Historic St. Andrews
When you ask someone from out of the area about Panama City, they often respond with statements that describe how they love our beautiful beaches and the wealth of attractions and activities that await them when they vacation here.
As, locals we always smile and say, “That’s the Beach.” They are unaware that Panama City and Panama City Beach are two separate cities. Even more so, if you ask them if they have visited St. Andrews, more often than not, they mention that they love the State Park and enjoy fishing or snorkeling at the Jetties.
The typical local’s response is something similar to, “Well…that’s true, too, but…we’re talking about Historic St. Andrews. You know…over the bridge.”
To the outsider, it may seem a little weird to have so many similar names describing completely different areas. As locals, we feel charged to clarify a few things on St. Andrews for the next batch of visitors. To stay true to our motto, we give you “The Shortcut to the Good Stuff” with a little info about some places we love to grab a bite or shop!
St. Andrews is actually located within Panama City – not the Beach – and sits directly on the St. Andrews Bay. The bay and the surrounding area was officially added to some of the original maps of Florida that date back to 1513. The first European settlement was founded in the area in the early 1830’s and had a thriving shipping, boat building and salt industry until 1927 when it was annexed into Panama City.
Sailors were (and still are) fond of the bay because of its centralized location on the Gulf of Mexico, its deep waters and easy access to the mainland. Pirates were also known to have roamed the waters around St. Andrews, and legend has it, that numerous pirate vessels would port in locations around the bay to replenish their supplies and to count their booty!
Pirate or not, we’re pretty sure they liked the view and the sunsets as much as we do.
Today, St. Andrews is a very popular walkabout spot for both locals and visitors “in the know.” Shops, boutiques and restaurants line the main road (Beck Avenue) and the side streets with numerous events, activities and festivals held throughout the year. Here are a few of our favorites!
Love the Food
In St. Andrews, there are so many tasty spots.. There are quite a few restaurants to choose from so depending on your cravings, you’ll be able to find the perfect spot for a bite.
If you’ve got a craving for seafood, then you have to make the difficult choice. Is it going to be Uncle Ernie’s or The Captain’s Table? Both specialize in the absolute freshest gulf seafood available – it was probably swimming in the Gulf last night – and both have a wide array of menu choices to cover even the most finicky eater in your group. If you can’t decide – do both! The grouper throats at the Captain’s Table are a perennial favorite in our household and we love the calamari and sunset cocktails at Uncle Ernie’s!
The legendary Los Antojitos is about to reopen Mid-Novemberin St Andrews and we can’t contain our excitement. After being forced to relocate due to the widening of Highway 98, the locally famous Mexican restaurant Los Antojitos has been building their location for a little over a year and they are almost done! The Fish Tacos are some of the best we have ever had and for a Mexican Restaurant, they do one of the best steaks in the area. Yes..I must admit, it’s even better than mine.
The Farmer’s Market
If you follow the blog here on the Visitor’s Map, you already know we are HUGE fans of the Farmer’s Market that takes place every Saturday morning. Numerous vendors show up each Saturday and present everything from homemade jams and jellies, local honeys and spreads, fresh baked cookies, cakes and breads. There are also plenty of artists on hand selling their unique one of a kind creations so make sure you peruse them all for a little early Christmas shopping.
We truly love all of the fresh vegetable and fruit vendors that pack their tables with the fresh, locally grown goodies. Most of the time, we will plan our weekly menu on what we scored at the Farmer’s Market. Chinese eggplant? Fresh yucca and star fruit? Baskets and baskets of tomatoes? Yes, please!
Before you hit the Market, drop into Amavida Coffee right around the corner and grab a tasty cup o’Joe, an espresso, a latte or even a cold brew. Amavida Coffee is an Organic, Fair Trade Coffee company that delivers the best tasting, flavorful and freshly roasted coffee beans to retailers and wholesale suppliers in Florida and beyond.
Get Your Shopping On
If you are looking for something different, eclectic or flat out one of a kind, you have to make a trip through the shops along St. Andrews.
If you love local art and a touch of the eclectic, swing into Two Sister’s and The Little Village. Both of these boutiques are very involved in the local art scene and offer one of a kind art pieces from local artists and an array of hand crafted items from all over the world. The Little Village also features beer and wine along with daily entertainment on their back deck overlooking Lake Ware.
If antiques are your thing, make sure that you swing by Estate Treasures. They both offer hand-picked selections of antiques including furniture, jewelry, beach and maritime décor and so much more. Be advised – with so many interesting thongs to peak your interest, you can totally lose track of time in both of these shops!
Walking Tour and Museum
The Panama City Publishing Company building on Beck Avenue is the home of the very first newspaper, The Panama City Pilot which ran from 1907 – 1941. Now the building is a museum and features original newspapers, photographs, documents and over 70 items including the original printing press and furniture.
Want to see what the news of the day was in 1910? Take a look at some scans of the Panama City Pilot!
If you’re in the area on Wednesdays or Fridays at 1:00pm, make sure to drop by the Panama City Publishing Company as the museum also hosts a free walking tour. If you want to take the tour yourself, you can go here and listen to the audio tour as you stroll through St. Andrews.
For all of you travelers, visitors and vagabonds i.e. locals, we hope we’ve clarified things. Even though we do love a snorkeling trip to the jetties, most of the time we prefer living it up in historic St. Andrews.
In researching this article, I stumbled across a quote about St. Andrews in a mail-order real estate pamphlet (that’s-right… mail order real estate) from around 1870 and I thought it would be fitting conclusion.
“The loveliest location in all Florida. In a land where the genial climate of a winterless round of years will reward your every effort with the most bountiful harvests; where the summers are joyous seasons of refreshing breezes and invigorating nights of cool and healthful slumber; and where the winters are but bewitching contrasts to the summers in heightening and intensifying the delicious pleasure of a life in the fairest land the sun ever blessed with it’s genial kiss. There is but one Florida, and St. Andrews Bay is it’s brightest jewel.”
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