Check out the Florida gulf coast map and you’ll see just how beautiful the panhandle is. Florida is a very unique state in that it is situated along the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, but one well-known location is the Florida panhandle along the Gulf of Mexico. The Floridian panhandle is an unofficial term but is pretty widely used. The term “panhandle” is not unique to just Florida, it is used in other states across America, as well as other countries across the world. To learn all about the Florida panhandle, and the cities and beaches there, check out this guide.
The travel and tourism industry is the lifeblood of many states around the country – including Florida, California, New York and Nevada, to name a few. – Mark Foley
What Does The Term “Panhandle” Mean?
The term panhandle is an unofficial word, the technical name is actually salient. According to Merriam-Webster (which can be found here) a salient is:
projecting beyond a line, surface, or level
Basically, a salient is a projection of something. In this case, a panhandle is a projection of a state (in particular, Florida). There are 9 other states that also have panhandles.
|States With Panhandles|
|West Virginia||1.8 million|
There are also a lot of countries that have salients, but we won’t get into that right now.
Regions of the Panhandle
There are two distinct coastal regions to the panhandle; the emerald coast and the forgotten coast.
The Emerald Coast
This is an unofficial term coined in 1983 that encompasses the far western portions of the coastline that goes about to the middle of the panhandle. This is also, occasionally, used to refer to the coast of the panhandle as a whole. The counties included in the emerald coast are: Walton County, Okaloosa County, Santa Rosa County, Escambia County, and Bay County.
The Forgotten Coast
The rest of the coastline of the panhandle is referred to as the forgotten coast, a name coined in the very early 1990s. It includes these counties: Bay County, Franklin County, Gulf County, Wakulla County. You may notice that Bay County is included in both the Emerald Coast and the Forgotten Coast, and that’s because a small part of it is included in the Emerald coast, the rest is considered to be in the Forgotten Coast area (as you might be able to see in the maps above)
Cities in the Florida Panhandle
Now let’s quickly go over all the cities and counties located with the Florida panhandle region. The largest city in this area is Tallahassee, which is also the capital of Florida. It has a population of 180 thousand people (as of 2010).
Cities and towns in alphabetical order:
- Cedar Grove
- DeFuniak Springs
- Fort Walton Beach
- Gulf Breeze
- Lynn Haven
- Panama City
- Panama City Beach
- Port St Joe
- Bay County
- Calhoun County
- Escambia County
- Franklin County
- Gadsden County
- Gulf County
- Holmes County
- Jackson County
- Jefferson County
- Leon County
- Liberty County
- Madison County
- Okaloosa County
- Santa Rosa County
- Taylor County
- Wakulla County
- Walton County
- Washington County
What Are Some Good Places To Visit While You’re In The Panhandle?
The panhandle of Florida has plenty of beautiful cities and beaches, so we will just go over a few of the more notable ones.
Ways To Get To The Panhandle
If you are visiting from out of state there are a few ways you can actually get into the panhandle, but here are some personal favorite ways:
- Interstate 10: This interstate runs coast to coast, stretching from Santa Monica, California and goes clear across to Lake City, Florida
- Tallahassee International Airport: This airport is in Tallahassee, is a close drive to beautiful beaches and is accessible from other major airports from across the country (and even the world)
Cities To Visit
When you plan your trip to the panhandle, make sure you visit these cities:
- Tallahassee: founded in 1824, this is the capital of the state of Florida. It is home to Florida A&M University, and the name Tallahassee means “old town” in Muskogean
- Pensacola: founded in 1559 by Pensacola Native Americans, this city is located near the border of Florida and Alabama. Pensacola is often called “Aerica’s first settlement”
- Apalachicola: the name is derived from many Native American tribes to mean “people on the other side of the river”, is a small town of 2,000 people. Very historical and beautiful city
Beaches To Visit
Finally, here are some of the great beaches you can visit:
- Panama City Beach
- Very popular vacation destination
- Lots of hotels and condos to choose from
- Is referred to as one of the world’s prettiest beaches because of its white sand
- White sandy beaches and green waters draw large amounts of people to this popular vacation spot
- Has lots of great fishing spots and is a very popular vacation fishing destination
- Fort Walton Beach
- Very family friendly vacation spot
- Lots of museums can be found in Fort Walton
- Miramar Beach
- Massive outlet mall to visit when you want to get away from relaxing on the beach
- Can go visit Jolee Nature Park, which is dog-friendly and a little different scenery than the white sandy beaches
- Santa Rosa Beach
- Santa Rosa Beach is actually an unincorporated community in Walton County
- Located in the Emerald Coast
- Founded in 1910, has a very old-time beach feel that you can see the history in
- If you love history, definitely check out Santa Rosa Beach
- St. George Island
- 28-mile long state protected barrier island
- Very pet-friendly!
- The island has strict building codes so no buildings will obstruct your view of the Gulf of Mexico
- The island is home to lots of wildlife and is great for nature fans