Panama City Beach: Dis­cover un­spoiled beauty

Travel Guide to Florida - - TABLE OF CONTENTS - BY STEVE WIN­STON

Boast­ing 27 miles of award-win­ning white-sand beaches, Panama City Beach not only claims one of the best beaches in Florida, it also has a di­verse nat­u­ral beauty filled with rare species of wildlife and of­fers an abun­dance of out­door ad­ven­tures and recre­ational ac­tiv­i­ties.

This area re­mains the way Florida used to be . . . nat­u­ral and un­spoiled. And much to vis­i­tors’ de­light, it’s still pretty much undis­cov­ered by the rest of the world. Ex­pect hos­pi­tal­ity to be “down-home South­ern” here. And, on av­er­age, the sun shines 320 days a year. Not a bad call­ing card.

SEE AND DO

In St. An­drews State Park, for­merly a mil­i­tary in­stal­la­tion, you can frolic on a mile-and-a-half of Gulf­side and la­goon beaches, where you can swim, snorkel, dive, kayak, ca­noe or try to hook tonight’s din­ner with a fish­ing rod. En­joy these same ac­tiv­i­ties as well as bird­watch at nearby Camp He­len State Park. And Panama City Beach has the two long­est piers on the Gulf coast. Both stretch over a quar­ter-mile into the Gulf, mak­ing them ideal for pier fish­ing.

DINE AND PLAY

Five cham­pi­onship golf cour­ses in the area in­clude the only Jack Nick­laus-de­signed course in North­west Florida, just one rea­son why Golf Di­gest ranked Panama City Beach among Amer­ica’s top three golf towns.

Span­ning more than 900,000 square feet, the open-air Pier Park is the cen­ter of ac­tiv­ity for shop­pers, din­ers and en­ter­tain­ment. Here, you can browse through no­table na­tional chains as well as one-of-akind lo­cal shops that sell in­ter­est­ing nov­el­ties. At the IMAX Grand 16 The­atre, im­merse your­self in a big-screen ex­pe­ri­ence that feels as if you’re ac­tu­ally in the movie, not just watch­ing it.

Culi­nary and en­ter­tain­ment op­tions at Pier Park in­clude Hof­brau Beer Gar­den, Toot­sie’s Or­chid Lounge and Back Porch Seafood & Oys­ter House, along with na­tional brands like Jimmy Buf­fett’s Mar­gar­i­taville, Five Guys Burg­ers and Fries, Longhorn Steak­house and Pan­era Bread.

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