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Florida Panhandle Honeymoon

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Hi everyone,
This is my first time posting a message, but I've read through the Florida forum, specifically regarding the panhandle, over the past few weeks; you have all been so helpful to others, so I was hoping you'd be kind enough to help us out in planning our honeymoon.

My fiance and I are getting married on Saturday, June 19, 2010, and we're planning on leaving Monday, June 21 for our honeymoon. We enjoy road trips and are hoping to drive down to the panhandle (we live near St. Louis, MO), arriving either late that Monday night, or depending on our fatigue, we might stop overnight and arrive early afternoon Tuesday, returning home that Saturday (possibly Sunday).

After reviewing the boards, I'm conflicted as to where we should base ourselves during our time in the panhandle. While we enjoy having shopping and dining opportunities available, we aren't big fans of crowded, touristy destinations. We love the idea of spending a relaxing day at an uncrowded beach, while still being near restaurants and shopping (nothing high-end; we just like to browse and eat different types of food). We're not tied to any particular type of lodging, although we're not interested in pursuing a rental house. If the motel is a chain, that's fine, and it doesn't necessarily have to be on the beach. We also like bed and breakfasts.

We like the looks of the beaches of South Walton (specifically Grayton Beach, Seagrove, etc.), but we're having trouble locating non-rental house lodging in those areas; are there any motels or bed and breakfasts in those areas? Destin sounds like it might be crowded, but it certainly seems to have more dining and lodging options. We've also considered areas farther east, including St. George Island, Cape San Blas, and Apalachicola, but it seems that if we get tired of being beach bums, we might have limited access to other activities. As far as activities, we'd enjoy shelling, going on a boat ride, any sort of wildlife viewing, etc. We're less interested in museums and historical sites.

So, if you're still reading this after my lengthy introduction, first of all, thank you! Secondly, we are very amenable to other suggestions and are able to have a good time, regardless of our location (we thoroughly enjoyed visiting the world's largest ball of twine in Kansas! ;) We also realize that no single place will necessarily match our wishes (we know that the reason many beaches are crowded is because of the proximity of dining/lodging, so our interests may contradict themselves).

Our specific questions are as follows: Do you have a recommendation of one town in which to base ourselves (a place with lodging, uncrowded beaches, and some restaurants and shops within a 5 mile radius)? Would it be better to actually lodge in Destin and take day trips to uncrowded beaches, or would it be better to stay in the uncrowded places and venture back to Destin for activities? I've read about red tide; is this unpredictable in its timing, or does it occur regularly during certain months (i.e., June)?

I can't thank you enough for reading all of this, and I truly appreciate any input any of you might have about good itineraries, lodging, restaurants, activities, etc.

Thank you!

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