Monday, June 29, 2009

The Florida Panhandle- A Southern Tradition

Last night as we crossed the bridge, I rolled down my window just to smell the air.
Salty, clean, humid, with the faint smells of fresh gulf shrimp and grouper- this is Destin.

We've lived along the Florida Panhandle several times through the years and I've fallen in love with it. Don't tell Mama, but it is more like home to me than the red clay of Georgia. (I think she already knows.)

The Florida Panhandle has its own charm. There's an eclectic mix of foods and traditions of The South with the beach bum attitude of Florida.

Here, the Live Oaks make cool canopies over roads. Mullet is fried up with hush puppies at local diners where they serve sweet tea. Panhandle natives still do not wear white after Labor Day and their accents are distinctly Southern.

Every summer you can read license plates from Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee from cars filled with families spending summer vacations here. They return like migrating birds each year to their favorite places like Destin, Mexico Beach, Panama City, Ft. Walton Beach and Pensacola.

I remember church youth trips to Panama City, spending hours on the beach forgetting sunscreen, and giggling with friends at the theme park on Miracle Strip Parkway. Another panhandle tradition is spending a day at Big Kahuna's, a water park in the Heart of Destin.

Today, the panhandle looks a little different. There are more fusion restaurants and transplanted palm trees. But if you look, you will find the old menus, people, and traditions which still make this area beautifully unique.

Like the Live Oaks gracing old neighborhood streets, the panhandle is still rooted in Southern beach charm. This is the reason families flock to these beaches each year for seafood festivals, fishing rodeos, and family reunions on the Fourth of July.

And the view ain't bad either.


bensrib said...

Oh, you've made me miss the Emerald Coast. We love Ft. Walton Beach. Thanks for the memories.

Dawn said...

The beach is beautiful. I love the color of the water. It is so different from the beaches here... it looks peaceful.

2nd Cup of Coffee said...

Wish I could see it. I know my kids did a missions thing in Destin once, and son went to Panama City with a friend and his mom for Spring break. There were few bikinis around, mainly retired teachers who make their way back there each year, so I felt good about letting him. Anyway, we loved Anna Maria Island and dream about going back because it's steeped in culture and character unto itself. Just enough retro, you know?

2Thinks said...

Destin. Hmm. I was just at a graduation open house on Saturday and the hostess was telling me about her uncle, whom I know, who moved from the keys to Destin recently. I had never heard of Destin and now I see it here. Interesting. Very interesting.

Roxanne said...

Those are the prettiest white sand beaches anywhere. I haven't been to Pensacola in years, but you made me miss it.

Barb said...

The view is gorgeous. I don't think I'd ever get tired of that view.

SouthTrawler said...

I love the way you write about where I'm from...i feel like I'm there now. Can't wait to get back down there for some cheese grits and fresh grouper.