One destination in the state that is intriguing to me is Panama City Beach. This small town is located in Northwest Florida with easy access from the fairly new Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport which services select domestic flights (Delta & Southwest). This part of Florida is a fairly short flight from any of a number of Southern destinations as well as from up and down the East Coast.
I was in Gulf Shores, Alabama several years ago and was extremely impressed by the beautiful flour-esque white sand (composed of fine granulated quartz crystal) beaches along parts of the Gulf in the southern states. We have none of these brilliantly white beaches in California. The entire shoreline in Panama City Beach is composed of this fine white sand. In fact, Panama City Beach has an appropriate nickname: “The World’s Most Beautiful Beaches.”As one would expect, Panama City Beach offers a wide range of water sports and activities for the outdoor enthusiast, adventure traveler as well as items the entire family can enjoy. Panama City Beach has such a variety of offerings, and they have even created a Bucket List program with activity and experience suggestions. You can also earn some rewards and prizes for creating your own bucket list.
Here are a few activities of personal interest:
Wreck Diving – with a self titled, “wreck diving capital of the south,” Panama City Beach offers a variety of historical underwater attractions. I was expecting to research various fishing vessels sunk on the bottom of the Gulf, but the wreck diving here offers so much more. Choose from old Navy fighter jets, tanks, railroad boxcars and even fifteen bridge spans! Along with these artificial reefs there is plenty of diving above the natural reef located just a few miles off shore.
Get Sea Legs While Paddleboarding – Stand Up Paddleboarding or “SUP” for short, has become a hot ticket in water destinations around the world and it’s no different in Panama City Beach. I had my first SUP experience in Bermuda several years ago; I was on a large board in fairly still water and it is surprisingly easy to get the hang of not falling down. A quick search shows no shortage of SUP operators who rent these boards in the area. And in the spirit of similar activities, Panama City Beach also offers Body Surfing and plenty of snorkeling opportunities.Spend a Day at Shell Island – For an escape from the mainland, the 7-mile long Shell Island is only a short boat ride from Panama City Beach. You come here for the day trip to relax – the island is in its natural state, and you won’t find vendors, restrooms or picnic tables. This used to part of a peninsula until a shipping channel turned it into an island. It is named “shell” for the abundance of shells that are on a number of its beaches.
And if you need a break from water activities, enjoy an aerial perspective of Panama City Beach in a helicopter with Panhandle Helicopter. Soar over sun bathers, white sands and clear aquamarine waters that stretch as far as you can see in both directions. Keep an eye out for marine life – you may spot pods of dolphins swimming or the occasional large sea turtle that might be at the surface breathing at that exact moment you pass overhead.
Late summer and fall are good times to visit. On average, temperatures start cooling down slightly by the end of September, there are fewer crowds, but even more importantly the humidity begins reeling later in the fall. And there are several appealing events this time of year including the Fall Music Festival and Pirates Fest.
Panama City Beach offers plenty of other attractions and activities.