Georgia-Florida Fishing Report Panama City Beach, Florida Lodging
Forget the high-rise, high-priced condos with all the vacationers, noise, hustle and bustle that Panama City Beach, FL is known for. We are talking about a fishing trip and/or a fishing vacation for the family that loves to fish, cruise, snorkel, sea shell hunt, and just flat-out water it up while at the beach.
I am only going to discuss 2 of my favorite places to stay on this page. I'm sure there are others around PCB, but these are the 2 that I have had the best experiences with. I have stayed at both of these places on multiple occasions with each having its own brand of uniqueness and have never, ever had a bad stay.
These 2 places are:
This link above will take you to the VRBO (Vacation Rentals By Owner) website where 13 units are currently up for rent at St. Thomas Square based on availability. There's no question in my mind that whenever we go to PCB, this is where we will stay!
This is an aerial photo of the St. Thomas Square, Panama City Beach, FL complex. It's also referred to as the Inn at St. Thomas Square.
The location and setup at St. Thomas Square fits perfectly for a fishing trip or fishing vacation. These 1-3 BR units are located on the Lower Grand Lagoon across Thomas Drive from the beaches of the Gulf of Mexico. These quiet, secluded condo units sport a very nice pool area with a clubhouse and grills, tennis courts, boat/boat trailer parking (for a fee), and a nice boat dock right out back of the pool.
Pool area photo to the right with the clubhouse in the background and the boat dock to your far left.
I am particularly fond of the boat dock as it allows you to put your boat in one time during your stay and simply load up a few things before going out for a day of fishing. All of these units are 1st or 2nd floor units and a very short stroll to the pool area and boat dock. There is a boat ramp on Dolphin Drive about 1.5 miles from the complex.
The clubhouse beside the pool complete with grilling area makes for a nice place to grill your catch after a day of fishing.
Here's one more of the boat dock. The red gate in the foreground goes straight out from the pool area. This is very easy access and a short stroll to load your boat for a day of fishing, cruising, shelling, snorkeling, and fun in the sun.
I usually have a crew of 4 fishermen, so a one bedroom unit has plenty of room for showering, eating, and sleeping. Most of our time is spent on the water and not in the unit itself. The Inn at St. Thomas Square has some of the most affordable prices anywhere at Panama City Beach. If you wait until the rates start dropping in August after the summer rush, you can stay here as cheaply or even cheaper than you can stay at a motel/hotel back across the bridge in Panama City. We have tried both and there is absolutely no comparison to the comfort.
The units are all fully equipped like any other condo. Full, although small, kitchens, 1-1.5 bathrooms in the 1 bedroom units, balconies with nice views of the Grand Lagoon, and lots of friendly folks that live there year-round as well as down-to-earth renters. In fact, I took several renters out with me fishing on days when I did not have a full crew there with us. They were all nice people from Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, etc.
Many of the attractions are within easy walking distance. Restaurants, activities, the beach, nightclubs, and anything you would associate with a vacation here are right at your fingertips. My children enjoyed Richard Seltzer Park just a little east on Thomas Drive. This is a public beach area with plenty of parking, restrooms, and showers. To the left here you see an aerial view of the Park at Panama City Beach, FL It's only a short drive to Half-Hitch Tackle, Signal Hill Golf Course, and Walmart. There's really not a whole lot of downside to this location unless you absolutely have to be beachfront. My wife and I don't do the beach scene much anymore so the pool is very adequate to get our water fix in. The pool is never crowded which we really enjoy.
Another positive was the attitude of the other boaters. They were all very friendly and helpful and there was little, if any, concern about theft when leaving things in the boat. Most of the boat owners left all of their equipment in the boats at night. However, I always took out my rods and other equipment that could not be locked up. I have locks on all my compartments in my boat so we really did not have to make too many trips back and forth with a lot of heavy equipment when getting ready to go out. You can actually put all your equipment in your truck and back right up to the sidewalk that leads to the pool and boat dock area. It's a very, very short distance. Take a look at some of the photos on the VRBO link above to get a feel for the boat dock/pool area. I have included a few of my own.
As you can see, the units are located to the far west end in the back of the Lower Grand Lagoon where it is only about a 20-30 minute ride to the Gulf of Mexico. It would be a much shorter trip, but there are 2 no-wake zones that take some time to navigate through. Not having to launch your boat at 5 am in the dark makes it worth the little bit of extra time it takes to get through these areas around the major marinas like Captain Anderson's.
Pinnacle Port's link is in blue above and will take you to their rentals page. However, I would definitely go to the VRBO page for Pinnacle Port to compare rates.
I was introduced to this gated community gem back in the 1990's while coaching at Burke County High School in Waynesboro, GA. My principal at that time was the best in the business and mentioned to me that he and his brothers and sisters had a rental unit at Pinnacle Port. At that time this 3BR, 3BA unit rented for $100 per night. We took him up on it and have been back on numerous occasions. However, he now lives permanently in the unit, but we have stayed in others on the property and they are all very, very nice.
Here's a nice aerial photo showing the larger unit to the left and smaller units to the right. Lake Powell is seen in the foreground and the Gulf of Mexico in the background.
Pinnacle Port is actually made up of 1 major 7 floor high-rise (called the Tower) and several other smaller (4-story) units that can be seen on their website or other VRBO owner pages. We have only stayed in the first, larger complex. The views from the balconies are breathtaking and they have 2 pools, tennis courts, boat parking, weight room, and all the amenities you would expect in a secluded, gated condominium complex.
Notice the pool area of the Tower Units has a covered area where you can swim and get out of the sun and/or not have to worry about the kids getting sunburned. It's a nice area where you can get a toddy and relax without worrying about the scorching heat. In this photo taken from one of the Tower units you can see the narrow body of water that leads to the Gulf of Mexico from Lake Powell. This access is now usually cut off and no longer open.
The one unique feature of Pinnacle Port is that it has its own private lake (Lake Powell). This body of water is fairly small and is a mixture of freshwater and saltwater (brackish). In the early years that we stayed here, you could actually take a small boat directly into the Gulf of Mexico from Lake Powell if you were willing to push it through the shallowest parts. Now the beach outlet is usually closed off due to erosion and hurricane destruction over the years, but saltwater and saltwater species of fish still reside in this Lake.
Pinnacle Port has a boat ramp to get your boat into Lake Powell, a very nice boat dock with multiple slips, fish cleaning station, and water toy rentals on the property. My friend from Alabama, Ron Handley, that I met while staying here always brings his aluminum bass boat and fishes regularly in Lake Powell. I have personally caught and/or seen brought to the dock out of this Lake redfish, Spanish mackerel, black drum, sheephead, spotted (speckled) seatrout, small sharks and even king mackerel. Late one night I saw a young man catch the biggest seatrout I had ever personally seen (weighed in at 7.5 pounds) caught right off the dock with a live shrimp.
This photo shows Lake Powell and the Pinnacle Port boat docking area/cleaning station.
Ron Handley and his boys had some very nice catches of black drum in the summers of 2013 and 2014 under the bridge along the pilings using shrimp as well.
Just a note that this body of water does have alligators. Yep, I said alligators, and big ones, too. I have personally seen a good 6-7 footer sunbathing on the grass right at the parking lot area where you enter the complex.
These units at Pinnacle Port are more pricey as they are right on the beach and more of a high-rise condo complex, but it is away from most of the hustle and bustle of the main strip and all the snarled up traffic you get in the peak season of summer. However, if you pick your times and do your homework, you can find some deals. There are times when, if lucky, you get a late cancellation on one of the units and the owner might cut you a deal.
The only other thing I'll add is this: We have stayed at a couple of motels in Panama City, FL when on a straight fishing trip with the guys. About the closest, cheapest, and best place we've stayed is the Econolodge across the Hathaway Bridge from Panama City Beach, FL. Here's the address:Econo Lodge
4411 U.S. 98
Panama City, FL 32401
Believe me, this is no Ritz-Carlton, but it works pretty well for a bunch of old redneck fishermen needing a place to sleep, shower, and get a little supper each night. There's ample parking and plenty of room to maneuver your boat and trailer. The closest boat ramps are on either side of the Hathaway Bridge. Neither one is ideal, but they will work for you. There's not a whole lot of parking on the west side and the east side doesn't have a very good ramp.