People visit Panama City Beach from all over the world - And while it's best to be here to feel the sand between your toes for yourself, it's also a nice reminder to read what travel writers far and wide are saying about our Real. Fun. Beach.
Jennifer Tippett is one of the most recent United Kingdom journalists to visit our area, and in a 2-page Sunday Travel edition of the Sun (one of the most widely read publications in England, with a circulation of about 2 Million, and a website that sees over 22 Million monthly visitors), she gave her readers plenty of good tips for getting the most out of a trip to Panama City Beach. Click the picture below to see a PDF of the article, or read what she had to say below!
"Stunning Sand, Non-Stop Fun in Panama City Beach - Y'all have a nice play"
By Jennifer Tippett
Originally published in The Sun
Say "Florida" and it is hard not to think of Mickey Mouse and super-sized hamburgers.
But look beyond Tinkerbell and take-outs and you will find a hidden gem on its northwest coast.
I had never heard of Panama City Beach but a quick Google showed it was hugged by the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico and boasts "the world's most beautiful beaches."
If ever there was a claim worth investigating, this was it.
So with enough swimwear to Lycra up the Olympic swimming team (only the best bikinis should be worn on the best beaches, after all!) I boarded an eight-hour flight to Atlanta before a short hop over to Florida.
A warm breeze welcomed my boyfriend and I off the plane and the cabin crew's "Y'all have a nice day!" put a smile on our tired post-flight faces.
Shuttle buses run from the airport but to get the most of the area, a hire car is the best option.
‘The sea is so clear you can see your feet'
Tootling along the coast road we couldn't help but notice the typically showy beach front, adorned with neon lights and enormous signage.
But hiding behind the concrete facade was a picture postcard view. The sand was as white as snow and so clean it squeaks underfoot.
Vivid emerald waters lapped the shoreline. It was clear that Panama City Beach was living up to its promise.
From our beachfront condo at Ocean Reef, the view is spectacular and completely unobstructed. The apartment's double balcony served as both bedroom and living area - perfect for lazy breakfasts and for watching the sunset.
It may be more than 350 miles from Disney and the theme parks of Orlando, but kids are well catered for here. American families have been pitching up for years. From crazy golf to the Gulf World Sea Life Centre, there is something do for each of the reported 360 days of sunshine a year. The Gulf waters are bathtub-warm and so clear you can see your feet on the bottom. And the natural sand bars that reach out into the sea work as perfect viewing platforms for non-swimmers. You may even spot dolphins from the shore.
To explore further you can hire a pontoon boat from £130 from local outfitter Adventures At Sea. They hold up to 12 people and if you have a car license you can drive one yourself.
We went to Shell Island, a sandy mound off the coast that was historically covered in millions of shells. Most ended up as souvenirs in less eco-friendly times, but the remaining few are scattered over the sugary white sands. The area is a hotspot for those who want a day of tranquility.
We saw at least ten playful dolphins ducking and diving around our boat. They are friendly enough for you to get in and swim with them. There are no watersport huts or beach bars on Shell Island. In fact, there is no shade at all, so go prepared with tons of suncream (sunscreen) and a sunshade. And pack your camera. The scenery is spectacular.
If a little pontoon boat feels a bit precarious, larger shuttles - popular with families - can take you from the equally beautiful St Andrew's State Park to the island for a couple of dollars.
Fortunately, there are plenty of sporty activities in the vicinity, or my waistline would have taken a turn for the worse. The food is intensely calorific.
"Hushpuppies" are battered batter - but they can't be faulted for taste or value for money. The single portions are enough to share and the local specialty is fish, which is sourced daily. From funky crab shacks, like Hook'd to fine dining at the Firefly, seafood lovers are in for a treat.
We booked a fishing day trip and took our catch to J-Michael's Restaurant that evening for its hook-and-cook deal. There is something very rewarding about fishing in the day and cooking your own catch for dinner.
Also worth a visit is Andy's Flour Power. They serve the most incredible tower of French toast - a must if you want a typically local breakfast. Allow for a lie down afterward though, as the portions are enormous.
After a three-course breakfast, I had concerns about my first-ever paddleboard lesson immediately afterward. Looking like a beached whale, I rolled onto the board - but managed to stand up. Result! The guys at Waves2You were incredibly patient and good-humored. As the sun blazed down and we rode the wave of a small boat in the distance, it really did feel like paradise.
‘I couldn't wait to get to Shipwreck Island'
The adult in me wanted to resist... but the child in me couldn't wait to get to Shipwreck Island water park. This would be a recurring theme over the course of the week!
Good clean family fun abounds, but if you want grown-up sophistication, that can be found too.
Take the fabulous spa at the Bay Point hotel. The Obamas have stayed there and word has it the First Lady enjoyed a day of pampering at Serenity.
The treatments were truly indulgent and there were complimentary towels and refreshments served while I chilled out in the superb facilities.
Yoga fans should head to the paddleboard classes at Yoga Elements to try the latest craze. Set in a stunning lake, Laura-Lynn expertly teaches with an air of unbelievable calm.
You are sure to walk away feeling floaty and with an excellent tan.
By night, Panama City Beach is as chill as the day. Still, in shorts and a T-shirt, you can ramble around the local nightspots that offer karaoke, live music and outdoor concerts to name but a few.
Combining laid-back luxury and good-value family fun is a tough gig, but Panama City Beach does it with ease.
The welcoming people and the non-stop fun vibe were great - but the beaches really were something special. If there are finer beaches elsewhere, I would be more than happy to judge.
GETTING THERE: Seven nights self-catering at the Ocean Reef Condos is from £1,099, including Delta Airlines flights via Atlanta and car hire. Visit americaasyoulikeit.com or call 020 8742 8299.
TO DO: Fishing from £260 for six hours from panamacitypaddleboards.com; pontoon boats £130 at watersportspc.com; aqua yoga £10 at yogaelments108.com; paddleboard lessons £35 at waves2you.com.