Published February 2009

By Jahna Jacobson
What if you could find everything you love about your hometown, but find it on the Gulf of Mexico with an average 320 days of sunshine every year?
Bay County and Panama City offer everything from a great library system to dolphin watching, from five hospitals to year-round golf.
“Bay County is a wonderful place for seniors and families alike,” said Valerie Lovett, public information officer for Bay County. “There are fun things to do throughout the county, from the white sand beaches to the incredible restaurants to the thriving downtown.”
Known worldwide for beautiful beaches, Bay County and Panama City also have a strong arts and cultural community with groups such as the Music and Art Association, Friends of the Library, and Historical Society and newer groups such as Bay Arts Alliance, Junior Museum, Visual Arts Center, and the Spring Festival of Arts.
Panama City also maintains 37 parks and 2 full-service marinas, giving residents a wide variety of recreational activities. Recreational areas include playground equipment, basketball courts, ballfields, tennis courts, nature parks, and picnic areas.
Bay County is comprised of eight separate municipalities, which include the cities of Panama City, Panama City Beach, Lynn Haven, Springfield, Mexico Beach, Callaway, Parker and Cedar Grove.
The county’s 27 miles of white sandy beaches offer snorkeling, fishing, boating, diving and dolphins sightings during Bay County’s 320 days of sunshine a year. Shell Island is also a popular place for walking and exploring.
It is also home to the Panama City-Bay County International Airport, making national and international travel easy for its residents. The airport served more than 337,000 passengers in 2007. airport being built
“Downtown Panama City is quaint — it has different feel than the beach side of the county,” Lovett said. “There is really something for everyone.”
Bay County’s population is 163,984.
Real Estate Affordability
“Housing costs are lower than south Florida and our beaches are just as beautiful – actually, I think they are more beautiful,” said Lovett. “Especially in this market, there are some real finds out there right now.”
According to Sperling’s Best Places, Panama City’s cost of living is 13.65% lower than the U.S. average.
Health Care Options
Bay County has several hospitals and medical centers with a variety of specialties and services, including Columbia Gulf Coast Medical Center, Bay Medical Center, SemperCare, Bay County Behavioral Health Center, and HealthSouth Emerald Coast Rehab.
Bay County’s retail sales tax is 6 percent and there are no ad valoreum taxes on Panama City Beach.
“Our taxing rates are low compared to the rest of the state,” said Lovett.
Those looking to relax can enjoy a round of golf or take a sunset stroll along the many marinas. Tropical animals and beautiful botanical gardens are the main attractions at Zoo World, and visitors to Gulf World can catch a sea lion show or watch shark feeding.
Anglers from all parts of the world visit Bay County to fish and take part in fishing tournaments.  Whether you are in pursuit of the ‘big one’ or just dinner, it can be found in the warm Gulf waters or freshwater, 5,000 acre Deer Point Lake.  Fish from piers or charter a boat to take you deep sea fishing. Golfers have their choice of a half dozen courses ranging from public to semi-private facilities. Those who can’t get their fill during daylight hours can play into the night at a lighted practice range. 
Gulf Coast Community College offers an expansive list continuing education and senior classes.
Jobs (retirement)
The area has a relatively stable economy, due in part to proximity to several military bases and growing local and national industries in the area.
The Retired and Senior Volunteer Program of Bay County matches retirees’ and seniors’ specific skills with opportunities to volunteer in their local communities.
Bay County has a strong cultural presence through the Bay Arts Alliance and other organizations.  Ballet, art and photography exhibits, as well as theatrical productions are brought to the community through the Visual Arts Center of Northwest Florida, Martin Theater, Kaleidoscope Theater and Junior Museum. Bay County is also the venue for many events such as concerts, air shows, triathlons, festivals and more throughout the year.
If shopping is on your agenda, visit one of many boutiques in the historic Panama City downtown district or check out the shopping plazas in town and on the beach.
Or take a stroll through Panama City Mall.
Bay County has many award-winning restaurants that boast the “seafood you’re eating today was asleep in the Gulf last night.”  From downtown cafes and eateries to gulf front fine dining, there is a choice for every taste.
Sense of Place
Panama City’s small town atmosphere, great arts scene and variety of attractions make it a great place to call home. Beautiful weather, clean air and a low cost of living make it one of the country’s most popular retiree destinations.