Florida Panhandle in an unofficial name for the strip of land that falls to the north west of Florida. In fact, the term West Florida and Northwest Florida are synonymous with the Panhandle. With its quaint beach towns and numerous attractions, dining and nightlife options, Florida offers a holiday experience like no other. The main attractions of Florida Panhandle are its beaches that stretch about 227 miles from Pensacola East to Apalachicola. With crystal clear, emerald waters, stunning dunes, laidback picture postcard perfect small towns and friendly people, Florida Panhandle entices both the locals and the visitors.
The region provides fun for the entire family. In Santa Rosa Island, you can enjoy both beach-based and water-based activities, and also tour the 150-year-old Pensacola Lighthouse. Florida Panhandle also provides exciting nightlife. Panama City, Destin and Pensacola all have a range of bars and nightclubs to suit all tastes. The area is also a treasure trove for the shopaholics. On offer are several speciality stores, antique stores and glittering malls where you shop to your heart’s content. Of special note is the Joe Patti’s seafood market in Pensacola, which specializes in wine and cheese and beautifully designed homemade chocolates.
Cape San Blas
With miles of peaceful, pristine, white sand beaches, Cape San Blas in Florida Panhandle is a perfect destination for those looking for a beach holiday. Located at the southernmost tip of Florida’s Great Northwest, Cape San Blas is home to the number one beach in the continental United States. Apart from lazing away the hours soaking up the sun, you can also indulge in a number of water activities including kayaking, fishing, scalloping and boating. You can enjoy the pristine beauty of St Joseph Bay or visit the T.H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park. Cape San Blas is home to four lighthouses including the Cape San Blas lighthouse. The city is also a foodie’s delight and there are several restaurants serving fresh Florida seafood.
Located in the Emerald Coast in Florida, Destin is known for its white beaches and sparking emerald waters. Once a sleepy fishing village, Destin is now a popular tourist destination, attracting about 80% of the 4.5 million visitors that the Emerald Coast attracts. The city also has the largest vessel fleet in Florida. There is much in store for the visitors who can charter fishing vessels from harbour. Destin has 12 beach access points, one of which is the Henderson Beach State Recreation Area. The sand on the beaches of Destin, which comes from the Appalachian Mountains, is the whitest in the world. Several events are held throughout the year including the annual Destin Fishing Rodeo and the Destin Seafood Festival, both of which are held in October.
Fort Walton Beach
Fort Walton Beach in Florida offers a family-friendly and affordable beach escape on the Emerald Coast. The city provides several opportunities for land and water-based activities. It is home to two public golf courses, The Oaks and The Pines, and also championship courses such as the one at Regatta Bay. The sea anglers can look forward to some shore or boat fishing in the waters off the Florida coast while the more adventurous can go surfing or try out a parachute jump. While Fort Walton Beach is a year-round destination, the summer and spring breaks are the busiest time when people flock here to enjoy the sun, sand and sea.
With a scenic beach road, plenty of surf shops, fabulous beachfront homes and luxury resorts, Miramar beach evokes a certain touch of nostalgia. The city is a classical coastal enclave complete with RV park and beachfront camping. Nostalgic beach feel apart, Miramar beach offers all ultra-modern facilities and activities you would associate with a world-class resort town. There are plenty of activities on offer including jet skiing, kayaking and parasailing. While there you can also indulge in some great retail therapy including shopping at the country’s largest designer outlet center, the Silver Sands Factory Stores.
Navarre Beach is located on Santa Rosa Island, which is a barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico. It has the Navarre Beach County Park to the east and Pensacola Beach on the west. The city, along with Santa Rosa County, is home to the Gulf Islands National Seashore with miles of undeveloped beaches and dunes. It is one of the ten coastal areas in the country which has received this special recognition and protection. For about 8 miles, the beaches remain untouched by development. A natural habitat for nesting sea turtles and migratory birds, the park offers an opportunity to see the Florida coast at its natural best. Much of the 1978 film Jaws 2 was filmed at Navarre Beach.
Panama City Beach
Panama City Beach in Florida offers 27 stunning miles of white sandy beach, well complimented by emerald green waters. The city is a perfect destination for a sun and fun-filled family holiday. Apart from soaking up the sun, you can enjoy sport fishing and a range of other water sports. Panama City Beach also has several options for an exciting nightlife and relaxing spa getaways. Several events are held throughout the year including the famous Seabreeze Jazz Festival, Thunder Beach, and the New Year’s Eve Beach Ball Drop at Pier Park.
Pensacola beach is located on Santa Rosa Island, which is one of the longest barrier islands in the world. Boasting first-rate fishing and historic Fort Pickens, Pensacola Beach has been named amongst the top ten beaches in the USA by TripAdvisor. Apart from soaking up the sun, visitors can consider indulging in relaxing spa sessions and boutique shopping. At 1,471 feet, the Pensacola Beach pier is the longest in the Gulf of Mexico. Then there is the Portofino Boardwalk which features open-air restaurants, bars, shops, piers and shallow water for kids. From here, you can also access the Gulf Islands National Seashore, which is perfect for biking, snorkelling, or kayaking.
Perdido Key is a pristine island which is nestled between Pensacola, Florida and Orange Beach. Surrounded by federal and state parks, Perdido Key combines year-round festivals and activities with a laidback ambience for a truly relaxing holiday. The beaches here spread for about 16 miles, 60% of which are located in the federal and state parks. Literally translated, Perdido Key means ‘Lost Key,’ and was named by a Spanish who discovered it in the year 1693. Several bridges link the city to mainland Florida and Alabama. Perdido Key is one of the last unspoiled stretches of sand and wilderness in Florida’s Panhandle region.
Santa Rosa Beach
Santa Rosa Beach was founded in the year 1910 as a hub for the turpentine industry in South Walton. However, over the years it has reinvented itself and has emerged as one of the leading tourist destinations in Florida Panhandle. Indeed, the Santa Rosa Beach was named as the “10 Best Beach Destinations for 2011” by Yahoo! Travel because of the pristine waters and the endless array of outdoor activities it offers. Today the city has everything to captivate the visitors from luxury beach houses and upscale dining to shopping and a unique artist colony.
If you are looking for a secluded beach destination for a tranquil holiday, Seacrest beach is a perfect fit. The beach is situated at the eastern end of Scenic Highway 30A and has a quiet residential community with some of the highest sand dunes in this region. Legend has it that the area was originally inhabited by Creek Indians and the lake was named in their honour. Apart from soaking up the sun, you can indulge in a number of activities such as watching the dolphins, fishing, kayaking, swimming, and golfing. There is also great hiking and birding at Camp Creek Lake, a coastal dune lake in South Walton.
Seagrove beach takes its name for the thick grove of oak trees found along the beach. These trees provided a perfect cover from the destructive hurricanes that hit Florida’s north coast. Till the beginning of the 20th century, Seagrove Beach was known as Russ’s hammock and the only way to reach it was from a sandy trail from the paved, U.S. Highway 98. However, all that has now changed and tourism is fast gaining centre stage here. Even with commercial activity picking up, Seagrove beach remains uncrowded and is perfect for those looking for a tranquil beach holiday. The serene beach is perfect for weddings and honeymoon. Several casual and fine dining options compliment the natural attractions.
St George Island
St George Island is a 22-mile barrier island in Florida Panhandle with beautiful natural beaches. The island was ranked in the Top 10 Beaches in the US for 2011 and 2012 by Dr. Beach! Visit the island and rediscover the simple pleasures of life fishing in the Apalachicola Bay or just taking in the breath-taking beauty of the sunsets over the waters. Learn about the fascinating history of the Lighthouse Keeper’s Museum or climb up the steps of the Cape St George Lighthouse. Appreciate the many turn-of-the-century buildings, antique shops and art galleries in the nearby historic Apalachicola in the heart of Franklin County. From abundant wildlife to award-winning restaurants, St George Island has it all.