When we made plans to stick around Panama City Beach for a few days after our April presentation of How to Hike the Florida Trail, we got in touch with our colleagues at Visit Panama City Beach to find a place to stay. Noting that our task was to visit and photograph natural areas in their vicinity, they connected us with Pinnacle Port, which sits right on the shores of Lake Powell, one of the coastal dune lakes we planned to visit. They offered to host us for our stay.
Neither of us can stand towering beach condos. We’re both old enough to remember when Florida’s shores weren’t cluttered with them. So as we drove through the little village of homes out front and approached a big concrete oceanfront building, I said “uh oh.”
As it turned out, that building was the first condo to be built along this beach. It’s the oldest and tallest of the structures in this condo complex along Inlet Beach. The buildings closer to Lake Powell are newer and shorter. We were fortunate to be given a unit in the building that adjoins Camp Helen State Park, so we could walk right down the beach and into the park.
As condo dwellers, we pay attention to amenities. This was a three-bedroom unit with way more space that we needed, so we stayed in the oceanfront room and left the rooms at the other end alone. The kitchen was much spiffier than ours, with a digitally programmed stove that kept flashing messages at us. We’d brought some food with us to prepare, but ended up eating dinners out and having most of our other meals here. Our unit was nicely furnished, with the couch set just right to let us look out over the water.
Although the weather didn’t cooperate with our schedule to let John get out on the water and do some photography, the complex has its own dock with rental kayaks and canoes for plying the waters of Lake Powell.
Families were constantly busy with the grills and picnic tables, pool, and shuffleboard courts, even late at night. On our final two nights of our stay, we enjoyed spectacular sunsets from our porch.
At the far west end of Panama City Beach off US 98, just before the bridge over Lake Powell.
We wandered not just along the coast but also a dozen miles or so north for some walks on the Florida Trail and in Pine Log State Forest. Here are some great destinations within an easy drive of Pinnacle Port.
- Camp Helen State Park - Haunted by a sea monster sighted in one of the largest ancient coastal dune lakes on Florida's coast, Camp Helen State Park offers seaside relaxation and historic interpretation.
- Conservation Park Green Trail - In Panama City Beach off US 98, Conservation Park is a vast pine plantation and cypress dome restoration area with loop trails from 1.8 to 11 miles long.
- Deer Lake State Park - At Deer Lake State Park, the coastal flatwoods ecosystem hosts rare pitcher plants, Gulf Coast lupine and stately magnolias along a coastal dune lake, with beach access along the Gulf of Mexico at Alys Beach.
- Frank Brown Park - The primary recreational complex in Panama City Beach - with aquatic center and ballfields - Frank Brown Park also provides access to biking on Gayle's Trails.
- Gayle’s Trails - A network of paved trails north of US 98, Gayle's Trails connect two major parks in Panama City Beach with nearby neighborhoods.
- Grayton Beach State Park - Grayton Beach State Park protects one in a chain of rare coastal dune lakes with freshwater mere yards from the Gulf of Mexico. Nature trails introduce you to the rugged barrier island dunes and the pine flatwoods around the lake.
- Pine Log State Forest - Florida's first state forest, Pine Log State Forest north of Panama City Beach offers a variety of loop trails as well as a segment of the statewide Florida Trail
- St. Andrews State Park - St. Andrews State Park is a pristine getaway on this coast that you won't want to miss. It's one of two bookends of natural wonder along the shoreline of Panama City Beach.
Our thanks to Pinnacle Port for providing a complimentary stay while we researched hiking trails in the area, and to Visit Panama City Beach for making the connection for us.