Secrets of PCB – Close Encounters!

Welcome to our Secrets of Panama City Beach series, showing you things about the beach, you’ve never dreamed of.

Well the New Year is sure off to a chilly start! Don’t let the cool weather stop you from heading to the beaches. Some of the best times to be had at the beach are when it’s cooler and calmer.

This week’s Secret of PCB is a little place located inside St. Andrews State Park, called Gator Lake. Many people pass right by it on the way to the beach, which is why it’s a neat find.

“Do Not Feed Wildlife” greets you as you start your short walk to the lake.  Not a problem for me, I wasn’t planning on feeding any wildlife. Once you get to the lake, you then realize how meaningful those words are!

You are right up to the water and there is only one fenced in viewing area; however the rest of the area around the lake is not fenced off – places you’re free to walk. During the summer, there is a bit of risk since the paths by the lake are pretty close to the water, but this risk is well worth it since you are so close to the action.

It is really neat to see an alligator floating in the water during the summer and a bit of thrill because there is no barrier! Small thrills are what add a bit of spice to life!  So no, I will not be taking any food or drink with me on any visit. No need to make friends with the native wildlife.

During the summer months, the lake is inhabited by alligators, hence the name, however if your more timid now is a great time to check it out! During the winter, the likelihood of seeing any alligators is very low, so feel free to meander through the sandy paths and enjoy the nature and being outdoors.

It’s a great little place to stop on your way through St. Andrew so stop by this hidden treasure and take a moment to relax. The area has trails and informational posts throughout so you are able to learn about native plants and wildlife. You will have to pay to get into the state park, but it’s worth it. Enjoy this neat little area and regardless of the time of year, you’ll have a great story to tell about your close encounter with the wild alligators!

4 thoughts on “Secrets of PCB – Close Encounters!

  1. Thank you Elizabeth for such a great story about a place visitors may overlook when vacationing in PCB. Each & every time we visit PCB we travel down Thomas Drive to St. Andrews State Park. You really don’t know what your missing if you don’t go….. evening is the best I think as the animals are coming out to eat. We have seen deer, raccons and a host of beautiful sunsets! Over at Gator Lake if you visit at the right time of year you will see the Eret’s nesting in the trees on the island. Now that is great!
    Watch out for the old alligator, his eyes are always looking for visitors at the end of the observation walkway.
    I never thought much about alligators being in PCB until a few years ago. For many years our family would take the Shell Island Tour Boat over to Shell Island. Since we went there so many times we go in a habit of staying around where the boat docked & wadeing the waters picking up sea urchins. When dry they leave a beautiful purple or pink shell.
    On one of our trips over we had to go to a new docking location as the old one was distroyed by a bad storm…… the Captain warned, don’t get in the water around the boat we have seen alligators here. Well, we laughed… thought he is pulling our legs! He wasn’t…… there in the water swimming around was an alligator about 20 feet or more long. We got several photos of him & needless to say we never went into that water again. Hahaaaaaa
    The sea urchins can stay there!
    So, if you think PCB and the water around some of the outlaying islands don’t have alligators……. believe me they do! Just had to tell this, hope you enjoyed!
    As always, in my opinion Cathy/Tennessee


  2. We too make it a must to visit St.Andrews. We saw the gator at the viewing dock just waiting forone of us to fall in I suppose. Once in the summer the bird viewing area was completely covered with white birds. Im not normally a bird watcher but it was a sight. However our best experience is snorkeling inside the jetty. We are snorkeling along looking at a number of small fish and a manna ray flips my husband in the head. We looked up and were surrounded by a fleet of 6-8 of them. They were so close we could reach out nd touch them. About the same time the boats were coming in for the evening and the dolphins followed them in and did some nice big flips for us. We never expected such up close and personal encounters. It is the best money weve ever spent.


  3. Back in 1960 when my grandparents were finishing up with the last bit of construction on their house down on Wells St. S., my grandmother spotted something that she never really expected to see. One day, as she was washing dishes in the kitchen sink and peering out the window, she suddenly noticed something very odd lying in the road just down from their new house. Stepping outside, she walked out into the road and looked toward the object she had just spotted from the kitchen window. What she saw made her blood run cold. Lying there in the road and just a stones throw from where she was standing, was a full grown gator. She couldn’t believe what she was looking at. Suddenly, the big reptile sprang to life and scurried off into the underbrush.
    When my grandfather got back from his supply run to the hardware store, my grandmom told him what she’d seen. He didn’t believe her! But, soon other reports began to come in from around the area about a gator being seen close by. It turns out that back then, there was a swampy area in the woods behind Wells St. and the next dirt road to the west. This area has since all but dried up.
    Back in the 70’s I stayed with my grandparents a good bit. It was during these long visits, that I would often venture into the woods which surrounded the area. I remember there being a couple of small creeks full of tanic-stained water and mosquito fish. I guess this was what was left of the Wells street gator’s swamp hideout.


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