Panama City Beach is located in Bay County, Florida and is situated on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. It covers an area of seven square miles and has a population of just over seven thousand residents. Panama City Beach is a popular tourist destination and is considered to be the spring break capital of the world. This is due to the fact that over one hundred thousand college students arrive in the city in March and April to celebrate their spring break from school. The official slogan of the city is “The world’s most beautiful beaches”. This slogan comes from the fact that the city has very unique white beaches that is specific to the northern portion of Florida. This is in stark contrast to what the original founders of the city thought of the beaches. These original residents often referred to it as the ‘ugly white beaches’.
Before Panama City Beach was officially founded, the area of St. Andrew’s Bay was home to many different tribes of Native Americans. It was a popular gathering spot for these indigenous tribes because the Gulf of Mexico afforded them an abundant supply of fish. The area was also a popular location for pirates to land. Pirate ships would lay in wait in the recesses of the bay to ambush trade ships on route to Spain and Mexico. It is also believed that many pirates kept treasure hoards in the area for safe keeping. The discovery of a Spanish galleon and a seven hundred pound cannon recovered during the 1960s proved the accuracy of this theory. Some people believe that there are still hidden treasure and loot located in the Panama City Beach area. Because of the prominence of so many sunken ships, this city has recently been called “the shipwreck capital of the New World”. Though there were many settlers around the area for hundreds of years, the city didn’t officially begin its life until May of 1936. The name of the city can be attributed to its proximity to the newly erected Panama Canal. The year before the founding of the city, an entrepreneur named Gideon Thomas erected the Panama City Hotel. He believed that the area was the prime location to attract tourists. He was initially scoffed at by his peers who argued that the venture was doomed to fail from the start. Much to the chagrin, Panama City Beach caught on as a tourist attraction and has seen ever building waves of visitors ever since those humble beginnings.
The city was known at this time for a popular bar called The Hangout. This bar would attract many tourists and even celebrities for the thirty plus years it was in operation. The bar was destroyed in 1975, however, by Hurricane Eloise. Another attraction that was synonymous with the city was the Miracle Strip Amusement Park and Observation Tower. This amusement park was built in the 1960’s and was very popular with families vacationing in the area. It contained many rides which included a wooden roller coaster called “Starliner”. The observation tower rose over two hundred feet tall and allowed visitors a chance to see over the buildings in the area and get a birds eye view of the beach. In 1995, the observation tower was torn down and the amusement park closed in 2004. Fortunately, other family friendly attractions have been erected to take its place, as well as a large collection of motels, hotels and condos.
Now, Panama City Beach is an area that is alive with popular tourist attractions. One of the most popular attractions in the city is the Shipwreck Island Water Park. This water park is located on twenty acres and contains many key amenities. One of these features is the gigantic wave pool that contains over half a million gallons of water. This pool provides excellent swimming fun and is staffed by professional lifeguards. The Racing Slide is a sixty-five foot falls that allow guest to slide down at thirty-five miles an hour. For those looking for a white water experience, their is the Rapid River Run. Other features of the water park include Tree Top Drop, Zoom Flume, White Knuckle River, Jumps Ship and Skull Island. This park is great fun for the entire family.
Ripley’s Believe It or Not is a three story museum that features world renowned oddities. It was opened in 2006 and quickly become one of the most popular attractions in the city. Its designed to look like a shipwrecked cruise liner. It contains a 4D movie theater ride and has fifteen exhibits. Exhibits include two headed animals, shrunken heads and a double sided mirror. Also located in Panama City Beach is the Funland Arcade. This arcade is the oldest one of its kind in the northern portion of Florida and was established in 1953. The arcade contains over one hundred arcade games and children’s rides. The arcade also has a restaurant that serves all three meals every day, seven days a week. Also located on site is an Ice cream bar that serves treats such as cones, banana splits and thick milkshakes.
Other popular attractions in Panama City Beach include Barnacle Bay Miniature Golf, Emerald Coast Mirror Maze, Camp Helen State Park, PCB Sand Sports, Coastal Parasail, Flippers, Betsy Ann Riverboat, Emerald Coast Kiteboarding, Pirate’s Island Adventure Golf and helicopter tours by Panhandle Helicopter. There are also a lot of great restaurants and hotels. Popular restaurants in the city include Dirty Dick’s Crab House, Spinnaker Beach Club & Restaurant and Angelo’s Steak Pit. Hotels in the city include Edgewater Beach Resort, Boardwalk Beach Resort Hotel, Calypso Resort & Towers, Wyndham Vacation Resort Panama City Beach, Long Beach Resort and Holiday Inn Sunspree Resort. Overall, the city is a beautiful place to visit, whether your looking for a fun family escape, want to hit the area for fun spring break action or just want to enjoy the beautiful beaches with deep blue water and elegant white sands.