Florida Panhandle recommendations

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GiannaLuna
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Florida Panhandle recommendations

Post by GiannaLuna » Fri Aug 09, 2019 7:47 am

We have relatives in Montgomery AL, so looking to spend the winter/spring somewhere along the FLA Panhandle, in a rental.

We realize it's not tropical and that hurricanes have changed the landscape, nevertheless, somewhere nice and not too terribly chic or expensive would be a good wintering spot for us, we do not even have to be directly on the beach.

Suggestions for a town for snowbirds would be appreciated. Thanks.

daheld
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Re: Florida Panhandle recommendations

Post by daheld » Fri Aug 09, 2019 7:55 am

You can find affordable long term winter rentals in places like Gulf Shores, AL and Destin, FL.

I'd also check out Fairhope, AL, which is right on Mobile bay. It's a quaint little town that got it's start as a Utopian experiment. There's a unique history and it's just a fascinating little place.

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TexasPE
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Re: Florida Panhandle recommendations

Post by TexasPE » Fri Aug 09, 2019 8:08 am

daheld wrote:
Fri Aug 09, 2019 7:55 am

I'd also check out Fairhope, AL, which is right on Mobile bay. It's a quaint little town that got it's start as a Utopian experiment. There's a unique history and it's just a fascinating little place.
+1

Fairhope has a quaint/fun shopping area downtown, small museum and several good restaurants. We have stayed there for Thanksgiving. Mobile is ~30 minutes away... Gulf Shores less than an hour.

Take a look at Bay Breeze B&B

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Revie ... abama.html

Property is on the bay, with a dock. Two stand-alone 'mother-in-law' buildings for privacy/ quiet, a nice common area in the house, as well as bedrooms in the home. Excellent breakfast.

"Miss Becky" will treat you right!
At 20: I cared what everyone thought about me | At 40: I didn't give a damn what anyone thought of me | Now that I'm 60: I realize that no one was really thinking about me at all | Winston Churchill (?)

daheld
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Re: Florida Panhandle recommendations

Post by daheld » Fri Aug 09, 2019 8:11 am

TexasPE wrote:
Fri Aug 09, 2019 8:08 am
daheld wrote:
Fri Aug 09, 2019 7:55 am

I'd also check out Fairhope, AL, which is right on Mobile bay. It's a quaint little town that got it's start as a Utopian experiment. There's a unique history and it's just a fascinating little place.
+1

Fairhope has a quaint/fun shopping area downtown, small museum and several good restaurants. We have stayed there for Thanksgiving. Mobile is ~30 minutes away... Gulf Shores less than an hour.

Take a look at Bay Breeze B&B

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Revie ... abama.html

Property is on the bay, with a dock. Two stand-alone 'mother-in-law' buildings for privacy/ quiet, a nice common area in the house, as well as bedrooms in the home. Excellent breakfast.

"Miss Becky" will treat you right!
When I was growing up, we went to Gulf Shores literally every summer of my childhood. One year, we drove over to Fairhope and spent the day. It was a neat place that I'd like to visit again. I could easily rent a little place on the bay and just relax for a week. Gulf Shores is a great spot for families, but in the height of the summer it is just so crowded and busy.

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Kenkat
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Re: Florida Panhandle recommendations

Post by Kenkat » Fri Aug 09, 2019 8:16 am

There are so many little beach towns on the Florida panhandle that it is overwhelming to narrow it down. There are lots and lots of rentals available. Places I have had some direct experience with are Navarre Beach, Seaside, Panama City Beach and Destin. Navarre and Seaside are quieter while Panama City and Destin are bigger, busier and more touristy. I have also heard good things about Orange Beach (which is actually Alabama), Fort Walton Beach and Pensacola. Get on VRBO or AirBnB and see what’s available.

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lthenderson
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Re: Florida Panhandle recommendations

Post by lthenderson » Fri Aug 09, 2019 10:06 am

We rented beach houses in Panama City Beach for about a decade. They were plentiful since it is a spring break destination and we are staying in it during the off season. I don't know how reasonable they are price wise compared to other cities along the gulf coast but I never thought I was paying an exorbitant amount. They did get a lot cheaper just by being a block or two off the water.

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tennisplyr
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Re: Florida Panhandle recommendations

Post by tennisplyr » Fri Aug 09, 2019 5:00 pm

Those who move forward with a happy spirit will find that things always work out.

boogiehead
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Re: Florida Panhandle recommendations

Post by boogiehead » Fri Aug 09, 2019 5:12 pm

Used to travel to Destin/Fort Walton Beach annually for work, its a great area, however be aware that during college winter/spring breaks that area becomes a party city so the vibe totally changes for those few weeks for good or bad, depending if you want to partake :sharebeer

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GiannaLuna
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Re: Florida Panhandle recommendations

Post by GiannaLuna » Sun Aug 11, 2019 7:30 am

Thank you, some good suggestions here...I'll help narrow it down. Seems like the area is known for spring breakers and summer vacations for families.

Any ideas where the middle aged crowd may be? )if at all! LOL) Anywhere along the AL/FLA shores or close by would work.

Thanks

jaydub71
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Re: Florida Panhandle recommendations

Post by jaydub71 » Sun Aug 11, 2019 7:48 am

The off season (November - February) is very quiet. Mainly Snowbirds and Locals. Spring Breakers do not show up en masse until March/April depending on the timing of the various school spring breaks and Easter. You can generally tell when that is by looking at rental rates and when they increase. That is usually when the snowbirds leave as well.

The larger snowbird communities (organized activities, etc) are in Destin, Fort Walton Beach and Orange Beach/Gulf Shores. The snowbirds are primarily from the Midwest and Canada.

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GiannaLuna
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Re: Florida Panhandle recommendations

Post by GiannaLuna » Sun Aug 11, 2019 8:08 am

The snowbirds are primarily from the Midwest and Canada.

As a native NYer, that's music to my ears.

(joking people, native to upstate New York lol)

jaydub71
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Re: Florida Panhandle recommendations

Post by jaydub71 » Sun Aug 11, 2019 9:45 am

GiannaLuna wrote:
Sun Aug 11, 2019 8:08 am
The snowbirds are primarily from the Midwest and Canada.

As a native NYer, that's music to my ears.

(joking people, native to upstate New York lol)
No comment...but I will say while the volume of tourists in the spring and summer cause traffic issues, the snowbirds cause totally different traffic headaches...

wabbott
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Re: Florida Panhandle recommendations

Post by wabbott » Sun Aug 11, 2019 1:32 pm

We've stayed in many of the towns along Redneck Riviera, and our favorite is Panama City Beach, west end.

Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, AL are rather crowded, with many high-rise condos. Perdido Key, just a few miles down the road is less crowded. Good selection of restaurants all along the beach. Huge outlet mall nearby in Foley, AL that draws lots of folks.

Pensacola Beach is nice, but lots of day visitors come to Casino Beach. More limited restaurant selection.

Navarre is similar to Pensacola, not too crowded, but kinda skimpy on restaurants. Has some high rise buildings.

Ft Walton/Destin are the busiest. Lots of good eateries, shopping galore, and the crowds to go along with it. Traffic often gridlocks during the summer, yet they continue to build more condos, shopping centers, and restaurants. We sometimes stay there for a couple of days to sample the eateries, and enjoy Destin Harbor. Great for boat-watching and fishing charters. If you stay close to the harbor, you can walk to several of the better restaurants.

Along 30A, (Seaside, Grayton Beach, Rosemary Beach, etc) the restaurants and rentals are the priciest on the whole coast. Not crowded, but expect to pay nearly double for rentals there. Not many high rise condos. Great eateries, though.

Once you cross the Walton/Bay County line, you're in Panama City Beach, about 20 miles long. West End is uncrowded with few high rise condos. As you go eastward, density increases. Many, many good eateries all along the beach, along with shopping locations. Our second favorite restaurant in the world is PC Beach, Captain Anderson's. Grilled Bay Shrimp is to die for. For the last few visits, they've had Pompano on the menu.

Further east, you have St George Island, which I've never visited. Don't think it was badly damaged last October. Mexico Beach and St. Joe Peninsula were badly damaged.

We've not visited the beach in summertime for years, usually going in late spring, after the Spring Break crowds leave, or in mid October. Water is still warm enough to swim, and the June Grass is gone by then.

If you stay during winter, the crowds shouldn't be an issue, but it can get chilly. Water would be too cool for me. Spring Break cranks up in March, and is usually over by late April.

I've been traveling to PC Beach West End since 1959. It's the only place I've ever been that has that feeling of "coming home," except my own home town.

I would suggest you schedule a visit to your relatives soon, and take a day or two to travel the coast. Montgomery is about two hours away from PC Beach, and it'll take about 4 to 6 hours to drive along the coast.

Topic Author
GiannaLuna
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Re: Florida Panhandle recommendations

Post by GiannaLuna » Sun Aug 11, 2019 3:33 pm

Of all the beach choices, which seem to attract the biggest numbers of spring breakers versus snowbirds? thanks

spooky105
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Re: Florida Panhandle recommendations

Post by spooky105 » Sun Aug 11, 2019 4:21 pm

Live in Fort Walton Beach and periodically range from Pensacola / Navarre to Destin / Miramar / Grayton / Seaside...

Key to understanding this area is the role hwy 98 plays in transportation -- it's the major east/west road along the coast and can become a chokepoint between communities during tourist season when the number of cars and accidents increase. For example, driving from Fort Walton to Destin is about 15-20 min down hwy 98 or over an hour looping north around the airport / Niceville / Mid-Bay Toll Bridge. From Memorial Day to Labor Day we minimize our trips to Destin accordingly, particularly on the weekends when condos turn over. Outside of these peak summer hours, traffic isn't really a thing, though the occasional car accident can still mess things up.

I don't really see the region as a huge college spring break area in the same way that Panama City historically was. Certainly, there are parts of Destin that appeal to that crowd and I imagine Pensacola is similar in that regard (and maybe folks that live there feel differently), but outside of the peak summer hours the region is thoroughly livable.

rj342
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Re: Florida Panhandle recommendations

Post by rj342 » Sun Aug 11, 2019 5:32 pm

Panama City has the biggest national reputation as a party town. Maybe Pensacola Beach as number two.
Gulf Shores may be the the calmest one, particularly the west side, which has less of the high rise condo buildup, and Gulf Shores as a whole is less dense than Orange Beach. All kinds of in between places along the AL and FL coast where fewer bars and restaurants would probably have fewer spring breakers, but may be more isolated in general too. I am less familiar with the area from Destin toward Panama City, being from Mobile.

One advantage of the Alabama coast is you are within an hour of both Mobile and Pensacola (the city) if you want a bit more civilization. New Orleans only about 3 hours away for a break from your break that is completely different.
I will say that generally the water gets a bit prettier as you move from Gulf Shores toward Destin etc.

Another factor is there are tons of waterfront areas that are not on the ocean side beach where the congestion is, between back bays, the landward side of barrier islands etc, yet are still nearby. Dont overlook those. Fairhope, and nearby Point Clear, are a slightly different experience if you dont mind being a bit further from a real beach with breaking surf. Mobile Bay is wide enough you get beautiful sunsets.

themesrob
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Re: Florida Panhandle recommendations

Post by themesrob » Mon Aug 12, 2019 9:47 am

St. George Island. Quiet (no real spring break crowd), beautiful.

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Doom&Gloom
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Re: Florida Panhandle recommendations

Post by Doom&Gloom » Mon Aug 12, 2019 10:54 am

themesrob wrote:
Mon Aug 12, 2019 9:47 am
St. George Island. Quiet (no real spring break crowd), beautiful.
Our favorite due to the lack of crowds even at peak times, but restaurants are very limited.

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