Every winter, as the cold sets in and the snow begins to fall, I begin to plan an escape to somewhere warm. Normally, that somewhere is Florida. It’s amazing what a 15-hour drive south from Ohio can make. From snow-covered driveways to beautiful sand covered beaches, tranquil waterways and warm breezes.
Yep. This winter, my husband and I want to be snowbirds. And I’m saving my pennies to do it. One of the places I’d love to explore is Gulf County which makes up 43 miles of coastline along the Florida panhandle 30 miles east of Panama City.
A nature lover’s paradise, Gulf County provides easy access to the Gulf of Mexico, the Gulf County Canal, the Intercoastal Waterway and more.
While my friends and family are shoveling their driveways and scraping ice off their car windows, I plan to kayak, hike, bike, bird watch, fish and enjoy more warm weather activities while enjoying nature while I Instagram all of it.
I enjoy visiting large cities (remember my recent Chicago post?), but there is really something special about the connected small communities where locals invite visitors to experience the land they call home.
Gulf County is a small town with townspeople that wave as you pass by and stop and say hello. Gulf County is also an old mill town. They work hard and prioritize time outdoors because science has proven that people who regularly spend time enjoying nature are less stressed and happier.
I could handle a bit less stress this winter. I’m already planning where I can pitch my tent for a few days.
Three Tips for Visiting Gulf County, Florida
1. Plan in advance.
I know I’m not the only person who dreams of fleeing the winter temperatures. Many northerners flock to Florida and this shows, as “prime season” in Gulf County is September through May.
Florida is a popular winter getaway. Plan your trip and make reservations as far in advance as possible during prime season to ensure you’re not disappointed by lack of availability.
2. Take advantage of the Gulf County Concierge Program and Advenure Guides to help you plan your trip. After all, who knows an area better than its locals?
Gulf County may be set apart from its competitors by its many waterway options that include both fresh and saltwater, but it’s the people that truly bring the area to life. You can even visit the Gulf County website to find GCFL Adventure Guides written for you by the people who know the area best- the locals. They’ll share the best place to eat, hike or spend the night. Combined with the Gulf County Concierge Program which allows you to speak to someone directly to help you plan for the best getaway you can have.
3. For an unforgettable experience, plan to do something you’ve never done before.
While I’d love to spend my days hanging out at our campsite or vacation rental, shelling on the beach and enjoying the amazing sunsets, I know my husband would prefer a more adventurous experience. Here are my top 3 choices:
Horseback riding on the beach.
I’ve always thought of horseback riding along the beach at sunset as a rather romantic activity, but it’s also one that is family friendly so if our kids are interested in joining us on our trip, it would be one the entire family can enjoy.
Driving on the beach.
Gulf County is one of the few places that allows visitors to drive along the beach in designated areas. One simply must ensure they have a vehicle that is good for driving on the beach and purchase a permit. If your vehicle is not one that can drive on the sand, special permitted golf carts are available to rent.
Diving on shipwrecks.
My husband would love to learn to dive. He’s talked about it for years. In Gulf County, visitors can learn to dive and then test their skills on a historic shipwreck dive to The Vamar which rests 25-feet below the water under the supervision of a certified instructor.
The rest of my visit, I’ll be content to learn the history of the area, go beachcombing and capture some great photographs of our escape from the cold. And I know I’m not the only person who dreams of fleeing the winter temperatures.
Many northerners flock to Florida and this shows, as “prime season” in Gulf County is September through May.
A visit to Gulf County is full of wonder, surprise and fresh adventure. You’ll find access to a variety of adventure in Gulf County from paddleboarding, sailing, kayak fishing in the bay, or taking an eco tour in the Indian Lagoon. How awesome does that sound?
Have you visited Gulf County?