Beach Days

Hugging the pristine shoreline of the Gulf of Mexico along Florida’s popular Highway 30a are a chain of rare coastal dune lakes embedded in the dune ecosystem of the Panhandle’s spring break capital. The rare lakes are reportedly found only along the coasts of New Zealand, Australia, Madagascar, and in the United States along the coasts of Oregon, South Carolina, and Northwest Florida.

While the turquoise water of the Gulf tends to steal the show, these special lakes and their shorelines offer a glimpse into a unique world from massive dunes, winding trails where scrub oaks and magnolias stand, bent and twisted by the salt winds and abundant wildlife that should be a part of every vacationer’s itinerary.

Or, if you’re lucky enough to stay at SeaBatical, a 4-bedroom home just west of Grayton Beach, you can witness the magic from the kitchen table and deck every day of your stay. Owned by the Bustle family of Atlanta, the home is in the quiet Gulf Trace neighborhood with private beach access to the Gulf and overlooks Alligator Lake and Grayton Beach State Park.  The inviting turquoise appearance of the water there comes from the clarity of the Gulf of Mexico coupled with the high reflectivity of light off the sugar-white sand. The waters are so clear because no large, sediment-heavy rivers directly influence the water.  The sand is sugar-white because they are composed mainly of pure quartz crystal. These particles of quartz, once part of the southern Appalachian Mountains, were washed south over millions of years before being deposited in the Gulf of Mexico. The tumbling of the water over this long distance broke down the quartz crystals and buffed the edges, making them as fine as sugar.

The Bustle’s recognized the uniqueness of the location when they bought their vacation home and are anxious to share it with visitors.

“It is a great house for families to settle in for a week of fellowship and recreation,” says Nancy. The heated pool is surrounded by loungers and an outside shower, the screened porch offers more views and comfortable seating. Sleeping 12 comfortably with four bathrooms including a separate ground-level kid’s bunk room, the house is family-friendly with decor that isn’t fussy or contrived. On our visit, we found more tools in the newly renovated kitchen than we had at home, which was perfect since we opted to cook meals at the house to enjoy the views and each other. There are two king bedrooms so we didn’t have to flip a coin to see who got the big beds. The bright natural wood family room has a vaulted ceiling, two comfortable sofas, a rare wood burning fireplace and plenty of reading nooks with good lighting. We had three college students with us and they each posted up at different tables with plenty of room for books and gear. My favorite station was one of  the Adirondacks on the screened porch where I could hear the waves and even my own thoughts.

We hopped on County Highway 30A's 19-mile paved bike path at the front of the neighborhood and biked for ice cream, drinks and meals at  nearby busier spots in Grayton Beach, Watercolor and Seaside. We loved the flat path and not having to depend on a car.

And, we appreciated the Bustle’s attention to detail at SeaBatical, taking care not to overstuff the house with beachy accessories or too much furniture. The natural wood paneled walls and soft furnishings welcomed us home and made it easy for us to live our best beach lives.



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