A few months ago, the tourism board of Panama City Beach invited us to come check out their city and experience this gorgeous section of the Gulf Coast with a bunch of other wonderful travel families as a part of #InstaMeetPCB*. We headed to Florida straight from American Samoa, so we were still sun-soaked and jetlagged from the South Pacific. I’d never been to the Gulf Coast and I wondered how it would compare to the idyllic spots we’d just been visiting on the other side of the world. But I needn’t have worried about being underwhelmed: Panama City Beach is totally different from Samoa, but we still loved it—the beaches there are ridiculously great and we had a blast exploring this little city.
We arrived in Orlando and made the 6 hour drive to Panama City Beach, where we checked into the Holiday Inn. The hotel is right on the beach and every room has a view of the ocean, plus there’s a huge pool and splash pad that the kids were stoked about. But we didn’t have time for a swim just then—instead we headed straight for the marina, where we hopped on a boat to cruise around in the lagoon and out on the Gulf. We watched the sun go down over the water—always a fantastic view in Florida—but the highlight was seeing dolphins, and there were SO MANY OF THEM. We spotted dozens and it was so fun watching them splash and jump and glide through the water.
The next morning we headed back out on the lagoon, this time to visit Shell Island. The island separates the waters of Grand Lagoon from the Gulf, so on one side there are calm waters perfect for letting the little ones splash around and on the other side are the waves and long views of open water.
We couldn’t get enough of the sand at this place—so white and fine you could have mistaken it for powdered sugar—so when we got back from Shell Island, we headed to St. Andrew’s State Park for a little more beach time. And that night, we hit up another section of beach, this time to each tacos and roast s’mores with friends around a fire set up by these guys.
We spent our last day in PCB enjoying the beach and pool around our hotel, lounging and drinking fruity drinks and—when a crazy rainstorm rolled through—playing Pirate Ship on the bunk beds in our room (instructions for Pirate Ship: pretend you are a pirate on a ship. Let shenanigans ensue.)
We keep getting our socks knocked off by America. The variety in traveling here is really astounding—there’s world-class adventuring, perfect beaches, wide open spaces, incredible mountains and vibrant cities. International travel is wonderful and fun and important and we love it, but it’s so good to experience our own country and to know that gorgeous places like PCB are never very far away.
*If you’ve been following here for a minute, you know that we’ve legitimately never met a place we didn’t like—and sometimes I worry we’re a little too enthusiastic in reporting our travel adventures! We won’t rave about a product if we don’t love it, but we feel like it’s hard to get down on a place—to us, every town has its bright spots, its fascinating customs and local stories, and part of traveling is embracing the unique local cultures and special things about every place. All this to say: we genuinely loved Panama City Beach, and that love had nothing to do with them sponsoring us to be there.