Panama City
Beach, Fla.

for the
“Not So Young” Crowd
When to Go and What to Do

By Pam Baker

Miles and miles of white sand beaches, balmy, subtropical weather, and plenty of sunshine nearly year round draw thousands of visitors to Panama City Beach, Florida.

Florida's best beach

Avoid the madness of Spring Break and the hectic busy days of summer by visiting Panama City Beach (PCB) mid-April to the end of May for warm sunny days and uncrowded beaches. September and October are even better. The days are still warm in the fall and the water is warm too. Kids have gone back to school and the beaches are once again wide open and delightful.

Late spring or fall is also a great time to get a beachside seat at the iconic Pineapple Willey’s. Take a long morning walk along PCB’s sparkling white beaches, then pop into Willey’s for a break from the warming sun. Cold beer and a Cuban sandwich make for a satisfying lunch. Enjoy picture postcard views of the beach from the covered outdoor seating on a pier that juts out from the restaurant towards the ocean. Located at 9875 S. Thomas Drive, the restaurant can be entered from the beach or the street side.

Feeling especially ambitious? Take a long walk on the beach to the M.B. Miller County Pier at 12213 Front Beach Road. For a small fee of $2.00, visitors can walk the pier which extends out 1500 feet into the Gulf of Mexico. The pier is open all year and is very popular with local fisherman. It’s not well advertised, but head there in the evening and watch for sharks swimming around the end of the pier. Not a good time to go swimming!

Take a cruise on Saint Andrew’s Bay. For a mere $20, Captain Anderson’s Marina offers a three and half hour narrated cruise on Saint Andrew’s Bay to Shell Island. Spend an hour on Shell Island’s pristine beaches, then head to the mouth of Saint Andrew’s Bay just past Saint Andrew’s State Park where pods and pods of dolphins delight passengers as they swim alongside and around the boat. After returning to the Marina, head across the road to J Michael’s Dockside Bar and Grill for raw oysters or baskets of crispy fried fish and chips. It will still be early so getting a seat should be easy. Wait any longer and this popular place gets very busy.

Ready for a break from the sun? Head to Pier Park for a day of shopping. Pier Park, at 600 Pier Park Drive, includes a blend of small, unique shops, along with familiar, big name stores and an IMAX Theater. There are plenty of restaurants with a wide array of food choices, as well as coffee spots to take a break along the way. Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville, with its fun and festive atmosphere, is a great place to wind down after a successful day of shopping.

And, finally, step out on the balcony of your rented condominium and watch the glorious Panama City Beach sunset. Pour a glass of wine, get out your camera, and enjoy the last rays of the sun as it slides into the Gulf of Mexico for another day.

Sunset Panama City Beach

Music Festivals in Panama City Beach:

The Seabreeze Jazz Festival, named one of the Top 10 Jazz Festivals by Jazziz Magazine, is a four day event for jazz lovers who want to soak up the Panama City Beach sun by day and smooth jazz by night. The festival occurs in mid to late April every year. Next year’s event, the festival’s 18th year, is scheduled for April 20 – 24, 2016. Beer, wine, and a wide choice of food is available. Buy tickets online at Bring a lawn chair and enjoy performances of smooth jazz from some of the industry’s top names.

Chasin the Sun Music Festival, scheduled this year for September 15th and 26th, the festival will take place in Aaron Bessant Park Amphitheater, at 500 Pier Park Drive, Panama City Beach. Bring a lawn chair, squeeze in one more outdoor concert, and “chase the sun” straight into fall. Buy tickets online at