Panama City Beach: Sugar White Beaches, Magical Sunsets, and Family Fun
Panama City Beach lays claim to over 27 miles of sugar white sand beaches. My family recently journeyed to the northwest coast of Florida to experience rest and relaxation at its finest. The city has a wide variety of activities, events, restaurants, and lodging options. According to the Panama City Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau, “The classic beach town . . . is undergoing an abundance of growth and development that is sure to please its most loyal visitors.” During our trip we sampled bits and pieces of all the city has to offer and were indeed pleased.
We were fortunate in choosing the Marriott Bay Point Resort for our stay. The expansive Resort overlooks St. Andrews Bay in Panama City Beach. Newly renovated, the rooms are spacious and very comfortable. We were able to relax on the small patio as we observed heron, pelicans, and egrets as they searched the waters of the bay for meals. Recreational activities abound at the resort for both adults and children, offering endless hours of excitement. Water aerobics, yoga, and Pilates classes are held various days of the week. Rentals include jet skis and pontoon boats and adventurous guests can scuba dive or snorkel, enjoying the natural reefs and colorful fish of the St. Andrews Bay. Two outdoor pools and an indoor pool, all situated around a bar and grill, provide a great place for children to meet and play.
Adults can spend a few hours relaxing on the resort’s private beach, exercising in the Fitness Center, or playing on the new Nicklaus-designed golf course that will open in the fall while their children have fun in the Alligator Point Kid’s Club. Afternoon and evening sessions include arts and crafts, games, and fun in the sun. Highlighting our stay at the Bay Point Resort was a trip to the spa. Michael was treated to a relaxing 50 minute deep tissue massage. I took advantage of the spa pedicure that is nothing less than a facial for the feet, and a luminous “C” and “Sea” facial that rejuvenates and hydrates the skin. Both treatments were relaxing and remarkable. We both left the spa feeling spoiled and stress-free!
The Marriott Bay Point Resort proved to be a wonderful place for a family to retreat from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. It’s a first-class, quiet home away from home.
Known as the “Seafood Capital of the World,” Panama City has a wide variety of casual and upscale dining opportunities. Kingfish Restaurant and Sushi Bar at the Marriott Bay Point Resort offers a “fusion of Florida and Caribbean flair.” They have an extensive sushi menu as well as a “Floribbean” menu that includes steak and seafood. The highlight of our delicious dinner was the scrumptious banana caramel cake which was topped with bananas foster and vanilla ice cream. Also at the Bay Point Resort, Lime’s is an open-air waterfront grill and bar. With a terrific view of the incredible and magical sunset over Panama City Beach, we enjoyed our casual dinner as we watched hermit crabs scurry by and puffer fish swim around the pier.
Captain Anderson’s Restaurant is located dockside at Grand Lagoon. The bustling restaurant’s “World’s Finest Seafood Platter” holds true to its name. Piled high on an enormous plate was a delectable mix of deviled crab, fresh jumbo shrimp, grouper, mouth-watering scallops, and a broiled Florida lobster. The children’s menu offers kids sized portions of most of the menu items. The children enjoyed watching boats unload in the harbor after our fulfilling meal.
The Treasure Ship contains several restaurants in a 200 foot full-scale replica of Sir Francis Drake’s Golden Hind. Prior to entering the massive ship, we enjoyed meeting with “real” pirates who painted eager faces and made unusual balloon creations. We chose to eat in the Main Dining Room on level 2 and were treated to a delicious meal of fresh steak and seafood. The little Pirates menu was filled with great treats for the kids. Avery, our five year old, enjoyed his frozen drink in a take-home pirate’s cup, and both of our boys sported their pirate hats with eagerness. During the meal we were entertained by a magician who roamed the restaurant wooing children with his multiplying bunnies and magical lights.
Family friendly activities are abundant in Panama City Beach. The sand and surf offers only a portion of the entertainment. St. Andrews State Park, covering over 1,200 acres, includes over 1.5 miles of beach on the Gulf of Mexico and Grand Lagoon. We visited the Park and were impressed by the abundance of activities that were available. Our afternoon was spent near the jetties where scuba divers were exploring and countless fish were being caught. As Avery and Tyler, our one-year-old son, splashed about in the emerald green waters, we were in awe as we watched dolphin frolic only feet from where we played. The Park has a concession store that offers snacks and trinkets as well as a nice picnic area. As the seagulls played overhead, Michael and I decided that we would take advantage of the camping opportunities the Park offers on a future trip.
Gulf World Marine Park, which has recently completed a very extensive expansion, is a great place to get close to marine and tropical animals. The Park houses the impressive Dolphin Stadium that is the home of several amazing dolphins. Avery sat in the first few rows called the “wet zone” and quickly found out how it got its name. My favorite show was the sea lion performance, where we met a sea lion who wanted to be a dolphin. She impressed us with many tricks that were dolphin-like, including jumping high in the air. The Coral Reef Theater is overflowing with a wide variety of marine life displaying their unique characteristics. Iguanas, a large assortment of birds, and beautiful tropical plants fill the Tropical Gardens where we enjoyed a leisurely walk. From the sting ray touch tank, to the crocodile exhibit Gulf World Marine Park is an exciting place for children of all ages.
Activities and food abound as guests of Panama City Beach, Florida slow down and relax, creating wonderful family memories that will last a lifetime. By Leslie Poythress
IF YOU GO
Panama City Beach
St. Andrews State Park
Gulf World Marine Park