Centara

Published on Monday, January 15, 2018

An out-of-the-way resort that's well worth the journey



Graham McKenzie writes :-


 


Graham McKenzie takes a drive to Panama City Beach to the Sheraton Bay Point Resort for golf, relaxation, eating, and getting back to nature.





First Impressions: From about 10 miles out you would think that you are approaching another high-density development near the coast with lots of retail, restaurants and traffic. Once you turn off the main drag and onto the fabulously named Magnolia Beach Road, however, it changes, and you are into a Floridian coastal paradise.


A warm greeting, a fabulous large room with sea views from a small balcony and all the modern facilities one could wish for with the obligatory fast wi-fi. The hotel itself has 320 guest rooms of which 200 are in the main building, where I was, and 120 in golf villas.


Location: A fair drive from any international airport, the Panama City Beach area really services the 5/6 hour drive-in market, which brings in visitors from Southern Georgia, mid Florida and west Alabama. I drove from Tampa and it took around five and a half hours of very easy driving. The hotel itself is located on a peninsula, which is on an island, with a magnificent bay as its backdrop. A few miles from Panama City, the beach community is quite separate, safe and seems to have a culture all its own.

Facilities: The hotel offers almost limitless things to do. I played golf on a fabulous, but not easy Jack Nicklaus designed course. It has enough water hazards to float a battleship, Salman Rushdie type greens and sea breezes which all go to make up a tough challenge. After the golf I had lunch in the clubhouse bar and then went for a walk across the extensive boardwalk facilities that extend out over the bay. In the spring this can lead to a drink at the wood shack bar next to the small marina that houses a mixture of sail and motor boats. Golf and walking can lead to tight muscles, so next on the agenda was an hour-long deep tissue massage at the Serenity Spa. Cycles, tennis, kayak, pontoon boats and jet skis are all available via the concierge and the Gulf of Mexico offers some of the cleanest and calmest waters around, not to mention a high possibility of seeing dolphins.



Across the bay is St Andrews State park and the start of the fabulous, and I mean fabulous, beaches of the Panama City area. The sand is of a type that the only thing I could think of was that I was walking on fresh snow. The colour, feel underfoot and the sound was enough to make you think you were walking in a tropical alpine area (if that makes sense).


For families: If you can stand the drive from Tampa or Atlanta, this is absolutely for families. There are lots of things for families to do, not least of which is availing themselves of the beaches. The water is ideal for swimming and nearby is the untouched by human hand Shell Beach. During the summer the hotel offers a floating shuttle service. In the surrounding area there are waterparks and other amusements, but for me the natural facilities greatly outweigh the artificial ones.

Wining and dining: On site there are several beach type bars, a golf club pub and a coffee shop, but the real eating is done in the Tides restaurant, which has a typical menu for the region of fresh fish, oysters plus the normal burger/steak offerings. This, however, is just the tip of the iceberg lettuce for within a stones throw are some fabulous restaurants. I ate at the Grand Marlin which has an extensive list of fresh local seafood right on the harbourfront and it was exceptional.


Highs: The sense of anticipation once I reached my room with its panoramic views of the bay. I could have spent hour upon hour there just watching the birdlife and tides.


Lows: Not many to be honest, but the long drive may put lots off.

Verdict: The effort required to get to the property, whatever form of transport you use, is amply rewarded with a peaceful, attractive and interesting location with lots to do and high quality restaurants.
 


 


 


 


 


Graham was hosted by Panama City Beach CVB


and his car was provided by Hertz

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