We normally visit Destin, FL but decided this year to visit Panama City Beach (the drive is about the same for us). I haven’t stayed in Panama City Beach in over 20 years.
We drove from the Louisville, KY area and took the route mentioned on this forum – I-65, to Montgomery, head on I-85 towards Atlanta, take the Taylor Road Exit, then went through Troy and Enterprise to 79 to Panama City Beach. It’s a pretty ride and except for about 30 or so miles on 79, there are small cities and places to stop for gas, restroom, etc. We had a few slow vehicles in front of us and because of the two lane road, we had to be careful passing. Overall, we enjoyed this route.
We rented a private 3BD/3BA condo through vrbo.com and stayed at the Majestic Beach Resort. We had five adults and two kids – age 14 and 10. We had a corner condo and the view was beautiful. I researched many condos and it was hard to decide, but this was a good location for us. The balcony was huge and we like privacy so we could not see any other balconies from ours. There is also a small balcony off the queen bedroom. The kids had an actual bunk room with a door vs. bunks in the hallway.
It was very crowded checking in, as expected on Saturday. The parking garage is across the street which is something we have not experienced before with a condo in Florida but it was fine once we got used to it. You are able to walk across the walkway which is air conditioned. There was a dance camp there at the condo/conference center and we thought we would be overrun by hundreds of teenage girls but we only ran into a few while we were there. Some even knew my daughter and were from our area!
The condo complex was crowded. I think you can rent directly from the management company at the condo and this was a first for us as well. All the condos we have stayed in before only had private rentals. The pools were packed and people put their towels on chairs by 7:00 or 7:30 in the morning. The pool area is nice but obviously, they need more chairs. We didn’t eat at the restaurant next to the pool, but there were several people eating there each day. There is also a small shop, with Starbucks and I believe other food but we didn’t eat their either.
We read the elevators were really slow at this complex. They were slow on Saturday during check in but otherwise, we didn’t notice them being more slow than expected. A few times maybe. They were really HOT as there was no air conditioning in them.
We headed to Publix on Sunday morning and picked up groceries including a key lime pie (mentioned on this forum). It was delicious! We made several stops to Publix during our stay. It rained all day Sunday which was very disappointing for our kids. The men in our group headed to the beach for a bit while it was sprinkling and the women took a drive down Front Beach Road to sightsee.
Front Beach Road was heavy with traffic several nights as we read on this forum so we do recommend using middle or back beach road.
Dinner on Sunday night was at the Saltwater Grill and it was very good. We then hit some of the stores to buy souvenirs.
Monday we had gorgeous weather (as well as the rest of the week). The double red flags were out part of our week which meant no swimming in the ocean due to the rip tides (four people drowned in Gulf Shores during our stay). It was hard to think about “the ocean is closed.” Of course people still swam – you just can’t keep them out of the water.
The beach was crowded. We determined this was a popular week for vacations due to recent graduations and I believe the condo rates went up a week later. We noticed many tents (or the new instant canopies) on the beach. We have not seen as many on other beaches. They are pretty neat!
What we could not believe, and what happened to us almost every day, was people coming up right next to us, and setting up their umbrellas, etc. or right in front of us even though we were a few feet from the water. Once day a young group had their umbrella actually touching /on top of my father-in-law’s umbrella. Another day a group of about 20 plopped down so close to us (even though there was plenty of room elsewhere). We determine people just don’t care if they are right on top of you – we would never impose and be on top of someone or right in front of them. There is enough beach to give everyone some space! I don’t know why anyone would want to be that close to another group. One day we had a huge area to the right of us open but a group sat down literally again within arm’s length on our left side. We just couldn’t understand this!
Monday there was some drama on the beach as four emergency vehicles drove down towards Pineapple Willy’s but we never figured out what happened.
Another day on the beach a large black mass was seen moving in the water and people were screaming to get out of the water. It ended up being a manatee (I suppose they thought it was a shark). Another day a plane flew over with a marriage proposal and it was for the couple next to us so that was exciting!
There were jet skis, parasailing and banana boat rides available and my kids (14 and 10) talked me into going on the banana boat ride with them. I don’t know if it was because the water was rough but I DID NOT LIKE this ride at all! I had to hold on for dear life for fear of falling off. My 10 year old son, who is small could barely hang on, and there was water splashing in our faces the entire time (I have contacts and had my sunglasses on and I had lots of saltwater in my eyes). My kids seemed to like it but I would not do it again! I prefer to jet ski!
On Tuesday we decided to go eat dinner at Spinnakers. I had gone to Spinnakers more than 20 or years ago when I was young, and it was a dance club. This time we went with family and kids for dinner. We sat right on the beach and had great service! Oh, by the way, we headed out to dinner each night around 5:30 or 6:00. My father in law does not like to wait an hour or more for dinner. We found that leaving at this time each night, got us into dinner with little or no wait at all.
Wednesday we drove down and walked on one of the piers (I think the county pier) and then headed to Pier Park. I loved Pier Park – it reminded me of the outside shopping areas in North Myrtle Beach. Very nice. We ate at Jimmy Buffet’s Margaretville and had a blast (I had so much fun I left my debit card there but was able to retrieve it the next day!). As we were leaving, there was a huge line for dinner. We were glad arrived early. I wish we would have gone back to Pier Park again but we didn’t make it back.
Thursday we ate at Sweet Basil’s due to some comments on this forum. We were able to go and sit right down. The service was a bit slow and we noticed a table of four get up and walk out and tell the manager it was taking too long for their food. Then a baseball team came in and the coach had words with the manager and then left. Then the coach came back in and said he told the cheerleading group not to come in as well. It did take some time to get our food but it was good.
We played miniature golf that night at Pirate’s Adventure Golf - the easy course which was still pretty hard! It was fun. We could smell the steaks cooking across the street at Angelo’s Steak House!
Friday night we tried to go to Pineapple Willy’s (mixed reviews on this forum be we decided to try it). We arrived around 5:45 pm and there was an hour or so wait so we headed back down to Spinnaker’s for a second night –no wait. We had excellent service again.
We spent most of our time on the beach. We didn’t do as many activities as we had planned but just relaxed and let the kids swim.
Headed out Saturday morning – not a lot of a traffic and sad to go. We enjoyed our time!