Florida Travel: Girls' Trip to Panama City Beach

Carillon Beach: The Gulf Coast’s Best-Kept Secret

[shareaholic app=”share_buttons” id=”20872686″]

It’s no big surprise that I love me some Gulf Coast vacations—you’re no true Tennessean unless you do. As a kid, we were constantly making the annual pilgrimage to the Florida Panhandle six hours south by car. We’d stop in Montgomery for food and again in Florala, just before crossing the border. Then we’d check into our beach house for a blissful week of sunbathing, sunsets and floating in the emerald waters on one big inflatable raft chain.

Florida Travel: Girls' Trip to Panama City Beach

I got to spend this past week back down in my happy place—Panama City Beach to be exact—with my girls Angie and Jade. It’s fitting that my last trip was to see them on the other side of Florida; this time, we were all meeting up for work. (Am I spoiled or what, getting to collaborate with a couple of my best friends and call it a job?!)

Florida Travel: Girls' Trip to Panama City Beach

I left Nashville around 8am and touched down in Florida before the clock struck 9. Now that Southwest has direct flight options from Nashville to PCB’s airport, it couldn’t be more ideal: 45 minutes from wheels up to wheels down, another 20 minutes to Carillon Beach and—boom—you’re checking into your rental.

Florida Travel: Girls' Trip to Panama City Beach

Florida Travel: Girls' Trip to Panama City Beach
Florida Travel: Girls' Trip to Panama City Beach

It was my first time at Carillon Beach, and I was immediately surprised by how secluded the community was, despite being right off of Highway 98. Angie and I picked up our keys in the cutesy little Carillon village, then entered the gated community, snaking our way through the candy-colored houses until we found our home for the next four days: the Lilypad. Our house was massive: two stories, three bedrooms, three baths and a huge living area.

Florida Travel: Girls' Trip to Panama City Beach

Florida Travel: Girls' Trip to Carillon Beach in Panama City
Florida Travel: Girls' Trip to Carillon Beach in Panama City
Florida Travel: Girls' Trip to Carillon Beach in Panama City

Florida Travel: Girls' Trip to Panama City Beach

We could have each brought our entire families and still had room to spare!

I feel like I’ve been duped all these years not knowing about Carillon Beach. It’s just a couple miles from where my family often stayed in Blue Mountain and Grayton Beaches but much quieter, not to mention more affordable. The development has both condo and vacation homes—not to mention a high-rise, pet-friendly inn complete with stunning pool—that spans 104 acres and has private access to some of the prettiest beachfront real estate around.

From $250 a night for a house like this? Have you ever heard anything so absurdly awesome? Not sure why people pay Rosemary Beach prices when Carillon is, literally, five minutes and less than three miles away by car.
Florida Travel: Girls' Trip to Panama City Beach

After unpacking our things and a quick bed test, we were off to the other end of the 26-mile stretch of PCB; off to see the wildlife of St. Andrews State Park.

Florida Travel: Girls' Trip to Panama City Beach

But first, a stop for lunch at Zen Garden Market.

Last time I stopped by the little community, it was for coffee and a Wi-Fi fix pre-flight; this time, our bellies were empty and we were ready for some of that organic goodness from Lotus Cafe, located within the market.

Florida Travel: Girls' Trip to Panama City Beach

Those with dining restrictions or who opt for gluten-free meals will definitely want to check out Zen Garden Market with its myriad smoothies, superfoods and healthy wraps on tap.

Florida Travel: Girls' Trip to Panama City Beach

Florida Travel: Girls' Trip to Panama City Beach
Florida Travel: Girls' Trip to Panama City Beach

We ate, then moved on. By the time we got to the beach at St. Andrews, the wind was really kicking, and kite surfers were crisscrossing the Gulf, showing off for the legions of families and sunbathers watching with curiosity.

Florida Travel: Girls' Trip to Panama City Beach

Florida Travel: Girls' Trip to Panama City Beach

While St. Andrews boasts plenty of white-sand beach, for which PCB is so well known, it’s also a wildlife sanctuary with so many species of birds I lost count and, yes, alligators, too.

Florida Travel: Girls' Trip to Panama City Beach

Florida Travel: Girls' Trip to Panama City Beach
Florida Travel: Girls' Trip to Panama City Beach

It was a bit too windy to work on amplifying our skin tones, so we opted for the next best thing: an outdoor bar that served (what they claimed is) the best key lime pie in Bay County. Bonus, Patches Pub also had a porter on draft, something I’ve found not as common in a land of pale ales and Hefeweizens. This past year, I’ve really gotten into beer, the darker the better, and if there’s a stout or a porter on the menu, you can bet your key lime pie I’ll be ordering it.

Florida Travel: Girls' Trip to Panama City Beach

We still had an hour to kill before our sunset cruise, so we ventured over to Off the Hook for another beer with our pal David while we waited for the hour of our departure time to roll around.

Florida Travel: Girls' Trip to Panama City Beach

Last time I was in Panama City Beach for more than a day, we went out on a sunset cruise out of Capt. Anderson’s Marina. This time, Angie and I were booked on Island Time Sailing, just over the bridge from Capt. Anderson’s. The catamaran was huge and your ticket granted you a complimentary drink (beer, wine or soda) as well as a snack. (Because I’m 12, I opted for a Capri Sun and Rice Krispie treat. When on a girls’ trip, right?)

Florida Travel: Girls' Trip to Panama City Beach

I don’t want to jinx you, but if you go out on the bay of Panama City Beach, you’re pretty much guaranteed to see dolphins. They’re everywhere! I’ve yet to take a sunset cruise or charter out to Shell Island without spying pairs and families of dolphins frolicking in the waves.

Florida Travel: Girls' Trip to Panama City Beach
Florida Travel: Girls' Trip to Panama City Beach

Florida Travel: Girls' Trip to Panama City Beach

Florida Travel: Girls' Trip to Panama City Beach

Key lime pie and beer, beaches and wildlife? Our girls’ week was already off to a great start.

Florida Travel: Girls' Trip to Panama City Beach

 My trip to PCB was in collaboration with Travel Mindset and Visit Panama City Beach.
COMMENTS
  • April 17, 2016

    Ah I just finished my post about a catamaran trip in Curacao. I still feel queasy thinking about it, but yours looks much more relaxed 🙂
    Dominique recently posted..Curaçao – Day Trip Klein CuraçaoMy Profile

    • April 27, 2016

      Oh yeah, this one was totally fine! And I typically get super seasick, too.

  • April 18, 2016

    Well, this just looks lovely! What a fantastic trip!

    xox
    Feisty Harriet recently posted..Cherry BlossomsMy Profile

    • April 27, 2016

      Great food, great scenery, great friends. What more could you want?

  • April 18, 2016

    We used to go to Seaside with family and I loved it!
    It looks a lot like Carillon Bay…

    On a future trip back home, I totally want to spend a week there 🙂
    Some of the most gorgeous beach I’ve ever seen!
    Crystal recently posted..Hello world!My Profile

    • April 27, 2016

      I’ve been going to the Seaside area of the Panhandle for so long, but I think I’ll be staying at Carillon Beach for the rest of my days! (It’s only a few miles from Seaside actually.)

  • April 19, 2016

    Hmm.. so this is just the first part of your trip ? Nice. I can wait to hear more about the second part of the trip.

    Looks like a relaxing trip, your girls with you, sun, good food and sight-sea-ing 😀
    Linda March recently posted..How to Wear FlannelMy Profile

    • April 27, 2016

      I have been told I have a knack for cramming into a single day what most people fit into an entire trip 😉 #SleepIsForTheDead

  • April 20, 2016

    That house. THAT HOUSE. Gorgeous place! I suppose I will have to make do with Sardinia though 😉
    Claudia recently posted..The island of wonders: finding things to do in SardiniaMy Profile

    • June 10, 2016

      Sardinia does not sound like a shabby runner-up, ha 😉

  • April 20, 2016

    Beautiful pictures!Love those colors, they are amazing, sounds like a small slice of heaven. Thanks for the inspiration 🙂
    Julian recently posted..The Liebster AwardMy Profile

    • June 10, 2016

      Thank you, Julian! It’s definitely one of the more colorful places I’ve ever visited.

  • April 20, 2016

    I absolutely agree with you the price is amazing and the house lookso stunning
    Izy berry recently posted..5 best places to get a helicopter tour around the worldMy Profile

  • April 23, 2016
    patrick

    Nice pics, really nice house you had there!

  • April 23, 2016

    I want to book my trip now! Dying over the capri sun + krispie treat! 🙂
    Leah | So, How’s It Taste? recently posted..Meals Using Spiralized VeggiesMy Profile

    • June 10, 2016

      I’m guessing being a Nashville girl, you’ve been before! Any Gulf Coast trips in your future?

  • May 10, 2016
    Martha Ward

    Are this units Pet Friendly would live to rest one for July 2/9 How much per night?????

  • May 10, 2016
    Martha Ward

    Are these units Pet Friendly? How much per night???

    • June 10, 2016

      Carillon Inn is pet-friendly, but not the houses we stayed in. Not sure the inn prices, but the houses start at $250/night, and ours was a three-bedroom, three-bathroom, too.

  • July 9, 2016

    Lovely read. Cannot wait to visit.

Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge

GET MY POSTS DELIVERED DIRECTLY TO YOUR INBOX
+ Sign up and receive your free copy of my eBook