The 4-year-old and I have been on a persistent search for the most killer destinations on the planet. Today, we're going to chat about how we discovered the best Florida beach for kids – and for parents who want to have a great time!
The Best Florida Beach for Kids is Closer than you Think
Life is busy. It's hectic, grinding, mind numbing and sometimes frustrating beyond all get-out. Sometimes making it through a week, or a month, without losing your mind can be a feat in and of itself. You have to persevere and press on. The stress can wear on you and subsequently on your family. Like matchbox cars on the kitchen table. Sooner or later, you're going to see the signs of a 1/64th scale '65 Mustang having done about a cajillion donuts and jumps in that fine pine. And no amount of Pine-Sol is going to rub that out.
Rewarding yourself with Travel
One of the best ways to handle these types of weeks or months is to have a goal at the end. A proverbial ‘carrot on the end of the stick' if you will. I mean, despite the fact that I don't like real carrots, you need something to keep you at it and pull you through the tougher times. And one of my favorite things to put on the end of a stick is travel. Figuratively speaking I mean.
Now, don't get me wrong, travel is fantastic. But sometimes, instead of getting away from everyone you know, it's nice to spend time with the ones you love. Chelsea and I have four rambunctious boys all under seven years old. Mostly because we weren't paying attention and just let things get away from us. We also just happen to travel a lot as a family. Everyone gets to see a lot of the world. However, despite all that traveling, we don't really get many chances to spend one on one time. It's usually four on one which, much like it sounds, feels like small people ganging up on one of the parents. This concept is easy to communicate to the bigger boys because they comprehend much more than their younger brothers. There isn't much of a need to explain this to the baby which leaves our toddler.
The Best Florida Beach Lets you LET LOOSE
This guys so full of life that if he was a gas tank he would read six quarters full. He has an absolute love for everything he experiences and boy does he love to explore. But it's really hard for this little guy to get a word in edgewise or to get a chance to ask mom or dad any questions about all the many curious things around him. That's why when Panama City Beach extended an invitation to come visit the best Florida beach for kids, I had to go check out all they had to offer and bring one of the boys along. It was a no-brainer to bring him.
Don't Miss Dolphins at the Best Florida Beach
To tell you the truth, traveling with small children is like seeing the world a new again. You forget how much you've learned and how much you take for granted when you see it all over again through the eyes of a child. And a toddler is no exception. EVERYTHING is new, including their vocabulary. “What's that dada!” exclaimed about a dozen times a minute while riding in a boat through dolphin infested waters. Yes, I said dolphin infested. I mean, why do the sharks always get an “infestation” rating when they're just swimming in the same water they've also always lived. That would be like Chelsea calling my garage/shop “Nate infested”. Now that's just not fair. Through their eyes, you go from a beach you might have taken for granted, to the best Florida beach. In this case, on a quick trip Shell Island in Panama City Beach.
I was surprised to find that Panama City Beach was actually a nice town to meander around. And it's home to the best Florida beach for kids! One of the things that surprised me was that the sand was a pale white that shone brilliantly in the sun. Another natural treat was the high volume of cumulous clouds rocketing skyward on the horizon. They gave so much character to the skyline that I just stared for minutes at a time and waited to point out the “dragons” and “bunnies” and “ninjas” to my little guy. Now, I'm not sure what he might have been thinking about but he was able to spot a lot of clouds that looked like “ice keem”. Go figure!
OH THE CROWDS!!! Oh wait, there weren't any crowds. This made watching my son especially easy. And, the easier it was to watch my son roll, run, romp, and…relax on the beach, the easier it was for me to let go and take it easy. Honestly, this was our first time seeing and setting foot in the Gulf of Mexico and it was readily becoming clear why this was the best Florida beach for kids. You would be hard pressed to find another pristine beach with the perfect combination of warm water, white sand, and low beach population to relax and play on.
Great dining at the best Florida beach for kids.
Playing in the sand is all well and good but at some point, a boy needs to eat. There are a lot of eateries in Panama City Beach and a lot of different forms of food. Some comes fast, some slow, some come like they were carried by a teenager on rollerskates going over speed bumps and others arrive as if to suggest you should have worn a tie to dinner. We got to visit Schooners at 5121 Gulf Drive (https://www.schooners.com/). This was a busy place with multitude of dining room layouts. But the best, I found, were the tables for two to four people on the edge of the bar's deck overlooking the ocean. Once seated and order placed, we quickly dropped out shoes under the table and walked off to the white sand beach just feet away…
to fly. It was the best time I've ever spent waiting for my Shirley Temple to arrive. Yeah, give me 7Up, grenadine, and a cherry and I'm good calling it fancy. Especially when I'm with my son who loves to sneak drinks of what ever I'm having. This really was a fantastic family location.
Of course, we ate at other fine locations. We dressed it up a bit and hit The Grand Marlin the very next night. And heres a picture of my food. It was very good.
Of course, the real test to see if Panama City Beach is really the best Florida beach for kids is bed time. And, as expected, we hit the sheets harder than an anvil on a coyote's head. Oh yeah. That sleep was deep.
Of course, this left us with the obvious choice for leisure the next day. Relaxing on the very long lazy river at Shipwreck Island Water Park. Now, it only took a few laps on the tube for my little four year old to recharge his batteries and we were quickly off to whatever the water park had to offer. I have to say, it's amazing much endurance this little dude has for a wave pool. I mean, he could hang on me for hours in that thing. All in all, Panama City Beach was definitely the best Florida beach for kids I had ever been to.
If Florida's you're jam, you should also check out Fort Myers. And if you're spending a day on the water, grab our pal Kelly's boat day essentials list.
Does your family have a beach that you consider to be the best Florida beach for kids? We'd love to hear about it – and possibly come check it out!