Looking for a beach vacation and can’t make it all the way to Kona, Hawaii? Head on off to the Gulf of Mexico in Santa Rosa, Florida for a visit to the “Redneck Rivrera”. Where the beaches are stunning, the ice cream is cold, and the sunsets are worth the wait. I spent a week between Panama City and Destin, Florida in, Fort Walton County, for some R&R and came back feeling great after my week of Vitamin Sea!

Santa Rosa, Florida

Over Easter Weekend (April 15 – 22), three moms and 4 little girls packed up their suits and flew from the rainy West Virginia Panhandle to the gloriously sunny Florida Panhandle.

We shared the cost of a 4 bedroom house through Air B&B just a half mile from Blue Mountain Beach where there was the cutest ice cream and donut shop. The house provided us with beach toys, water guns, chairs, umbrellas, coolers, totes, and everything else that you’d need to keep the kids entertained for several hours on the beach without electronics. There was also a community pool that we were able to use and bikes all lined up for us to explore on. I could not have asked for a better place to stay.

They don't call this the "Redneck Riviera" for nothing. The beaches of Fort Walton County are stunning!

Beaches

I’ve lived in Daytona, Florida and I wasn’t impressed with the driving on the beach and the hard packed sand. I know its a past time, but it wasn’t for me. The sand in the Panama City Beach area is light and soft and it felt great to walk on. In fact, if you were up from the surf, the sand was almost too soft for walking long distances on.

I went on several long walks on the beach – it was just what this country gal needed. Some alone time to look for seashells, some exercise to work off the margaritas, and some peace and quite to reconnect with me. I know that sounds cheesy, but I really needed it.

Search for seashells and sand dollars along the Panama City Beaches. The sunsets are stunning all along the Florida Panhandle.

Anyway, we stopped in at the Blue Mountain Beach, Panama City Beach, Seaside, and Inlet Beach. They were all amazing. I don’t think that I could have asked for anything better. Bring some food and drinks and keep the kids entertained with games and seashell searches and wait for the amazing Gulf Coast Sunsets. WOW!

The beaches in Santa Rosa, Florida are beautiful. Soft, sandy beaches with emerald water and lots of wildlife to explore.

Things to Do with the Kids

On this trip there were two 8-year-olds and two 11-year-old girls. We spent two afternoons with the girls in Panama City for some fun local flare! One day we booked a two hour pirate cruise on the Sea Dragon. The girls got to have a water gun fight, a hunt for sunken treasure, and watch the wild dolphins swim around the boat in the inlet. The Mom’s got to drink Rum Runners and enjoy watching the girls have a great time.

Take the kids on the Sea Dragon - a Pirate Cruise in Panama City Beach, Florida.

My daughter (age 11) was the only one not totally impressed with the cruise. According to her, it’s just a boat ride, NOT a cruise. The actives were for babies and the sunken treasure was just junk from the Dollar Store. So, if your kids are totally jaded like mine, this may not be the best thing for them. Just bring your camera, a wide brimmed hat, sunscreen and money for food and drinks on-board and you’ll be set!

Gulf World in Panama City Florida is a great way to enjoy an afternoon with the kids while in Florida. Great Dolphin show and animal education.

Another day we took the girls to Gulf World to swim with dolphins. They wee thrilled with the idea of SWIMMING with the dolphins, but in all honesty, there was no swimming for our encounter. We booked the cheapest dolphin experience which included a handshake, a kiss and a hug with Roo our dolphin. I guess you get what you pay for and we should have spent a bit more for the actual swimming experience. We’ll know better for the next opportunity. The aquatic park overall was cute. The Dolphin show, sea lion show, and stingrays were really great. My kid loved her day with the animals and really enjoyed it here.

Swim with the Dolphins at Gulf World in Panama City Florida. It's lots of fun and a great experience for the kids!

Seaside, FL

We took an afternoon to drive into Seaside. It’s a wonderful little town that was used to film the Jim Carey movie “The Truman Show”. Everything was planned down to every detail. There’s a large amphitheater in the middle whee they were showing a sunset play of “Pinocchio”. We went shopping in the little open air markets and ate lunch at the food trucks. The girls went swimming while I kept snapping photos and bought the mama’s margaritas to be enjoyed seaside while watching the sunset. It’s an amazing place and you can read more about seaside from my friends –

  1. Seaside Florida Cottages from Cheryl
  2. What to Eat, Do and See in Seaside, FL from Heidi
  3. Seaside, Florida from Amanda

Seaside, Florida is a planned community that is great for biking, walking, shopping and offers beautiful beaches to swim at.

It’s a fun and quaint town and we loved spending the day here. BTW – did I mention that the sunset was stunning?

Grab your beach towels and sunscreen and head off to Santa Rosa, Florida. It's a great family vacation destination!

So get away from the hustle and bustle and head on off to the Florida Panhandle. Santa Rosa, Florida is a perfect family destination.

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Charles Town, West Virginia

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