The northwestern extension of Florida that stretches along the Gulf Coast is usually called the "Panhandle of Florida". It is less developed than other parts of the state with sparser population and vast expanses of wild pine forests. The climate is a bit cooler than the southern parts of Florida but it still offers mild winters, hot summers and pleasant spring and fall/Autumn weather. Its beaches are magnificent with warm shallow waters and fine white sand. The Panhandle attracts fewer tourists, and remains a favorite "undiscovered" vacation spot for local vacationers and retired couples from the northern states.
Panama City is a small seaside community with a population of approximately 35,000. It has several large marinas in town and lies adjacent to one of the finest beaches in Florida. Panama City Beach begins just west of the city and extends for more than twenty miles along the Gulf of Mexico. Its beaches are renown for their fine white sand often called "sugar sand" and for the deep azure-green waters that give this area its nickname of "the Emerald Coast" Many travel authorities have rated the beaches of Panama City among the best in the world.
Saint Andrew Park is situated at the eastern tip of Panama City Beach across the bay from Panama City. This 1260-acre park contains natural coastal dunes, wetlands, forests and a large undeveloped island. The entry fee is $2 per person or $4 per car. It offers swimming at its beautiful white-sand beaches, fishing from its jetties and piers, camping, hiking and boating. A shuttle service will take you to nearby Shell Island for a modest fare.
Panama City Beach extends westward from St. Andrew Park for at least twenty miles until it changes its name to Laguna Beach. The eastern half of Panama City Beach is characterized by classy condominiums, upscale vacation rentals, restaurants, gift shops, golf courses and restaurants. The western part of the beach becomes more "honky tonk" with budget motels, modest vacation rental homes, amusement arcades, tourist attractions, souvenir shops, convenience stores and fast food establishments. Laguna Beach becomes more residential with many private homes and vacation rental units.
The best time to visit Panama City Florida is between May and October. During the winter months, it becomes a bit chilly for swimming and sunbathing, but is fine for golf, tennis, biking and other outdoor activities. From mid March through mid April, several hundred thousands of college students from around the USA descend on Panama City Beach for their Spring Break revelries. This is a great time to visit the area if you are looking for wild parties and a youthful crowd. On the other hand, if you are looking for a peaceful vacation, you might wish to avoid Panama City Beach at that time.
Panama City is located along the coast of the Florida Panhandle about 350 miles northwest of Orlando and approximately 350 miles east of New Orleans, Louisiana. It has a small airport with limited access via commuter flights. There is a much broader selection of flights going to Fort Walton Beach, sixty miles to the west, to Pensacola, one hundred miles to the west or to Tallahassee 120 miles to the northeast.