Last updated: 5/25/2018
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Bay County Overview
Bay County, as its name implies, occupies a coastal location. The county’s total land area of 758 square miles off of the Gulf of Mexico spreads in the northwest Florida’s panhandle region. Its county seat of Panama City is located approximately 100 miles southwest of Florida’s capital Tallahassee.
Bays east, north, west, and south define most of the county’s coastline. These bodies of water also notably combine with the St. Andrews Bay to encircle much of the county seat, Panama City. These bays that gave the county its name provide a safe harbor for Port Panama City, one of the northernmost among the 15 seaports of Florida.
Gulf Coast Gem
Bay County offers residents and visitors 27 miles of beaches with pristine white quartz crystal sands, a breathtaking foreground to the crystal clear waters of the Gulf. Shell Island, Shipwreck Island Water Park and St. Andrews State Park are among the county’s popular destinations. In sightseeing visits to these places, folks can encounter a wide variety of marine life including dolphins and the iconic Florida manatees.
Year-round, the county’s Gulf waters’ temperature stay at an average of 72 degrees ideal not only for swimming, snorkeling, and diving but also for jet-ski riding, boating, and fishing. In all of Bay County, the average annual temperature is cool at 67 degrees, rising to 89 degrees in summer and dropping to 59 degrees in winter.
Sustained Population Growth
Its genial temperatures and water-based delights are certainly plus factors for Bay County continuously growing its population since its establishment in the early 1900s. In the most recent estimate, the county’s population in 2016 has grown 9 percent to nearly 184,000 residents. The county’s racial makeup is 84.17 percent white, 10.64 percent black of African American, and the rest fractionally shared by Native Americans, Latinos, and Asians.
Bay County offers more besides its beaches, marinas, and parks to draw more residents. Arts and culture also thrive in this county where these disciplines are pushed by many organizations like the Panama City Center for the Arts and the Bay Arts Alliance. Sports events in the county abound as well to include golf tournaments, triathlons and motorcycle rallies.
Retail plazas are mainstays around the population centers or even on the beaches of Bay County. For the local hotspots for shoppers, the top choices include the myriads of boutiques in the historic downtowns of Panama City and St. Andrews.
The quality of education foremost for families moving to Bay County is met by the fruitful efforts of the Bay District School System to achieve educational excellence. Notably, Florida’s Education Department has previously ranked this district in the top 25 percent of all the public schools in the state. There are two college campuses in the county as well—Florida State University‒Panama City and the Gulf Coast State College.
To cap it off, Bay County’s economic development is revving up in recent years, thanks largely to promotional efforts by the Bay Economic Development Alliance. The county, which opened its international airport in 2010, was named that year as the No. 1 U.S. metro area for economic growth potential. Active drivers to this growth, besides the new airport, include its proximity to seven military bases, a bustling seaport, and new housing, retail, marina and commercial projects in the pipeline.