Four gleaming minaret-style towers welcome visitors to Alys Beach and a stretch of the scenic highway flanked by towering palm trees. The appeal of this area is clear: stucco homes so white they could blind you at high noon; secluded courtyards cozied up within their walls; the pool at Caliza Restaurant, which looks like it’s straight from Bermuda; and a curated collection of shops and eateries that would feel right at home on the cobblestone paths of Capri.
After a few days of cabanas and cocktails, you’ll leave feeling refreshed. In case the sophisticated surroundings tempt you to put on airs, remember that this beach town was named after its original developer’s wife. That’s like naming your firstborn after your mama, and we all know it doesn’t get more relatable—or Southern—than that.
Start your day with old-fashioned pastries from Charlie’s Donut Truck.
The converted Sunbeam bread truck pulls up alongside the Alys Beach Amphitheatre every morning, chock-full of sprinkled, chocolate-glazed, and even bacon-covered confections that owner Charlie Mingus and his bakers cut and glaze the traditional way: by hand.
More health-conscious vacationers can stop by the newly opened Raw & Juicy, which first opened a location in neighboring Seaside, for smoothies and bowls.
Take advantage of the Alys’ 20-acre nature preserve and trail
Grab your bike and get peddling. The northern portion of Alys Beach is devoted to a 20-acre nature preserve practically made for morning bike rides—seriously, there’s a elevated wooden boardwalk that will take you through most of the trail and give you the best view of your natural surroundings. Cozy up by the lake, and bring your beach read for some quiet time.
Grab a not-your-ordinary drink at Neat
Next door, cool off with a drink at Neat. The cocktail bar is minimalist by design, with a small monthly menu of specialty drinks featuring items like elderflower liqueur and basil oil. The offerings gently goad you to branch out: How about trading your gin and tonic for a charcoal-infused paloma?
Put your name down at George’s for coastal cuisine with Southern flair
George’s at Alys Beach, a shingled beach cottage-turned-restaurant that sits right off the manicured highway, might not necessarily fit the Bermuda-inspired style of Alys Beach, but it certainly touts buzz words fitting of the posh locale. Locally sourced, organic produce builds its menu separated by Behave and Misbehave items: grilled salmon with red quinoa falling on the Behave side, and fried shrimp with hush puppies decidedly on the other.
While George’s does not accept reservations, nearby Caliza Restaurant does. Overlooking the stunning Caliza Pool, this spot welcomes you with an open-air bar that will make you want to postpone your reservation for a drink or two.
Shop ‘til you drop at Ann Hartley Alys Beach
Follow the green space, and you’ll eventually land on a tiny boutique where colorful caftans and scarves beckon you inside. This is Ann Hartley Alys Beach, filled with unique picks like hand-embroidered pillows from Marrakech, Morocco; pottery from San Miguel de Allende, Mexico; and fabrics from the Ivory Coast.
“When you’re raised at the beach, it pulls you back,” says Ann Hartley, a Panama City native who owns the store. “Alys Beach came out of the chute a fabulous place, and it caught on like wildfire.”