The Florida Panhandle is a region of Florida, in the north west of the state. It has long been popular for its beaches along the Gulf of Mexico. It includes the inland city of Tallahassee – the state capital and home of Florida State and Florida A&M Universities.
The Florida Panhandle has hung onto its Southern culture better than probably any other region in Florida, so expect traditional Southern hospitality and more conservative values. Exceptions to this trend are Tallahassee and Pensacola; while both retain a great deal of that Southern charm, they also contain pockets of the typical progressive, creative atmosphere of college towns.
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- Pensacola International Airport - located in Pensacola and the gateway to western Florida. Pensacola International has many flights on many carriers to destinations across the United States, and within Florida, as well as occasional charter flights that fly internationally.
- Interstate 10 and its scenic byways slice across the Panhandle parallel to the coast, but several miles inland. I-10 follows the route of the older Highway 90. Closer to the coast, Highway 98 is the most important route. A car is really a requirement to see this area. There is local bus service in most cities, and biking is popular both for getting around town or for longer tours of the coast.
- Florida Lighthouses are numerous in the Panhandle, take some time to visit these iconic images of the coast.
- Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park, 3540 Thomasville Road, Tallahassee, ☏ .
- 1 Bald Point State Park, 146 Box Cut Road, Alligator Point, ☏ . 8AM to sunset. The park has such amenities as beaches, bicycling, birding, canoeing, fishing, hiking, kayaking, swimming and wildlife viewing. $4.
- Big Lagoon State Park, 12301 Gulf Beach Highway, Pensacola (approximately 10 miles southwest of Pensacola on Gulf Beach Highway), ☏ . Seven hundred thirty-three acres (2.97 km2). It encompasses the northern boundary of Big Lagoon as it snakes toward Pensacola Bay to the east. Wild Grande Lagoon and its minor tributaries lay within the boundaries of the park, as does the alligator-inhabited Long Pond that covers a coastal slough. The park is a "gateway site" for the Great Florida Birding Trail. It features four distinct natural communities including estuarine tidal marsh, mesic flatwoods, wet flatwoods, and is dominated by coastal scrub. The park features a number of threatened and endangered species such as the Eastern Indigo Snake, Gopher Tortoise, migratory shorebirds such as Snowy Plover, Least Tern among some twenty other listed species. The park has such amenities as beaches along the shoreline of Big Lagoon, bicycling down the 2.6 mile park drive, boating from a 40-slip boat ramp, canoeing along Big Lagoon, fishing, hiking along 4 miles of trails, kayaking in Grande Lagoon, wildlife viewing from a four story observation tower and footbridge overlooks at Long Pond and Grande Lagoon, picnicking at 21 shelters, swimming in Big Lagoon and 75 electrified camping sites and a group camp.
- Blackwater River State Park, 7720 Deaton Bridge Rd, Holt (Fifteen miles northeast of Milton, near Harold, off U.S. 90), ☏ . A favorite destination for canoeists and kayakers, Blackwater River offers opportunities for a variety of outdoor recreation. The river is one of the purest sand-bottom rivers in the nation. The park has such amenities as birding, boating, canoeing, fishing, hiking, kayaking, picnicking areas, swimming, tubing, wildlife viewing and full camping facilities. The main picnicking area has covered picnicking pavilions, restrooms, and a spacious parking lot. Bring your tubes and enjoy a leisurely float down the river to the Deaton Bridge. It is a short 1 mile hike back to the parking lot to retrieve your vehicle. Very kid friendly park with a variety of areas for swimming.
- Camp Helen State Park, 23937 Panama City Beach Parkway, Panama City Beach (Off U.S. 98 west of Panama City Beach), ☏ . The park, which is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is bounded by the Gulf of Mexico and Lake Powell (one of the largest coastal dune lakes in the state). The park has such amenities as beaches, birding, beachcombing, boating, canoeing, fishing, hiking, kayaking, picnicking areas, swimming and wildlife viewing. It also has a visitor center and an interpretive exhibit.
- 2 Constitution Convention Museum State Park, 200 Allen Memorial Way, Port St. Joe (South side of Port St. Joe, off U.S. 98.), ☏ . 9am-12pm & 1pm-5pm. The location and exhibits take the visitor into a time when Florida was only a territory and elected leaders met to bring the territory into statehood with the introduction of a state constitution. You always have an open invitation to spend some time with us and experience a historical look at this great period in time. $1.
- Deer Lake State Park, 6350 East County Road 30-A, Santa Rosa Beach, ☏ .
- Econfina River State Park, 4741 Econfina River Road, Lamont, ☏ .
- Eden Gardens State Park, 181 Eden Gardens Road, Santa Rosa Beach (In Point Washington, south of Freeport, off U.S. 98 on CR 395), ☏ . One hundred and fifteen 115 acres.
- 3 Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park, 465 Wakulla Park Drive, Wakulla Springs, ☏ . 8AM to sundown. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is designated as a National Natural Landmark. Contains the Wakulla Lodge, a full-service hotel. A number of movies were shot here, including several Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan movies, Creature from the Black Lagoon and Night Moves. $6.
- Falling Waters State Park, 1130 State Park Road, Chipley (Three miles south of Chipley, off State Road 77A), ☏ . One hundred and seventy-one acres. The park contains a 73-foot waterfall, the highest in the state. The park has such amenities as birding, fishing, hiking, picnicking areas, swimming, wildlife viewing and full camping facilities. Concessions are also available.
- Florida Caverns State Park, 3345 Caverns Road, Marianna, ☏ .
- Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Park, 4281 S.R.20, Niceville, ☏ .
- Grayton Beach State Park, 357 Main Park Road, Santa Rosa Beach, ☏ .
- Henderson Beach State Park, 17000 Emerald Coast Parkway, Destin, ☏ .
- 4 John Gorrie State Museum, 46 6th St, Apalachicola, ☏ . 9AM–5PM Thursday-Monday. Contains a replica of the first ice machine (predecessor to A/C) created by Dr John Gorrie in an attempt to cool his yellow fever patients. His invention later became the basis for the ice industry and air conditioning. $2.
- Lake Jackson Mounds Archaeological State Park, 3600 Indian Mounds Rd., Tallahassee, ☏ .
- Lake Talquin State Park, 14850 Jack Vause Landing Road, Tallahassee, ☏ .
- Letchworth-Love Mounds Archaeological State Park, 4500 Sunray Road, South, Tallahassee, ☏ .
- Natural Bridge Battlefield Historic State Park, 7502 Natural Bridge Rd., Tallahassee, ☏ .
- 5 Ochlockonee River State Park, 429 State Park Road, Sopchoppy, ☏ . 8AM to sunset. $4.
- 6 Orman House, 177 5th Street, Apalachicola, ☏ . 9AM–5PM Thursday-Monday. Built in 1838 by Thomas Orman, the wood for this two-story home was cut to measure near Syracuse, New York and shipped to Apalachicola by sailing vessel around the Florida Keys, then assembled on the bluff overlooking the broad estuary and bay of the Apalachicola River. Today the house still resonates with a genteel aura and warmth of the past.
- Perdido Key State Park, 15301 Perdido Key Drive, Pensacola, ☏ .
- Ponce de Leon Springs State Park, 2860 State Park Road, Ponce de Leon Springs, ☏ .
- 7 San Marcos de Apalache Historic State Park, 148 Old Fort Road, St. Marks, ☏ . 9AM to 5PM Thursday through Monday. Site of a former Spanish Colonial fort. Only ruins remain. A National Historic Landmark, as well as a National Engineering Landmark, the fort site has been highlighted as a site on the Florida Native American Heritage Trail. Free ($2 for museum).
- St. Andrews State Park, 4607 State Park Lane, Panama City Beach, ☏ .
- 8 St. George Island State Park, 1900 E Gulf Beach Drive (After reaching St. George Island, drive east on Gulf Beach Drive. You will drive right into the park.), ☏ . 8AM to sunset. Ranked by Dr Beach as having one of the top ten beaches in America from 2011 to 2014. $6.
- 9 St. Joseph Peninsula State Park, 8899 Cape San Blas Road, ☏ . 8AM to sunset. From U.S. 98, turn south onto State Road 30-A. Travel to State Road 30-E. Turn west. The road goes right into the park in about 8 miles. $6.
- St. Marks River Preserve State Park, 11950 Tram Rd., Tallahassee, ☏ .
- Tarkiln Bayou Preserve State Park, 2401 Bauer Road, Pensacola, ☏ .
- Three Rivers State Park, 7908 Three Rivers Park Road, Sneads, ☏ .
- Topsail Hill Preserve State Park, 7525 W. Scenic Highway 30A, Santa Rosa Beach, ☏ .
- Torreya State Park, 2576 NW Torreya Park Rd., Bristol, ☏ .
- Yellow River Marsh Preserve State Park, Intersection of Dickerson City Road and Garcon Point Rd (CR-191), Milton, ☏ .
- Blackwater Heritage State Trail, 5533 Alabama Street, Milton, ☏ .
- Tallahassee-St. Marks Historic Railroad State Trail, 1358 Old Woodville Road, Crawfordville, ☏ .
- Big Bend Scenic Highway. Driving along US 98 between Mexico Beach and Panacea is like travelling the Pacific Coast Highway, but at sea level. Three of the four historic lighthouses in the area are along this stretch. Port St. Joe, Apalachicola, St. George Island and Carrabelle are a few of the highlights. Speed limit is 45 mph, so relax and enjoy casually driving through forests, interspersed with views of the Gulf of Mexico.
- Pensacola Scenic Bluffs.
- Scenic Highway 30A.
- Festivals/holidays. Major holidays in Pensacola include Mardi Gras and the Fiesta of Five Flags. Celebrations of note in Pensacola are the Greater Gulf Coast Arts Festival, the Seafood Festival, the Bushwhacker Festival, the Bill Fishing Tournament, and the Gay and Lesbian Memorial Day Festival. Fort Walton Beach is known for the Billy Bowlegs Festival, and Panama City for Spring Break. Niceville is known for its Mullet Festival.
- Spectator sports. Tallahassee is home to the Seminoles of Florida State University, and college football is a religion for many Panhandle residents, with Saturdays in the fall being the holy day. Pensacola is home to the semi-professional ice hockey team, the Pensacola Ice Pilots.
In the Panama City and Panama City Beach area there are many great places for local fare. The most recognized restaurant is Captain Anderson's on Thomas Drive in Panama City Beach. It's located on the lagoon and get there early to see the fishing fleet arrive and unload the day's catch.
Other restaurants of note include Pompano's on Front Beach Road, Saltwater Grill on Middle Beach (Hutchison Road) and Canopies. Canopies is a "fine dining" establishment overlooking St. Andrew's Bay in Panama City.
The Panhandle is home to two of Florida's four dry counties, where the sale of alcohol is prohibited (Washington and Liberty). However, alcohol of any variety can be found in abundance in the college town of Tallahassee and the Spring Break destination of Panama City Beach.