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Florida Panhandle Beach Cities and Bars

 
 
 
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The Florida Panhandle, known for its white sugar sand beaches, is about 200 miles long and home to dozens of Florida beach bars. Beachside cities include Pensacola Beach, Destin and Panama City Beach. It is affectionately referred to by locals as "The Redneck Rivera". That's because many of its visitors come from the surrounding southern states. Panhandle beach bars can be found on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico from Perdido Key east to Mexico Beach. It has some of the warmest and friendliest people you will ever find. It also has some of the most famous Florida beach bars.

The Florida Panhandle named for the simple fact that it is shaped like the handle of a frying pan. The Florida Panhandle is a bit of old Florida and new Florida construction and mind set. Certain sections of the Panhandle were damaged by hurricanes Opal and Ivan. The result is newer construction mixed with the Old Florida look.

One thing to keep in mind about the Panhandle is its northern location. Unlike South Florida, winter months can be cool and are considered off season. Temperatures from November to February average lows in the 40s and highs in the 60s. When it is off season, many bars cut back on live entertainment and may have shortened hours of operation.

Perdido Key
Perdido Key is located at Florida's westernmost point right next to the Alabama border. Hit hard by Hurricane Ivan in 2004, many of the buildings on Perdido Key are new. But among the new condos and beach homes is Flora-Bama Lounge & Package voted a Top 10 Florida Beach Bar in 2012 and 2013. The Alabama line is about six feet from the Flora-Bama's western outside wall. The north side marina and parking lot, however, is located on Old River in Alabama, thus the beach bar's name.

The Flora-Bama opened in the fall of 1964. It was supposed to open in the spring, but the day before it opened it was consumed by a fire. It was destroyed once again in 2004 by Hurricane Ivan and over the years was rebuilt from that damage.


  Flora-Bama Lounge & Package  
  Flora-Bama Lounge and Package | Perdido Key – The "Bama" is located on the beach at the Florida Alabama border. It was the inspiration for the Buffett "Bama Breeze" song. It was a Top 10 Florida Beach Bar 2012 and 2013.  


The down and dirty "Bama" is more like a collection of bars within a bar. It has upstairs, downstairs, inside, and outside bars, has a number of stages, and it is right on the beach. It is home to the annual Interstate Mullet Toss. Jimmy Buffett's song "Bama Breeze", although not mentioned by name, was written about the Flora-Bama. In his song "Rag Top Day", Buffett sings, "We gonna cruise on down to the Gulf, and listen to some Western music, get ourselves a cool one at the Flora-Bama." Kenny Chesney's "Coastal" mentions the Flora-Bama saying "We just take a little getaway, cruise it down the A1A, Flora-Bama to the Keys"

The Bama is done rebuilding after Hurricane Ivan, but don’t expect anything other than its original rustic look. If you are a beach bar aficionado, you must visit the Flora-Bama.  To paraphrase and take a little liberty with one of Jimmy Buffett’s songs, “It is hard to describe the Flora-Bama, if you haven’t seen it”.

Pensacola Beach
Just east of Perdido Key is Pensacola, the home of the Blue Angels, the U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron. Cross over the bridge from the mainland to Santa Rosa Island, and you are on Pensacola Beach. Santa Rosa Island is one of the longest barrier islands in the world. A good portion of the eastern end of the island is the National Seashore. Pensacola Beach is on the west end of the Island.

Pensacola Beach is a smaller beach community, about 5,000 residents, where the locals all seem to know each other, and tourists are more than welcome. The center of town is surrounded by beach bars, restaurants, and parking lots. It is a place where visitors enjoy the beaches by day and the beach bars after the sun sets.

If you like jets, then you'll like Pensacola. It is the home of the National Naval Aviation Museum which it shares with the United States Navy's Blue Angels Flight Demonstration Squadron. If you arrive at the right time, you me even catch some practice flights. The National Naval Aviation Museum is a military and aerospace museum located at Naval Air Station Pensacola. If you want a break from beach bar life, stop by and see decades of vintage naval aircraft and test your fighter skills in a flight simulator.


  Blue Angels  
  National Naval Aviation Museum | Pensacola Beach – Pensacola is the home of The National Naval Aviation Museum which it shares with the United States Navy's Blue Angels Flight Demonstration Squadron.  


Pensacola Beach is home to a number of beach bars, some old favorites, some rebuilt as a result of hurricane damage, and some new. Beach bars include; Bamboo Willie's Beachside Bar, Capt'n Fun Beach Club, Crabs We Got Em, Flounders, Hemingway's Island Grill, Hooter's - Pensacola Beach, Land Shark Landing, ParadiseBar and Grill, Pegleg Pete's Oyster Bar, Sandshaker Lounge, and The Dock.
Bushwacker
The Sandshaker, more like a typical neighborhood bar than a classic beach bar, is the birth place of the Bushwacker, a frozen rum drink. In 1975 the then owner of the Sandshaker tasted a Bushwacker drink in the Caribbean. He took the basic ingredients and experimented with them until he perfected the Bushwacker of today. The Sandshaker Lounge was voted a Top 10 Florida Beach Bar in 2012, 2013 and 2014. Every bar in town offers their version of a Bushwacker and many claim their drink is better than the original. The real fun is in tasting them all and making your own judgment. But if you will only settle for the original, you'll find it at Sandshaker.



  Quietwater Beach Boardwalk  
  Quietwater Beach Boardwalk | Pensacola Beach – Quietwater Beach Boardwalk is on the beach complete with a pier. Here you will find Bamboo Willies, Capt'n Fun Beach Club, Hemingway's Island Grill, and Hooters.  


Just as you cross the bridge from the mainland is the Quietwater Beach Boardwalk, home to several beach bars including; Bamboo Willies, Capt'n Fun Beach Club, and Hooters of Pensacola Beach. The bars are side by side and are on the north beach of Santa Rosa Island. Walk down a few steps from the Boardwalk and you can be playing beach volleyball or perfecting your sun tan in the sand. Quietwater Beach Boardwalk is also accessible by boat.

Across the street from Quietwater is The Sandshaker Lounge. It was voted a Top 10 Florida Beach Bar in 2012, 2013, and 2014. Sandshaker is reminiscent of an old classic beach bar. It is not on the beach but is near the bay and the Gulf. Things here usually get started a little later in the evening. The big bandstand features some great entertainers and looks out over an outdoor bar where crowds gather to listen and dance to the music.


  Sandshaker Lounge  
  Sandshaker Lounge | Pensacola Beach – The Sandshaker is the birth place of the Bushwacker. It was voted a Top 10 Florida Beach Bar in 2012, 2013, and 2014.  


Every bar in town offers their own version of a Bushwacker, a frozen rum drink. Many claim theirs is better than the original. The real fun is in tasting them all and making your own decision. However, if you will only settle for the original Bushwacker, you’ll have to visit Sandshaker.

In 1975, the then owner of the Sandshaker tasted a Bushwacker drink in the Caribbean. He took the basic ingredients and experimented with them until he perfected the Bushwacker of today.

Just east of the center of Pensacola Beach is a place called the Paradise Inn, a typical, old Florida motel. But this motel has a twist. At the end of the front parking lot is a Florida beach bar. This isn't just any beach bar. In 2011 it was voted one of the Top 10 Beach Bars in Florida by visitors to FloridaBeachBar.com. In 2012,2013 and 2014 it was again voted a top 10 beach bar in Florida. Paradise Inn is one of only four Top 10 Florida beach bars to be voted into the Top 10 4 years in a row.


  Paradise Inn Bar and Grill  
  Paradise Inn Bar and Grill | Pensacola Beach –The Paradise Inn Bar and Grill is between the back parking lot of the Paradise Inn Motel and the beach. It was voted a TOP 10 FloridaBeachBar.com winner in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014.  


Paradise Inn Bar and Grill is on the beach, has boat access, and most of all, great live entertainment. Paradise Inn management is very clever in that they book bands on their way from Orlando to New Orleans and back. The bands provide the music and the Paradise Inn serves up the rooms. The bands are fantastic.

Fred Simmons, owner of the Paradise Inn, says that his father was the inspiration for building the motel. His dad told him to buy some land by the beach and by a main road and then take care of mankind. When he first saw this vacant land location on Pensacola Beach, he knew this was where he would honor is father's wishes. The rest is history. Fred, along with his staff, have taken care of his customers, staff, and the visiting bands. And it shows.

LandShark Landing
, a Jimmy Buffett property adjacent to the Margaritaville Beach Hotel, is right on the beach and is surrounded by sand. The tiki-like building is part of the hotel and serves many of the classic Margaritaville favorites including a Cheeseburger in Paradise TM. The beach surrounding the bar is speckled with hammocks, Adirondack chairs, and other Buffett items. If you are a Jimmy Buffett fan, this is Margaritaville heaven.

Navarre Beach
Head east from Pensacola Beach on State Route 98 or take the more scenic view on 399 (Gulf Boulevard) along National Seashore to Navarre Beach. After miles of pristine white beach and beautiful sand dunes, you will arrive at Navarre Beach. Navarre Beach is another victim of Hurricane Ivan along with numerous other hurricanes such as Erin and Opal in 1995, and Hurricane Dennis in July 2005. This is a lot for one little community to weather through. Hurricanes caused significant damage to Navarre Beach due to its position on a low-lying barrier island. Then Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Hurricane Gustav in 2008 made their own impact. There was also the economic trauma caused by the BP Oil Spill of 2010. This community has had the heart and spirit to weather it all.

  Gulf Islands National Seashore  
  Gulf Islands National Seashore | Santa Rosa Area –The Gulf Islands National Seashore between Pensacola Beach and Navarre is miles of pristine, sugar white sand. There's nothing on these beaches but sand and visitors enjoying the very best that nature has to give. It's not a beach bar but it is a high.  


In 1979 Jaws 2 was filmed at Navarre Beach with some scenes shot at The Holiday Inn. This Holiday Inn was also a victim of Hurricane Ivan. Navarre Beach has built its way back. Symbolic of the rebuilding is the Navarre Beach Pier, the longest on the gulf coast. It offers fishing, great views and a beach bar, The Pier Bar and Grill. It is just a little Florida beach bar and restaurant that happens to be in a perfect location.


  Juana's Pagodas Sailor's Grill | Navarre Beach  
  Juana's Pagodas Sailor's Grill | Navarre Beach – Juana's Pagodas has it all. There is the Sailor's Grill which opens at 8:00 AM, and you can enjoy a lovely breakfast on their deck. They even have fresh baked goods. The smell of breads, muffins, cakes and sticky buns will definitely entice you.  


Just down the road is Juana's Pagodas, a series of restaurants, shops and bars. Sailor's Grill offers breakfast on the deck complete with fresh baked goods. But the all the action of this Florida beach bar takes place in the Pagodas, a place that started as a small tiki bar decades ago. Juana's is Navarre's oldest restaurant. This Florida beach bar has a lot of events and volleyball tournaments are one of them. You can spend the day at Juana's and find something to do all the time. Juana's even has regattas. In season you can rent wave runners. You can also dock your boat at Juana's.

Destin
Destin is both a beach and fishing community located between Navarre Beach and Panama City Beach. Its history dates back to the 16th century and is named after Captain Leonard Destin who pioneered the fishing industry. Captain Destin settled in Destin in 1845, but it wasn't until the condominium building spurt in the 1970's that this town started to grow. And it was in the 1980's that Destin's growth really took off. It is known as the "World's Luckiest Fishing Village". When the fleet, or just a local tour boat, comes back to the dock, there are Drinks and Pizza to goplenty of beach bars in which to share fish stories. Over 10,000 people call Destin home.

Miramar Beach is Destin's sugar white sand gulf beach. The north side houses condos and resorts. Across the street, the beach is lined with beach umbrellas and lounges that stretch the length of Gulf Shore Drive. While some resorts feature tiki bars, Pompano Joe's is one of the few places on the beach that serves as both a restaurant and bar.

The highest concentration of beach bars and waterside restaurants is at Destin's Harbor Walk. Located on Harbor Blvd. (SR 98) it extends the length of Destin Harbor. These beach bars and restaurants combine the fishing roots of Destin with the best qualities of good beach bars. Park your car and walk the boardwalk, and you will find fishing contests, live music and a festive atmosphere.

It seems like you can walk the dock forever finding one beach bar after another, some old, some new. If you like beach bars, or fishing, you could easily spend a day here. Local favorites include AJ's Seafood and Oyster Bar, The Boathouse, and the Red Door Saloon. They are not on the beach, but they are on the water. That's good news for boaters, because you can dock your boat. This fisherman's paradise offers fishing competitions and is a great place to have a few drinks after a day out on the water.


  Boathouse Oyster Bar  
  The Boathouse | Destin –The Boathouse refers to themselves as Destin's best kept secret. Outside it looks like an old fishing shack on the dock. The food is good and so is the music. It's a great place to sit on the dock and watch the world go by on a boat.  


Located at the far east end of Harbor Walk is the Boathouse, a local legend that proclaims it is Destin's "Best kept Secret". It all began in 1986 when Wanda "Mamma Gumbo" Green and Paul "Action" Jackson took over the business. With names like that you know this place is different. This very rustic bar has dollar bills stapled to the walls and a ceiling filled with bras that rivals Captain Tony's in Key West. It all leaves one impression. This is a place where you can have a good time.

Among others, the Boathouse features local entertainer Kelly Bird who mixes trop rock music with his own story like songs that always entertain the crowd. Like many Panhandle bars, live music is only available from March through October.


Panama City Beach
Panama City Beach has 27 miles of sugar white sand and is the largest beach town in the Panhandle. It is home to over 12,000 people and a dozen or so Florida Beach Bars. Located in the middle of the Panhandle, it is the Spring Break Capital of the World. Its slogan may say it all, "The World's Most Beautiful Beaches".


  Panama City Beach  
  Panama City Beach – Promoted as "The World's Most Beautiful Beaches", this is the largest beach town in the Panhandle with 27 miles of beach.  


Once an old Florida beach city, new condos have sprung up everywhere. So, on one side of the beach are the tropical blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Much of the other side is lined with mega sized condos, some reaching over 30 stories into the sky. Scattered among them are some world famous, old style beach bars like Sharky's Beachfront Restaurant and Tiki Bar. Thankfully this beach bar survived the tear down and condo building craze of a few years ago.

The recent building boom and spring break have both reshaped the Panama City Beach area. It is a very busy place during season and especially during spring break. Three roads run parallel to the beach to help move traffic; Front Beach Road, Middle Beach Road and Back Beach Road. Getting there is easier than ever with the opening of the new Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport (ECP) in Panama City.

Panama City Beach draws nearly a half million spring breakers each year. The local beach bars are packed with college students letting off steam and partying. If you are a spring breaker, you have to consider Panama City Beach. It is where the action is. Many of the beach bars are designed to handle large crowds and each one has special events for spring break visitors.


  Gulf Islands National Seashore  
  Pier Park | Panama City Beach – Pier Park is located just across the street from Panama City Beach and has 1 million square feet of shopping and entertainment. Beach bars include Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville and Pompano Joe's. Both have a great view of the beach.  


One of its newest attractions is Pier Park, a collection of retail stores, restaurants and bars. At its beachside entrance is Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville. There you can sit on the front deck and enjoy great views of the Panama City Beach and the Gulf of Mexico. It is also home to Pompano Joe's.

It's the older, famous Panama City beach bars that are the most interesting and entertaining. Schooners is on the east end of Panama City Beach and further away from the action. They call themselves "The Last Local Beach Club". It is a rustic, old Florida bar that is loved by the locals.

Hurricane Opal nearly destroyed the beach bar in 1995 just 8 days after it was purchased by its current owner. It was rebuilt not as a new bar, but as the same old Schooners it was before the hurricane. By the way, you might think Schooners was chosen as a name because of its nautical connection. Not so. Schooner is an Australian term referring to a container of beer.


  Schooners  
  Schooners | Panama City Beach – Schooner's calls itself "the last local beach bar", and it is one of the best. This true Florida beach bar has been around a long time, and although it took a beating in Hurricane Opal, it is alive and well today.  


Further west at the heart of Panama City Beach is Sharky's Beachfront Restaurant and Tiki Bar sporting 15,000 square feet of deck and dining. Its tiki hut is the largest open air "palapa" in the United States constructed with over 100,000 cabbage palm fronds and thousands of cypress knees and poles. It is a true tiki bar.

Sharky's first opened nearly 30 years ago. It was the dream of a local beach boy Clark "The Shark" Bennett. Clark worked as a lifeguard on Panama City Beach, graduated from Florida State University, worked in a bank. He traded it all in for Sharky's. He has since passed away, but his dream lives on. One visit to Sharky's, and you will be sharing his dream.



  Sharky's Beach Club  
  Sharky's Beach Club | Panama City Beach – Sharky's has a 15,000 square foot deck and the largest open air “palapa” in the United States. That's room enough for one big beach party.  


Panama City Beach is the undisputed "Spring Break Capital of the World" and draws nearly a half million breakers each year. The parties are outrageous, the beaches are packed, and you never know which celebrity you'll find in the crowd. It is served by over 21,000 rooms in properties that range from resorts to villas. So if you want to go where the action is, Panama City Beach is the place to be. It is undoubtedly the number one spring beak location in Florida.

Panama City Beach has lots to offer especially when it comes to beach bars. There are plenty of bars with a variety of formats, enough so that everyone can have a favorite. The best bet is to visit them all and pick your own. Beach bars located in Panama City Beach include: Barefoot Beach Club, Hook'd Pier Bar and Grill, Hooters, Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville, Pineapple Willy's, Pompano Joe's, Schooner's, Sharky's Beach Club, and Spinnaker Beach Club.

Mexico Beach
There is one last stop for a beach bar in the eastern Panhandle and that is Mexico Beach, just 20 minutes east of Panama City. This small seaside community has roughly one thousand residents, five miles of pristine beaches, and no traffic lights. It is on Mexico Beach you will find its one lone beach bar, Toucan's Tiki Bar.


  Toucan's Tiki Bar | Mexico Beach  
  Toucan's Tiki Bar | Mexico Beach – Toucan's Tiki Bar is located smack dab on the beach in Mexico Beach. It is a colorful friendly place that reflects the local atmosphere.  


Toucan's is the Florida beach bar you don't want to miss. It is cute, colorful and authentic. In true Florida beach bar and Mexico Beach style, it is laid back. Spend the day on the beach and have lunch there and go back to the beach for more fun in the sun and take your cold beer with you.

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References

Fly High With the BLUES - http://www.navalaviationmuseum.org/explore/blue-angels-practices
Sandshaker Web Site, Home of the Bushwacker, http://www.sandshaker.com/TheBushwacker.aspx
City of Destin Florida Web Site, City History, www.cityofdestin.com/
Boathouse Web Site, About Us, http://www.boathouseoysterbar.com/aboutus.htm
Wikipedia, Panama City Beach Florida, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panama_City_Beach,_Florida



 
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