07 October 2019 by Steven Clark
We have visited Florida a number of times now but never ventured too far north of Orlando which is pretty much central to the state and have mainly toured the south down as far as you can go which is the lovely Key West (which we highly recommend). So, this trip we thought we would venture out and explore the north-west part of the state known as the Panhandle, with their beautiful long sandy beaches and numerous sea food restaurants dotted along the coast. Sadly, a week before our flight Hurricane Michael which was a Category 5 hurricane hit the Florida Panhandle area very close to where we were staying at Panama Beach and our hotel cancelled our booking a few days before we left home. Luckily the hotel wasn’t damaged but was being use for rehousing some of the poor people that lost everything in the storm. We rebooked a condo on the beach farther up the coast away from the hurricane hit area at Fort Walton Beach, but passing through Mexico Beach which took a direct hit from the hurricane is something we will never forget. The devastation is beyond words and it was on a scale so large it’s hard to comprehend, and so our thoughts then were for the poor people of that area.
Our trip started in Orlando after flying in from Bordeaux via London. We picked up the hire car and took a leisurely 2 day drive up to Fort Walton Beach stopping off at a few places taking in the sights as you do before finally arriving at our condo. We had rented it for the week and it was situated right on the beach, so we enjoyed a few days walking up and down this beautiful white sand beach overlooking the gulf of Mexico. We had the most lovely sunrises and sunsets every day without leaving our balcony just topped off with some cool beverages in the warm 28c sea breeze, and I suppose I should mention it was November. We also drove up to Pensacola for the day which is a great place to visit with lots going on even this late in the year. Both had a lovely fresh fish meal in a local restaurant and even squeezed in a quick visit to Fort Pickens before heading back along the coast to our condo at Fort Walton Beach. All the restaurants we dined in were excellent with good quality local caught produce and not expensive. For 30 to 40 dollars we got a good hearty fish meals for two and drinks.
We will definitely revisit this area again and explore the panama Beach area once its cleaned up and back on its feet in a few years. I would recommend the panhandle area to anyone wanting to get away from central Florida. Only another 4 hours up the coast is New Orleans if that’s your sort of thing. But please do check with your car hire company as you are taking the car out of state. Most rental companies are fine with it but you have to ask (mainly for breakdown cover). Driving back down to Orlando we popped into Chrystal River to see the manatee’s which is worth the visit. The waters are so clear and seeing these majestic animals in the wild is a great memory we will both treasure for years to come. There are a few different tours but basically you can swim in the water or sit in the boat and we opted for the boat. They do supply dry suits etc. After that, we had a few more days in Orlando seeing the sights and got our flight back to Europe.