Our first trip to Panama City Beach as a family vacation. Our family includes me, my husband, daughter who is 20 years old, and son who is 16 years old. We usually go to Destin, and know it backwards and forwards. This trip, my husband wanted to come to PC because that is where he always went as a kid. I was excited to go somewhere different, and am so grateful for all the very helpful advice I found on this forum. Keep up the good work! We had a really good time, so let me get started.
Friday we had to wait until after H16 had football practice, so plenty of time for last minute packing. We live between Montgomery and Troy, in a rural area. So we loaded up in 2 cars and left for Troy, got on 231 to Panama City Beach! Ate in Dothan at Ruby Tuesday's. Got to PC about 4:30 p.m. Traffic was really bad from Troy all the way through Dothan. Slowed us down a bit. Drove around a little and then on to the cottage on the west end of PC in Sunnyside. The view from our cottage was amazing. I have posted some pics. It sits on a bluff overlooking the beach. Public beach access # 90 is between this place and the house next door, and is how you get to the beach. Water was beautiful, sand was white. Had to tear myself away to unpack and make all the beds. It was a cottage w/ 2 bedrooms and 1 bath in the main part of the house, and 1 bedroom and 1 bath in an addition off of the carport. It is older, built in 1948, still owned by the same family that built it. You must take all your linens ( I took plastic mattress covers also). It has a kitchen and combo dining and living area. One TV w/ cable. But I go to the beach to stay outside anyway! Left the TV to the others. I loved the area we were in, quiet and friendly. The beach was never really empty, but never crowded either. After we unpacked, made a trip to Winn Dixie for things I didn't bring. It was 5 minutes away. Then rested a little, got changed and went out. We ate at Pompano's, the waiting area was crowded,and we were told the wait would be an hour. We only waited about 15 minutes before we were seated. We had an appetizer of Shrimp Pompano. It was delicious. Next time I will get that for my entree. The salads were good, and other food included grilled shrimp, grilled scallops, shrimp pasta and stuffed grouper. It was all delicious. We had a very sweet waitress, who kept our glasses full. A very enjoyable first experience in PCB.
Saturday morning H49 and I went to breakfast at Mike's Diner. He loves breakfast, and declared it a winner. I had hashbrowns, bacona and coffee. He had the full breakfast. Enjoyed it. Then we went to Thomas' Donuts and I stood in line for about 45 minutes. They had 2 windows open, and 2 lines. We were standing in the sun, but I was determined to get the donuts I had heard so much about. Got 2 dozen, a mixture of vanilla cream filled, key lime, chocolate glazed, and plain glazed. Over the next 2 days we enjoyed them, but they would have been better if I had bought them fresh each day. Didn't get to try the cream filled, but H16 said they were good. Ate lunch in, had sandwiches and chips. Enjoyed the perfect weather for the afternoon. That night we went in search of Boondocks. I had printed the directions off of here, and it took us right to it. Thanks! Had a wait of about 30-40 minutes. Shopped in gift shop and bought a tshirt while waiting. Had a female singer/guitar player outside on deck. We were seated in a large open room, very nice. The waitress recommended the fried shrimp. Normally, I do not eat fried seafood, but took her suggestion. They were so good. Had fried grouper and shrimp, as did H20; H16 had grilled shrimp w/peppers and onions and H49 had fried shrimp. The hushpuppies and cole slaw were very good also. We all really enjoyed our meals. As we were paying, the cashier overheard me say that I wished I had taken some of our hushpuppies to feed the ducks on the way out (they roam around the building). She said they love hushpuppies, and then she smuggled us some crackers, which we had fun feeding to the ducks. Left there, went and did some souvenier shopping, and went to Ripley's. The museum is about the same as the one I had been to in Gatlinburg. Enjoyed reading the real letters sent to Ripley over the years posted on the walls of the museum. We also rode the 4D virtual roller coaster. You basically sit in a chair that moves in all directions while you wear special glasses and watch the movie on the screen. We enjoyed it. Lots of small children riding without any complications. Very nice employees. After this, back to cottage for the night. H20 and I enjoyed sitting on the deck every night and looking at the full moon, listening to the waves.
Sunday we did not leave the cottage until late morning. Had coffee and donuts for breakfast. Then H49 and I went riding around sightseeing, getting our bearings. We had one of the free fold out maps and it was very helpful. There were menus, maps, even a boating map at our cottage. They were very helpful. We picked up whatever we went to that they did not have info on and left it for the next visitors. After riding around a while, we ended up at Schooner's for lunch. Very laid back atmosphere, people were coming right off the beach to eat. I had the grilled grouper sandwich. H49 had the stuffed fried shrimp. Just okay, but great view right on the beach. The beach is congested there. Lots of people having lots of fun. I think they have a beach cam you can view on the web. After lunch, back to the cottage for a little R & R. We enjoyed being right on the beach so much, I have become spoiled to it. That night we went to Angelo's for supper. No wait at all! Front Beach Road did not have a lot of traffic either, I guess because it was Sunday. We got a booth, and ordered pretty quickly. H49 and I had the ribeye, H20 had the ladies cut sirloin, and H16 had the biggest steak on the menu - the 32 ounce t bone. He finished every bite with no problem, but you know how teenaged boys can eat! H20 said her steak was very good. Mine was good, but not as good as I expected from the reviews on TA. I had it medium rare and it was cooked correctly, but it was a little tough. Next visit I plan on trying the filet. A good time was had by all. Then outside for pics with Gus, a little more shopping, and home.
Monday H49 went to breakfast alone at the All American Diner. He had the buffett, and said it was okay, but it did not compare to Mike's. He also did not want to go back again. Later that morning I went to the new Target at Pier Park. It is nice, about the same as the one in Montgomery, but not really well stocked. I am sure it will get better. Then we attempted to go to Shell Island. We had reserved a pontoon through Scotty's, but when we got there they recommended against it due to a storm on the radar. Zach was so nice at Scotty's. We had heard some thunder on the way over, and it was cloudy. So we rescheduled with Zach for the next a.m. and went to the Boatyard for lunch. H20 and I had the BLT w/ sweet potatoe fries. It was delicious. H49 had grilled grouper, I think. He was not impressed. H16 had gumbo, and grilled grouper. He loves any and all seafood, so he was happy. It was drizzly while there, and we sat right on the rail. The Pirate Ship was docked there, and the pirates were walking back and forth loading things onto the ship. My kids (20 and 16 but I still consider them my kids) did not want to go, but I know it would be fun for younger ones. We left there and did some more shopping in the little souvenier shops for H16. Then back to cottage for some sun. Had not rained there at all. That night we went to Hammerhead Fred's. We loved it. We had a wait of about 20 minutes or so. A band was playing outside on the covered deck area. This place was crowded! Cute tshirts, so we all got one here. We were seated at a high table in the bar area, but we enjoyed the atmosphere and the decorations. OMG, I had the best shrimp I have ever eaten. I got the appetizer of Shrimp Trinidad for my meal, and it was amazing. It comes with the shell on, and it is difficult to remove (not sure why) but oh so worth it. I had to share with the rest of my family. H20 said it was the best shrimp she had ever had also. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed their supper at Hammerhead Fred's.
Tuesday a.m. we got up bright and early for our 8:30 appt. at Scotty's ( we only rented for 1/2 day ). I would have loved to go for the whole day, but I was outvoted. We stopped by Mike's for breakfast. Very good again. Then on to Scotty's. This time we had gorgeous weather, and dealt with Scott. Is this Scotty? Not sure, but he is very nice, and talks very fast. You have to pay attention. Our boat was nice, and H49, H16, and myself took turns driving. We saw several dolphins, but one lone dolphin came right up to our boat and raised out of the water looking at us. It was so exciting. I have a pic posted, but was so excited I was surprised it turned out well. We went to the area that the island narrows. Anchored, there were about 3 other boats there, one was a small speed boat, the others were pontoons. H16 snorkeled in the bay some. We all played in the bay. It was clear and beautiful. Then we walked over to the gulf side and played in the water there. It was gorgeous, clear and shallow. We had the best time. I picked up a few shells walking back over in the sand, but none from the water. Maybe next time. Then we went back through the bay under the bridge. There is nothing to see over there. Wish we would have gone around to the mouth of the gulf instead, as Scott suggested. We will next visit for sure. Then back to turn in the boat. We were all pretty tired from swimming, so we went back by Winn Dixie, and I ran in and got stuff to cook hamburgers for lunch. Enjoyed lunch and the beach area at the cottage for the afternoon. That night, we did not want to go too far away, so we went to Bayou Bill's. It was right down the road from where we were staying, in the Winn Dixie parking lot. This is a big restaurant. We had a short wait to be seated, but then sat at our table for about 15 minutes without anyone coming by at all. The table next to us had a different server, and he never looked at us. I did not want to say anything, so when our server finally came we just ordered our drinks. We got the crab dip appetizer w/ tortilla chips. It was very good. Entree was okay, nothing special. I don't eat crab legs, but saw people with buckets of whole crab and crab legs. I am sure they are good, since that is their specialty. It was a pricey meal.
Wednesday morning H49 and I went into Panama City. First we went to the Titanic Exhibit. We enjoyed it. H20 had seen it on a field trip in another city while in high school, and H16 was not interested in getting up early two days in a row, so he passed on it. We found it okay, and both of our passengers perished in the shipwreck. It is a lot of reading, but interesting if you like history, and we do. After we got home, I read a handout given to us there, and there is a replica of the ship as is appears on the ocean floor at the Knology building. We missed that. After this, we went in search of antique shops (my hobby). We made a stop or two, then stumbled upon Uncle Ernie's on St. Andrews Bay. By this time it was raining really hard. UE's sits right on the bay, and has outside seating. While we were sitting there, one of the open umbrellas on the outside deck broke right in half and fell over the side. It was really windy. But we enjoyed our meal. I had grilled tuna, med well. Wish I had gotten it med or med rare. But it had a delicious flavor and was a wonderful presentation on the plate. Had shrimp around the edge, some of them weren't fully cooked and we could not eat them. H49 had grouper surrounded by scallops and shrimp. He enjoyed it. Seems to be a local business man's hangout for lunch. Neat building, friendly staff. While sitting there we realized the marina outside of the building on St. Andrews Bay was the marina we saw from our pontoon boat. Still raining a little when we left. Went to a couple of antique malls downtown, and then back to the cottage. H20 said they had a downpour while we were gone. This day was a total washout as far as weather was concerned. Still enjoyed being at the beach, in any weather! That night we made our worst dining mistake. I tried to warn H49, told him I had only seen bad reviews on Trip Advisor. We went to Dirty Dick's. We were disappointed in the decor, atmosphere, and food. Our server was very nice though. I had the rock shrimp w. cheese and corn grits. It was okay, but I didn't eat much of it. H49 got steak, cannot remember kids entrees. We all agreed to skip this place from now on.
Thursday, our last full day at the beach! For this reason, I wanted to spend as much time out there as possible. We rode waves on a pink float, picked up tons of shells, tried to get a lot more. The waves were rough, and it was cloudy and raining far away over the horizon, but only a sprinke or two on us. I had 1/2 bucket full of shells and then a wave knocked me down, I lost them all! I started over and collected that many more again. It was tons of fun. Lunch in, had sandwiches again. Back outside for a little while. Then we had planned to go to Goofy Golf, but H20 got a little sunburned and could not stand to be in the sun. So we shopped a little, took H16 back so he could go to a Luau sponsored by a visiting church youth group staying at Grand Cayman Hotel. He really enjoyed it. Two people had come by and invited us all. They had hot dogs, music, and a speaker. D49, D20, and I went to Captain Anderson's for supper. This was the longest wait we had for a table, about an hour or a little over. We enjoyed the atmosphere and historic building. Our food was very good also. Our waitress seemed tired, but we enjoyed our last night out. I had stuffed grouper, and also the she-crab soup. It was great. I will definitely return.
Friday morning our check out was 10:00 a.m., so we got up early and packed and straightened up the cottage. I went down to the beach one last time. We left, stopped in Dothan at TGI Fridays for lunch, then home. I miss it already and cannot wait to go back and try the things we missed this trip.
Things we wanted to do but did not:
Calypso Beach Cafe (my choice instead of Dirty Dick's)
Shuckum's ( thought would do lunch on way out, but left too early)
All in all, a great vacation, and better yet, time spent with family!
Thanks again for all the great info I gleaned from this site. You all were so helpful. Hope your trips all turn out the way you want them to!