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Thursday, July 15, 2021

Best Beaches & Beach Towns in the Florida Panhandle


Where are the best beach towns and beaches in the Florida Panhandle? Well, it depends on what kind of experience you are looking for. Are you looking for family fun, couples retreat, the whitest sand, uncrowded, or a place to relax?


The Emerald Coast, pretty much all of the panhandle, has some of the whitest sand in Florida. Most of the water is a beautiful turquoise, hence "The Emerald Coast". 


Let's get started exploring! (Popular questions answered at end of post)


Perdido Key

Starting at the western edge of Florida is Perdido Key. It is a barrier island with white sand dunes, turquoise water, and tons of wildlife. Like it's popular neighbor, Gulf Shores (16 miles to the west), the beaches are lined with condos. It is less crowded than Gulf shores and the state parks seem to always only have a few people. 

 

Pensacola Beach


Beautiful beaches and plenty of nightlife. The Pensacola Beach area is always crowded, but on the far east side is a secret paradise (Navarre Beach). Navarre Beach is one of my favorite beaches in the panhandle. Tons of beautiful white sand, turquoise water, watersports, and restaurants, without the crowds.

Check out:

 Pensacola Beach Activity Guide 

 

Fort Walton Beach

Fort Walton Beach has nice white sandy beaches and just enough other things to keep you entertained when not at the beach. Great place to relax, but still have things to do.

Check out:

Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park


Take a trip into Destin (5 miles to the east) and check out the amazing beaches along the way.

 

Destin

What’s not to love about Destin! It has stunning beaches, restaurants galore, shopping, watersports, and anything else you can think of. It is one of my favorite places in Florida. It is also one of the most crowded places. Be prepared to literally crawl in traffic and give yourself about 45 minutes extra to get anywhere.

Check out:

 Destin Activity Guide 



 30A

30A is a 24 mile stretch along Florida’s Scenic Highway 30A, located between Destin and Panama City Beach. This area is amazingly beautiful, especially towards the Alys Beach and Rosemary Beach end. Be prepared to drop some cash if staying in the area and make reservations early. Lodging is limited to mostly upscale condos and homes.

Check out:

Grayton Beach State Park




Aly’s Beach   






Rosemary Beach    



Read more about Rosemary Beach


 

Panama City Beach

Panama City Beach has a reputation as being a college party town. I have been there many times and I like it. I just don’t go during spring break. Beautiful beaches with plenty to do and see.

Check out:

St. Andrews State Park     



 

Mexico Beach



Mexico Beach is a small place that seems to be in the middle of nowhere. If you are looking for uncrowded beaches, this is your place. Lodging is minimal and nightlife is almost nonexistent. Long walks on the white sand beaches, shelling, and relaxing are what this small town is all about.

*The area was hit hard by a hurricane in 2018 and is a slowly rebuilding. We loved the Driftwood Inn, which was totally destroyed. I hear they are rebuilding, so keep a watch for it.

 

Port St Joe

Reaching Port St Joe coming from the west means you have officially found the “Forgotten Coast”. Nature, sand, water, and more nature describe the area. Most lodging consist of beach houses.

Check out:

St. Joseph Peninsula State Park 



Cape San Blas



 

Apalachicola



Apalachicola is small fishing town popular for it’s charming Inns and fresh seafood. It has beautiful waterfront parks, but no beaches. No worries though, St George Island beaches are just a 20-minute drive away.

 

 

St George Island


St George Island is reached by about 15 miles of bridges. You know you have found a special place when you hit the end of the main road to the island and see the lighthouse. The island is 22 miles long and one mile across at its widest point. White sand is everywhere and people are few.


Check out:

Saint George Island State Park


Carrabelle


Carrabelle is small with limited lodging. The beaches are usually empty and there is little to do other than beach related activities.

 

The Rest of the Panhandle


Alligator Point, Bald Point State Park, Mashes Sands Beach, Shell Point Beach, and St Marks are at the far east part of the panhandle. The beaches are not pristine and the water is blue with a brownish tint instead of turquoise. These areas are great for tent camping, fishing, and experiencing nature. I saw my first eagle's nest at St. Marks. They are massive!



So, which one do I like best? All the the towns and beaches along the Panhandle coast are unique and each has things I like over the others. But, here is a quick rundown of my thoughts on questions I have been asked.

Where are the pretties beaches?  I hate to answer this one, but Destin. The sand seems to be whiter and the water a deeper turquoise. It is breathtaking to look at!

Which beach towns are best for families? For an overall experience, Destin. The amount of thing to do and places to eat are crazy. This place is great for all ages. (but very crowded)  Pensacola and Fort Walton Beach are also good choices.

Which beaches are less crowded? Any beach east of Panama City Beach. Think about going off season to beaches on the west end. January through March is a little cool, but you will have the place to yourself. 

Where is the best place to find seashells?   Mexico Beach, St Andrews State Park in Panama City Beach, and St George State Park.

Where is the best place to birdwatch?  St Marks

Is Rosemary and Alys beach really that special?  Yes! You will not see and experience anything like it anywhere else in the United States.

Where is the best place to snorkel in the Panhandle? Pensacola and Destin both have a couple of place to snorkel from the beach.


Hope this helps make your trip planning a little easier! 


 Happy & Safe Travels!












 


 







Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Things to do in St Augustine, Florida

 

St Augustine, the oldest European settlement in the United States, is located on the northeast coast of Florida. This oceanside community is rich with history and offers so many things to do and see.


St Augustine is usually included on our Florida road trip 
itineraries. We have spent many days overs several years exploring this beautiful city. I am not much on history, but this place seems to have a draw on me. I am sharing some places we thought were interesting below.


Lightner Museum


Three floors of antiques and memorabilia housed in the former Alcazar Hotel.

 

Hours:

9 a.m. to 5 p.m.  7 Days a week (Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day)

 

Admission:

Adult: $17.00

Senior (65+): $14.00

College Student: $14.00

Youth (12-17):  $10.00

Child (11 and under): Free

 

Address:

75 King Street

Saint Augustine, FL



Castillo de San Marcos National Monument

The Castillo de San Marcos, located on the shore of Matanzas Bay, is the oldest masonry fort in the United States. With walls 33 feet high and 12 feet thick, it is one of only two forts in the world built out of coquina.

 

Hours:

 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.    7 days a week (closed Thanksgiving and Christmas day)

 

Admission:

Adults (Age 16 and above) $15.00 - valid for 7 consecutive days.

Children (age 15 and under) free

Tours available

 

Address:

1 S Castillo Dr, St. Augustine, FL 32084




St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum

Tour the 145 years old lighthouse tower, see shipwreck artifacts, and learn about the shipyard’s involvement in WWII.


Hours:

9am – 7pm Daily


Admission:

 Adults            $14.95

Seniors (60 & over)         $12.95

Children (Age 12 or under and 44″ or taller)         $12.95

Tours:   $17.50 - $30.00 three different tour packages

 

Address:

100 Red Cox Dr, St. Augustine, FL 32080-5443




      St. George Street

Unique shops will call you to visit as you walk down this cobblestone street. Be sure and grab some sweet treats and food from local restaurants along the way.

We parked on A1A along the water near the Bridge of Lions and walked.

The St Augustine Old Town Trolley is also in that area if you don’t want to walk the few extra blocks.




  Bridge of Lions



The Bridge of Lions is a draw bridge connecting St Augustine to Anastasia Island. There are pedestrian walkways on both sides of the bridge. Take a walk on the bridge at sunset for an amazing view.



Flagler College



An amazing building built by Henry Flagler in 1888.



Admission:

Tours are available or you can walk around the courtyard and into the entrance area without a ticket.

 

Address:

74 King Street

St. Augustine, FL 32084



Ponce de Leon's Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park


Dating back to at least 1868, the Fountain of Youth is the oldest attraction in Florida. The spring water has 30 minerals which is said the help with youthfulness. Check out the Timucua burials, watchtower, blacksmith exhibit, and much more while you are there.

Hours:

9am – 6pm Daily

 

Admission:

Adults  $18.00

Seniors 60+     17.00

Children 6-12   $10.00

Children 5 and Under    FREE

 

Address:

11 Magnolia Avenue

St. Augustine, FL



Marineland Dolphin Adventure



Get up close to sea life and learn about them. We had planned on visiting , but they were closed when we arrived.


Hours:

9:00am. - 4:30pm. daily

 

Admission:

Adult (12 – 54): $14.99 + tax

Child (5 – 11): $7.99 + tax

Senior (55+): $13.99 + tax

Young Child (4 and under): FREE

 

Dolphin interaction packages are available.


Address:

9600 Oceanshore Blvd

St. Augustine, FL 32080



Magnolia Avenue


Magnolia Avenue is lined with oak trees creating a canopy over the street.  Spanish moss draping from the branches is the touch that makes the scene perfect. One of the most photographed spots in St. Augustine.

 

Address:

Runs in front of the fountain of Youth.



Whetstone Chocolates




Tour the small factory and enjoy some of the best chocolates anywhere. Be sure and purchase some chocolates from the store before you leave. They are the best!

 

Tour Times:

Monday - Thursday: 10:00am, 11:15am, 1:00pm, 2:15pm 3:30pm

Friday - Sunday: 10:00am, 10:30am, 11:15am, 11:45am, 1:00pm, 1:30pm, 2:15pm, 2:45pm, 3:30pm

 

Tour price:

Adults $8.00

Children 5-17 years old $5.50

Children under 5 Free Entry

 

Address:

149 King Street, St. Augustine, FL



St. Augustine’s Beaches




Anastasia State Park

300 Anastasia Park Road

 

Crescent Beach

6930 A1A South



Oceanfront Hotel Vilano Beach



The Oceanfront Hotel has some of the best rates in St Augustine. The beach is just a walk across the road. Get up early and take a sunrise stroll down the beach and pick up a few shells. 



The Old Jail


The jail was built in 1891 to look like a hotel so as not to be an eyesore to the town. A fun place for the family.


Admission:

Adults       $14.90  

Children (4-12)       $8.51    

      Children under 4 free

 

Hours:

9:00 am – 4:30 pm daily

 

Address:

167 San Marco Ave

St. Augustine, FL 32084



Old Town Trolley Tours

Located with the Old Jail, Old Town Trolley Tours has several options for available at different price points.

 https://www.trolleytours.com/st-augustine



With so much to do and see, I am sure you will fall in love with this charming historic town like I have. 


Happy & Safe Travels!














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