Photo by Ginny Sampson
Panama City Beach, Florida, has long been known to metro Atlantans as "The Redneck Riviera." I believe that title properly belongs to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, home of the appropriately-named beachwear retailer "Whales."
True, I've visited Myrtle Beach only once, and that was just last week for a family vacation. Although we had a good time, I don't plan on going back until the very last grain of sand has finally been cleansed from my nether regions, which is to say probably never.
Conversely, my family and I actually lived in the Panama City area for several years. We still get down there pretty regularly, when we want to visit friends or I just have the urge to enter a wet T-shirt contest for middle-aged fat guys.
So, yeah, I might be a little biased.
That said, I do find Panama City Beach, as a vacation destination, to be superior to Myrtle Beach in almost every way. Take the beaches themselves, for instance. With its sugary white sand and emerald-green water, Panama City clearly has a solid basis for declaring itself home to "The World's Most Beautiful Beaches."
Myrtle Beach seems dingy by comparison, with iron-gray surf and sand that looks suspiciously like what you'd find in a public ashtray. In fact, it just might be, since from what I saw Myrtle Beach could easily lay claim to another distinction: "The World's Largest Outdoor Smoking Area."
I also prefer the resort hotels and condos in Panama City Beach, which tend to be large, spacious, and well-spread out, with multiple giant swimming pools and a fair amount of privacy. Myrtle Beach's accommodations, by comparison, seem cramped and crowded, while the pool at our hotel was about the size of your average hot tub.
I will say this for Myrtle Beach: Atlantic Ocean waves are generally much bigger and therefore better than those on the Gulf of Mexico. I spent some happy hours last week body-surfing with my boys, riding the waves like I haven't done since I was a kid.
Several days later I'm still paying for my fun in the form of aching muscles and the aforementioned sand stubbornly lodged in unmentionable places.
Myrtle Beach is also a very walkable town, which Panama City Beach isn't, unless you relish getting run over by an SUV full of drunken college students. Unlike Panama City, Myrtle Beach has shaded sidewalks and crossable streets, so that you can safely walk anywhere you want.
Unfortunately, there's really no place to walk to, unless you're looking to play miniature golf or buy a T-shirt, and let's face it: how many times can you do either of those in one week? OK, 147, but that's beside the point.
The point is that, for my next beach vacation, I'll be heading south rather than east, excited to see dolphins instead of Whales.
Rob Jenkins is a local freelance writer and college professor. Email him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter@rjenkinsgdp.