Updated February 8, 2021

By  Mike Miller

Panama City, Florida and its host, Bay County, may be young compared to Pensacola and St Augustine, but the region has seen much throughout history.

St. Andrew's Bay was visited by the expeditions of DeSoto, Pineda, Navarez and other Spanish explorers in the 16th century.

The town was originally named Harrison City in honor of Tippecanoe tough guy and 9th US President William H. Harrison. 

The name was changed to Panama City since a line drawn on the map from Chicago to the Panama Canal runs through the city.

The name was probably changed from Harrison because poor William's presidency lasted about as long as a gnat's life cycle.

While "Panama City" may look better on travel brochures, the city does still honor the unfortunate President with Harrison Avenue.

St. Andrews, Panama City's "Old Town", was very important to the Confederacy during the Civil War.  The deep harbor and the bayous surrounding St. Andrew's Bay made good hideouts for Confederate blockade runners.

Many supplies that were desperately needed by the war effort were brought in through this part of Florida.

Several salt works in the area supplied the Confederacy, to such a degree that the Union had to send ironclads in to halt the operations.

St. Andrews itself was almost completely destroyed by a blockading Union fleet.

Speaking of salt, the white sands of the Emerald Coast around Panama City Beach are of such a fine grade that in the 19th and 20th centuries many unscrupulous traders sold them as sugar or salt.

That would throw a wrench in anyone's recipe!

Like many spots in Florida, Panama City soon became popular with well-to-do snowbirds from the north.

During World War II, the city became an important center for shipping and ship building. Tyndall Air Force Base was opened in 1941 and is still a major employer in the area.

The city grew and eventually enveloped nearby townships like the aforementioned St. Andrews, which is now a restored historic district with many renovation projects under way.

With its history, colorful buildings and beautiful emerald waters, Panama City Florida and Panama City Beach have largely replaced Daytona as the destination of choice for Spring Breakers.

There's a reason sleazy Joe Francis of "Girls Gone Wild" fame has spent so much time in Panama City jails.

Bay High School Panama City Florida


  • Junior Museum of Bay County
  • Museum of Man in the Sea
  • Panama City Main Street
  • SS Tarpon Underwater Archaeological Preserve
  • St. Andrews State Park


Panama City, Florida is on the Gulf of Mexico about halfway between Pensacola and Tallahassee.

It is connected to the outside world by US-231, which terminates in the city, and is on US-98, the main highway along the Gulf Coast.

The brand new Beaches International Airport serves Panama City from cities all over the world.

Recommended Panama City Restaurant


1151 Bayview Avenue
Panama City, Florida 32401
Tel:  850-763-8427

We tried Uncle Ernie's on a recent trip to the panhandle and really liked it. It overlooks St. Andrews marina, and has a very comfortable nautical atmosphere including old photos on the walls.

There were five of us in our group: three adults and two children, so we got to sample quite a bit of their menu.

We were also seated very promptly in the air conditioned interior. That was great, because it was 90 degrees outside.

Uncle Ernie's Bayfront GrillUncle Ernie's Bayfront Grill

I had blackened grouper and it was great. Another of the group had the shrimp dinner, said it was great, and one of the children had a hamburger which he really loved.

We were given the choice of soup or salad as appetizers, and our salads were great. They also served nice hot bread with butter. It was perfect.

Uncle Ernie's Bayfront GrillUncle Ernie's Bayfront Grill

Although primarily a seafood place, you can also get steaks and several Greek or Italian dishes. Dinner prices range between $ 15.00 to $ 25.00.

They have a big wine list and a good selection of beer including some microbrews made at Ernie's. They also have a full liquor bar with live music for entertainment on some nights.

Service was very good and friendly, and we will certainly go back again.

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