Get to Know the Florida Panhandle — Your Emerald Coast Getaway

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Welcome to the Florida Panhandle — a coastal treasure of the United States! This area of the Sunshine State is a prime vacation destination for visitors from all over the world. The Panhandle promises an unforgettable experience, boasting picturesque beaches, 30A beach towns, tranquil islands, exciting cities, fun attractions, and majestic rivers.

Planning a trip to the Florida Panhandle? Here’s a travel guide to help you make the most of your seaside visit in Northwest Florida.

Getting a Lay of the Land

The Florida Panhandle is a stunning region of the United States located in the northwest corner of the state. It’s known for its pristine white sand beaches, emerald green waters, unique ecology, and rich cultural heritage. With over 200 miles of coastline along the Gulf of Mexico, beach-goers have plenty of opportunities to explore and enjoy.

Your journey begins in Tallahassee, the state’s capital. From here, you can travel southwest towards Gulf Breeze and Pensacola — home to some of Panhandle’s most popular beaches and resorts. If you want more adventure, head east into Apalachicola National Forest, south to St. George Island, or west into Escribano Point Wildlife Management Area.

Across the various cities and towns, you’ll find plenty of activities to keep you busy. Take a boat ride on the Suwannee River, kayaking in Apalachicola Bay, or visit one of the many museums and historical sites. There are also plenty of restaurants, shops, and entertainment venues to explore.

Let’s break down each unique spot to help you plan the perfect Florida Panhandle vacation and cover the best things to do and see.

Destin: the Emerald Coast’s Tourism Hotspot

A wonderful vacation destination on the Florida Panhandle has to be Destin. With its crystal-clear waters and sugar-white sand beaches, it’s no surprise vacationers of all ages enjoy the shoreline here. Located just over 100 miles west of Tallahassee — in the center of the Florida Panhandle — Destin has become a top tourist spot for people looking to relax and unwind.

Top Attractions in Destin

Destin is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Whether you’re looking for a peaceful spot to soak up some rays or an adventurous activity like parasailing, you’ll find it on the Emerald Coast in Destin.

From fishing charters and dolphin cruises to golf courses and water parks, there are plenty of ways to enjoy yourself in and around the town. Not to mention the historic landmarks, such as Fort Walton Beach Landing Park and Indian Temple Mound Museum in neighboring Fort Walton Beach, offer insight into the area’s past.

If you’re looking for some fun in the sun, head to Henderson Beach State Park or James Lee Park for beachside relaxation. For those who prefer more adventure-filled activities, take a kayak tour around Choctawhatchee Bay or go parasailing along the coast! 

You can also take advantage of all Destin offers by visiting popular tourist spots like Big Kahuna’s Water & Adventure Park or Silver Sands Premium Outlets.

Where to Eat in Destin

We guarantee you’ll work up an appetite with all there is to do and see in Destin, so you’ll need to make sure to sample some of the local cuisine. Whether it’s succulent seafood specialties like fried shrimp or a classic favorite like burgers and fries, you won’t be disappointed by the variety of restaurants and eateries available. Our top 5 restaurants in Destin are listed below.

  • Dewey Destin’s Seafood Restaurant
  • Boshamps Seafood and Oyster House
  • The Back Porch
  • Marlin Grill
  • Cannery Lane Cantina 

Insider Tips for Destin Vacations

Destin is a top destination for many year-round, so you’ll want to ensure you book your Destin beach rental in advance to secure the best rates. 

You can also visit Destin during the off-season months (November – March) for a more relaxed environment and lower prices on accommodations, attractions, and dining. And don’t forget to bring plenty of sunscreen! The Florida sun might be intense, but it’s worth it once you get to experience the stunning beauty of Destin.

Panama City Beach: the Panhandle’s Party HQ

When it comes to nightlife and fun-filled adventures, it doesn’t get much better than Panama City Beach. With 27 miles of white sand beaches and turquoise waters, it’s no wonder Panama City Beach is considered one of the most popular beaches in America. And it’s just over an hour from Destin — making it a great addition to your Florida Panhandle trip!

Top Attractions in Panama City Beach

If your party is looking for fun attractions, Panama City Beach has you covered on all fronts. One of the most popular attractions in Panama City Beach is St. Andrews State Park. This park on St. Andrews Bay offers over 1,200 acres of natural beauty with 2 miles of beautiful beaches, nature trails, fishing piers, and more.

Other top attractions include Shipwreck Island Waterpark, Gulf World Marine Park, WonderWorks amusement park, and Ripley’s Believe it or Not! Museum. Each offers unique experiences that your group won’t soon forget.

Where to Eat & Shop in Panama City Beach

When it comes to dining in Panama City Beach, there are plenty of options to choose from. From seafood restaurants to pizza joints and everything in between, you’ll find something to satisfy your cravings. 

Pineapple Willy’s is a must-visit spot for dining out in Panama City Beach. This beachfront restaurant is known for its delicious seafood dishes and lively atmosphere. Runaway Island is another popular restaurant on the beachfront, offering a variety of classic American dishes and some unique specialties, like their signature crab cakes and fried green tomatoes.

For shopping, Pier Park is a must-visit destination with over 120 stores, including national retailers as well as local boutiques and souvenir shops. Pier Park is also home to various eating options, from fast food to upscale restaurants. You could spend a whole day (or more!) exploring everything that Pier Park has to offer.

For more local retail shops, head to the quaint and colorful streets of downtown Panama City Beach. Here you’ll find vintage-style boutiques, record stores, surf shops, and more. If you’re looking for something unique to take home with you, this is the place to go!

Insider Tips for PCB Retreats

If you’re visiting the Gulf Coast during spring break (March – April), be prepared for large crowds at the beach and popular attractions. To avoid crowds, try visiting during off-peak times, like late summer or early fall, when temperatures are still warm, but crowds are smaller. And don’t forget to book your stay at a Panama City Beach vacation rental early!

Pensacola Beach: Your Relaxing Beach Escape

Another top coastal vacation destination on the Florida Panhandle is Pensacola Beach. This charming beach town is known for its natural beauty and laid-back vibes, making it an ideal spot to relax and unwind. 

Top Spots to Visit in Pensacola Beach

Pensacola Beach is home to the longest stretch of federally protected seashore in the United States — the Gulf Islands National Seashore. It’s also a 30-minute scenic road trip to Navarre Beach, home to some of the best beaches along the Florida Panhandle as well as a great dog-friendly beach!

You can spend days exploring the beach, swimming in the Gulf of Mexico, or simply soaking up some sun on one of the many pristine beaches. There are also plenty of activities to keep you busy such as fishing, kayaking, snorkeling, and more across the stunning Emerald Coast.

When you’re not at the beach, there are plenty of other attractions to explore in Pensacola Beach. Visit historical sites such as Fort Pickens or stroll through downtown Pensacola where you’ll find the National Naval Aviation Museum and unique shops. 

You can also take a ferry ride to Santa Rosa Island, explore nature trails, or visit one of the many restaurants and bars along the waterfront.

Where to Eat & Shop in Pensacola Beach

When it comes to food in Pensacola Beach, you’ll find everything from seafood restaurants to ice cream shops and everything in between. Stop by local favorites such as The Fish House, Joe Patti’s Seafood Market, Peg Leg Pete’s, and Casino Beach Bar & Grille. 

For shopping, check out local favorites that offer a variety of souvenirs and unique beach items. You can also head inland to Milton, Florida, for even more shopping and dining options!

Insider Tips for Pensacola Getaways

If you want to avoid large crowds, the best time to visit Pensacola Beach is during the fall (September – November). This time of year offers mild temperatures and beautiful weather but fewer visitors. But no matter when you visit, be sure to book your Pensacola Beach rental ASAP. 

Hidden Gems of the Florida Panhandle

While Destin, Panama City Beach, and Pensacola Beach are great places to visit, there are plenty of hidden treasures you’ll want to add to your Florida Panhandle escape.

Apalachicola River

Apalachicola River is a 112-mile river that runs through Georgia and Florida, known for its silky white sand beaches. It’s also an excellent spot for fishing, kayaking, and canoeing just over an hour from Panama City Beach. 

Want an experience of a lifetime? Take a boat tour along the river to get an up-close look at the wildlife and watch the sunset from the water. And the hikes across the river’s trails are not to be missed.

Santa Rosa Beach

Another hidden gem of the Florida Panhandle is Santa Rosa Beach. Located in South Walton, this charming Gulf Coast beach town is home to gorgeous white sand beaches and plenty of water activities such as stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking, and fishing in Grayton Beach State Park.

If you’re looking for a fun day out with friends or family, consider visiting Safari West for an African safari experience or take a stroll around the Luther Burbank Home & Gardens. You can also bike to some of the best breweries in the area or go boating at Spring Lake Regional Park.

Okaloosa Island

Featuring The Boardwalk with beach shops and some of the best fish tacos around, The Island Pier where you can spot dolphins and cast a line, plus family-friendly beach strips to splash, play, and sunbathe, Okaloosa Island is a lovely place between Fort Walton Beach and Destin.

For those looking for a bit of adventure, the Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park is a must-visit! Here you can get up close and personal with dolphins, sea lions, and stingrays. And it’s located right off the Okaloosa Island Beach — you can see the ocean while walking around the outdoor spaces at this unique aquarium. 

Perdido Key

Just a stone’s throw away from Pensacola Beach is Perdido Key. This secluded and picturesque “lost island” sits just across the border of Alabama and Florida and is known for its calmer beaches, wildlife preserves, and boating opportunities.

The area is home to Perdido Key State Park, which features rolling dunes covered with sea oats and pristine beaches. It’s a also great spot for bird watching as it’s home to threatened species like the snowy plover. For those looking to explore beyond the beach, there are plenty of restaurants and shops in nearby Pensacola and Orange Beach.

Book your Perdido Key vacation rental today!

Book Your Florida Panhandle Vacations with Florida CFY

The Florida Panhandle has something special waiting around every corner — and with so many unique places to see and experience — it can be hard to decide where to go. That’s why we at Florida CFY have made it our mission to help you make your next visit to any of the Panhandle’s destinations unforgettable!

Our Florida beach rentals are located in the most popular areas so you’re sure to find one that fits your needs. Plus, our team is always on hand to help with any questions or concerns you may have. You can browse our extensive listing of rentals and locations to find the perfect fit for your beach vacation.

Whether you’re planning a relaxing beach getaway with your partner or an action-packed adventure with a group of friends or the whole family, Florida CFY has everything you need to make your Emerald Coast vacation excellent! So don’t wait — book with us today and start experiencing all the beauty and fun the Florida Panhandle offers.