The Florida Panhandle is the region of the state of Florida which includes the westernmost 16 counties in the state. It is a narrow strip lying between Alabama and Georgia to the north and the Gulf of Mexico to the south. Culturally and in terms of history and climate, the region is more closely tied to the Deep South than to peninsular Florida.
Shortly after the Civil War, residents of Florida's peninsula considered ceding the state's entire western arm to Alabama for a million dollars. Alabama's leaders decided that the land was "a sand bank and gopher region," and, as a result, the Panhandle remained a part of Florida. The region is a major source of revenue for the state today.
The following counties lie in the Panhandle:
Cities in the Panhandle include Tallahassee, Pensacola, and Panama City. The beach towns, many of which play host to college students during spring break, in the Panhandle are sometimes known by the informal moniker – the Redneck Riviera. The quartz sand on the beaches of the Panhandle is so white that some traders reportedly sold it as sugar in World War II. Florida State Road 20 stretches from Niceville, FL to Tallahassee, FL, covering the majority of the Panhandle.
The Panhandle can be divided into three major sections - East, Central and Western.
The Western Florida Panhandle is dominated by coastal development and military bases, to include Eglin Air Force Base, Hurlburt Field, Whiting Field, Pensacola NAS, and Tyndall Air Force Base. Significant towns include Pensacola, Destin, and Panama City.
The Central Florida Panhandle, stretching through Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton, and Bay Counties, has been marked by upscale developments in recent decades. These include Seaside, Sandestin, and countless others. In fact, development in the coastal area has become so commonplace that very little beachfront property remains untouched, unless it is under the stewardship of the Federal or State Government.
The Eastern Florida Panhandle is mostly defined by Tallahassee and its surrounding environs, including Wakulla County.
The Panhandle has a land area of 29,276.055 km² (11,303.548 sq mi), or 20.96 percent of the state's land area. Its population at the 2000 census was 1,222,492 residents, or 7.649 percent of the state's population at that time.
- Florida, DK Eyewitness Travel Guides, 2004, pg. 20
- Sandestin: Beach, Ecotourism, Sand