These days, I feel like a certified professional bridesmaid, and after this past week, I have yet another bachelorette getaway under my belt. Bride in question: childhood pal Andrea. Chosen location: the Florida Panhandle.
If you’re Southern, chances are you’ve been to the Gulf Coast at least once (more like a dozen) times in your life. As a child, we went to Panama City, then moved over to Destin once my parents bought a place there with some of their friends, then migrated to the sleepy beach towns along 30A after they sold said house.
For the past decade, 30A has been my jam, so when Andrea asked me to help plan her bachelorette weekend, it was an obvious choice for a venue. Half the girls were coming from Pensacola, where Andi lives, while the other half were coming from Tennessee. It’s an easy enough drive—6.5 hours if you don’t run into any roadblocks—but now that there’s a direct Southwest flight (and a cheap one at that), multiple times daily out of Nashville to PCB, it’s even easier. Which is how I found myself there two weeks in a row, first in Alys Beach and Santa Rosa for a photo shoot and then for the wedding festivities in Blue Mountain Beach.
You know by now that I live and die by Airbnb, but beach houses are often slim pickings on the vacation rental service (I find it better for flats and city stays). Instead, I turned to old faithful, HomeAway, where we landed this sweet four-story pad in Blue Mountain Beach with a private pool for just $600 a night (it sleeps 15!).
Now, 30A is an excellent destination for just chilling out on the beach and doing a whole lot of nothing. It has some good restaurants, and while there aren’t a whole lot of crazy bars, we did have one fun night out in Blue Mountain Beach and Grayton.
And yes, we got plenty of looks in those get-ups. But when we were ready for a change of scenery, we packed up the cars and headed down the coast to Panama City Beach, an easy 45-minute drive.
When I was there last year for the bucket list campaign, I briefly took the water shuttle out to Shell Island but only got to stay a half hour. This time, we had a blissful day ahead of us and no plans, just space aboard Shell Island Snorkeling & Dolphin Tours‘ pontoon—or rather, the whole boat to ourselves!
And just like last year, we saw a dolphin almost immediately after pulling out of the bay. Then, we motored along another 20 minutes or so until we reached Shell Island.
Shell Island is a glorious little, undeveloped spit of land surrounded by crystal clear bathwater that you just want to sit in all day long. Which is exactly what we did.
For hours and hours, we bronzed our skin while our fingers and toes turned to prunes.
Our Shell Island pontoon pulled right up to the sand and parked for the afternoon, making it the perfect refuge for us when we needed snacks (of which we brought many) or a beer refill (see also: many).
I would have loved to have SVV and Ella with me for this trip, as there were dozens of friendly dogs roaming the tiny island, many of whom were fishing in the shallow sea water.
Our boat crew also brought along some snorkels and a paddleboard. My friend Whitney, who I’ve known my whole life, is a yogi, so we each took the paddleboard out for a spin and tried our hand at some inversions.
Then we decided to up the game and both climb atop to do a little SUP yoga. As the board started to sink under the weight of both of us and our nostrils filled, we figured out we’d be better off sticking to land.
This just earned us more beers, of course. Balance, y’all; balance.
We were out there for five hours before our captain, Marty, said it was time to make the trek back. I’m not going to lie. There were many sad faces, as this was an afternoon we all would have liked to have lasted forever.
Our day trip with Shell Island Snorkeling & Dolphin Tours was the fitting end to our relaxing three-day weekend, and despite previous plans to go out that evening, we found ourselves in bed at 9pm, not wanting to try to outdo an already perfect day. Oh Florida, I can’t get enough of you.