As you all likely know, Panama City, as well as much of Florida and parts of Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and even as far north as Virginia, is struggling quite a bit right now. Hurricane Matthew tore through the Southeastern US and left quite a heavy toll on the people in its wake. Counts vary depending on the source, but as many as 47 people have died in the trail of Matthew.
However, Panama City will bounce back. It’s dealt with troubles like this before, and there are a lot of people working to rebuild the city, including a story I’d like to spotlight later. Nevertheless, Panama City shall return, and, when it does, it will no doubt be a beloved tourist destination once again.
My perspective of Panama City is a little different. I’m not well-traveled; Panama City is one of the few places I’ve been to outside the state of Georgia. I’m a homebody by nature too, but that, for a long time, changed for Panama City. I loved going. It’s a six-hour drive through Georgia, Alabama, and Florida to a little trailer my grandparents have off Back Beach Road. It’s a ways away from the hotels that line the beach up the coast, and is far away from the clubs and bars often frequented by visitors.
As I’m a homebody and not especially social, it suits me. That’s not intended as a judgment for the clubbing crowd — you have to find your joy wherever you can. Plus, my trips to Panama City were always with family, and that’s generally not the crowd with whom you go clubbing or bar-hopping.
We were mainly there for the beach, and we loved it. The sun, sand, and water were the main attractions. On a clear day, the water is crystalline and gorgeous. The waves and tides are soothing, the off-white sand is warm and relaxing. I spent almost all my time at the beach or in the ocean. There is a serenity in being submerged in Panama City’s living, moving water. Even when the tide is choppier — and it can get rough — it’s still a therapeutic experience. There have been times when seaweed or algae clogged the shallows, but that never stopped me from going in.
The weather is fickle, which admittedly feels like the understatement of the year at this point. The rain never bothered me much since I was in the water anyway. That said, it can ruin the time for those looking to sunbathe or read on the sand. I remember times when I was a kid that the signal flag on the beach would be green for calm waters. In more recent years, that’s changed. Yellow (for slightly rough water) is the lowest the flag will go in terms of safety. I don’t know if that’s because the waters are rougher now or if it’s someone covering their ass.
In more recent years, the shopping scene in PC has enticed me more. The reason for that is that I’m a giant frigging nerd. Pier Park and the Panama City Mall certainly have their charms, but I make sure to hit the comic book stores while I’m down there. Arena Comics on 15th Street and New Force Comics on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard are amazing places to go for the comics and collectibles aficionado. They have a lot to peruse and plenty of friendly workers. Unfortunately, New Force took some damage during the hurricane but will hopefully soon recoup. Comics Emporium on US-231 on the edge of town is a cool place too and worth checking out if comics and figures peak your interest.
As far as eating goes, Mike’s Diner on Front Beach Road has been a favorite. I’m not the most culinarily well-versed person under the sun, but I do know a good banana pudding. That place has one of the best I’ve ever eaten. Bayou Bill’s on Front Beach is another great place to eat.
This is the part where I cop to not having been to Panama City in a couple of years. College and jobs have held me up more, and traveling has been something that has enticed me less. I’m embarrassed slightly by that, so another trip down to PC is definitely in the cards for me. Thankfully, my grandparents’ trailer escaped storm damage.
I think everyone in Georgia should check the city out at least once if they have the means to do so. It can be kitschy, as it is a tourist hot spot, but the beauty of nature is still there at the beach. Plus, kitschy can be fun. It’s your vacation, go to as many kitschy places as you damn well please. Alvin’s Island has you covered in that regard, and you should also check them out.