U.S. 98 was established in 1933 as a route between Pensacola and Apalachicola and later was extended into Mississippi and across the Florida peninsula, leading to the creation of area landmarks along its path.
With so much to do and see as development has extended into outlying areas, there’s only one answer: Take a road trip. Whether you are heading down U.S. 98 or taking the Alternate 98 (Front Beach Road), there are a few landmarks you don’t want to miss.
Heading west from Panama City to Panama City Beach, you will pass by House of Chan, 1518 W. U.S. 98. Fanny Chan’s restaurant won Best of Bay for Chinese at the original location overlooking St. Andrew Bay for 25 years and at its newest location.
The original location farther down U.S. 98 was next door to Canopies. You can find a tribute to Canopies on the wall at Firefly, 535 R. Jackson Blvd. Local artist Emily Walder painted a pulled-back curtain and steps down to the gazebo, a scene reminiscent of the former restaurant, on a wall in the dining room. Roy Centanni, original Canopies owner, now owns Saltwater Grill, known for its 25,000-gallon saltwater aquarium, and Montego Bay. The featured dining room centerpiece at Firefly, which has garnered two Golden Spoon Awards, is a NatureMaker steel art Oak Tree.
Angelo’s Steak Pit, 9527 Front Beach Road, reopened for the season March 12. Angelo’s is home of Big Gus, the 20,000 pound steer, that beckons tourists and locals from the road.
Just over the Hathaway Bridge, Ashley Gorman Shell Island Cruises, 5701 W. U.S. 98, has been taking passengers to St. Andrews State Park and Shell Island for almost 23 years on the 65-foot Ashley Gorman.
The Capt. Anderson III gives glass bottom boat cruises to Shell Island daily during a tour of Grand Lagoon and St. Andrew Bay. Capt. Anderson’s Marina, 5550 N. Lagoon Drive, celebrates its 55th anniversary this year, while the Capt. Anderson’s Restaurant, 5551 N. Lagoon Drive, celebrates 45 years. The restaurant serves more than 250,000 guests during its eight month season.
The Man in the Sea Museum, 17314 U.S. 98 (also known as Panama City Beach Parkway or Back Beach Road), was founded in 1982. Its comprehensive collection includes the famous SEALAB-1, was the world’s first underwater living facility.
Camp Helen State Park, 23937 Panama City Beach Parkway, is home to seven distinct eco-systems across 180 acres. The largest coastal dune lake in the area, Lake Powell, sits right next to the park. Visitors are invited to use the water for kayaking, swimming or to practice stand up paddle boarding.
For more fun in the water, Shipwreck Island Water Park, 12201 Middle Beach Road, has been entertaining families for 30 years in its 20-acre park that reopened for the season April 21. Miracle Strip Amusement Park operated across the street from 1963 to 2004, but you can now find some of the park’s rides at Miracle Strip Pier Park.
Goofy Golf is on a prime location at 12206 Front Beach Road near the pier, and the larger than life creatures draw in tourists and locals. Originally designed and built in 1959 by Lee Koplin, the Goofy Golf course features a sphinx, an Easter Island head, a buddha, volcano, dinosaur, castle, rocket ship, large fish, dragon, snake and other various monsters and obstacles.
For more family fun, visit Funland Arcade and Snack Bar, 14510 Front Beach Road, which opened its doors in 1950 and features more than 1,000 arcade games. ZooWorld, 9008 Front Beach Road, and Gulf World Marine Park, 15412 Front Beach Road, offer close-up views of the wildlife.
In the mood to eat seafood? Since 1967, Shuckums, 15614 Front Beach Road, has been a first stop for visitors to the area looking for fresh Apalachicola oysters. A little farther down, Boar’s Head Restaurant and Tavern, 17290 Front Beach Road, celebrates its 30th year of serving Gulf seafood, as well as steaks. Tofranil