It’s around this time every year when we have our first serious cold snap—flurries last week! in Tennessee! in November!—and I start dreaming of an escape to Florida.
Panama City Beach tends to get an unfair rap as simply a party destination. Sure, it’s popular for Spring Breakers because it’s such an easy drive for a lot of us in the South (and an easy flight for those with Southwest access). But it also has some of the prettiest beaches around.
For example, did you know PCB boasts 27 miles of pristine coastline and two state parks? I sure didn’t until I went up in a helicopter and saw the terrain from above.
On my trip there last May, I drove out to St. Andrews State Park, a former military reservation with Gulf access, a protected lagoon and a mile and a half of beachfront real estate, on my final afternoon following my SUP yoga lesson. Before I reached the beach, I came to a viewing platform over a marsh, so I stopped for a photo break and some wildlife spotting.
The gators were hiding that day, which perhaps was a good thing, but the birds were out in full force.
At the beach entrance, there’s a visitor’s center, shop and free parking lot. I opted not to rent any snorkel or kayak equipment—let’s be honest, I was there with one intention and that was to get tan—and so found my own plot of sand and boulder to serve as a makeshift lounge chair.
But unlike many beaches off the Strip, which are crowded and you have to compete for space, St. Andrew’s was blissfully empty.
A family sitting nearby asked if I’d watch their belongings while they ran to the car, so while on high alert—I take my job seriously, y’all—I spied this suspicious guy also on the lookout (likely for families leaving their belongings behind while running to the car).
I’ve seen a lot of animals on the beach—like deer in Kiawah Island—but this was definitely the first raccoon sighting.
He looked like he meant business. I decided if he really wanted the family’s lunch, it was all his.
So, who’s in? Meet me in PCB—specifically St. Andrew’s State Park—for lunch?