5 February 2000
the Florida 'Panhandle'
Along the Emerald Coast, known as the 'Panhandle' of Florida, you will find the towns of Pensacola, Fort Walton Beach, Destin, Panama City and Apalachicola.
Pensacola was the main settlement until the 1820s, when Tallahassee, mid-way between Pensacola and St. Augustine, was chosen as the site of the new State Capital. Here, in the Historic Pensacola Village, you'll find the first stockade, built in 1752.
Across the Bay is Pensacola Beach, on Santa Rosa Island. Fort Perkins, on the west end of Santa Rosa Island, guarded the entrance to Pensacola Bay in the early 1800s. It was the largest fortress built to protect the harbor. More than 21 million bricks, locally made, were carried on barges out to the island to reinforce the 5-sided earthworks. Tours of the Village's historic houses leave from the Museum of Industry on Jaragoza and Tarragona Streets daily. For information call 904/444-8905.
Perdido Key is a barrier island on the western side of Pensacola. In Spanish the name means "Lost Island". Here you 'll find areas open to the public with wide beaches and dunes, protected from development by the Gulf Islands National Seashore and the State of Florida. Big Lagoon State Park offers an attractive area for hiking, boating, swimming, fishing and camping. Also found here is the National Museum of Naval Aviation. On this barrier island you will find golf courses, restaurants, shops and the Pensacola Greyhound Track. Lodgings include an RV park, motels and condominiums.
Farther along the coast you come to Fort Walton Beach and Destin. There is archeolocical evidence of five Indian periods existing in this area between 600 and 1650 A.D. The most notorious pirate to come here was “Billy Bowlegs”, between 1500 and 1800. The Fort was built during the Seminole Wars and named for Colonel George Walton, territorial secretary of West Florida, 1821-22, and East-West Florida, 1822-26. It was known as ‘Camp Walton’, during the Civil War when the Walton Guards encamped here, and ‘Brooks Landing’, when John Thomas Brooks and his family came in 1868. A fishing village grew around the Fort and in the 1920s it became known as a yachting centre. Eglin Field was built in 1937, and that same year the Municipality of Fort Walton was incorporated It was rechartered in 1953, when it was renamed the City of Fort Walton Beach. After 1950 Fort Walton Beach developed as a residential resort. A notable attraction is the pre-Columbian Indian Temple Mound and Museum located on Route 98 in the heart of historic downtown. Also ‘Gulfarium’, one of the areas pioneer seaside attractions, founded in 1955, east on U.S. 98.
Destin is separated from the mainland by Choctawhatchee Bay. The Bay is about thirty miles from east to west, and one of the largest bays iin the country. An offshore shelf dips straight from Destin's East Pass to 100-foot depths within ten miles, making it recognized as the quickest deep-water access on the Gulf. Over 20 species of edible game fish are always in seasonal runs.
Next along the Emerald Coast, is Panama City, on Saint Andrew Bay, a deepwater port. During the American Revolution British Tories settled the town of Saint Andrew, which is now the western residential side of Panama City. It became a base for blockade runners during the Civil War. The City was formed in 1888 and named by its founders, hoping that it would become a major port for Panama Canal traffic. In 1909 Panama City merged with Millville and St. Andrew. It is a manufacturing and tourist center, producing paper, seafood, and chemicals. Today, Panama City and Panama City Beach are great vacations spots for vacations, spring-break crowds and family fun. The emerald green waters and crystal white sand attract all ages.
The first city to be highlighted in our Newsletters was Apalachicola, which is the last city along the Panhandle's Emerald Coast. Find Alapachicola 12/98 on the home page of Fl-Tsravel.com .
Portions of information from the following:
Frommer's America on Wheels, 1995; Fodor's Exploring Florida, 1999; Encarta 98 Encyclopedia