Choctawhatchee Bay Loop, Panama City Beach, Destin
It’s summer and it’s riding season. Usually when you think of Florida, you think of beaches. There aren’t many places where you’ll find hills and winding roads with spectacular views. But there are a few places that are fun to ride. Actually, there are a lot of places but, this is one of my favorites. I call it the Choctawhatchee Bay Loop.
I lived in the area for nearly 40 years. Just like everything else in life the Choctawhatchee Bay Loop has evolved. There are a lot more people now. But it’s still a fun and beautiful ride. On the south side there is the Gulf of Mexico and the Emerald Coast. On the north side is the Choctawhatchee Bay.
You can start anywhere you want but my entry point is the intersection of Hwy 98 and East County 30-A. If you’re coming from Panama City Beach, it’s just past Lake Powel bridge.
Starting in the morning will put the sun at your back. Head west along 30-A. The first part of the drive will be through beach resort villages. I just liked looking at the where the more well to do own beach houses. Before it was developed in the 90’s this stretch was fairly remote
There are tons of great places to stop and eat or get something cold to drink. If you end up in this area near sun down, check out Seaside. Seaside is also a great place for lunch.
Past Seaside is Grayton Beach State Park. If you’re into camping, consider the park. Some of the best scenery is through this section. Enjoy.
After Grayton Beach the road winds through Blue Mountain Beach and other small towns and villages. Eventually, you’ll run back in to Hwy 98. Keep heading west. You’ll pass through Santa Rosa Beach, and San Destin. Baytown inside Sandestin is a great place to spend an afternoon and or evening if you have the time.
At Destin Commons turn right on to 293 and head north across Choctawhatchee Bay. It’s a long bridge with views of the open bay. After leaving the bridge you will turn east on Hwy 20. This section has great views of the bay through the old Live Oaks. Restaurants and bars on this side of the bay are cheaper and more rustic. Traffic is usually light.
At Freeport you’ll have to make a choice. You can head south on US331 to complete the loop or continue to Ebro and head south on Hwy 79. There’s a Dog Track at Ebro if you like to watch the races. Or, you can continue south until you reach Hwy 98 Near Pier Park.
There are so many things to do and see along this ride that I can’t begin to mention all of them. Also, there are a lot of short side trips along the way. You can do the trip easily in half a day or make it a long day. It’s up to you. In the summer it’s HOT. My favorite time of year for this ride is late fall and early spring but it’s good all year.