The fun never stops in Panama City Beach with the abundance of activities to enjoy for visitors of all ages! Whether you are taking a day to yourselves without the kiddos or joining you best friends for a weekend in the sun, these activities are sure to keep the adult visitor busy (and the kid in them too!):
Panama City Beach is the home of several nature and conservation parks, which allows visitors to see Florida in its most natural, untouched state. One such area is St. Andrews State Park, a gorgeous slice of land that offers camping, hiking and water activities. St. Andrews stretches along 1.5 miles of pristine beach and is perfect for fishing, snorkeling, SCUBA diving and boating. Opened as a state park in 1951, this landscape is rich with history and filled with trails that wind through pine forests, begging to be explored.
Camp Helen State Park is home to 180 acres of land surrounded by the Gulf and Lake Powell. This allows for kayaking, swimming and casting your line to catch freshwater or saltwater fish. Many visitors to this park come to hike and to see the old cottages that were constructed here in the 1940s or the log cabin lodge that dates to 1931. Birdwatching is highly popular among visitors to the park; hawks, osprey and even bald eagles are frequently seen along one of the park’s two hiking trails. A half-mile trail leads to a secluded beach, home of the so-called “hidden pier.”
Those that just want a beach day are invited to flock to Rick Seltzer Park. Encompassing 4.75 acres of coastline, this park is free to enter and allows easy access to the beach. This locally renowned spot features natural dunes, which means that although the amenities of the city are just around the corner, park guests experience the feeling of a secluded beach, undisturbed by civilization.
For visitors that are serious about hitting the trails, the Panama City Beach Conservation Park provides a premier hiking venue. Those in search of a nature excursion can choose from 12 different paths, ranging from a half-mile to 11 miles in length. These trails twist through the park’s 2,900 acres of land, which is home to multiple ecosystems. An elaborate system of boardwalks stretches over cypress ponds and make for amazing photo opportunities. The park welcomes visitors to bring their furry friends on leashes, and pups will love taking in all the sights and smells of the land. Bikers will also enjoy the mix of paved and off-road pathways through the park.
Visitors who want to venture beyond the shore have plenty of daytime cruising options to choose from. Paradise Adventures is owned by Tracey and Donnie Coker, a seafaring couple who are living out their dream every day aboard their boat, the Privateer. This 52-foot-long catamaran takes families along a 3.5-hour adventure cruise to Shell Island. You can jump to new heights on water trampolines, take banana-boat rides and even descend the Privateer’s waterslide into the water! For a tamer experience, Paradise Adventures also provides an exclusive dolphin-spotting tour, in which guides share fun facts about the area and its wildlife while guests enjoy a relaxing sunset cruise.
Looking to blend a little education with your entertainment? The Captain Anderson III is a double-decker boat that takes up to 250 passengers at a time for a sightseeing eco-tour out of the Capt. Anderson's Marina. Feed the seagulls, look for dolphins and travel by the jetties of St. Andrews Bay while guides talk about the habitat and the life it supports. Upon reaching Shell Island, guides use a net to haul up sea creatures and shells from the water. Before they are safely released back to the bay, guests are invited to get a hands-on encounter with sea urchins, crabs and puffer fish! Guests are encouraged to snorkel, swim or explore the island while the boat is docked.
For some high-speed, hands-on action, multiple vendors around Panama City Beach provide both guided and unguided Jet Ski tours. At Flippers Boat Rentals and Dolphin Tours, located on North Lagoon Drive, a two-hour guided Jet Ski tour provides a wet-and-wild ride to Shell Island, where each rider has the opportunity to see dolphins up close!
The usually placid Gulf of Mexico occasionally offers up emerald green waves, welcoming experienced surfers and newcomers. If you and your family are pros at riding the rollers, the beach is chock-full of surf shops that offer board rentals. If you’re just visiting the area, Mr. Surf ’s on Thomas Drive is home to experienced surfers who delight in providing lessons for first-timers. Each instructor has years of experience and can turn novices into conquerors of the waves. Lessons and rentals are also available for stand-up paddleboarding, if that’s more your speed.
Ahoy, anglers! Panama City Beach is a fisherman’s utopia, with the sea, lakes, ponds and piers at every turn. For a unique experience that you can’t get from your waters back home, embark on a daytime deep-sea fishing adventure. At Capt. Anderson’s Marina, fishing charters take groups on five- to 12-hour excursions into the Gulf of Mexico. There, fishermen drop their lines to catch snapper, mackerel and grouper! Back at the marina, Anderson’s Seafood Market is more than happy to clean and store your fish so you can take it home with you, or they will deliver it to a local restaurant to cook up your catch! If you prefer to stay grounded, the M.B. Miller County Pier and Russel Fields Pier on Front Beach Road extend 1,500 feet from the beach. Both include a Florida fishing license for the day as part of a $6 fishing fee.
There’s something about summertime that causes Panama City Beach to come to life with music. It’s become a local tradition to head out to Aaron Bessant Park every Thursday for the Summer Concert Series. Live shows start in June each year and carry on each Thursday until mid August. The best part? It’s completely free! Bring a blanket or beach chairs, drinks and snacks, then sit back and enjoy rockin’ performances by artists of all different genres.
Take a trip to Pier Park on any given night, and you’ll hear music emanating from the area’s restaurants. For coastal melodies that set the perfect ambience for paradise, Margaritaville is the place to be. Parents out for a night without the kids may take interest in the neighboring Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, a place where boots stomp to country music and the beer is always served cold. Those who seek live entertainment and a beachside view can venture beyond Pier Park to restaurants like Pineapple Willy’s, Sharky’s, Harpoon Harry’s or the world-famous Schooners. Keeping the spirit of the al fresco beach bar and grill alive, Schooners is a great venue for outdoor concerts near the sand and surf. The bands of Schooners play everything from rock, country and oldies to dance music.
Before the night begins, twilight casts Panama City Beach in shades of rosegold and tangerine. Sunset cruises take passengers into another world, where the breeze is warm and reality seems to drip away. Island Time Sailing’s catamaran embarks on a two-hour cruise through the Gulf to view dolphins, which are incredibly active at this time. While parents may prefer to sail off alone on a romantic getaway, it is certainly an event the whole family can enjoy. The impressive vessel can transport up to 78 passengers and is stocked with refreshments for the voyage.
Visitors seeking a true Floridian experience can venture out on a sunset cruise by Wild Thang Airboat Tours. These exceptional boats are designed to easily navigate through the marshes and backwaters of the area, which are home to wading birds and those famous Florida gators. In fact, taking this sunset cruise is the best opportunity to spot a gator, as they are more active by night. As the sky grows dim, your captain will shine his light onto the water to give passengers the chance to spot some of these amazing creatures. In the dark, a gator’s eyes shine a bright, ruby red, making the reptiles hard to miss! Wild Thang boats are spacious, allowing room for everyone to pile in and embark on a memorable and unique adventure.
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