Panama City Beach

Panama City Beach is a resort town in Bay County on the Gulf of Mexico Coast. It became officially incorporated in 1909. It averages 13 feet above sea level. The area was founded by loyalists during the Revolutionary War. They utilized the land to grow indigo and to develop prosperous industries, like naval stores and lumbering. Later, during the Civil War, the fishing village of St. Andrew housed fisheries and saltworks that were destroyed by the Union. And when World War II happened the population boomed thanks to the increase in industrialism. George Mortimer West is credited with the name of the town. He wanted to spur more real estate in the country, and people were interested in the area thanks to the Panama Canal. If a line was drawn from Chicago to Panama, this city was right in the pathway, hence Panama City.

Panama City and Panama City Beach may be coastal neighbors but the two cities are totally unique. This is cause for confusion in many conversations. They both have beaches and are separated by the St. Andrews Bay along Florida’s Gulf Coast. Panama City is larger and the more historic of the two. While Panama City Beach seems to be the more well known. Panama City came first and it was decades later after the St. Andrews Bay Bridge was built connecting the mainland to the barrier islands. They are both referred to often by just Panama City.

Panama City is the largest city between Pensacola and Tallahassee. The town has an arts and theater district, entertainment hub, shopping district, and a small handful of college campuses. Four marinas and miles of coastline along the St. Andrews Bay.

Panama City Beach is a globally renowned tourist destination, appearing in rankings for its stellar beaches and family-friendly amenities like amusement parks and mini golf courses. It’s also bracketed by state parks, giving plenty of opportunities to swim, fish, hike, and sightsee in nature. Also in the 90’s it became a hot spot for Spring Breakers.

This is one of Florida’s most popular tourist spots. Sunny beaches and countless seasonal events bring people from all over. You can find many family-friendly activities to help celebrate the history. Historic St. Andrews is a must see. The community has a free guided walking tour that leads throughout the town and lets you in on all the historical locations. Panama City Publishing Museum can’t be missed either. This attraction was built by George Mortimer West and was home to the city’s first newspaper. Admission is free here as well. Be sure to visit the Bay County Historical Museum, yes this too is free. It is only open 3 days a week so check before you head there. This museum has been preserving and displaying historical documents and items for over 75 years. September through May they also host a regular lecture series. One more fun historical site is the Robert Lee McKenzie House. Robert was the first mayor of Panama City and was also a state representative. Some may remember him from putting together the Gulf Coast Development Company, pushing the city to become the coastal center it is today.

Riding the merry-go-round at Long Beach Resort ~ Panama City Beach ~ 1956 ~ Florida Memory/Public Domain
Long Beach Resort ~ Panama City Beach ~1950’s ~ Florida Memory/Public Domain