THE Beach

Seven counties, one spectacular destination

Seven Counties, One Spectacular Destination

On Northwest Florida’s Gulf Coast, undiscovered white sand beaches – together with clear emerald waters, natural beauty, luxury accommodations, family-oriented entertainment and a relaxed, welcoming atmosphere – create wonderful experiences and lasting memories for all ages. A very special way of life has emerged, as witnessed by the loyal tourists who flock to the area year after year to enjoy the warm hospitality, beautiful accommodations, unique cuisine, boundless recreation, and, of course, the magnificent, sugar-white beaches.

While there are many beaches in the world, the unspoiled sands of Northwest Florida’s Gulf Coast are the only ones unique enough to be called, simply, THE Beach™. The area known as THE Beach consists of approximately 181 miles of some of the world’s most beautiful coastline. This stretch consists of Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton, Bay, Gulf and Franklin counties, and includes the destination areas of Pensacola, Navarre, Fort Walton Beach, Destin, Beaches of South Walton, Panama City Beach and Port St. Joe.

The possibilities for spending your time along this brilliant stretch of beach are endless. Restaurants, cafés and bistros abound, with something to tantalize every taste and please every palate. A true golfer’s haven awaits as players of all handicaps come from near and far to enjoy exceptional golf experiences year-round. Quaint boutiques featuring handcrafted items by local artisans sit alongside international retailers and world-renowned brands, offering an endless variety of shopping experiences. With galleries offering everything from traditional to modern art, myriad antique shops filled with eclectic collections, indulgent wine tastings and so much more, THE Beach is a colorful canvas of culture and art.

Are you attracted to the water? Freshwater and saltwater bays, lakes, rivers, bayous and open gulf waters offer hundreds of species of fish. With more than 225,000 acres of the area protected and maintained by national, state and local parks and preserves, THE Beach is a huge eco-tourism destination. From miles and miles of inland bays and waterways to the deep blue Gulf of Mexico, you can participate in every activity possible on and below the surface.

THE Beach hosts attractions ranging from aqua-cycles to zoos and everything in between. The variety of things to see and experience seems to go on forever. You won’t find its charm in any other coastal resort area – an unmistakable Southern sense of hospitality.

The natural beauty, luxury accommodations, great restaurants and shopping, relaxed, welcoming atmosphere, family-oriented entertainment, and unparalleled fishing and golfing experiences make THE Beach a place you will want to visit again and again. One trip to THE Beach’s medley of eclectic coastal towns and you’ll experience a way of life that will change yours – forever. 

Retail Recreation

Add a Shopping Adventure to Your Vacation Itinerary

Let’s face it: While enjoying the natural allure of the beach is what draws us to visit Northwest Florida, there are times when, because of weather or circumstance, one must forgo the pleasures of sand and surf. In that case, what’s a diva to do? Go shopping, of course!

From the nation’s largest designer outlet malls to the most-desired names in upscale retail and one-of-a-kind local boutiques, the “shopportunities” stretch for miles along the coastline right along with the sugar-white sands.

We’ll start our shopping tour at the easternmost reaches of the beach and follow the sun westward … .

Port St. Joe is a great place to stock up on beach essentials, or stop into the shops along historic Reid Avenue. On the way out of town, you just might be lured by Bluewater Outriggers, with its most interesting décor and both salt- and freshwater fishing and sport supplies.

Centrally located in town at the intersections of Highways 231 and 77 and 23rd Street is the indoor Panama City Mall, with 100 of our favorite department stores and specialty shops. Panama City’s Downtown is a quaint, historic area; art galleries, cafés and specialty shops are plentiful, and all are within walking distance. Harrison Avenue is lined with charming, one-of-a-kind boutiques and shops, such as the Olde Towne Antique Mall and Elegant Endeavors Antique Emporium.

Many popular retail names in the region can be found at The Village of Grand Panama, part of the beachside Grand Panama resort. These include Maharaja’s Fine Jewelry & Gifts, known for its fabulous and out-of-the-ordinary jewelry, and Luksus! Clothing, which specializes in European fashions.

One of the most exciting new shopping venues can be found just a seashell’s throw away from the surf at Panama City Beach’s new Pier Park, located across the street from the Dan Russell Pier on Front Beach Road. You’re sure to find just the right thing, with more than a million square feet of shopping and entertainment possibilities to choose from. For shopping, there are department stores, superstores, fashion retailers (Ann Taylor Loft, Chico’s, Jos. A. Bank, Victoria’s Secret), specialty stores (Ron Jon Surf Shop, Border’s Books & Music) and local favorites (Unique Boutique, BeBo’Z Collectables, Jake at the Beach, Trader Tom’s).

It’s going to take some searching to find the shopping gems along Highway 30A, but it’s definitely worth the effort. You’ll find a plethora of funky art galleries and unique retail shops in the beach communities that line this coastal roadway.

Once you get to U.S. Highway 98, you’ll never have to wander too far to find great bargains and several venues that make shopping a fun adventure in Destin.

First stop is Grand Boulevard at Sandestin, a new town center-style group of stores and restaurants featuring “big city” retailers such as J.Jill, The Orvis Company, Tommy Bahama Emporium and Coldwater Creek, as well as coastal casual “concept” stores like Brooks Brothers and J. Crew.

Turn right or left at the entrance to Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort and you can’t go wrong. Beachside, there’s The Market Shops, with lots of shopping possibilities. Or turn right and wind your way to The Village of Baytowne Wharf. Strolling around this little city by the (Choctawhatchee) bay is a pleasure, and the shops are one of a kind.

Just a few miles down the road is Silver Sands Factory Stores. Strap on your shopping shoes when you tackle this behemoth; it’s blocks long and boasts more than 100 stores, with outlet pricing on some of the best-loved names in fashion and accessories, including Coach, Saks Fifth Avenue, Nike, Liz Claiborne, Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren and Eddie Bauer.

When you see the ginormous fish as you approach Destin’s Mid-Bay Bridge, you’ve found the happening shopping destination of Destin Commons. It’s a strollable outdoor center with more than 80 stores and restaurants. By the way, that fish hangs above Bass Pro Shops, a fishing superstore sure to keep him enthralled while she wanders in and out of Banana Republic, Brighton Collectibles, Lucky Brand Jeans, Williams-Sonoma, White House/Black Market and more.

Keep your eyes peeled as you drive along the Emerald Coast Parkway – the smaller shopping centers along the road are loaded with one-of-a-kind stores and local chains like Teena Haven, Today’s boutique, Sporty Lady and Destin Jewelers, offering a huge variety of merchandise. Take a little detour before you get to the East Pass Bridge and visit HarborWalk. It has specialty stores, art galleries and tons of places to eat, as well as a beautiful view of Destin Harbor.

Like Panama City, Fort Walton Beach has a historic downtown area with lots of shops within ambling distance. Our final destination is just a little further down the coast, the Santa Rosa Mall. It’s got your department stores (including Belk and Sears) and mall favorites like Old Navy and Bath & Body Works.

The Facts

• We span 181 miles of beautiful sugar-white sand.

• We have over 60,000 units along THE Beach.

• More than 225,000 acres of land at THE Beach is protected and maintained by national, state and local parks and preserves.

• The area is home to 13 State and National Parks.

• Golf courses designed by legends such as Greg Norman, Tom Fazio, and Fred Couples.

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