June 29, 2021
The new airport near Panama City is named Beaches International Airport. Guess what the local politicians think is the attraction that draws tourists to Northwest Florida?
A gentleman named Robert Davis decided to turn his family's 80 acres near Seagrove Beach into a brand new model for all Florida Towns.
His grandfather had bought the property in the 1940's, and it was a family retreat.
The Florida towns of old were places where folks sat on their front porches and chatted with neighbors walking by. People could walk to the post office, the library or the grocery store.
Mr. Davis wanted to create this kind of town using Florida Cracker architecture. This features small wood frame houses with big porches.
In an oceanside community like Seaside Florida, the houses have windows that actually open and provide good cross ventilation for enjoyment of the sea breezes.
Wide roof overhangs provide shade from the Florida sun and protection from the torrential summer rains.
Mr. Davis created the ideal community with the help of Miami architects Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk.
Other architects, including Melanie Taylor and Robert Orr, designed most of the buildings in Seaside Florida.
This talented team and enlightened owner created a small town from scratch, with pedestrian friendly streets and town squares.
Although they probably didn't intend it, the town has also become one of the most popular Florida tourist attractions because of its unique character.
Seaside started to come out of the ground in 1981. We long time Floridians think of it as a new town, but it is almost 40 years old.
The concept used in creating Seaside Florida has been dubbed "New Urbanism".
It was the first of it's kind in Florida, but it has inspired a host of worthy imitators, including several in the same Gulf coast neighborhood.
New Urbanism is a design concept that emphasizes walkable neighborhoods and a wide range of residential and commercial uses.
It reaches back for its inspiration to the era before automobiles were so common.
Since Seaside was born, it is estimated that more than 600 communities have been created in the United States using the principles of New Urbanism.
Most of the residents of Seaside are seasonal. It is a town of vacation homes, but it has a good community feel about it anyway.
A visit to Seaside is a bit like a visit to Disney's Celebration. You feel like you are in a perfect town with wholesome people.
No wonder Seaside was chosen as the location for the filming of the Jim Carrey movie, The Truman Show.
Truman Burbank is the unwitting star of a reality television show. He lives a perfect life in a perfect town.
Seaside is probably more in harmony with Walt Disney's vision for Epcot than what his successors at Disney finally created at Celebration.
After seeing the success of Seaside, the Disney organization created Celebration near its Orlando attractions.
Seaside is a wonderful place to visit but is often quite busy - especially in the summer months. Unlike much of Florida, this is the "season" along Florida's panhandle coast.
There are vacation rentals galore, a beautiful white sand beach, and plenty of restaurants, quaint beachy sandwich and coffee shops and bars open to the sea breezes.
Lots that originally sold for $ 15,000 in 1981 have resold for more than $1 million.
Nearby Grayton Beach State Park has nature trails, kayaking areas, camping cabins and tent camping areas. It also has a wonderful white sand beach.
Topsail Hill Preserve State Park also has a spectacular beach and high sand dunes.
By car, take US-98 out of Panama City and go west about 30 miles to SR-395. Go south two miles to SR-30A, turn west (right) and you will find Seaside about a mile down the road.
Seaside sits comfortably between the older communities of Seagrove Beach and Grayton Beach.