The gulf coast of Florida, often referred to as "The
Coast", is located in Northwest Florida. Florida's panhandle has a
coastline of clear, clean, emerald green waters only found in this
area of the state. NorthwestFL.com contains descriptions of the gulf
coast cities, as well as destinations included the surrounding
Northwest Florida area. You will never be disappointed in the
sugar-white sand beaches of Northwest Florida. Thanks for allowing
us help in planning your visit to this beautiful destination!
A dignified city, Pensacola blends the
influences of outstanding beach, military intrigue, arts, nature and
history to create a many-faceted destination where there’s something
As Florida’s original settlement, its colonization predates St.
Augustine by four years. Unfortunately the colony failed and only
one single white cross atop a dune on Pensacola Beach
commemorates Spaniard Tristan de Luna’s attempt.
Although it’s not
like Pensacola has a shortage of historic sites and buildings. Its
importance as the capital of colonial West Florida and as kingpin of
Civil War strategy is remembered in great forts, downtown historic
districts, a Civil War soldiers museum, and an annual Fiesta of Five
Flags, which every June honors the town’s various sovereignties:
Spain, France, England, the United States and the Confederacy.
The town of Gulf Breeze, Florida lies between the beach and Pensacola
on a peninsula at the mouth of the bay. To the east, small town
Navarre Beach crosses a bridge to Santa Rosa Island. A
new state park opened recently across from the beach, where a
900-foot fishing pier is central to activities, acclaimed for its
stellar spring catches. Gulf Breeze is known for its frequent UFO
sightings and a zoo that families love. Also for families, Pensacola
offers Dinosaur Adventure Land, a hands-on center with a prehistoric
FL Hotels >
Still more fort ruins lie on Perdido Key, an out-of-the-way
island that meets up with Alabama at the famous Flori-bama Lounge.
Here you can take a long, secluded shoreline stroll along the
deserted, powder beaches of another part of the National Seashore.
Just off the island, Big Lagoon State Park harbors 698 acres
of coastal ecology where gray foxes, nuthatches and cardinals live.
:: Also see >
Northwest Florida State Parks
The Pensacola Scenic Bluffs Highway leads northward out of town to
Milton, often hailed as the “Canoe Capital of Florida.” Here
the Coldwater, Blackwater, Sweetwater and Juniper waterways make
canoeing, kayaking, rafting, paddle-boating and inner-tubing
favorite summer pastimes. The Blackwater River is especially
loved by paddlers for its white sand bottoms and beaches. Camping
and biking facilities are also available.
Traveling East to
Florida you'll find the sand just doesn’t
get much whiter than this, and that’s only the beginning of what’s
so special about this well-loved band of Gulf of Mexico beachfront
dubbed the Emerald Coast.
The water is bright green, the
dunes are lofty, the fish are plentiful, and the excitement doesn’t
quit. For families, for lovers, for anyone, this is the superlative
in Florida beach vacationing. Book a room in a beachfront bed and
breakfast, a marina motel, a rental condo, or a name-brand hotel.
Then grab your fishing pole. Destin earns its name as the “World’s
Luckiest Fishing Village” by virtue of its famed emerald Gulf
shore. :: ...read more about Destin,
The Destin Bridge crosses East Pass to Fort Walton Beach, an
older beach community with lots of affordable resorts and family
pastimes. To get between the two towns, you pass through one section
of Gulf Islands National Seashore, a dramatic landscape of
drifted blinding white sand that often puts northern visitors in
mind of snow. On the Seashore’s bay side, a public access makes a
popular recreational spot for boaters, water-skiers, wave runners
and parasailers. Destin hotels and motels are plentiful but make
certain you book your reservation on-line before you arrive! ::
Fort Walton Beach,
Beach shops, lively bars, go-kart tracks, batting cages, amusement
parks, water sports concessions and beach accesses line the beach’s
main drag on Fort Walton Beach’s Okaloosa Island. The
Boardwalk is an energetic center of activity with restaurants,
clubs, the town’s fishing pier, beach volleyball and the classic
Florida’s Gulfarium, entertaining families with flipping
dolphins and comical seals since 1955. The island road ends at the
entrance to Eglin Air Force Base, inaccessible to civilians.
On the mainland, separated from the island by the wide and beautiful
Choctawhatchee Bay, Fort Walton Beach’s livelihood as a
military town becomes more evident, especially at U.S. Air Force
Armament – all about weapons and aerial fighting machines. Downtown
comprises a few square blocks along the bay front with perky little
shops, a hometown park, a 17-foot-tall Indian mound and accompanying
museum, and the Emerald Coast Science Center, a hands-on
haven for kids.
Northwest Florida Cities:
Beaches of South Walton
Blue Mountain Beach
Fort Walton Beach
Panama City Beach
Port St. Joe
Santa Rosa Beach
Life is a beach... and an amusement park ride, in
Beach, Florida. Two of life’s greatest pleasures come together in one big
playground. A favorite for families, especially in spring and
summer, Panama City Beach lays out a dizzying selection of parks
offering kiddy rides, go-kart tracks, batting cages, paintball,
laser tag, a maze, water attractions and miniature golf. Equal in
number and variety, its water sports concessions and charters
accommodate with glass-bottom boat tours, deep-sea fishing, scuba
diving, parasailing, kayaking, wave running and anything else
water-bound you can fantasize. Choose from
a high-speed powerboat ride to a leisurely sail aboard a pirate ship
or dinner cruise yacht. Divers take advantage of Panama City Beach’s
reputation for shipwrecks dating back to World War II. Fishermen
cast for billfish, especially during July’s Bay Point
Invitational Billfish Tournament, as well as cobia, mackerel,
redfish, pompano and ladyfish. Panama City Beach hotels and motels
along the gulf beach are numerous, but make sure you book your
reservation on-line before you travel. ::
more about Panama City Beach >
St. Andrews, the bay front's original settlement, lures
visitors with unusual shops, salty restaurants and a bustling marina
full of shrimping and fishing boats. It is stage for the annual
holiday Boat Parade of Lights. In April, the neighborhood
celebrates its sea bounty with a Shrimp & Oyster Festival. A
cycling tour visits historic buildings and sites dating back to
1886. Hop on the Bay Town Trolley to explore the county.
Entertainment awaits in the form of bowling, ice skating, greyhound
racing, helicopter rides, superlative golf and nature and heritage
In Panama City’s backyard you will find unusual parks that honor
this wild and rural area. In Blountstown, visit the
Panhandle Pioneer Settlement, a collection of historic log homes
and other country-town structures.
For deep woods recreation, take
to the hiking, biking and horseback riding trails of Pine Log
State Forest, Florida’s first state forest near Ebro,
Florida. Favorite pastimes include picnicking, camping, fishing,
boating, swimming and bird-watching. For more hiking, follow the
portion of the Florida Trail currently under development along
pristine, bluff-lined Econfina Creek, also a favorite with
canoeists and kayakers.
On the Western end of Florida's panhandle, you'll find whopper
catches, certain shellfish, and a sense of rural peace and pacing
pervade this flashback strip of Florida's Gulf Coast. When
you cross the dramatic bridge over the Apalachicola River
from the east, time drops you back into the antebellum era. A
battalion of brick buildings along the riverfront in Apalachicola
reverses time some 170 years, back to the town’s heyday as a
thriving shipping port for cotton. The Florida Gulf Coast hotels and
motels are beautiful, spacious and affordable. See our hotel and
motel links on each page.
Today, oysters are more synonymous with Apalachicola than cotton.
The waters of Apalachicola Bay, where the river flushes into
the sea, make oysters happy as, well, clams. Apalachicola’s
fast-growing oysters have a reputation for sweetness and succulence.
Learn more about the ecology of the bay at the Apalachicola
National Estuarine Research Reserve waterfront education center,
home to exhibits on local flora and fauna, an aviary, and giant live
Today oysters are farmed in the bay and harvested by oystermen with
long-handled tongs and wooden flats boats. Fish houses line the
waterfront of Apalachicola and neighboring town of Eastpoint,
selling the prized shellfish. The town brags that it produces more
than 90 percent of Florida’s oysters and 10 percent of the oysters
It also boasts more antebellum sites than anywhere else in Florida.
Upwards of 200 homes and commercial buildings, which hold boutiques,
shops, galleries, restaurants, churches and B&Bs, are listed on the
National Register of Historic Places. The circa-1912 Dixie
Theatre hosts a summer repertory group. John Gorrie Museum
State Park commemorates the 19th-century doctor who invented an
ice-making machine, the precursor to modern air conditioning, while
searching for a way to make his yellow fever victims more
From Eastpoint, one can reach out-of-the-way, 28-mile-long St.
George Island via bridge. Here begins the renowned
blinding-white, dunes-piled sand beaches of the Florida Panhandle.
An intimate inn and rental homes along the beach accommodate
vacationers to the skinny island. The best place to take to the
beach is St. George Island State Park, where it remains in
its natural state of ghost crabs, salt-dwarfed pines, wild rosemary
and reindeer moss. On the beach side, loggerhead and green sea
turtles lumber ashore to lay eggs every summer. On the bay side,
salt marshes host snakes, turtles and a variety of fish among their
|Fishing is St. George Island’s long suit, and you can catch a
charter into bay or gulf tours take you canoeing or boating in
search of nature or off to islands unconnected by bridge to the
The largest of these, St. Vincent National Wildlife
Refuge, is sanctuary to a rare mix of native animals and exotics
that have survived from the island’s former life as a hunting
preserve. Here, Asian sambar deer co-exist with native white-tailed
deer and reintroduced red wolves.
East of Eastpoint, the tiny town of Carrabelle,
Florida offers some of
the best charter fishing around. It also has antique shops, art
galleries and claims the smallest police station in the world, the
size of a phone booth. Here’s another good place to get your fill of
fresh oysters at casual fish houses along the waterfront.
Whereas Apalachicola’s world may be the oyster, in nearby Port
St. Joe the crustacean of renown is the bay scallop, harvested
recreationally during the summer months. Charters take water sports
enthusiasts on scalloping expeditions and also snorkeling and diving
to local wrecks and ledges. Port St. Joe is the site of Florida’s
first Constitution Convention and a museum remembers it and the
erstwhile town of St. Joseph.
For sun time, head to Mexico Beach, one of Florida’s least
developed beach towns with a mañana sort of personality that earns
it its name. The area’s other beaches hide well away from crowds and
traffic on a thin peninsula of sand known as Cape San Blas.
Finding it requires a trip off the beaten path known as Highway
98, through forests of skyscraping pines and magnolias. A state
park and 1,650-acre wilderness area occupy the reclusive far end of
the cape, with camping, beaching among the towering dunes, fishing
and wildlife spotting as favorite pastimes.
Follow the Apalachee Savannahs Scenic Byway north through the
longleaf pines and cypress thickets of 564,000-acre Apalachicola
National Forest, where more opportunities abound for hiking,
biking, canoeing and wilderness camping in this land where nature
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