Stay & Play in the Panhandle
While the idea of a Florida vacation generally conjures up pictures of busy beaches and cartoon-themed parks, there is a part of Florida that offers a unique experience unlike other parts of the state: the Panhandle. Bordered by Alabama and Georgia, the Panhandle is holds the most Southern soul as well as some of the most iconic and historic areas in the state. Its authenticity as well as its variety make it ideal for a families, antique hunters, history lovers, and anyone seeking a genuine Florida community.
The variety of Panhandle attractions both indoor and outdoor make it the perfect place for a family getaway. While the beaches are a given favorite, when you explore the towns and communities you will find many more adventures to be had.
Panama City Beach has a little something for every member of the family, not the least of which is miles of sandy beaches to play on. However, when you’re looking for family-friendly attractions, look no further than places like Coconut Creek Family Fun Park. At this park, which is tropical in theme and landscaping, families can enjoy two 18-hole mini-golf courses that wind around cascading waterfalls and lakes filled with native fish, as well as a thrilling Gran Maze the size of a football field! Nature-centered families can immerse themselves in an eco-tour or hike of Camp Helen State Park’s pristine dunes, rare dune lake, and scrub-oak forest; or perhaps take a bicycle ride along the trails of St. Andrews State Park, where forests full of wildlife open up to grand waterfront vistas. Learning experiences continue at attractions like WonderWorks, where scientific principles and fun combine to create a thrilling and unique educational experience, with over 100 exhibits and hands-on displays, as well as physical challenges and space discovery, all housed in a wacky upside-down building! They also offer discounts for homeschool groups who visit this fall.
Pensacola is a place full of history, and just waiting to be explored by your family. Covering more than 450 years of local history, the Pensacola Children’s Museum offers two floors of hands-on fun with interactive displays like a trading post and Native American Village, as well as artifacts and displays that adults will enjoy and a reading nook where you can books together! This museum is part of Historic Pensacola, a collection of 28 historically significant properties that you can enjoy during a walking tour or visit to one of the museums. Another museum geared toward families is the Pensacola M.E.S.S. Hall, which takes the typical science museum experience to new levels with incredibly in-depth scientific exploration through engaging and hands-on projects, including the chance to work with real scientists! Another engaging attraction for families with older children is the National Naval Aviation Museum located on board Pensacola Naval Air Station, with over 4,000 artifacts and over 150 beautifully restored aircraft representing Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard aviation.
Anyone keen on antique shopping, thrifting, or refurbishing knows that the Florida Panhandle is an absolute treasure trove of antique shops, dotted throughout small towns and historic areas.
Perhaps one of the most perfect places to go antique hunting is the town of Havana, just 17 miles from Tallahassee. Havana is an iconic Panhandle destination, which has earned itself the moniker “Florida’s Friendliest Small Town.” Some years ago, the town went through a magical transformation, in which dozens of vintage homes were repurposed into antique shops, furniture stores, art galleries, fashion boutiques, cafes, and restaurants. Whether you’re into collectables or want a unique way to decorate your home, these shops have some of the coolest items you could think of. Weezie’s Cottage is a restored 1860’s cottage located in the heart of downtown Havana, with lots of items to furbish your own home. Wanderings Decor & More offers an extensive collection of eclectic styles, mixing exotic or funky with more traditional, transitional lines with their furniture, jewelry, gifts and home decor lines. Brides will find that it isn’t just “something old” available in these shops - there is also plenty of “something new”! Miss T’s Sets is a unique gift shop with a bridal registry and wine bar, women’s accessories, candles, kitchen gadgets, Waterford crystal, Kate Spade and Fortessa items, and lots of other accouterments that make it a great place for a bridal party trip or for finding a special bridal gift.
Just 30 minutes outside of Pensacola is Milton, one of the oldest cities in Florida and a testament to Southern beauty and character. Even the renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright drew inspiration from this town. Here you will find incredible antique shopping, with establishments such as Blackwater Trail Antiques & More. Search through this shop, which is located in a historic home, for special gifts like homemade soaps and unique household items like shabby chic decor, antique furniture, and even toys. Meanwhile, at the Copper ‘Possum Antique Mall, you can find a wide assortment of almost completely vintage items spread throughout 10,000 square feet of furniture, glassware, decor, jewelry, and more. If you’re searching for a special home decor item, you should certainly visit Millie’s Antiques & Collectibles, which offers lots of vintage and refurbished furniture as well as hand-crafted decor and knickknacks.
THE “REAL” FLORIDA
One of the benefits of visiting Florida’s Panhandle is that there are many places here that time and tourism seem not to have touched…leaving you to explore quiet, pristine beaches and heartwarming little towns filled with genuine Florida experiences.
Dubbed “The Forgotten Coast” because of its unspoiled beauty and authentic communities, Franklin County encompasses some of the most beautiful stretches of the Panhandle. Take a self-guided walking tour of coastal towns like Apalachicola, where you can take in an array of landmarks, shop unique boutiques and art galleries and learn about the town’s rich maritime history. The historic fishing community of Eastpoint continues to offer fresh Apalachicola Bay seafood in local waterfront restaurants, where you can watch fishing boats unload their catch. The community of Carrabelle offers a championship golf course. St. George Island is an idyllic community of unspoiled beaches, opportunities for bird watching, and a chance to connect with nature. The island offers pet-friendly beach areas where you dog can enjoy the sand and surf with you! Many vacation rentals and some accommodations offer pet-friendly options, and even local restaurants welcome well-behaved pets!
One of the tough truths about the Panhandle is that it can be significantly effected by rough weather - and yet, when this happens, you have a chance to see the strength of its communities as they recover. Nowhere is this more visible than in Gulf County. In the fall of 2018, Hurricane Michael made landfall on Gulf County with triple-digit winds and a double-digit storm surge. This dreadful storm made changes to the Gulf County landscape and left many structures in ruin, but it could not break the spirit of the community. Their mantra has become “ReBuild, ReVisit, and ReDiscover” Gulf County. Indeed, though the beaches are in slightly different form, they still offer pristine white sands. While some shops and accommodations have rebuilt and renovated, they still offer a warm welcome. One of the exciting things about visiting Gulf County is that you can create your own adventure, with no typical tourist traps to slow you down. Daly’s Watersports will take you beneath the water’s surface during a diving or snorkeling trip to see things from a different angle. Premier Sportfishing Adventures combines fishing trips and eco tours that reveal the treasures of St. Joseph Bay. Visit Wewahitchka, the home of the divine Tupelo Honey! Travel up to the Dead Lakes, where guides can take you on a kayaking or canoeing adventure.
When a hotel or vacation rental is a key part of your vacation experience, the Panhandle is the place for you. Spread throughout this area are all kinds of accommodations that are as unique as they are relaxing.
Ideal for family gatherings, the St. George Inn offers peace and tranquility on this Forgotten Coast barrier island. Featuring a quaint Southern style with whitewashed exterior, gables, and even wraparound porches complete with rockers, the inn offers spacious, comfortable, individually-appointed rooms. Their adjoining two-room suites with private porches are perfect for a group trip or family stay, while their Honeymoon Suite with fireplace offers a cozy hideaway for newlyweds. Not only is the inn spectacular - it is also close to the island beaches, restaurants, and shops. A nearby free boat launch as well as a fishing pier are easily accessible to water lovers. Being a pet-friendly island, its makes sense that the St. George Inn welcomes pets!
Perfectly situated in Historic Pensacola, the breathtaking Pensacola Victorian Bed & Breakfast warmly welcomes guests into its individually-appointed guest rooms, each with private bath and antique decor from its four-poster bed in the Captain’s Room to its soaker tub in the Suzanne Room. Awake each morning to a delicious home-cooked breakfast, as well as sampling delicious home-baked treats throughout the day. In addition to the hotel, you can relax at the Cottage Cafe, which occupies what was once the property’s carriage house. Boutiques, antique shops, art galleries, museums, the Saenger Theatre, Pensacola Historic Village, and the local Farmer's Market are all within walking distance of the Pensacola Victorian.
There are so many experiences available here, as well as friendly communities, that you will find yourself wanting to visit the area again and again. Wherever you play or stay in the Panhandle, you can be sure of one thing: it will be an authentic adventure.
More of the Florida Panhandle
Located along Scenic 30A, South Walton Beaches are some of the most beautiful white-sand beaches of the Gulf. Our Seagrove Beach Vacation Rentals offers some of the finest vacation rentals in Northwest Florida. Pick your view, from old-Florida style homes to condo rentals and luxury beach homes, all are perfect for a romantic getaway or family vacation. Enjoy relaxing on the beach, exploring the dune lakes, or visiting local shops and restaurants.
With vacation properties on Pensacola Beach and Navarre Beach, you’re sure to find the perfect place to relax, enjoy the slower pace, and appreciate the natural beauty of Northwest Florida’s Emerald Coast. Whether you choose a condo, townhome, beach cottage, or luxury gulf-front home, Paradise Beach Homes offers the perfect vacation option for every budget! Many properties are available to host weddings and special events and some properties even allow guests of the fourlegged variety.
At the Dunes of Panama, you will without a doubt be amazed with the magnificent views of the Gulf of Mexico from every spacious two and three bedroom unit. A family-friendly resort with several different floor plans to accommodate six to 12 people. Delightful pleasures include our 1,500 feet of beachfront, three Gulf-front swimming pools, tennis, barbeque grills, fitness room, Suds Weezers & Sneaky Tiki for frozen concoctions, food and snacks, and much more.