Your Oceanfront Guide to Palm Beach: Part 1

When 75% of the State of Florida is along the ocean, how are you supposed to find the best beach?

Learn from a native Floridian about the things every real beachgoer should think about — and why Palm Beach could be the beach for you.

Welcome to our new blog series! Stay tuned to learn more each week.

Part 1: Distance from your place to the ocean

Florida is about 75% coastline, and naturally, every town along the edge claims to have the best sands and most beautiful waters in the entire state. If you’re faced with picking between Pensacola, Panama City, Cocoa Beach, Orlando, Miami, Key West, and Palm Beach for your vacation, how are you supposed to choose? (Hint: don’t pick Orlando.) If you’re wondering just that, you’ve come to the right place. As a Florida native, I’ve been to plenty of beaches. I can tell you what I love about the beach here — and help you decide if it’s the right place for you.

When you love the water — like I do — and you want to find a place along the water, there are some important things you should keep in mind! Or else, like me, you may end up at a so-called “beachfront” destination and be sorely disappointed. But then again, it really depends on what you’re looking for. Untouched seaside walks? Nightlife? Lounge chair and jetski rentals for the whole family to enjoy?

This one is obvious, of course, and it’s what everyone checks. But when you’re looking at the area on Google Maps, you may be slightly deceived. The distance to the ocean on the map may not be the same as the distance to the public beach access, or where the best restaurants are.

I’m writing from Panama City right now, where I’ve been visiting for three weeks. And maybe I’m just blind, but it took me a week and a half to figure out where everyone was. I’d heard that Panama City Beach was a big nightlife spot, the vacationing place to be for beachgoers from Alabama and Georgia. And where were they? When I arrived on the beach, it was empty.

It turns out, Panama City Beach is a long stretch of sand, about 17 miles. Driving directly from my place to the ocean takes about twenty-five minutes. I ended up at the southernmost point, which was the fastest access from the highway. But no one goes there. The real hotspot is several miles north, near Pier Park. It took me another fifteen minutes to get there.

When I was visiting Georgia, I stayed at a home on the Isle of Hope. Georgia has plenty of coastline, but very little sand. If I drew a line straight east, I was only a few miles from the ocean… which was blocked by a state park overgrown with mangroves. In order to get to Tybee Island, I had to drive more than half an hour.

In West Palm Beach, our houses are about half a mile from the ocean, as the crow flies. To get to the public beach access on Palm Beach, the total drive is about three miles. What I like to mention to people is that two of those miles are directly along the ocean. You can’t descend to the sand, but you drive past mansions until you get to the parking area. It’s a short drive, and very beautiful.

So when you search for your next close-to-the-water rental, don’t just ask how far the ocean is. Ask, “How far is the drive to public beach access?”

And speaking of that drive…