Florida is a stunning state and one with plenty to see and discover. While Florida may be best known for the alligators and other wildlife in the Everglades, the theme parks at Orlando, the picture-perfect Florida Keys to the extreme south, and the beaches of Miami, the state has plenty of other attractions. One part of Florida largely off the tourist drag is the Florida Panhandle.
The Florida Panhandle offers a very different vibe and experience to the rest of Florida and is well worth a visit. Some will find that the Panhandle has the charm of the South and plenty of outdoor recreational attractions to keep one busy. It is a chance to visit Florida away from the main tourist crowds.
What Is The Florida Panhandle?
The Florida Panhandle is around 50 to 100 miles wide and 200 miles long and lies between Alabama and Georgia to the north and the Gulf of Mexico to the south. The exact definition of the panhandle is inexact. The state capital, Tallahassee, is also located in the Panhandle.
- Dimensions: 200 Miles Long and 50 to 100 miles Wide
- Largest City: Tallahassee
The Panhandle is home to about 1.4 million people or around 7.5% of Florida's population. It is called the Florida Panhandle because it is a protrusion jutting out of the state in the shape of a handle on a pan.
- Population: Around 1.4 Million
Vibe And Attractions Of The Panhandle
The Panhandle is famous for being more Southern in character than the rest of the state. The Lonely Planet states "The most geographically northern end of Florida is by far its most culturally Southern side."
- Culture: Considered Culturally Southern
So much it is part of the cultural south that Alabama proposed multiple times to annex parts of it and incorporate it into Alabama. The last Alabama proposition was made in 1901.
Along the coastline, one can find many stunning beaches, undeveloped stretches of salt marshes and slash pines, and areas full of rental homes.
The Florida Panhandle is full of state parks, beaches, refugees, and other attractions one should explore. Some of these include:
- St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge
- Navarre Beach
- St. Andrews State Park
- St. Joseph Peninsula State Park
- Fort Pickens Area
- Saint George Island State Park
- Shell Island
- Cape San Blas
- Gulf Islands National Seashore
- Big Lagoon State Park
- Florida Caverns State Park
- Topsail Beach State Preserve
Pensacola Beach - Florida's Picture-Perfect White Sand Beach
On the west extreme of the Panhandle is the popular white-sand Pensacola Beach. It sits on Santa Rosa Island - a barrier island and is connected via bridges.
- Famous: For Its Ultra-White Sand Beaches
- Located: Western Florida Panhandle
Here one can enjoy the mild temperatures, sugar-white beaches, and crystal clear waters. The main beaches are lifeguarded. Some of the main attractions there are the Casino Beach (1,417 feet long and the hub of beach activity), the Gulf Pier, the Blue Angels (an annual air show every summer), Quietwater Beach Boardwalk, and Fort Pickens.
Pensacola Beach is just one of the great beach destinations in the Florida Panhandle.
St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge
Of these, the top-rated attraction on TripAdvisor is St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. It is one of the oldest wildlife refuges in the country having been established in 1931 as a wintering ground for migrating birds.
- Size: 68,000 Acres
- St. Marks Lighthouse: The Second-Oldest In Florida
The refuge includes saltwater marshes, islands, tidal creeks, and estuaries. Here visitors find a diverse range of animal life. Moreover, it's an attraction along Florida's massive Great Florida Birding Trail. Animals include black bears, bobcats, otters, alligators, and many species of birds.
Activities In The Wildlife Refuge:
- Bird Watching
- Hiking & Cycling
Come during the migrations and the number of birds dramatically increases.
- Address: 1255 Lighthouse Road, St. Marks, FL 32355
- Hours: Outdoor Activities: Every Day Sunrise to Sunset
Visitor Center Hours:
- Monday to Friday: 8.00 am to 4.00 pm
- Saturday and Sunday: 10.00 am to 5.00 pm
One can also see the historic St. Mark's lighthouse although it is closed to the public.
Next time planning a trip to Florida, consider exploring the Panhandle and seeing firsthand the diversity of the state of Florida.