Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Panama City Beach
Panama City Beach goes to extremes.
You can almost touch the free-roaming deer at one end of the 27-mile-long strip and at the other you find hi-rise condos and a new take on shopping/entertainment centers. In between - a sampling of ocean-side tourist attractions over the past 60 years.
St. Andrews State Recreation Area, on the east end, is the gem where the deer roam. Well-managed facilities bring 21st century comfort to a day spent in this preserved paradise.
Tip: Gently sloped ramps and nearby parking make beach access here a snap for Levelers.
You'll find Margaritaville, Ron Jon Surf Shop, JC Penney, Target and a city of specialty shops and restaurants at Pier Park, a Simons project, in turn-of-the-century-style buildings painted in beachy pastels on the west end.
It has become the post sunset hot spot but for pre-sunset, don't miss Schooners, supposedly the last local beach club on the strip. In a long-standing tradition, sunset is celebrated each evening by firing off a cannon. Pours of adult beverages are generous and fairly priced at this on-the-beach spot. Tip: The marquee tells you what time sunset occurs each day.
Bayfront accommodations are a good compromise for boaters, fisherfolk, families, golfers and shellers. The condos at Reflections at Bay Point, for example, offer the amenities of golf, dining, spa and pool available to guests at Grand Residence by Marriott at Bay Point and the convenience and economy of a well-equipped kitchen without sacrificing spectacular views.
Regularly scheduled expedition boats will take guests to the pristine Shell Island for a few hours or the whole day. Fishing charters are nearby as are all the oceanfront attractions as well as Publix and Winn-Dixie grocery stores.
Tip: This is a great travel destination for Levelers. Steps are few and when they aren't, ramps are at hand. Even excursion boats are easily accessed.