We Hit Up Panama City Beach, Florida, to Check Out One of the Premier Jeep Events in the Southeast With Almost 2,000 Jeeps in Attendance.
The best part about being a Jeep enthusiast in Florida is having almost year-round weather to enjoy driving with the top and doors off. But doing so with thousands of other Jeeps is even more exciting. Broken down to its basics, that’s exactly what Florida Jeep Jam is all about. While Bantam, Moab, and Jeep Beach draw larger crowds, the Florida Jeep Jam is still in its infancy (just five years old). But the biggest selling point for me is that it’s less than a two-hour drive from my house.
The Journey Is Just as Fun as the Destination
As Aerosmith sang, “life’s a journey, not a destination,” so any day I can drive my Jeep with the top and doors off is a good day to me. And cruising from the Pensacola area to Panama City Beach is about as much fun as you can have in a Jeep on pavement.
Instead of dealing with the interstate, US 98 is a relatively scenic highway that parallels I-10 and skirts the Gulf of Mexico’s coastline in several areas. The best view along this stretch is while driving past the undeveloped, picturesque sand dunes on Okaloosa Island. Once I got through Destin, I hopped onto touristy Florida’s 30A for slower, top-off driving.
Hit the Beach
The Florida Jeep Jam is held just miles from the most beautiful beaches in the U.S. One way this event really stands out is the unique opportunity to drive a short distance on Panama City Beach for the Topless 4 Turtles Beach Krawl.
This mile-long stretch of sand is normally packed with beachgoers in the afternoons, but about 800 Jeepers lined up take part in the early-morning Beach Krawl, which raises money for beach preservation and wildlife protection. It’s always a remarkable sight to see a parade of Jeeps, and it’s even more incredible to see a parade of Jeeps cruising the beach. There are a limited number of spots, and this year’s Beach Krawl sold out early.
Time to Get Dirty
Driving in a topless Jeep is fun and all, but nothing beats the feeling of taking your Jeep off-road. All registered Jeepers are given unlimited access to the Florida Jeep Jam obstacle course. With so many new people joining the Jeep community, obstacle courses are a great way to test out your driving skills with a little extra supervision. This course was easy enough for newbies with stock Jeeps yet fun enough for seasoned off-roaders with modified Jeeps.
For more challenging off-road driving, there are several off-site excursions. For an extra cost, a limited number of Jeeps convoy to a massive plot of private property where drivers can enjoy wide-open, natural terrain to test their driving skills.
All the Jeep Parts and Swag You Could Want
After a few rounds on the obstacle course (and a couple big dents on the skid plate), I parked my Jeep for a bit to walk around the vendor area. Here, you can find everything from parts for your Wrangler to stickers and apparel. A variety of food trucks and on-site bar provided a perfect opportunity to relax and meet new Jeep friends.
Jeeping is an activity that’s inherently socially distant. But with lingering concerns about large groups and Covid, even the vendor area was spread out enough that no one area seemed overcrowded.
FIXD Sensor Giveaway
Since Jeeps are notorious for having check engine lights, I went to the Florida Jeep Jam to give away several FIXD car scanners. It’s always fun talking to Jeep owners, and it’s even better when I get to give them a tool as helpful as this OBD2 scanner! Whether it’s a simple loose gas cap or a serious engine misfire, FIXD easily shows what’s triggering the fault code and you can get information showing what repairs are needed.
In just its fifth year, the Florida Jeep Jam is quickly becoming a must-see event for Jeep enthusiasts in the Southeast. It has a little bit of everything for Jeepers of all ages, not to mention the fact that it’s just a short drive to the beautiful sugar-white sands of Panama City Beach. If you’re looking for a premier Jeep event to attend, you should put the Florida Jeep Jam on your calendar for next year!