The turquoise waters of Panama City Beach may be famous for recreational sports like fishing and scuba diving, but there is so much more to this Gulf Coast City than what’s under the sea. Home vibrant, bustling piers and over 25 miles of white sand beaches, a vacation to PCB is the perfect combination of relaxation and recreation—and the ideal getaway for both beach bums and intrepid outdoor adventurers looking for fun on both land and sea.
Panama City Outdoor Recreation And Adventure
One of the best things to do in Panama City Beach is to bask in its stunning natural beauty—and with 27 miles of beaches; two state parks; two-wheeled biking adventures; and tours galore, there are plenty of opportunities for outdoor recreation under the warm Florida sun.
Start by exploring Panama City Beach’s state parks: Camp Helen State Park is a nature lover’s paradise. Its miles of saltwater marshes and freshwater wetlands house a plethora of local ecosystems and wildlife. Rich in natural and cultural resources, Camp Helen is also home to the largest coastal dune lake in Florida, Lake Powell. Its location along the Gulf of Mexico makes it an incredibly picturesque spot to soak up the beautiful surroundings. And there’s also plenty to explore here, too—from fun on the water, including kayaking and paddleboarding on Lake Powell, to walking trails that offer a glimpse into the area’s distinctive flora and fauna, every traveler will find something to love at this natural haven. Camp Helen is also an excellent spot for swimming and fishing, too.
Situated on the eastern edge of Panama City Beach is the city’s other state park, St. Andrews State Park. St. Andrews is a must-visit for anyone looking for outdoor adventure with an endless parade of activities. Also considered one of the most beautiful beaches in the U.S., St. Andrews’ soft sand beach and turquoise waters along the Gulf of Mexico are the perfect spots to sunbathe and soak up the sun.
But it’s not just the beach that makes St. Andrews so unique—it’s also home to a number of fun activities both on the land and in the water. While both fishing and swimming are popular pastimes at St. Andrews, there are also a number of fun things to do on the water too; including boating, paddling, surfing, snorkeling, and even scuba diving (scuba diving/snorkeling equipment and kayaks are available to rent on site). Shuttle boat tours are also available to Shell Island during the spring and summer for those who want to tour its pristine beach; swim and snorkel, and hike the inland trails on this undeveloped barrier island.
Landlubbers will also find plenty to do at St. Andrews—the park has two half-mile walking trails, Heron Pond Trail and Gator Lake Trail, that are the perfect way to soak up the scenery; while the Gator Lake Trail Overlook and the Button Bush Marsh Overlook offers plenty of opportunities for wildlife viewing. St. Andrews also has three picnic areas for those who want to pack a lunch and soak up the scenery—and camping is available for those who want to spend the night under the stars at St. Andrews (reservations are required).
The perfect spot for hikers and bikers, The Panama City Beach Conservation Park has 12 looping trails that vary in length and skill level—and are ideal spots for wildlife and bird watching. Part of the 24 miles of trails is paved, and there are over a mile of boardwalks on-site that lead through Cypress domes, so be sure to bring your camera (and binoculars!) and get ready for some stellar wildlife viewing.
Panama City Beach is known for its water sports—and with a location ideally situated along the South Gulf Coast and proximity to both Grand Lagoon and St. Andrews Bay, it’s easy to see why. From jet-ski and boat rentals to fishing and high-flying parasailing, there are an infinite number of opportunities for enjoying Panama City Beach’s bright blue waters. Want to take a break and let a professional do the driving?
Then book one of PCB’s many sightseeing and touring adventures that offer everything from dolphin watching expeditions to eco-tours galore that give visitors a unique opportunity to explore the waters around Panama City Beach.
Panama City Beach is also home to a number of piers perfect for those who want an all-around beach-going experience, complete with opportunities for wildlife viewing, fishing, shopping, dining, and sunset watching. Russell-Fields City Pier is one of PCB’s most popular piers due to its proximity to the bustling Pier Park, which is home to a number of shopping, dining, and entertainment opportunities. Measuring in at over 1,500-feet long, it’s also one of the longest piers on the Gulf of Mexico—the perfect spot to people watch, scope out nearby wildlife, and view breathtaking sunsets, the Russell-Fields City Pier is a must-visit attraction in Panama City Beach.
Must-See Attractions and More Things To Do
Believe it or not, Panama City Beach isn’t just about the water sports and beaches—there are also several other fun attractions to explore while visiting. Family-friendly parks abound in PCB and are the perfect way for kids of all ages to spend the day. Get a taste of the aquatic life at the fun and exciting Gulf World Marine Park, home to a plethora of informative, interactive programs and daily educational shows; get an adrenaline rush at the Swampy Jacks Wongo Adventures, and enjoy beachside amusement at its best, or explore the weird and wonderful at the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Auditorium. Want some of PCB’s most spectacular views? Then be sure to visit one of the most exciting attractions around: The SkyWheel Experience. A complete entertainment venue featuring several fun activities, including mini-golf, SkyWheel is most notably home to an almost 200-foot tall observation wheel complete with glass gondolas that offer some of the best panoramic views of the beach and the surrounding area.
Another great way to spend the day is a trip to Grand Lagoon. Known as the Gateway to the Gulf, Grand Lagoon is home to many fun things to do, including both endless ways to explore the water and several fun land-based attractions, including shopping and dining. A “local’s favorite” in Panama City Beach, Grand Lagoon is a great place to get social and experience the city’s friendly and welcoming vibes. Capt. Andersons Marina has fishing & dolphin viewing tours. Adventures at Sea offers pontoon rentals, jet ski tours, and parasail rides.
Panama City Beach Dining And Nightlife
Panama City Beach is home to an eclectic restaurant scene that’s the perfect place to sit back, sip, and dine with enjoying some of the area’s best beachfront views. From fresh seafood spots to beach bars full of fun and tropical drinks galore, there’s always something good on the menu in Panama City Beach.
Take beachside casual to the next level with a delicious meal served with a side of laidback vibes at Runaway Island. Soak up the surf and sun, relax at the open-air bar, or take in their incredible sunsets—whatever you choose, you’re guaranteed to have a great time at this beachfront spot. Seafood is on the menu at Panama City Beach, home to some of the freshest fish in the area.
From fine dining at the exceptional lagoon-side legend Capt. Andersons Restaurant to the casual, local fave Grand Marlin, you’re never far away from the catch of the day in PCB. And don’t forget breakfast (and brunch!)—Panama City Beach is home to several spots to score a morning brew and a bite after a long night of partying, Capt. Jacks Buffets‘ famous breakfast spread, or grab a side of something sweet from The Pancakery, known for their deliciously tasty morning options.
Nighttime is the right time in Panama City Beach—whether it’s at a beach bar sipping drinks or a night of fun, live music, and entertainment at a local spot or on the pier, there are plenty of reasons for night owls to hit the town after the sun goes down. From Schooners, the Last Local Beach Club on the historic East End—serving up dinner, drinks, music & good times. Catch a band (and a bite) at Hammerhead Fred’s; hear some country at Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge; or catch some jazz at Lotus Café and Juice Bar at Zen Garden—there’s always a fun bar with excellent entertainment right around the corner in PCB. Want some fun with a view? Then head to Sharkey’s for a cocktail with a side of Gulf views or to Jimmy’s Buffet’s Margaritaville at Pier Park.
Where To Stay In Panama City Beach
There are a variety of available lodging options in Panama City Beach, from beachfront resorts and hotels to vacation rentals that accommodate any group size or event. For those looking for luxe lodging on the waterfront, there’s nothing better than a stay at the top-rated Holiday Inn Resort Panama Beach or the Days Inn by Wyndham Panama City Beach/Ocean Front. Want something more family-owned, but that still has a beachfront resort feel? Then opt for the Osprey on the Gulf or the Palmetto Inn & Suites. If motels are more your thing, then Panama City Beach has plenty to choose from that are a departure from the sprawling, large-scale resorts. Enjoy the “Old Florida Feel” at the laidback beachfront beauty Bikini Beach Resort; get that beach classic experience at the Casa Loma; or have a family-friendly getaway at The Driftwood Lodge on The Gulf. Looking for a spa day? Then opt for luxury at the Edgewater Beach & Golf Resort or the Sheraton Panama City Beach Golf & Spa Resort—the perfect relaxation retreats for anyone looking to unwind.
Whether you’re dreaming of a relaxing beachside vacation, or an epic adventure packed with activities on both land and sea, Panama City Beach has got it. Fun attractions; beautiful beaches; stunning natural beauty; and outdoor activities like hiking, biking, boating, fishing, and more all come together along the scenic Gulf Coast city of Panama City Beach—the perfect getaway for anyone looking for a Florida beach vacation that has everything under the sun.
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