Rosemary Beach vs Carlton Landing: Which One is Better?

Comparing Rosemary Beach and Carlton Landing, two stunning waterfront towns in Florida and Oklahoma known for their charm.

Considering a trip to Rosemary Beach or Carlton Landing, and want to know how one stacks up against the other? You’re in the right place!

Rosemary Beach has long been an Alley family staple for annual summer vacations. But one day as I got coffee with a friend, she told me about a community in Oklahoma designed by the same people who designed Rosemary Beach and Seaside. It had all the aesthetic beauty of these gorgeous 30A towns but was only a three hour drive away from Dallas. Color me intrigued! Enter in the scene: Carlton Landing.

So, we decided to check it out!

Fast forward a few months to now: I’m writing this article on our drive home from our first Alley family vacation in Carlton Landing. I want to do a comparison of the two so you can see for yourself the similarities and differences of Rosemary Beach vs Carlton Landing.

Let’s get to it!

Rosemary Beach vs Carlton Landing: Aesthetics

Charming downtown Rosemary Beach.
Beautiful brick houses at sunset in Carlton Landing.

Both Carlton Landing and Rosemary Beach have incredible charm. In fact, it comes as no surprise that they were designed by the same people! You’ll find the charming cottages that 30A is known for in this Oklahoma paradise too! 

While Rosemary Beach is flat and lies on the gorgeous white sandy shores of the Gulf of Mexico, Carlton Landing is slightly hilly and set on a tiny inlet of Lake Eufaula.

You really can’t compare the gorgeous nature that comes with a sandy beach town – Rosemary Beach wins for sure in my book – but when it comes to the houses and the development, it’s a tie!

Winner: Tie

That brings us to our next section: the beach!

Rosemary Beach vs Carlton Landing: Beach

A drone shot of Rosemary Beach.
The beach at Carlton Landing.

30A is known for its incredible beaches with white sand and turquoise waters. The sand is soft and fluffy and the water is absolutely gorgeous. I’d go as far as to say it’s the prettiest sand and water color that you can find in the USA!

Unfortunately, the beach at Carlton Landing is small with dirt brown colored “sand” and rocks in the water. (It may be because we visited during a particularly rainy week in June, but the sand didn’t feel like sand at all – much more like mud.) The water itself is the typical brownish gray that you’ll find in lakes across this region of the USA. You’ll want to bring water shoes if you want to walk out from the beach into the water as there are quite a lot of rocks in the water. It also doesn’t have an open water feeling, since the trees on the other side of the inlet are so close to you.

One more thing worth noting… beaches come with potentially dangerous wildlife. As I write this, the 30A beaches have had the spotlight on them for two shark attacks!

Even so, when it comes to beautiful, fun beaches, the winner is still…

Winner: Rosemary Beach

Rosemary Beach vs Carlton Landing: Water Activities

Relaxing on Shell Island after a jet ski tour.
An epic water obstacle course at Carlton Landing.

Since one is set on the ocean and the other on a lake, you’ll find plenty of water activities in both Rosemary Beach and Carlton Landing!

Boating is a popular activity in both locations, but it is definitely easier to bring your own boat to Carlton Landing as there is a dock that you can keep your boat moored at. 

There are more boat tours around Rosemary Beach (ie. dolphin tours, sunset cruises, kid’s pirates boat cruise, etc.). We did a jet ski tour to Shell Island in nearby Panama City Beach and loved it!

When it comes to kayaking and stand-up-paddleboarding, Carlton Landing may be easier for these since lake water is calmer. However, you can do these types of activities in both Carlton Landing and Rosemary Beach.

One water activity that is unique to Carlton Landing is the epic Wibit, a giant blow up obstacle course on the lake, that you can rent for ~$25 per person. 

Winner: Rosemary Beach

Rosemary Beach vs Carlton Landing: Price

The view from a Rosemary Beach Cottage rental.
A gorgeous house in Carlton Landing.

Here’s a big difference between these two charming vacation spots!

When it comes to comparing Carlton Landing vs Rosemary Beach, you can’t beat the price point of Carlton Landing.

Harrison’s family has been going to Rosemary Beach for over a decade and we’ve watched the prices skyrocket with its popularity. In fact, on our last visit to Carlton Landing, Harrison’s brother remarked that Carlton Landing was about a tenth of the price of Rosemary Beach. (This price difference most likely included travel costs, which I’ll get into in the next section.)

As an example, a week-long 4 bedroom house rental in Rosemary Beach in the summer often costs upwards of $5,000. Meanwhile, the same size rental in Carlton Landing starts around $2,400.

Winner: Carlton Landing

Rosemary Beach vs Carlton Landing: Travel Accessibility

girl on southwest airlines flight
We always fly Southwest Airlines to Panama City Beach to get to Rosemary Beach.
Driving three hours to Carlton Landing from Dallas is a breeze!

This category will obviously vary based on where you’re traveling from. But for our family living in Dallas, it is way more convenient and cheaper to drive three hours from Dallas to Carlton Landing than it is to fly to Panama City Beach.

For those with multiple children, it just makes much more financial sense to drive somewhere than to buy plane tickets and rent a car.

Winner: Carlton Landing

Rosemary Beach vs Carlton Landing: Getting Around

Bikes are a common way to get around Rosemary Beach.
Carlton Landing was built for walkability!


Both Rosemary Beach and Carlton Landing are incredibly walkable. However, Carlton Landing is bigger than Rosemary Beach, so you may need to walk a lot further to get to certain spots. (That makes getting a golf cart a great idea when in Carlton Landing.)


Rosemary Beach gets way more congested than Carlton Landing in the summer months. While it’s easy to drive around Carlton Landing, it can be tricky to find parking for cars (other than at your lodging). (In Carlton Landing, there is plenty of parking for golf carts, but not as much for cars.)  The upside of this is that it adds to the beauty and charm at Carlton Landing! I love how Carlton Landing has been designed to hide cars with its very limited car parking – no eyesore parking lots here. 

Golf Carts

On all of our Rosemary Beach trips, we’ve never felt the need for a golf cart (and they’re also pretty expensive… about $750 for a 5-7 day rental). However, between our four families at Carlton Landing, we shared one golf cart and it was great to have for coffee runs, beach runs, and just to explore the place. We definitely could have done without a golf cart, but at such a reasonable price we figured we might as well get one! A 5-7 day golf cart rental in Carlton Landing costs about $370-$510.

Bike Rentals

Biking is a great way to get around Rosemary Beach, and while it would also be a fantastic way to explore Carlton Landing, I didn’t notice a single bike on our trip. Perhaps that’s because there aren’t any readily-accessible bike rental shops nearby. So if you’re planning on visiting Carlton Landing, consider bringing your own!

Winner: Carlton Landing

Rosemary Beach vs Carlton Landing: Amenities

Pool time at Rosemary Beach.
The Boulevard Pool at Carlton Landing.

Rosemary Beach:

  • Pools: There are a few pool options that come with your house rental.
  • Hotel: The iconic Pearl Hotel is at the heart of Rosemary Beach.
  • Green spaces: One large green space.
  • Tennis courts: You have to pay for tennis courts.
  • Fitness center: A very nice fitness center that you have to pay for.
  • Fire pits: You can book a s’mores experience on the beach.

Carlton Landing:

**All of these things are free unless indicated**

  • Pools: There are three pools that you can use. In addition to the pool, one has food service on ‘busy’ days and overlooks the lake, one has a hot tub and splash pad, and one has a kiddie pool.
  • Fitness Center: A small fitness center that is supposedly $10 for a day pass, but usually comes complimentary with your housing rental. 
  • Bocce Ball: There is a park with three bocce ball areas.
  • Playgrounds: There is a full playground, a little secret park with a smaller play ground at Pistache Ln, and random swings.
  • Tennis/Pickleball/Basketball: These three things are all on one tennis court, so you will probably need to wait for a court to free up! (There are lines for two pickleball courts drawn on the tennis court. You roll the pickleball net in place. And there are two basketball hoops on half of the tennis court.) Here’s hoping Carlton Landing creates a dedicated pickleball area with at least four courts… there is definitely space and a need for it! 
  • Community garden: We picked fresh basil and mint from the community garden!
  • Green spaces: While Rosemary Beach only has one main green, there are several at Carlton Landing!
  • Ping pong: You’ll find a ping pong table at the bocce ball park and at the Boulevard Pool.
  • Community church: There’s a community church that meets outside under the main pavilion on Sunday mornings!
  • Grilling and Fire Pits: There are grills and fire pits located at various parks throughout Carlton Landing.

Winner: Carlton Landing

Rosemary Beach vs Carlton Landing: Restaurants

Dining at Havana Beach Bar & Grill at The Pearl Hotel in Rosemary Beach.
The Meeting House is a great spot for coffee, breakfast, and lunch in Carlton Landing.

There’s not much competition here when it comes to restaurants. Rosemary Beach wins by a landslide with way more dining options that are open daily. There are so many places that it would be silly for me to list them all, but here are some of my favorites:

  • Cowgirl Kitchen
  • Restaurant Paradis
  • Havana Beach Bar & Grill
  • Playa Bowls
  • La Crema Tapas
  • George’s at Alys Beach

If you’re in Carlton Landing on a Monday or Tuesday or in the off-season, you’ll find that most of the dining options are closed. However, the rest of the week, Carlton Landing offers these dining options:

  • The Meeting House
  • The Pool House
  • 2 Airstream food trucks (one acai bowl place and one ice cream shop)
  • Mama Tigg’s Pizza

You can go into Eufaula (about a 12 minute drive away) for more dining options, but don’t expect them to be as trendy as what you’d find in Seaside. We particularly enjoyed Captain Jack’s and Braum’s ice cream.

Winner: Rosemary Beach

Rosemary Beach vs Carlton Landing: Shopping

From candy stores to clothing boutiques, shopping is a popular activity in Rosemary Beach!
If you want some Carlton Landing swag, there are limited options inside The Meeting House.

Just like restaurant options, there are a ton of great shopping places in Rosemary Beach. Whether you’re looking for a bathing suit, some Rosemary Beach swag, or convenience store items, you can find them all within walking distance. Bigger grocery stories are within driving distance.

Carlton Landing has little shacks that open for pop up shopping, but they are not open regularly. If you want Carlton Landing swag, you can get some at the Meeting House, but options are very limited. The closest convenience stores and grocery stores are in Eufaula, about 12 minutes away. 

Winner: Rosemary Beach

Rosemary Beach vs Carlton Landing: Surrounding Areas

Exploring Eden Garden State Park outside of Rosemary Beach is one of the many things to do around 30A.
The rocking chairs at The Overlook echo the fact that Carlton Landing is great for relaxing and staying awhile.

One of my favorite things about Rosemary Beach is the gorgeous state parks and cities around it! While you may prefer relaxing and staying in one place on a vacation, some of you might be looking for adventure. And Rosemary Beach definitely offers that. It’s so close to beautiful Panama City Beach, cool state parks like Eden Garden State Park, and fun biking/walking trails. You can check out this list of things to do to see for yourself!

Meanwhile, Carlton Landing is really the kind of place that you visit with the intent to stay in town. This little resort town was built to feel like an escape. And right when you arrive at the front entrance to Carlton Landing, you’ll notice that they really accomplish this feeling. From the entrance off of the highway, you’ll keep driving on a road that winds through a dense forest for several minutes before you reach the actual town. It feels remote and like a real getaway. And while you can explore Eufaula, the closest town, there’s not a whole lot to do outside of Carlton Landing.

All in all, there are so many unique things to do around Rosemary Beach, and not quite as much with Carlton Landing. (I’d love for someone to prove me wrong on this – if you know of some fun things to do around Carlton Landing, please let me know in the comments!)

Winner: Rosemary Beach

Rosemary Beach vs Carlton Landing: Kid Friendliness

My nephews having fun at the pool in Rosemary Beach.
My son running to join his cousins at the park hidden around the corner.

Both Carlton Landing and Rosemary Beach are kid friendly and have their perks for kids.

Rosemary Beach has a bunch of ice cream shops, candy stores, kid’s activities like boogie-boarding, the occasional kid’s events on the green, and sand that is fun to play in. You can also take your kids on excursions like dolphin-watching and pirate cruises.

Carlton Landing has an ice cream food truck that is open on certain days, playgrounds, ping pong, multiple green areas, and most importantly (at least for my nieces and nephews), an epic Wibit water obstacle course. (I had no idea what a Wibit was before visiting Carlton Landing.) 

This fun fact might make Carlton Landing way more kid-friendly for parents: in the summer, Carlton Landing offers a day camp! Camp Kanakuk operates a day camp from 10-4 that takes kindergarten aged kids and up. How is that for a relaxing vacation, parents?

Winner: tie (unless your kids are old enough for Camp Kanakuk! In that case, Carlton Landing wins!)

Rosemary Beach vs Carlton Landing: Weather

A sunny morning at Rosemary Beach.
A cloudy morning in Carlton Landing.
RB Highs/LowsCL Highs/LowsRB RainfallCL Rainfall
Jan63°F/45°F49°F/29°F6 days4 days
Feb66°F/48°F55°F/34°F5 days5 days
Mar72°F/54°F64°F/42°F6 days6 days
April77°F/59°F74°F/51°F3 days7 days
May84°F/68°F81°F/61°F3 days8 days
June89°F/74°F88°F/69°F9 days6 days
July90°F/76°F94°F/73°F10 days4 days
Aug90°F/75°F94°F/72°F11 days4 days
Sept88°F/72°F85°F/65°F7 days6 days
Oct81°F/63°F75°F/54°F4 days5 days
Nov73°F/54°F63°F/42°F5 days5 days
Dec65°F/47°F54°F/33°F6 days4 days

Both locations get hot in the summer, but that’s what the pool and ocean/lake are for! Rosemary Beach has the perk of being milder in the winter, making it the better year-round destination.

(Oddly enough, we had a ton of thunderstorms and cloudy days on our last trip to Carlton Landing, which you might notice in my photos! However, most of the summer is hot and sunny in Oklahoma!)

Winner: Rosemary Beach

Rosemary Beach vs Carlton Landing: Crowdedness

You’ll find plenty of crowds during peak season in Rosemary Beach. I got this photo in early June and it was already so crowded.
Even in the summertime you can catch fewer crowds at the beginning of the week in Carlton Landing.

One of the reasons we decided to try out Carlton Landing instead of our annual Rosemary Beach trip this year is because Rosemary is getting too expensive and too crowded. We’ve found that you need to book lodging earlier and earlier each year! And once you get there, there are tourists and cars everywhere.

And let me say, when it comes to crowds, Carlton Landing was a complete breath of fresh air compared to Rosemary Beach. Carlton Landing has been around for several years now, yet week days in Carlton Landing are still pretty calm. Now, that could be because a lot of restaurants and shops are closed, so people prefer booking weekends. But we absolutely loved how peaceful and relaxing our summer stay in Carlton Landing was. 

While summer in Rosemary Beach is crowded as heck, if you’re visiting in the off season, then crowds are no longer an issue for Rosemary Beach, and it is quite a lovely time to visit!

Winner: Carlton Landing

Rosemary Beach vs Carlton Landing: Conclusion

Well, there you have it! Here’s a summary of my winners for each of these categories:

  • Aesthetics: Tie
  • Beach: Rosemary Beach
  • Water activities: Rosemary Beach
  • Price: Carlton Landing
  • Travel accessibility: Carlton Landing
  • Getting around: Carlton Landing
  • Amenities: Carlton Landing
  • Restaurants: Rosemary Beach
  • Shopping: Rosemary Beach
  • Surrounding Areas: Rosemary Beach
  • Kid Friendliness: Tie
  • Weather: Rosemary Beach
  • Crowdedness: Carlton Landing

You might notice that Rosemary Beach won more categories than Carlton Landing.

However, for my family, when it comes to planning our annual summer big family vacation, we are now going to choose Carlton Landing. It’s cheaper, less crowded, and still as charming and beautiful as Rosemary Beach. With its close proximity to Dallas, it just makes sense for a family vacay.

But Rosemary Beach will always have a piece of our hearts, and you’ll find us there in the off-season! And there’s no competition when it comes to the stunning beaches of Rosemary Beach, Seaside, and really all of 30A. There’s also a lot more to do in the surrounding areas of 30A.

So, which of these two spots do you plan on visiting?

Safe travels!


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About the author
Picture of Jasmine Alley

Jasmine Alley

I'm a Dallas-based, full-time travel blogger with a serious case of wanderlust! Through my website and Instagram, I hope to help others plan picture-perfect trips to the most beautiful places in the world! When I travel, I like to emphasize nature, hidden gems, and unique places.
Picture of Jasmine Alley

Jasmine Alley

I'm a Dallas-based, full-time travel blogger with a serious case of wanderlust! Through my website and Instagram, I hope to help others plan picture-perfect trips to the most beautiful places in the world! When I travel, I like to emphasize nature, hidden gems, and unique places.
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