I’m very excited to have some fabulous guest bloggers this week sharing summer essentials for their favorite travel destinations. Elise, one half of the blogging duo from Here In This House is closing out the series with her essentials for a trip to the Panhandle of Florida. Welcome Elise!

Growing up in the Deep South, my family didn’t venture too far for our summer vacations. One spot we visited yearly was the Panhandle of Florida: Destin, Sandestin, Seaside, Grayton Beach, and surrounding areas. Generally this area is referred to as the Emerald Coast for its sandy white beaches and cool green waters (the only of its kind in the continental U.S.). You can stay in a myriad of spots, but generally a beach- or bay-house rental in one of the beaches listed above is the way to go. I don’t get back often enough now, but when I do here is my essential list:

Reading list- Be sure to brush up on some new and classic Southern literature while lounging on the beach or in your bungalow’s hammock. Here are some of my favorites that I would suggest you read or re-read: The Help by Katherine Stockett, South of Broad by Pat Conroy, The Sound & The Fury by William Faulkner, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, & Mark Twain’s Helpful Hints for Good Living: A Handbook for the Damned Human Race. You can pick up a copy of these or any other book at the fantastic independent book store in Seaside: Sundog Books.

Souvenirs from Alvin’s Island– this kitsch, souvenir shop is quinsentential beach tchotchke shop; pick up a magnet, coffee mug, or alligator head. Bud & Alley’s in Seaside- a classic panhandle open-air restaurant & bar where you should be sure to pick a t-shirt too. It’s part of the open-air market that sells local vendors’ wares. Red Bar in Grayton Beach- a funky little “shack” (no, not the Love Shack but close:) that has good food and live music. Their menu changes daily & is written on a small chalkboard they bring around to your table. Big Kahuna’s Lost Paradise water park in Destin- fun water slides, put-put golf, and rides for the whole family; always tons of fun (still hold some great memories from my childhood). Seaside- rent a bike and explore this “New Urbanist” model of a community. There are adorable vacation homes, a fantastic open air market, and great shops all around the gingerbread-styled town. Schooner’s in Panama City Beach is referred to the “last local beach club” and has live music as well as a great bar and food. Fun times indeed. And if you want to get your family’s photo professionally while you are in the area, I highly recommend a good friend of mine, Elizabeth Laird. She takes amazing photos; just check out her website and you’ll see!

My last recommendation is to remember that the Panhandle is still considered part of the Deep South and it’s culture is closer to a Southern state than the rest of Florida. The people are known for being overly hospitable and accommodating; the pace is slower; families partake in activities together; and the food is fresh, local, and amazing.

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