Travel Destinations

Destination - The Florida Panhandle

Florida
|
April 2019
|
By
Capt. Jeff
Werner

In the Aftermath of Hurricane Michael

The Florida Panhandle conjures up favorite boating ports of call that are usually known for gentle waves and sunny days. Last October, our nation was astonished when the Mexico Beach vicinity was devastated by Hurricane Michael's storm surge and extreme winds.

Fortunately, Destin, Fort Walton Beach and Pensacola endured less-potent tropical storm force winds, their marinas were not destroyed, and those lovely destinations are open for business. The sugar sand beaches of Destin and Fort Walton Beach are often rated among the best in the United States and lure sun lovers to this popular area. Other attractions include first-rate golf courses and resorts, nature trails along pristine sand dunes, waterparks, world-class fishing and easy living.

As one of the earliest European settlements in America, Pensacola is steeped in 450 years of history. The city is surrounded by four historic forts that were built in the 1800s. Whether you tour Civil War-era Fort Pickens, visit Historic Pensacola Village or climb 177 steps to reach the top of Pensacola Lighthouse, you'll experience life in days gone by. The growing arts scene includes cultural gems ranging from the Children's Museum to National Navy Aviation Museum. Strolling around downtown along Palafox Street reveals a cornucopia of gourmet shops, galleries, boutiques, and good bars and restaurants.

Unfortunately, marinas in areas hit by hurricane force winds sustained various levels of damage depending on the wind direction, storm surge, and construction of their docks and facilities. Port St. Joe and Panama City were hit particularly hard, while Carrabelle and Apalachicola are recovering more quickly. Prudent mariners should call ahead to get a current report on the conditions of the approach channel, docks, amenities and facilities in those areas.

WHERE TO DOCK

DESTIN

Marbella Yacht Club (850-424-5531) With an approach depth of 12 feet, transient slips for yachts up to 70 feet and no bridges to negotiate, this is an ideal marina for large sailboats entering Destin Pass from the Gulf of Mexico.

Sandestin's Baytowne Marina (850-267-7773) Located in the heart of Sandestin Resort on Choctawhatchee Bay, this full-service 98-slip marina allows access for boaters visiting the 2,400-acre ultimate tranquil resort.

FORT WALTON BEACH

Emerald Coast Boatyard & Marina (850-244-2722) A landmark in the community since 1978, this centrally located boatyard and marina are simply known as The Boat. The historic location is now completely upgrading its facilities.

Fort Walton Yacht Basin (850-244-5725) On the Santa Rosa Sound, next door to the Original Waterfront Crab Shack, is one of the region's oldest family-operated marinas. With 94 slips and maximum boat length of 50 feet, transients are welcome.

PENSACOLA

Palafox Pier Yacht Harbor (850-432-9620) In the heart of downtown Pensacola, this facility has floating docks for vessels up to 175 feet. Located at the end of Pensacola Bay's east channel, this marina's 15-foot deep basin is a favorite of yacht owners.

Holiday Harbor Marina (850-492-0555) On the north shore of Perdido Key, this marina offers direct access via the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway to either Perdido Pass or Pensacola Pass to the Gulf. With slips for yachts up to 82 feet, it is Perdido Key's largest and only full-service marina.

WHERE TO DINE

DESTIN

Louisiana Lagniappe (850-837-0881) Chefs prepare fresh Gulf seafood with a Creole flair. The attire is casual, yet the entire family can enjoy an upscale waterfront dining experience with great food and excellent service.

Beach Walk at Henderson Park Inn (850-650-7100) This dinner-only restaurant is Destin's only fine-dining spot located directly on the Gulf Coast. Enjoy outstanding cuisine, personalized service and unparalleled views.

FORT WALTON BEACH

Brotula's Seafood House & Steamer (850-460-8900) The name Brotula's comes from the Bearded Brotula or sugar fish. Specializing in locally sourced seafood, the chefs produce steamed and boiled shellfish platters that mesh into a fun and rustic southern fish house.

The Shack (850-664-0345) This is the Original Waterfront Crab Shack, located on the sound with sunset views. Serving Florida seafood favorites in a laid-back atmosphere, it is perfect for lunch or dinner and easy on the budget.

PENSACOLA

Global Grill (850-469-9966) An upscale downtown tapas bar and restaurant that wins awards thanks to Chef Frank Taylor. Global Grill offers unique culinary creations with Mediterranean, European, Asian and American influences.

Joe Patti's Seafood (850-432-3315) Serving customers since 1931, Joe Patti's has become a Pensacola destination for those who seek quality seafood and friendly service. Located in a wholesale fish house, it's nothing fancy but has quite a following.

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The buzz of construction at the docks of Camden, ME, is finished, and it’s been replaced with an air of excitement among residents and visitors who watched a beautiful new development emerge along the waterfront.

The rebirth of Camden’s harbor started in 2015 when Lyman-Morse bought Wayfarer Marine. Based in nearby Thomaston, Lyman-Morse has run a successful boat-building business since the 1970s. More than 120 vessels have been constructed in the yard, located in the same site where Malabar schooners, Friendship sloops and other fine vessels have been built for nearly two centuries. Lyman-Morse has expanded beyond custom sailing and motor yachts, now offering high-quality refits, and other services.

Lyman-Morse’s boatyard and nine-acre facility enjoy a long maritime tradition on Camden’s shoreline, ranging from building schooners in the 19th century to U.S. minesweepers and troop transports in World War II, and servicing vessels from high-end yachts to recreational boats.

The location of this acquisition is idyllic. Nestled in a lovely cove on Penobscot Bay, Camden has been a bastion of seafaring activity and a world-
wide nautical travel destination for centuries. The scenery is dramatic, with forested mountains that meet the ocean and offshore islands that are an explorer’s
paradise. The 1830s Curtis Island Lighthouse near the harbor keeps watch over the town’s quaint homes, shops, restaurants, opera house and galleries.

Inspired by the area’s natural beauty, the new development’s designers also understood Camden’s historic role in the region and wanted to carry that forward in modern form. They studied vintage photos, matched the style and created 33,000 square feet of new buildings for marine services and mixed-use commercial space.

Lyman-Morse’s Camden boatyard attracts maritime professionals and boaters with essential services for carpentry, mechanics, electronics, rigging and more, and brings the general public back to the working waterfront with amenities such as restaurants, a distillery, a few overnight accommodations, and a boardwalk big enough for a morning stroll or brisk dog walk.

Added bonus: Sensitivity to the environment was not overlooked in construction. Engineers took a sustainable approach when they elevated all structures above the flood plain, installed LED lights and upgraded all systems to today’s energy-efficient levels.

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Camden, Maine
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True boaters say the real Maine coast doesn’t start until you reach Penobscot Bay. This is “Down East” from Kennebunkport and Portland. The dramatic stretch of coastline from Camden to Mount Desert Island sparkles with granite shores, dotted with archipelagos of pine-tree covered islands and mountains cascading into the sea. This region offers some of the best cruising ground in the world.

Camden is a magical little seaside town in the heart of Maine’s mid-coast. It’s historic but hip. “Where the Mountains Meet the Sea” is their moniker, as Camden Hills and 780-foot Mount Battie stretch down toward the bustling waterfront where this 1769 New England village sits, creating a postcard scene.

Camden is super foot-traffic friendly, starting at Harbor Park and the beautiful brick Public Library that graces the top of the bay by the Town Docks. Enjoy a picnic on the sprawling park lawn; there’s often a craft festival or free concert at the outdoor amphitheater. From the waterfront, stroll the quaint sidewalks leading to cafés, boutiques, craft stores and art galleries, pubs, and surprisingly trendy restaurants.

You can hike, bike or drive the toll road up Mount Battie in Camden Hill State Park, which encompasses 5,500 acres and 30 miles of trails. Your reward is spectacular panoramic views of the harbor and Penobscot Bay below.

Eaton Point, at the eastern entrance to the harbor, is home to a new Lyman-Morse yacht facility. Camden remains a working harbor with lobster fishermen, boat builders, ferries and tall-masted schooners taking folks out for scenic sails.

Camden hosts festivals throughout the summer season of jazz, film and its trademark Windjammers. In winter, the U.S. National Tobogganing Champion-ships are held at Camden’s namesake Snow Bowl – our country’s only ski area with views of the Atlantic.

Camden is an ideal boater’s gateway with all the services and shops you need in walking distance from the waterfront. Excursions from this protected harbor are countless and legendary. A quick cruise brings you to quiet Lasell Island for a sunset anchorage. Farther on you reach Maine’s Maritime Academy home in beautiful Castine, and the rustic islands of North Haven, Vinalhaven and Deer Isle. Ultimately you can cruise north and east through beautiful Merchants Row, or the more protected Eggemoggin Reach, to Mount Desert Island, home to famed Acadia National Park, Northeast, Southwest and Bar Harbors.

WHERE TO DOCK

Camden Public Landing
Town Docks
207-691-4314

Contact the harbormaster for overnight slips, limited but in town, and moorings throughout the harbor.

Lyman-Morse at
Wayfarer Marine
207-236-7108

Across the harbor on Camden’s east shores, this revamped marina is a half-mile walk to town, with new docks and a marina facility, home of Lyman-Morse Boatyard and 30 slips plus moorings.

WHERE TO DINE

40 Paper
207-230-0111

Relish artful cuisine locally sourced from farmers, fishermen and “foragers.” In an historic wool mill in downtown Camden, it’s comfy but chic. Savor octopus, lamb, mussels, salmon and more with fresh produce and creative sides. Save room for dessert made from scratch.

Peter Otts on the Water
207-236-4032

Get your chowder and Maine lobster fix from Chef Peter. This classic setting overlooking the harbor is a Camden staple you “ott” not miss. Open for lunch or dinner.

Franny’s Bistro
207-230-8199

With a neighborhood feel, Franny’s serves up lobster fritters, crab cakes, shrimp dumplings and land-lubber faves, too. A fun menu in a cozy setting.

Bagel Café
207-236–2661

For fresh-brewed morning coffee and daily “boiled then baked” bagels or breakfast sammies served all day.

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Jamestown, Rhode Island
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Located on Conanicut Island, Gould Island and Dutch Island, Jamestown welcomes boaters to Narragansett Bay.  Its southernmost point is on Gould Island and marked by Beavertail Lighthouse and State Park. The northernmost point is marked by Conanicut Island Lighthouse.  While Conanicut Island is the second largest island on Narragansett Bay, it is near the western mainland in Kingston, and Newport lies to the east on Aquidneck Island.  Hop on the Jamestown Newport Ferry to get the lay of the land and sea.

Jamestown was settled early in colonial history and was named for James, Duke of York, who became King James II in 1685.  By 1710, many of Jamestown’s current roads were already in place and a lot of its early architecture is well preserved. Soak up some local history at the Jamestown Fire Memorial Museum, Beavertail Lighthouse Museum and Park, Jamestown Windmill, Watson Farm, Conanicut Island Sanctuary, Fort Wetherill State Park, and the Jamestown Settlement museum.

The main town, shops and restaurants are located on the eastern shore of Conanicut Island.  But even from the western side, Dutch Harbor and other attractions are easily accessed with a one-mile walk.

WHERE TO DOCK

Conanicut Marina
401-423-5820

This full-service marina has a ships store/chandlery, gift shop, extensive dockage and a large mooring field.  It’s located in the heart of town overlooking Newport and the Pell Bridge, but bring your fishing poles for the kids.

Dutch Harbor Boat Yard
401-423-0630

Located on the west passage of Narragansett Bay, this small, local marina has good moorings, launch service and facilities.  At times, the harbor can be rolly from a SW wind up the West Passage.  The holding ground is excellent for anchoring, but the dinghy dock is by seasonal permit only.

Safe Harbor Jamestown Boatyard
401-423-0600

Jamestown Boatyard is renowned for excellent workmanship on all types of boats.  It also has a large mooring field and is in a beautiful location on the East Passage.

WHERE TO DINE

Slice of Heaven
401-423-9866

This family-owned café and bakery with an outdoor patio is an ideal spot for breakfast and lunch, especially if you’re looking for tasty gluten-free and vegetarian options.

J22 Tap & Table
401-423-3709

This lively, year-round restaurant specializes in classic American cuisine and local seafood dishes such as New England clam chowder, lobster tail and seared yellowfin tuna while accommodating meat eaters with wings, burgers and steak tacos.

Village Hearth Bakery & Café
401-423-9282

Take a seat inside this rustic eatery or outside on the patio to enjoy wood-fired bread, pizzas and pastries with a cool beer or wine.  To start your day with a smile, order a cup of the eco-friendly coffee.

Bay Voyage Restaurant
401-560-7979

Inside the Wyndham Bay Voyage Inn, this casual dining establishment presents a seasonal menu of American cuisine standards and seafood with fresh ingredients and a stellar view of Narragansett Bay.

Read More

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