The Gulf Coast of Florida is a great place to start your adventure West. A year round destination, the temperatures average around 75 in the Spring and stay into the low 80's through June. The summer is hot and humid in the summer but starting again in September the temperatures drop and the weather is perfect for boating.
The Florida Panhandle is made up of 16 counties, lying between Alabama, Georgia and the Gulf of Mexico. Before Florida was even a state, those counties voted to join Alabama but a financial scandal broke out in the Alabama Legislature, and the annexation was not carried out. Interestingly enough, this area tried again, after the Civil War, to be ceded to Alabama, even offering it one million dollars and was declined. So, the panhandle remained a part of Florida; the region is a major populated area of Florida.
Apalachicola was once the third largest port on the Gulf of Mexico; its diverse and colorful past remains visible today. There are over 900 historic homes and buildings in the National Register Historic District. Visitors stroll along the wide tree-lined streets where picturesque Victorian homes display the charm of years gone by. Apalachicola's rich history and a maritime culture are complimented by the area's bountiful natural resources. Apalachicola has been selected by the National Trust for Historic Preservation to be one of America's Dozen Distinctive Destinations for 2008 making the city one of top twelve vacation destinations across the United States offering an authentic visitor experience by combining dynamic downtowns, cultural diversity, attractive architecture, cultural landscapes and a strong commitment to historic preservation and revitalization.
An old 1800's port town, Port St. Joe had assistance from the St. Joe Company in dredging a channel from the gulf to the city. Originally home to a paper mill the town is transitioning into a resort town but has not lost its' friendly nature and southern charm. Everything is within walking distance in the historic town and the welcoming citizens are happy to help guide you through. Enjoy and afternoon docked at Cape Sandblast - the barrier "hook" that protects the Port St. Joe area and is home to wonderful late summer scalloping and tarpon, which run into the late summer.
On the way to Panama City boaters will enjoy the natural feel of the Panhandle with sightings of plenty of wildlife including ospreys, eagles and porpoises. Spend a day anchored on Shell Island - 71/2 miles of undisturbed barrier islands, Crooked Island or Mexico Beach, which was also owned by the Port St. John Company and has not been developed.
Panama City has a new International airport that makes this area much easier to access than in previous years. However, enjoy the unspoiled beauty of the area and travel by boat. With no bridge restrictions or speed zones, Panama City is easy to navigate. The Inner Coastal Waterway runs parallel to the gulf all along the beach towns and makes for an easy shelter from a rough gulf. The fishing is great, both deep sea and flats in the bay estuary which is fed by a 40 ft deep tidal flow. The area makes it easy for boaters to anchor out alone and still be just miles from civilizations.
Deemed the "World's Luckiest Fishing Village," Destin is the home of five saltwater world record titles and holds some of the largest fishing tournaments around. Sporting the closest deep-water access on the Gulf of Mexico - up to 600-foot depths within 10 miles - Destin provides eager deep-sea anglers the speediest route to the richest of fishing waters. Truly a one of a kind boater destination, Destin's white sand beaches and emerald green waters hold the acclaim of the #1 Beach in America by USA Today Readers and one of the Top 10 harbors from Coastal Living.
You might be inclined to overlook Pensacola, tucked away at the west end of the Panhandle. The city, on the northern bank of the broad Pensacola Bay, is five miles inland from the nearest beaches, and its prime features are a naval aviation school and some busy dockyards. Pensacola is, however, worth a visit - its white beaches are relatively untouched, and it is an historic center: occupied by the Spanish from 1559. Only the hurricane two years later that ended their settlement prevented it becoming the oldest city in the US. It repeatedly changed hands among the Spanish, French and British before becoming the place where Florida was officially ceded by Spain to the US in 1821.