Port Saint Joe, a small, secluded beach town with small shops and lots of small-town charm. It has also been known as my family’s summer vacation spot for the past three years.
Every year we stay at the same beach house with the same creaky wooden stairs, the same winding sand pathway leading to the beach, and a type of solitude that Panama City cannot offer.
Although I have never stayed at Panama City for more than one night, it is the same every-time I have branched out in the hopes of liking it as much as everyone else. The same drunk partiers having the time of their life, the same sirens creep through the night to interrupt my sleep, and the same tacky tourist shops flooding every corner.
If I were to compare Port St. Joe to a city, I’d say it’s much like the fictional small town in Gilmore Girls, Stars Hollow. Just like Stars Hollow, Port St. Joe has one street with mom-and-pop shops that have a one-of-a-kind aspect you cannot get anywhere else. Everyone seems to know everyone, and they all treat you with small-town hospitality.
Panama City is entertaining if you are going shopping, but it does not have the uniqueness Port St Joe has to offer. They have Pier Park, which is nice for chain stores like Old Navy, but having an item from Old Navy is not as special as getting a one-of-a-kind item someone worked hard to sell for their small business.
Port St. Joe has some of the best hole in the wall places I have ever seen. Peter’s Pizzeria offers authentic Italian pizza made right in front of you, Sugar Shack has a variety of ice creams and coffee, and The Joe (my personal favorite) is a coffee shop with pastries. All these places are small businesses that don’t have many, if any, other locations, and that adds to the charm of St. Joe.
When I actually go out on Port St. Joe beach, I never see people within a 20 feet radius. My family has room to get our toes in the sand, fish, and just be ourselves. Panama City Beach is crowded and claustrophobic.
During Spring Break, people crowd tent to tent and for what? Just to be able to say they went, but at what cost? You paid so much in gas money, a hotel, and food, just to be as crowded as a can of sardines.
Panama City is a great place for consumerism, if you like the shops with the huge pirate that only sell shirts that say, “Panama City Beach.” If you’re looking for more variety and charm in shops, places to eat, and a secluded beach, Port St. Joe is the place to go.