My relatives live in Mexico Beach and I was just there for the past 5 days. For the record, the Wonder Bar is actually in Beacon Hill/St. Joe Beach…different county than Mexico Beach. Mexico Beach is in Bay County and St. Joe is in Gulf County. The Lookout Lounge is a boring dive. I’d go to Toucan’s in Mexico Beach. Lots of tourist go there and they have a nice bar/restaurant where you can sit at tables and look over the water. They also have volleyball games right there in the sand if that’s your thing. I don’t really like the food at Toucan’s but many people do. I’d rather eat at Killer Seafood (try the hush puppies there) or at Half Shell’s raw bar. They only steam their food and all they have is seafood.
The constitution museum in Port St. Joe will only take you about 30 minutes to see. You can drive out to Cape San Blas on County Route 30C… very nice drive and a State Park at the end of the drive with big high white sand dunes. If you have time I’d look around Downtown St. Joe. Not many shops but some interesting ones. If you do like shopping, I’d go on to Apalachicola. It’s very quaint and very much the traditional fishing village. Great places to eat and interesting shops. St. George Island is great if you want to go to the beach, but otherwise there isn’t much to do there…besides the beaches at Cape San Blas or the Crooked Island area of Mexico Beach are much much better. Mexico Beach is only 1/2 hour from downtown Panama City and St. Joe is another 15 minutes. The Cape will take an additional 20 minutes to get all the way out to the State Park at the tip of it and Apalach is something like 60 miles west of Panama as the locals call it. If you leave at a decent time in the morning, seeing Mexico Beach, Port St. Joe, Cape San Blas and Apalach are all very easy to do in a full day, especially since it now gets dark so late.
This trip east of Panama City on US 98 is a trip back into the Old Florida…they way it all use to be. The area is under very heavy development as you’ll see in Mexico Beach. A company is building 1500 homes just west of Port St. Joe…so see it now while you can. But by far the best way to really see this area is by boat!
Now if you go west of P.C. once you get to the Walton County line from Bay County, turn off on County Route 30-a. This will take you on the same direction as 98 but along the coast. Here you’ll get to see the newly developed towns of Seaside, Rosemary Beach and Watercolor. They are very pretty to look at and very expensive. County Route 30-A will dump you right back into U.S. 98 almost in Destin. Destin has tons of traffic this time of year and no by-pass. So you will lose some time here. Destin is becoming the Palm Beach of the Panhandle. They have tons of bars, restaurants, putt-putt golf places and etc. They do have an excellent outlet mall, Silver Sands and one of those big Bass Pro Shops. It would take you another hour or more with traffic to get all the way over to P’cola. Destin/Ft. Walton from P.C. in a one day driving trip is easy to do, but P’cola would be pushing it.
This part of Florida is rapidly changing. It’s not that backwoods anymore. Enjoy yourself and you’ll definitely see some of the most beautiful beaches in the USA.
If you have anymore specific questions just let me know. I know the area quite well.
Oh yeah and don’t look for Ouzts too in PSJ, it’s in Newport in Wakulla County and Posey’s is in St. Marks in the same County. If you want to eat in PSJ, I’d eat at the Dockside Grille at the Marina. If you are going to eat in Apalach, I’d eat at the Owl Cafe, but they can be pricey but probably not so much for lunch.
Last thing, when you leave Mexico Beach and enter Gulf County, the time changes from Central to Eastern…just keep that in mind.