Joseph has lived and traveled around the State of Florida for over 40 years, specifically around the Florida Panhandle and Gulf Coast.
Millions of people visit the beaches of Florida every year. While many travel to the busy beaches of Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, and other spots in South Florida, I believe the beaches of the panhandle are the best vacation spots to visit. These beaches are much less crowded, much less expensive, and much more beautiful. Additionally, there are other great sites to see nearby, great southern and seafood cuisine, and the people are much friendlier. I have been on some of the best cruise lines in the world, gone skiing in North Carolina and Colorado, and had great Hawaii vacations, but this area is the most comfortable and relaxing in the world. I am biased though: I grew up in this area.
If you are planning your first trip to Florida or your 100th, these places never get old. It does not matter if you want lavish resort living, beachfront rentals, or a quiet stay on a secluded beach in a house, this list has it all. If you have any questions about these spots, please leave a comment; I would be happy to share any more that I may know. Do yourself a favor and search some of these locations to get just a glimpse of the local hospitality, cuisine, and sites. We enjoy sharing our little part of the world and are certain you will agree the Florida panhandle has a ton to offer to all types of vacationers!
Don't Miss These Beautiful Beaches!
St. George Island
This is by far my favorite beach in the world. Yes, I said the world. I have been to beaches in Mexico, Hawaii, Bahamas, Cayman Islands, South Beach, Myrtle Beach, and others. St. George Island has the finest powder white beach in the world, complete with scenic sand dunes, boardwalks, and more.
St. George Island is 1.5 hours east of Panama City, and about two hours southwest of Tallahassee. You have to access the island by bridge from Eastpoint, FL. It sits near the Appalachicola Bay, a great site for seafood lovers, and extends 28 miles from St. Vincent Island to Dog Island, just off the main coastline of Florida's northern Gulf Coast.
The beach access here is either free public access or you can drive to the east end of the island and pay to enter the Florida State Park where there are pavilions, camping access, scenic walks, and beautiful sand dunes. There are several options for accommodations here, including VRBO, etc. If you are planning your first trip to St. George Island you definitely do not want to miss a picnic in one of the state park pavilions, or perhaps visit during the annual Chili Cookoff that happens every March.
Most Scenic Gulf Coast Beaches
Cape San Blas and Indian Pass Beaches are two of the best kept secrets of the panhandle. These beaches are located 10 miles southeast of Port St. Joe, FL, not far from Florida's capital city, Tallahassee. The cape runs southwest from the panhandle then turns northwest and separates St. Joe Bay from the Gulf of Mexico. These beaches are secluded and under-visited, white beaches with beautiful, large sand dunes. There is a large state park at the northwest end of the cape with camping and picnic facilities. For a family on a budget, the state park at Cape San Blas is one of the best places to visit in Florida.
The accommodations here are almost strictly rental houses or camping. VRBO.com is by far the best resource here, but some local websites of rental agencies are good as well. A short 10 mile trip into Port St. Joe will take you to any groceries, shopping, or great seafood that you may need. For the best seafood, go to the marina, there is an excellent outdoor restaurant there overlooking the boats and the bay. Order the fried pickle spears—you won't be sorry!
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Sandestin truly offers the best of both worlds for visitors to Florida: beautiful beaches that are not overcrowded, and lavish accommodations. Although Sandestin is much more expensive than the first two options, it also has some opportunities that they don't. Sandestin is technically a "Golf and Family Resort."
Located a few miles east of Destin, FL, Sandestin includes a few luxury resorts that have land both on the Gulf of Mexico and on the Choctawhatchee Bay. There are great beaches, lavish rooms, and you are minutes away from Destin which has outlet shopping, great seafood, and more beaches. You can also experience the great environment of North Florida Golf. If you prefer not to leave the resort, they also have shopping and wonderful seafood.
This area is also one of Florida's best fishing destinations with plenty of options for offshore and inshore saltwater fishing or even some of the best freshwater and brackish fishing on the Choctawhatchee Bay. You have not truly experienced all that Florida's seafood has to offer until you have actually caught some!
Best Resort Towns in Florida Panhandle: Seaside and Watercolor Beaches
This beach resort and vacation area is beautiful, peaceful, and I think the best family choice if you want to be close to Panama City Beach. Just minutes west of Panama City Beach, these communities were used in the Jim Carrey movie, The Truman Show. They have great pedestrian shopping areas, beautiful beaches, and a good array of accommodations.
There are some great seafood and other restaurants in these two towns, or you can take the short trip into Panama City. No matter what your preferences, this area is a hit for any family or couple that visits. It is also a short drive from Destin's outlet malls and other attractions. This area can be a bit more expensive, overall, but staying outside the hustle and bustle of Panama City Beach, yet still having access is worth it.
Top Secluded Florida Beach: Alligator Point
This beach is the most secluded beach of all. It is only a short drive from Tallahassee, and offers wonderful sand, excellent eats, and great fishing. Alligator Point is a strip of land that, similar to Cape San Blas, creates a bay between it and the coast of Florida. This bay produces some of the best saltwater clams in the world.
Alligator Point is a few minutes drive from Bald Point State Park. Also, one of the best and most beautiful seafood restaurants in the panhandle is minutes away, across the Ocklocknee River, at Angelo's and Sons. If you want to get away from everything and enjoy a beautiful beach, start planning!
Another Great Florida Panhandle Beach!
I recently returned from a trip to another great beach. We had a family vacation at Mexico Beach and had a wonderful time enjoying the beach and amazing Gulf fishing. During our week stay we were able to visit nearby cities, get in some offshore fishing, and soak in some great sun.
Mexico Beach is located between Panama City and Port St. Joe. It is about a 30 minute drive from the party life of Panama City Beach, but quieter and less expensive. The accommodations here are mostly VRBO rentals, but there is also the El Governor Motel. All of the eating and shopping here is local and small, but that just adds to the character.
Come see Mexico Beach. We had a great time and so will you!