What could be more romantic than spending time at the beach with the one you love? Not much. We agree the tantalizing Emerald Coast waters and sugar-white sands of the Gulf of Mexico deserve top billing, but after you stroll the beach together as the mesmerizing fire in the sky slowly dissolves into the horizon, we have a few more ideas to make lasting memories with the one you love.
Get a great start on matters of the heart with a delicious breakfast. Share a strawberry stack at The Pancakery, the Classic at Jesse’s Place or go “old school” at the All American Diner. Once your belly is as full as your heart, you will be ready to tackle the day.
If you want to chill and relax, consider a couple’s massage or body treatment, such as the Sensually Scented Couples’ Massage offered at Beach Therapeutic Massage & Spa ($205). Add a Thousand Roses Facial and make it a combo treatment ($335). Romance, doesn’t just have to be put on hold until the sunsets. Day dates are a great way to spend quality time (especially if the kiddos are enjoying a day camp getaway themselves).
There are plenty of options of how to spend the day working off that Gulf seafood. Shopping while on vacation is pretty much a win-win. Pier Park has all your favorite name brand stores — not to mention dining and entertainment, perfect for a great date — but, if you want to get lost in lesser-known, locally owned boutiques and mom-and-pop specialty shops that don’t always have the budget to advertise, we have done the legwork for you. We bundled together our favorites and call it Décor By The Shore. It’s a selection of stores and shops, such as Beach House Market, Avenue Sea and The Shadow Box, which specialize in coastal-themed antiques, furniture, gifts and accessories. Couples looking to holiday shop while on vacation can make their list, check it twice and head to the area for all their holiday shopping needs this season.
Amp up your adventure quotient by adding a splash. A snorkeling or catamaran excursion at St. Andrews State Park is a great way to take in the natural beauty and experience an exciting adventure together. Venture to Shell Island, a 7-mile long undeveloped barrier island running east to west between the Gulf of Mexico and the St. Andrew Bay, and make an entire day of it. Take a beach tour boat over, or rent a private pontoon to escape to this special island retreat. Get lost searching for the perfect seashell or swimming with the dolphins, and let the world fade away.
Your morning adventures will surely work up an appetite. What says, ‘I love you’ more than a picnic for two? Grab a picnic lunch to go from Liza’s Kitchen and head to Camp Helen State Park and find some shade under one of the majestic live oaks or tall Cypress pine and spend the afternoon hiking a nature trail, birding or simply stretch out on a blanket and watch the clouds roll by.
Whether you are strolling the beach or just parked on your balcony with a glass of wine, don’t miss the setting of the sun. That is a no brainer. Once the sun goes down, there are still plenty of options for you and your sweetheart. Extend your time on the beach with a romantic beach bonfire experience with a hammock and s’mores. There are local outfits, such as Endless Beach Rentals, that will take care of all the logistics.
Speaking of fire and the beach, Firefly, located about a block off the beach in the Shoppes at Edgewater, is a wonderful locally owned and operated Mediterranean restaurant that has a cozy vibe perfect for a dinner date night out. Named “most romantic restaurant” (2017) by Open Table, Firefly is open daily for dinner at 5 p.m. Walk-ins are welcome, but reservations are recommended. Ask about the weekly specials and wine-pairing menu. If ordering from the regular menu, you can start with crab toast, beef or tuna tartare, root beer braised pork or delicate escargot. Refreshing salads feature locally sourced greens and produce. There is a full roster of entrees, and each is beautifully plated. From filet mignon, rib-eye, roasted chicken, homemade pasta and a range of fresh local fish, there is always something to satisfy. There are plenty of options for a sweet ending, but you can’t go wrong with the Dark Chocolate Nutella Cake or simply toast your love with a decadent Espresso Tini.
Voted Best of Bay Live Music Venue 2019, the Todd Herendeen Theatre on Front Beach Road is a fun way to experience dinner and a live show that pays tribute to many of the music legend greats from Elvis Presley and Neil Diamond to Roy Orbison and Johnny Cash. Who doesn’t a little “dinner music?” Head to Pineapple Willy’s on Thomas Drive, Runaway Island or Sharky’s Beachfront Restaurant on Front Beach Road for cocktails and dinner. Then stay to hear live music.
Whatever stokes the fire in your heart, you are sure to find it and more in Panama City Beach.