- Destination Panama City
- 101 West Beach Drive - Panama City
- Florida 32401 - United States
- (850) 215-1700
Bay County is located in the northwestern part of Florida, along the Gulf of Mexico. It was established on April 24, 1913, and its county seat is Panama City. The county is named after St. Andrew Bay, which forms part of its southern border.
The area that is now Bay County has a rich history that dates back thousands of years. The region was originally inhabited by Native American tribes, including the Creek and the Apalachicola. These indigenous people relied on the bay's resources for fishing, hunting, and gathering.
European exploration of the area began in the 16th century when Spanish explorers, including Ponce de León and Hernando de Soto, arrived in Florida. However, it was not until the 19th century that permanent settlements started to develop in the Bay County area.
During the 19th century, the lumber industry became a significant economic driver in the region. The abundant pine forests attracted companies that established sawmills and timber operations. This led to the growth of several towns, including St. Andrews, Millville, and Parker.
In the early 20th century, a significant event in Bay County's history occurred with the arrival of the Panama City Improvement Company. The company was responsible for establishing Panama City as a planned community and a port city. The construction of the Panama Canal had just begun, and the company aimed to capitalize on the expected increase in trade and transportation. They built infrastructure, including docks, railroads, and roads, to support the city's development.
During World War II, Bay County played a vital role in the war effort. Tyndall Air Force Base, located east of Panama City, was established as a pilot training center. The base became an important military installation and continues to be operational today.
In more recent history, Bay County has faced challenges, particularly from natural disasters. In 2018, the county was hit hard by Hurricane Michael, a Category 5 hurricane that caused significant damage to the area. The storm resulted in the destruction of homes, infrastructure, and the loss of lives. The community has since been focused on recovery and rebuilding.
Despite the challenges, Bay County remains a popular tourist destination, known for its beautiful beaches and outdoor recreational opportunities. The county offers a range of activities, including fishing, boating, and wildlife viewing. It is also home to St. Andrews State Park, which attracts visitors with its pristine beaches and diverse ecosystems.
Overall, Bay County's history is intertwined with the exploration, development, and resilience of the Gulf Coast region of Florida.
Top Tourist Attractions
Bay County offers a variety of attractions for tourists. Here are some of the top tourist attractions in the county:
- Panama City Beach: Known for its stunning white sandy beaches and crystal-clear emerald waters, Panama City Beach is a major draw for tourists. It offers opportunities for swimming, sunbathing, and water sports like snorkeling, scuba diving, and jet skiing. The area also features beachfront resorts, restaurants, and vibrant nightlife.
- St. Andrews State Park: Located on the eastern end of Panama City Beach, St. Andrews State Park is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts. The park features pristine beaches, nature trails, and a lagoon. Visitors can swim, snorkel, kayak, or paddleboard in the park's waters. The park is also known for its diverse wildlife, including birds, turtles, and dolphins.
- Shell Island: This uninhabited barrier island is accessible by boat from St. Andrews State Park. Shell Island is renowned for its unspoiled beauty and abundance of seashells. Visitors can explore the island's beaches, go snorkeling, or simply relax in a tranquil natural setting.
- Gulf World Marine Park: Situated in Panama City Beach, Gulf World Marine Park offers visitors a chance to interact with marine life. The park features live shows with dolphins, sea lions, and tropical birds. Visitors can also swim with dolphins, snorkel with stingrays, or have a close encounter with penguins.
- Shipwreck Island Waterpark: For a fun-filled family experience, Shipwreck Island Waterpark is a popular choice. The waterpark boasts numerous water slides, a lazy river, wave pool, and children's play areas. It's an ideal place to cool off and enjoy a day of aquatic thrills.
- Historic St. Andrews: Located in Panama City, the historic St. Andrews district offers a glimpse into the area's past. This charming waterfront community features quaint shops, art galleries, and restaurants. Visitors can stroll along the marina, visit the St. Andrews Bay Yacht Club, or enjoy fishing from the city pier.
- Panama City Marina Civic Center: This multi-purpose event venue hosts concerts, theatrical performances, and sporting events. It's a hub for cultural activities and entertainment in the area.
- Bay County Historical Museum: Situated in Panama City, the Bay County Historical Museum showcases exhibits and artifacts that highlight the county's history. It provides insights into the region's Native American heritage, early settlers, the lumber industry, and military history.
These are just a few of the many attractions that Bay County has to offer. Whether you're seeking outdoor adventures, relaxation on pristine beaches, or cultural experiences, the county has something for everyone.
Bay County has a humid subtropical climate, typical of the Gulf Coast region. Here are some key characteristics of the county's climate:
- Mild Winters: Winters in Bay County are generally mild and pleasant. Average daytime temperatures range from the 60s to the low 70s Fahrenheit (15-23°C) during the coldest months of December, January, and February. Frost is rare, and snowfall is extremely rare.
- Warm Springs: Spring in Bay County brings a gradual increase in temperatures. Days become warmer, with average highs ranging from the 70s to the 80s Fahrenheit (23-30°C). Spring is also a relatively dry season with lower humidity.
- Hot Summers: Summers in Bay County are hot and humid. Average daytime temperatures reach the upper 80s to the low 90s Fahrenheit (31-34°C). It is not uncommon for temperatures to reach the mid to upper 90s (35-37°C) during the hottest months of July and August. High humidity levels can make it feel even hotter. Thunderstorms are common in the summer, providing some relief from the heat.
- Active Hurricane Season: Bay County is located in an area susceptible to hurricanes due to its proximity to the Gulf of Mexico. The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30, with the peak occurring between August and October. Residents and visitors should stay informed and prepared during this time.
- Wettest Season: Bay County experiences a wet season from May to October. Rainfall is relatively abundant during this period, with frequent afternoon thunderstorms. Tropical systems, including hurricanes and tropical storms, can bring heavy rainfall to the area. The wettest months are typically July and August.
It's worth noting that weather patterns can vary from year to year, and extreme weather events like cold snaps or heatwaves can occur. It's always a good idea to check local weather forecasts and be prepared for changes in weather conditions when visiting or residing in Bay County.
It is situated on the Florida Panhandle, bordered by the Gulf of Mexico to the south. Here are some key aspects of Bay County's geography:
- Coastal Location: Bay County is known for its beautiful coastline along the Gulf of Mexico. The county has approximately 27 miles (43 kilometers) of pristine white sandy beaches that attract visitors from around the world. The coastline is characterized by dunes, coastal marshes, and barrier islands.
- St. Andrew Bay: The county is named after St. Andrew Bay, a large body of water that forms part of its southern border. St. Andrew Bay is an estuary known for its diverse marine life and recreational opportunities. It offers boating, fishing, and water sports activities.
- Barrier Islands: Bay County is home to several barrier islands that provide protection to the mainland and contribute to the area's natural beauty. Some notable barrier islands include Shell Island, Crooked Island, and St. Andrew Island. These islands feature pristine beaches, dunes, and coastal ecosystems.
- Inland Waterways: In addition to St. Andrew Bay, Bay County is traversed by other waterways. These include the Grand Lagoon, West Bay, and various creeks and rivers. These inland waterways provide opportunities for boating, fishing, and wildlife viewing.
- Flat Topography: The topography of Bay County is relatively flat, with low elevation. The area features marshes, swamps, and wetlands, particularly along the coastal regions. The county gradually rises inland toward the northern part of the county.
- State and National Parks: Bay County is home to several state and national parks, preserving its natural beauty and biodiversity. St. Andrews State Park, located on the eastern end of Panama City Beach, encompasses both coastal and inland areas, including beaches, dunes, and a lagoon. It offers outdoor activities and camping facilities. Other parks in the area include Camp Helen State Park and Pine Log State Forest.
Overall, Bay County's geography is defined by its coastal location, barrier islands, inland waterways, and flat topography. These natural features contribute to the county's appeal as a tourist destination and provide ample opportunities for outdoor recreation and appreciation of the coastal ecosystem.