|Panama City Beach sunset|
|A little early evening boogie boarding|
This trip to Panama City Beach, Florida, was taken June 2009 with our friends Dave and Jodie and two of their little ones. We rented a three bedroom condo in the large complex of Gulf Highlands. We rented from a family member of our friends, but here is an example of a simple and affordably priced condo at Gulf Highlands. http://www.vrbo.com/407190 VRBO is an organized site. Using the top words on the vrbo site, you can search lots of other condos either at Gulf Highlands, the PCB area, or expanding as broadly as you like. I like to start researching an area by reading the owner's descriptions of their rentals. This will give me a feel for the area and what the area has to offer. Panama City is on the Florida Panhandle, the strip of the state that lies horizontally. It's not as long of a drive from the north as the beach towns further south along the Gulf. Our friends drove all night but we are not night-drivers so we stayed over midway from Ohio. I actually wasn't expecting a lot from this beach. We were mostly going in order to spend time with our friends. All I knew of Panama City was associated with spring-breakers and partying twenty-somethings. It is actually a nice and very convenient spot to soak up some weeklong sun and salt water. One drawback is that there is some traffic. This is a fairly built-up area. Lots of restaurants and places to buy swim suits. However, the traffic is not worse than lots of busy suburbs across the U.S. In exchange for some traffic and a busy road, when you want to run out for steaks to grill or after-dinner ice cream, the stores are right there. The go-cart track we visited was really close to the condos and beach.
|Post office of Seaside, where the movie The Truman Show was filmed|
Despite PCB's commercial feel, there are quiet areas around. During one evening, my friend Jodie and I drove out to Seaside, a quaint little beachtown with the most fabulous shops. Really museum quality art works and crafts. You can park and stroll around and drool over beautiful glass figurines, pottery, and jewelry. This is also the place people go dressed in white to take photos. Filming of the movie The Truman Show was done here. They have this quaint little post-office which looks like the oldest post office ever, but, alas, it is not. But it is one of the most photographed post offices in the country. Hey, we here in America like our superlatives.
|13 mile bike trail along these beach towns|
|(above) Look at the color of that water!|
|Shell Island. There is good snorkeling along that rock jetty.|
Our excursion to Shell Island was our favorite. A shuttle boat leaves from St. Andrews State Park http://www.floridastateparks.org/standrews/ . This park has a nice beach, nature trails, kayaking, etc. Shell Island is a mostly deserted island with a Caribbean quality beach. Unfortunately, the shuttle over isn't cheap. It is $16.95 for adults and $8.95 for children. The boat goes back and forth every 30 minutes until 4pm. Sitting in the sand, my friend and I discussed whether or not it was the nicest beach we had ever been too. We decided that, as it was quiet, clean, gentle, and beautiful, there wasn't much more we could ask for. We ate our packed lunch on the beach. The little kids played on the sand, the big kids boogie boarded, and the adults took turns snorkeling along the rock jetty. The state park rents snorkel gear at the boat launch, but we brought our own. If you are a beach-lover, a quality snorkel and mask are a good investment.
You might like this trip if:
- You want a warm beach that isn't all the way down into Florida. The Florida Panhandle is a nice compromise for those driving from the north. By the summer, the water is nice and warm, but it, well obviously, isn't as far south.
- You don't mind condos a plenty. This is not a beach house town. This is a place of hotels and condos. For beach houses, try Dauphin Island just west in Alabama. On the bright side, when there are this many condos so close together, you can get a good deal. The tourist has the advantage here over the real-estate owner.
|Race City, Panama City Beach|
For a rainy day, here's something to try:
WonderWorks science museum, $18.99 child, $22.99 adult; 9910 Front Beach Road, PCB, Florida
That is, if you don't have problems like I do of competing against the television.