In the panhandle, the time from November through February is considered the off-season. March brings the excitement of spring break and with summer comes a flood of tourists. The off-season is a chance for calmer days and less crowded beaches. It’s the perfect breath of fresh air for an area known for its tourism. There is still plenty to do for locals and visitors alike, you just have to know where to go.
Burn a Beach Bonfire
Beach bonfires are for cozying up even on the chilliest of days. There are companies all across the coast that can bring the bonfire to you! They take care of set up and tear down and all the safety measures that come with an open flame. If you’re feeling adventurous, there are some beaches that allow you to burn your own fire. On Panama City Beach and Miramar Beach permits are neccesary if you are hosting a bonfire, but in Gulf County, there is no permit required.
Zip to the Zoo
Take a walk on the wild side at one of the panhandle’s incredible zoos! At Zoo World on Panama City Beach, you can roar with the lions or feed budgie birds! Special encounters allow for kangaroo cuddles, hanging out with lemurs, or feeding gators a snack. At Gulf Breeze Zoo you can see rhinos, hippos, and even clouded leopards. For the full experience, you can try feeding an albino alligator, caring for a Nile hippo, or spending time with a Galapagos tortoise. At Emerald Coast Zoo in Crestview, you can admire a white tiger or a caracal. Their special encounters include feeding a black bear and training a lion.
Take A Winery for A Whirl
Wine not enjoy yourself while you’re in the 850? Take a sip of the finest reds and sweetest sauternes on the coast. There are several wineries to take your pick from scattered along the coast. Sip, swirl, and savor real Florida-made wines. Most have daily wine tastings so you can sample all the best flavors.
Stay Or Play At A State Park
There are more than 20 state parks in Northwest Florida just waiting to be explored. St. Andrews State Park is the perfect place to experience the sugar white sands on Panama City Beach. The park is a popular camping site where you can see deer, rabbits, and even alligators. Eden Gardens State Park has a surreal garden with hundreds of native flowers, reflection pools, fountains, and a gorgeous 1800s mansion. William J. Rish Park on Cape San Blas is designed to accommodate people with disabilities and their families. A mile of boardwalks offer full access to the beach.
Shop in Style
Shop ‘til you drop at any of the best small-town spots. In Apalachicola, you can stop by a bookstore, cafe, or browse an array of boutiques. You can find carefully curated antiques, beautiful apparel, and one-of-a-kind pieces for your home. Downtown Panama City has it’s own flavor to experience. With all varieties of cuisine, established antique stores, and clothing boutiques, there’s something for everyone. Port St. Joe has some of the best shopping with clothing, gifts, home decor and more.