafted, an event held to "tell the stories of crafted beverages, culinary experiences, artistry, and workmanship."

There's also that massive body of water, the Gulf, that's breathtaking too. Just like the rest of the Emerald Coast, the cerulean water at Alys is crystal clear. This stretch of white sand beaches is also private, which gives more seclusion and serenity than other parts of the Gulf. Nearby Alys Beach Club provides food and beverages while you enjoy the sand and surf.

Alys Beach is a reprieve, a luxurious but unpretentious Southern escape, and a complete world unto itself. After one stay, you'll want to return again and again.