Weekend Getaway

Ramblin' The Panhandle

By
Barbara
Barrett

Panama City Beach is a great starting point for your cruising adventure.The sugar-white sandy beaches and clear, emerald waters of the Gulf of Mexico attract boaters all year round. Panama City Beach is the playground of the Panhandle and has attractions and family activities galore, including museums, amusement and water parks, Zoo World, a Sea Dragon Pirate Cruise and excellent water sports such as diving, snorkeling, jet skiing and fishing. It is a convenient meeting place for family and friends embarking on a cruise together, whether arriving by boat or flying into nearby Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport. Explore all the fun that Panama City Beach holds, then set out for a taste of the Panhandle coast.

St.George Island

Take a break from the bustle of Panama City Beach with a beach-bum day cruise to St. George Island. The beautiful, serene barrier isle is surrounded by 22 miles of breathtaking sand. Drop anchor and swim, fish, sunbathe or take your dog for a stroll on the beach. The island is pet-friendly and all well-behaved pets are welcome. St. George Island State Park occupies the far-eastern part of the island, where there are towering dunes and abundant nesting birds. Hiking trails wind along marshes and fresh ponds, and there are boardwalks and observation towers throughout the park. A variety of eateries on the island serve fresh local seafood, and there are great little shops and after-dark clubs with live music and entertainment.

Carrabelle

About 75 miles east of Panama City Beach, Carrabelle makes for the perfect overnight boating destination. Carrabelle is quiet, rural Florida at its best, combining an authentic working waterfront with the lively spirit of recreational fishing and boating. One of the last unrushed and unspoiled areas in Florida, Carrabelle is know for its stunning beaches, rich river marshes, wonderful wildlife and exceptional fishing. Sun seekers will enjoy beach combing for shells on nearby Dog Island. Visit the Crooked River Lighthouse, erected in 1895. You can view Carrabelle Beach from the top when the lighthouse is open for climbing on Saturdays and Sundays. The 22nd annual Riverfront Festival takes place April 27 and will feature art exhibits, sand sculptures, delicious food and other attractions. art exhibits, sand sculptures, delicious food, and other attractions.Dock at the Moorings at Carrabelle (866-821-2248, moorignsatcarrabelle.com). The marina anchors the riverfront and has become a favorite stop for cruisers between the Intracoastal Waterway and the open Gulf waterway to Tampa. Along with dockage, there is lodging and a pool, plus WiFi, barbecue grills, laundry facilities and new showers.

Steinhatchee

Take a short cruise up the Steinhatchee River about 80 miles farther east from Carrabelle to the remote fishing village of Steinhatchee. This enchanting town on the Panhandle's Big Bend is a portal to the Old Florida lifestyle. Tie up and take in nature's backdrop of moss-draped oaks and majestic pines. Anglers will delight in the terrific offshore, inshore and fly fishing opportunities, and Steinhatchee has the best bay scalloping in the U.S. Rent a canoe or kayak and ease downstream past the pristine shoreline to enjoy the glorious scenery of the Steinhatchee riverfront. Local restaurants serve a variety of fresh seafood. Be sure to try a fried mullet sandwich, a specialty here and a true Panhandle treat.Dock at Sea Hag Marina (352-458-3008, seahag.com). The full-service facility is the largest and best-equipped in the area. It is easily accessed from the Gulf and has great docks, fuel, a ship's store, repair services, bait and tackle and a helpful, friendly crew. If you choose to stay ashore, Sea Hag also offers onsite lodging options.Whether you stay aboard or ashore, don't miss Sea Hag's lively tiki bar.

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