Cruise Alternative Itinerary: Day 6 - Port Day
Updated: Jan 30
Welcome to Day 6 in our series on how to restructure a land-based vacation in Panama City Beach, FL to feel like a Caribbean cruise. If you're just joining us, you might want to start at the beginning.
After a break in the schedule yesterday, we're treating Day 6 as the final "Port Day" on this trip. For something different, we've planned an excursion to Ponce De Leon Springs State Park. We'll tell you more about the park shortly. But first, let's talk about preparing for the day. This will be an all-day trip, so, we would recommend packing a lunch and starting with a hearty breakfast. One of our favorite breakfast spots is Fatty Patty's on Thomas Drive.
With a name like Fatty Patty’s it won’t come as a surprise that they’re known for dishes like cinnamon roll French toast, crab cakes benedict, and gigantic breakfast burritos. We’re a big fan of their breakfast sausage and it seems to improve just about any dish lucky enough to have it on the roster. With reasonable prices and friendly service, this is a great place to fuel up on your way to the state park.
Ponce De Leon Springs State Park is a little over an hour from the Joy Coastal condo. Before we get too far into this post, it's important to mention that there are TWO state parks in Florida with this name. Make sure you're navigating to the park at 2860 Ponce De Leon Springs Rd, Ponce De Leon, FL 32455 - because the other one is 5 HOURS AWAY IN CENTRAL FLORIDA. While it would make quite a story, it's not a mistake you want to make on your trip. ;)
So, why did we choose an excursion that takes you away from the beach? Because we think cruises set the stage for unique experiences that are sometimes off the beaten path. The Ponce De Leon Springs are just such an experience. Spring vents fill the springs with 14 million gallons of crystal-clear fresh water every day. The temperature of the springs stays steady at a cool 68 degrees, making it very refreshing on a hot Florida day.
Admission to the park is $4 per vehicle. Guests can swim and snorkel in the springs. (You'll need to bring your own snorkeling equipment.) There are two hiking paths and some geocaching trinkets have previously been hidden in the park. Restrooms, changing rooms, and picnic facilities are also on site.
I've heard people describe this experience as "Old Florida". If you grew up traveling across the country in station wagons on family vacations, and you stopped at road-side attractions along the way, Ponce De Leon Springs may remind you of that element of your childhood.
After you finish up at the springs, head back to Panama City Beach and take some time to get ready for the evening. We think this is a great day to do some of the fun activities beach towns are known for. Panama City Beach has no shortage of these. More on that later...
For dinner tonight, we like the idea of going to Sisters of the Sea. This restaurant is located at the Pirate's Cove Marina, right on the water. If the weather is nice, you can sit outside and watch the boats coming into the marina. Sisters of the Sea has an outdoor pool and patrons can swim there. We think this is a particularly fun option for kids.
When the weather is warm and the water temperature allows for swimming, mermaids actually make a daily appearance at Sisters of the Sea. If swimming with the mermaids is important to you, you'll want to check their website for the specific times before you go. The food is good and casual. Make sure to save room for some of their signature fried strawberries at the end of your meal!
After dinner, it's time for some fun in Panama City Beach. There are several options for mini golf and go cart racing around town. We like Pirate's Island Golf Adventure, where the entire course is pirate themed and you'll learn little known facts about some of the most memorable pirates in history. We also like Race City, which is not far from Pirate's Island Golf Adventure. Race City has go carts, a roller coaster, and other amusement activities.
There are activities like this everywhere in Panama City Beach. Find one that suits your group and make some memories!
Come back tomorrow for the final day of our itinerary. Endings are always bittersweet, but we've got the final day packed full of memorable ways to make the most of your last day of vacation!