Top 5 things to do in Panama City Beach Florida–couples edition
This week on the blog, our wonderful Account Manager, Kim P., tells first hand her experience of Panama City Beach, Florida on her annual Tripbound Trip–kid free! While I love just about every minute of being a mom and spending as much time as possible with my son, that doesn’t mean my husband and I don’t enjoy a break every once in a while. So with our son at his grandparents’ for a very long weekend, we decided to visit Panama City Beach on Florida’s Gulf coast. We landed in Pensacola, picked up the keys to the rented 2016 Mustang convertible – an irresistible splurge, and set out east on Route 98 to Panama City Beach.
While you can fly to the airport in Panama City Beach, we wanted a bit more adventure. Driving in on 98 offers some wonderful views of the coast and takes you through marvelous beach towns big (Destin) and small (Fort Walton). There is no shortage of places to pull off to grab a bite to eat with a view of the coast. Once in Panama City Beach most attractions are on this main road. Should you fancy a relaxing beachside drive from Panama City, either direction on 98 will provide all the kitschy shops and Gulf views you could want. So after a quick Target run for essentials and a not so quick stop at The Craft Bar to stock up on craft beer we had our room set up and were ready to unwind.
The Wyndham in Panama City Beach is a fantastic property with gorgeous accommodations. The condos are spacious, modern, and well appointed. Not only did our one bedroom suite come with a full kitchen, two bathrooms, and a washer and dryer – every unit has a beach view balcony so you can listen to the gentle waves with your morning coffee or watch the sunset with an evening cocktail. No matter how nice the room, it’s not usually why people go on vacation. If you didn’t feel like going off property the Wyndham offers two pools – one near the beach with a Tiki Bar and another on the other side of the resort with small water attractions perfect for kids. There is no restaurant on site but there is a bar in the causeway that connects the two sides of the property (Sky Bar, which serves lots of Skyy vodka). The real reason you’re here is the beach!
Being from the east coast, our experiences have always been with various Atlantic Beaches and there are the obvious notable differences about the Gulf Coast. The water is the pristine clear aqua that you see in the post cards and the sand is every bit as soft and white as you could imagine. The waves are almost non-existent (save your money on that Boogie Board!) but absolutely perfect for small children and floating in the wake. You have the option of setting up at a pair of rented chairs with an umbrella for the whole day, getting you access to prime beach real estate. But if you’d rather just bring your own and set up in the sand, there’s plenty of room for that too. While on the beach, there are two main options for libations. The first is the Tiki Bar located on property which offers typical island inspired options. The other option is Runaway Island just up the beach. We ate dinner there one night and got giant souvenir cups that were refillable with Pina Coladas at a discount for the rest of our trip.
Dolphins AAA Jetski Rentals
We both wanted to do something fun and a little exciting so I suggested a “Swim With the Dolphins” tour. We weren’t sure what to expect but the rental company (AAA Jetski Rentals) exceeded our expectations. After a quick tutorial, we were off on the guided portion of our tour. First, we went over by Shell Island and our guide gave us the ins and outs of swimming with the dolphins “in the wild”. Within the first 20 minutes I had jumped in and had one swim right between my legs. He then left us on our own to follow dolphins, jetski up to Shell Island, or just ride along the coast for the rest of our time. We saw plenty of dolphins and they were incredibly friendly and pretty open to interaction. From what we found, AAA was the best price for the amount of time you get with a jetski and provided a much better chance to get in the water right next to the dolphins, especially when compared to the large party boat “Dolphin Tours” available for tours. We sped by them – loving the freedom of being on our own jetski!
While there are plenty of places to eat near the resort, we opted for a nice dinner on our final night. Just a short ride up 98 was Firefly, a dining experience that surpassed all of our expectations. As we sat in the mostly full dining room for our Tuesday night dinner, we were told this was the slower part of the season as they typically turn over 500 covers on busier nights. With the quality of food and service here, we could see why. Our server, Demetrio, helped us pick a bottle of Prosecco and guided us through the menu. It’s not often we say this but we truly had a difficult time deciding. After a few warm up courses (Black and Blue artisan pizza and hydroponic tomato and peach salad) I went for the impossibly decadent scratch-made Ragu Bolognese and my husband enjoyed a Red Snapper special – the best he’d had since he was in Italy. Even if we only got to try a small portion of the exceedingly enticing menu, we both agreed we would come back here in a heartbeat and it was a definite highlight of the trip.
Low Key or High Life
We had a great time on our trip and despite it being a quick getaway, it gave us a much needed break from our hectic schedules. It was relatively easy to get to and very easy to enjoy! Whether you want to lounge on the beach in a family friendly environment or check out some trendy new spots to eat and drink to your heart’s content, there’s plenty in Panama City Beach. Yes it’s well known for its Spring Break culture, but for the other 30+ weeks of beach season it’s family friendly, convenient, quiet, and entertaining enough for a week away – with or without the kids.