Tag Archives: Florida

Travel: Panama City Beach

It's too bad that Panama City Beach has a reputation as one of America's best spring break beaches. Because the other weeks of the year its gorgeous powder sand beach and turquoise water are perfect for life break, and stress break, and work break. Uploaded by bookpcbeach.wordpress.com.

Some of America’s most gorgeous beaches lie along the Gulf Coast, and neither hurricanes (rare) or oil spills (rarer) can long spoil their beauty. One of the most spectacular is Panama City Beach, with soft, powdery white sand and calm turquoise waters. And, most of the year, no spring break crazies.

Uploaded to Panoramio by americandream27.

Because it’s located on Florida’s panhandle, Panama City Beach doesn’t offer the warm winter temperatures that others at more tropical latitudes enjoy. What you will enjoy all year long is the sun – the Visitors Bureau boasts of 320 sunny days annually. And the average high in the winter months is in the 60s, which sounds pretty good if you’re in Michigan or Massachusetts.

There’s lots to do at Panama City Beach. It’s a great area for sport fishing… dolphin watching… scuba diving (it’s called the Wreck Capital of the South, which I trust isn’t because of automobiles)… and of course, swimming and soaking up the sun. It’s about 100 miles from Tallahassee, and 300 miles from Atlanta. And…it’s a lot closer (and less expensive) than the Bahamas.

Travel: Florida’s Overseas Highway

If you get creeped out by long bridges, then the Overseas Highway connecting the Florida Keys isn't for you. It has 42, including the famous Seven Mile Bridge. Uploaded by breakdowncover.org.

To me, building bridges is one of man’s most amazing feats. To build the infrastructure underwater needed to support traffic is something my little right-brained self can’t comprehend. Now, consider the Overseas Highway, stretching 127.5 miles and connecting the mainland with Key Largo, Islamorada, Marathon and, ultimately, Key West (Great American Things, July 14, 2009). I think it’s a modern wonder of the world.

Uploaded by floridakeyskeywestrealestate.com.

The original highway followed the route of Henry Flagler’s Florida East Coast Railway. Flagler constructed the necessary bridges to get rail connections to Key West, but his enterprise ultimately encountered financial problems and shut down. Then a major hurricane in 1935 destroyed much of the infrastructure, and the remnants of the rail line were sold to the state of Florida. It didn’t take many years for the bridges to be expanded to take auto traffic, and this amazing highway became a reality.

They say it’s about a four-hour drive now from Miami to Key West. Drivers now can enjoy not only the beautiful Gulf waters, but a variety of wildlife along the way. The Highway is part of Route 1, and includes 47 bridges, the 7-Mile Bridge being the most famous. In 2009, the Overseas Highway joined such famous byways as Route 66, The Blue Ridge Parkway, and Route 1 – Big Sur as an “All-American Road”, designated by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Travel: Key West

People gather at Mallory Square each day to watch the sunset. Photo by philip.greenspun.com.

People gather at Mallory Square each day to watch the sunset. Photo by philip.greenspun.com.

They say that Key West is the southernmost point in the continental United States. Okay, but “continental” is pushing it. It’s only about 50 miles from Miami to the nearest Bahama island – and three times that far to Key West. In fact, Key West is closer to Cuba than to the U.S. mainland.

It’s not that large to begin with, roughly eight square miles. And it’s home to an estimated 38,000 people, or “Conchs”, the name adopted by residents as far back as the mid-19th century.

Duval Street at night. Uploaded by 511enews.com

Duval Street at night. Uploaded by 511enews.com

Nightlife on the Key revolves around the restaurants and clubs on Duval Street in Old Town, so called because most of its buildings date back before 1912. If you’re looking for a year-’round party scene, you’ve found it. A more reserved celebration occurs at sunset each evening at Mallory Square. Artists, craftspeople, food carts, and all sorts of street performers provide an entertaining art show while tourists watch the sun go down.

Of course, you can’t be an island in the Caribbean and not have a variety of activities on the water. Key West is known for fishing charters, where you can emulate famous resident Ernest Hemingway and fish for blue marlin, sailfish, and giant tarpon. There’s snorkeling and diving, of course, with lots of wrecks to explore. Local beaches, though, are not what you might hope for, though there are some good spots.

Besides Hemingway, lots of famous people have made Key West their home. Tennessee Williams and Shel Silverstein lived there, and President Harry Truman had a winter home there. This video gives you a brief look at Key West along with one of its beaches, Smathers Beach. The Travel Channel called it a Top 10 beach, but the designation definitely is due to the beach scene, not the sand itself, which was brought in from the Bahamas.