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Spending February on the Florida Panhandle

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Mar 10th, 2014, 03:15 PM
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Spending February on the Florida Panhandle

Spending February on 30A
The Beaches of 30A run for about 20 miles between Destin and Panama City. The beaches are gorgeous and February is the offseason so rentals are very inexpensive and there are no crowds.

My husband and I spent the month of February at a condo at the Adagio in Blue Mountain Beach/Santa Rosa Beach. We had a great time. We drove to Florida, stopping to see family and some friends on the way down and back. We drove 8-9 hours a day. It took us 2 days driving down. We waited for Atlanta to get cleaned up before driving through.

The obvious downside is the cooler temperatures but we were prepared for temps in the 50s and 60s. We just prayed for sun and our prayers were answered most days. We had a lot more days in the high 60s than I expected. We also had days in the low 70s. People who were in the area in January said they had never experienced the cold temperatures that they had this year.

Advantages to going in February
Escaping the horrible weather at home in N.E. Ohio was the major advantage. We watched all the storms hitting Akron. It was a bad February in Ohio.

Offseason rental rates

No crowds. We had the beautiful beach to ourselves. We walked the beach every day except for 2 rainy, yucky days.

Restaurant specials and no lines.

It is a great time to ride bikes. We rented bikes at Big Daddy Bike Shop were $60/month for the 3speeds. We could have rented the beach bikes for $45

When staying a month, you don’t get quite as upset when it rains for a day. We did have 2 days that were complete washouts.

We joined the Walton County Snowbirds. My husband golfed with them and played Bridge on Tuesday nights. They have a lot of programs for Snowbirds and also offer a storage facility for members to use.

My thoughts on the beaches of 30A

Love staying on 30A. There are fewer highrises, I love the bike trail.

Blue Mountain Beach/Santa Rosa Beach—they blend together-- is in a good location, right between Seaside and Destin.

Grayton Beach: This may be my favorite place on 30A. I used to love all the little cottages that were in the area when we visited many years ago. A lot of those are gone but I still like Grayton. Easy bike ride to Seaside.

Watercolor: Beautiful homes here. Love biking through the town and around the lake. Took us some time to find the Publix here. I knew it was there someplace.

Seaside Beach: My daughter said the town looks like a Pinterest Page. It is charming. The outdoor restaurants and trailers were hopping on the weekends and over Presidents Weekend. We stayed here many years ago, coming two Octobers in a row and renting the Honeymoon Cottages with my husband’s office. I cannot imagine how busy this place must be during the high season though. I would love to own one of the lovely cottages in the town, but when I am renting at the beach, I prefer to be gulfside. Most of the cottages here and in Watercolor are across the street from the beach. I love Sundog Bookstore.

Seagrove Beach: This might be the location that I would most prefer. Rentals are cheaper here than in Seaside—I am going to look at rentals here. I think there are several places where you can rent that are south of 30A on the gulfside. It is a nice central location.

Lots of gated communities as you head down 30A with the big development being Rosemary Beach. We actually spent 2 nights in Seacrest Beach next door. Same beautiful beach extends to this area. As much as I don’t have any reason to head into Destin, I still seem to prefer the other end of 30A. I wouldn’t hesitate to stay in this area though.

What we did

We started every morning relaxing with coffee and then hit the beach for a long walk. What a great way to start the day—especially after seeing the Facebook posts from friends at home moaning about their weather. There were always a few people walking their dogs, but the beach was pretty quiet in the morning.

We would explore a bit and then my husband would often head over to the Santa Rosa Golf Course and play their “After 2PM special rate” or hit balls at the driving range.

My husband played in the Walton County Snowbirds vs. Destin Snowbirds Golf Outing. He didn’t play well. He also played the Raven Golf Course in Sandestin and raved about how beautiful the course was. He also played better that day.

He swam laps in the gulf front pool everyday. I would read at the pool, enjoying the view out over the beach.

My husband also used the exercise room. I thought I would use it, but I often would just take a second walk on the beach or ride my bike.

We rode bikes. The bike path is wonderful. We rode down to Grayton for lunch. We rode into Seaside for lunch. Rode through some of the developments along 30A. We hoped to bike with the Snowbirds but our schedule got busy.

We had a lot of company. Family joined us at different times. We had several family members join us over Presidents Weekend and even rented another condo. This kept us busy and they seemed to want to eat every single day. It was easier to cook than go out so we all took turns cooking and going to Publix. We usually went to the Publix on 98.
Watched the sunset every night. Had a special champagne toast on the beach at sunset one day celebrating our daughter’s promotion.

Hit some great President Day sales at the Silver Sands Outlet Mall—nice mall. Also stopped at some interesting consignment shops on rainy day.

We actually spent 4 days in Marco Island visiting friends. It was a 9 hour drive and I thought this was a stupid idea. We did have fun with our friends. I do not like Marco Island though.

We spent an extra 2 days at the beach. We had to check out on March 1st but the weekend forecast was fabulous so we spent an extra couple days just enjoying the beaches down by Rosemary. We only got down that way one day before staying there—even though it was only about 15 miles from Blue Mountain Beach.

Restaurants

We actually didn’t eat out that often but there were a lot of specials offered in February. We missed the Buy1/get 1 dinner at the Marina Café. It was on my list.

Café 30A: We wouldn’t miss this buy1/get1 free deal. We loved this place when we visited many years ago. It’s still a great restaurant. The place was packed the night we were there. We were trying to figure out where all those people were staying.

The Red Bar: We had lunch here. The place was pretty empty and we just walked right in. My dad went back at night 3 times. He loved the place and loved the music at night. He’s 87.

Marie’s: Maries was right across the street and the parking lot was always packed. There is also a bar right next door. It was convenient, seems to get great reviews but our dinners the night we went were just ok

Deweys Harborside: We had great fish dinners here. The Snowbird special included a free bottle of wine that you could drink with dinner and then take home if you didn’t drink the whole bottle.

McGuires Irish Pub: We stopped here the first week we were there on the coldest rainiest day we had all month. The place was packed. They offer good lunch specials and if I remember correctly $.19 cup of gumbo with your meal.

Pompano Joes: We went here for a sunset dinner with our family over Presidents Weekend. Worked out great—we had a party of 10 adults and 2 children with us. My daughter and her cousins wanted to eat at a restaurant on the beach.

Local Catch: We stopped here one night—it was right down the street-- and there were only 3 tables occupied. Good fish dinners.

Pizza by the Sea: Rode our bikes down to Gulf Place for lunch here

Another Broken Egg: On 30A at the Grayton Beach plaza. Great breakfast. Next trip I would split the breakfast with my husband—large portions.

Shades: We stayed a couple nights at Seacrest Beach and found this sports bar. Good wings/burgers. I had a wonderful shrimp salad

Where we stayed
We loved staying at the Adagio. My husband wanted a place with a heated pool to swim laps and a fitness room. It was great having 3br/3ba. The complex is beautiful. I wouldn’t hesitate to stay here again. We had a room that looked out at the unheated resort style pool, but the complex is right on the gulf side of 30A.
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Mar 11th, 2014, 05:00 AM
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Nice report. Very useful. I have one coming up that will cover Apalachicola and the Big Bend area.
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Mar 11th, 2014, 07:29 AM
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Great report. We visited Seacrest in January and I loved the location. We could walk to the beach, the shops at Seacrest and at Rosemary and everything else would be a bike ride or a short drive away. Can't wait to return!
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Mar 11th, 2014, 08:30 AM
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Great report. Perfect amount of information and opinion.
One question though: what did you not like about Marco Island?
Thanks for posting.
Gail
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Mar 11th, 2014, 09:16 AM
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Very useful! I am also a swimmer, and evaluate rentals by the proximity of a heated lap pool. (There are far fewer in Florida than one would think--people always tell me "nobody swims!")
Thanks for taking time to post this! (I am currently renting in SE Florida, at one of the few complexes I've found with heated pools suitable for serious swimming..)

Also, you did not like Marco Island because (??) Too many highrises???
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Mar 11th, 2014, 09:35 AM
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The other nice thing about Seacrest was the huge resort type pool that was on the north side of 30A in the middle of the development. I know a lot of people like to have access to a pool. The beaches here on the Panhandle are my favorite beaches on the continental US.

Regarding Marco: We were there during peak season. The beach is lovely and wide. There are a lot of highrises and there seemed to be people everywhere and traffic. I though riding bikes, even with bike lanes, with that traffic was dangerous. We did have great weather there though. I loved getting back to the Panhandle though.

ekscrunchy: You are right about lap pools, especially if you want to rent a condo. It does seem like you have better luck finding lap pools if you stay at highrises. Adagio does have a very nice lap pool right on the beach. We have also found a good lap pool at Loggerhead Cay on Sanibel and I think the pool at the Anna Maria Island Club on Anna Maria was long enough for laps.
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Mar 11th, 2014, 09:53 AM
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Thanks for the report. It sounds like a nice place to explore.
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Mar 11th, 2014, 10:10 AM
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Linda: The odd thing is that here on the SE Coast, the best pools for laps (and there aren't many) are inland, in condo complexes not on the sea. (I am talking here about rentals (or purchases) in in Palm Beach Country, and northern Broward that I have seen)

The big high-rises on the ocean (high HOA fees, too, in many cases) all have pools but they are not very long..more like 35 feet or so--so a lap swimmer would have to make accommodations. There are a few public pools that I have seen, but those have limited hours...Pompano Beach has a great aquatic center, for example.


When I asked a real estate agent about pools, and kitchens, for rentals, I was told "No one swims, and no one cook"s..in south Florida!!)
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Mar 11th, 2014, 01:51 PM
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Thank you for the great trip report! I have visited with folks who rave about that area, especially dog owners who have said there are many pet friendly places to rent and roam. We spent February in the Keys, simply because we can't stand the hustle and bustle of the more popular spots in the mainland of Florida. Even so, the Keys are beginning to get busier every year. We have found a bit of Paradise in a beautiful serene non-resort type place, where the prices continue to rise. We booked for 6 weeks next year. It will be our 4th year at the same place. Nothing is forever; who knows where we'll land next, if we're lucky enough to stay healthy!
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Mar 11th, 2014, 02:08 PM
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We were steps away from that gorgeous resort style pool - but it was closed in the off-season. It would be fabulous to be there in season though.
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Mar 13th, 2014, 06:08 AM
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Starrs: Was there a smaller lap pool that was heated?

Retired: This was our first time ever going away for a month. My husband has not retired yet but his schedule is more flexible and he can do a lot of work if we have WIFI.

We chose to stay on the Panhandle because we wanted to get away and didn't want to spend a fortune. My SIL/BILalso lives in Hendersonville, NC (near Asheville) and that is almost exactly halfway--so we get to visit with family and split up our drive.

The rental rates are unbelievably low in the winter because people want to go where it is warmer. The temperatures on the Panhandle were fine for us. We want to get outside, walk the beach, see the sun, golf, bike. It really worked out great for us.

My dad wanted us to rent in the Keys. He loves to go there and has stayed at some places that were actually very affordable. I like to walk the beach every morning--it is my favorite thing to do in Florida. I love the beaches on the Panhandle.
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Mar 13th, 2014, 07:54 AM
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LindainOhio-- Over the last 6 years, I've been discovering Florida's offerings more and more: Miami and Key West in 2008, Fort Lauderdale in 2011, Saint Augustine and Jacksonville in 2014, adding to childhood visits to Disney and grandparent retirement communities in Orlando, Lake Worth and Cocoa Beach. Your descriptions of the Panhandle are very appealing, especially the biking opportunities! You make me want to check out the Panhandle some day. Thanks for the trip report.
Best wishes, Daniel
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Mar 13th, 2014, 10:10 AM
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Thanks for the great trip report. We are also from Ohio and spent 4 winters in Cape San Blas which you might want to check out sometime. I have a short trip report here if you are interested. They also have a great bike trail but might be a little too remote for you. The Panhandle area is beautiful. However we want to look a little further south for some warmer weather next year but then the prices go up.....
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Mar 13th, 2014, 10:19 AM
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Daniel: Did you visit Amelia Island when you were in Jacksonville? We thought that was really lovely. We also have been checking out Florida through the years.

We love Sanibel Island but think it is getting awfully expensive. Went to Gasparilla Island and stayed at the Inn. It's not on the water--the pool is. We enjoyed Anna Maria Island a couple of years ago. We had a very nice 2br condo right on the beach at the Anna Maria Island Club. I would return there. We loved it.

We haven't been to the Panhandle since 2005 and we have only been there once in season--in August. We much prefer the offseason. We really love the white sand beaches and the emerald green water. I really think these are the prettiest beaches on the continental US. Great sunsets too.
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Mar 13th, 2014, 02:35 PM
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Great report! My husband and I spent the month of Feb just south of Daytona Beach. This was our first time as snowbirds as well. My husband is also still working but works from home too. We really enjoyed it and had a lot of company during the month too. We're actually looking to spend two months next winter but may want to venture to another part of the state so thanks for the detailed report.
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Mar 13th, 2014, 03:13 PM
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No. The community does not have a heated lap pool.
There were some beachfront high rises that had heated pools.

Like cd, I love the remoteness of the Cape San Blas/ Indian Pass area. Someone else chose the rental house - to be there for the music festival - and I enjoyed it more than I expected.
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Mar 13th, 2014, 08:14 PM
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LindainOhio--No I didn't make it to Amelia Island, but by all accounts, it seems a place I should investigate more about one of these years. I enjoyed your addition that you think the Panhandle beaches are the loveliest in the continental US (the emerald green sounds beautiful indeed!).
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Mar 14th, 2014, 10:00 PM
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Lovely report, I have my eyes on the Panhandle. I'm from the UK so have done the usual Disney stuff but have ventured elsewhere, ie Naples this year. I am surprised that February is off season when it seems to be high season elsewhere in Florida. When would be a good time to go for weather in the 70s? Sounds like Seaside and surround is a good base? Apologies for idle questions I could easily do some homework but thought it would be interesting to invite local expertise.
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Mar 15th, 2014, 05:47 AM
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High season on the Panhandle is actually the summer. I think the best times/temperatures are Spring and Fall when children are in school. They are having temperatures in the 70s right now. With Sept. and Oct. you do have the possibility of a hurricane, but we have been there twice in October and had perfect weather and no crowds.

As far as a base, Seaside is in the middle of 30A, but that stretch of beaches is only 20 miles long. We like to rent a condo but if you are just looking for a hotel, the Watercolor Inn looks lovely. I imagine it is quite expensive.

When you were in Naples, did you get to Sanibel? We also enjoy staying there. Our daughter is in
Sanibel right now.

Many of our friends have second homes in Naples. It is a popular winter destination for Akronites. They thought we were crazy to head to the Panhandle where the winter weather can be quite cool. We were wooed with the affordable rental rates and temps that were great for biking and golf.
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Mar 15th, 2014, 11:30 AM
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Thanks LindainOhio, I wasnt very clear (sorry) I am going to Naples this June, but I havebeen to Sanibel when I stayed in Forty Myers over 12 yeras ago, and adored it - I like nature so John Ding Darling's Park was fantastic for me (that is near Sanibel). I also adored Amelia Island where I stayed about nine years ago. Im not sure what an Akronite is (it sounds like a fossil or something Superman would avoid).

I could be cheeky and ask if you can ask your friends if they can recommend a restaurant for me and Mrs Lyon as we are in Naples for an anniversary. Of course, I will also post to see if any others could recommend anywhere in Naples.
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