The problem isn’t finding a beach, it’s choosing which beach to go to! Panama City Beach is home to more than 100 public beach access points and two state parks, which means there’s a slice of coast to suit each and every taste. Here’s a sampling of some of Panama City Beach’s beach access points, loved by locals and tourists alike:
(Public Beach Access 1) What better place to start than Beach Access Point 1? The easternmost beach access is located on Spyglass Drive, where beachfront homes, rentals and condominiums abound. Tucked just one block south of Thomas Drive, Spyglass offers a retreat to the beachgoer who seeks a more private spot to soak up the sun. While there is no public parking lot adjacent to the boardwalk, Spyglass does offer walkover amenities that grant entrance to the beach. Access Points 2 and 3 are also found further west along Spyglass Drive, and each has its own boardwalk.
(Next to Public Beach Access 4) Schooners offers an experience reminiscent of vintage Panama City Beach — a carefree beach restaurant specializing in fresh seafood and double helpings of fun. Keeping the tradition alive, Schooners on Gulf Drive is for those who are looking for the full experience of a day at the beach. Lounge or play volleyball, socialize with friends, grab a beer, a burger or some oysters, or just lie back on your beach blanket and enjoy the events of the day.
(Public Beach accesses 56, 57 & 58) Who says only humans should enjoy beachside living? The Dog Beach on the west side of the City Pier at Pier Park offers a unique departure from the conventional dog park. Here, man’s best friend can frolic and romp with plenty of furry playmates along 400 feet of sand and surf (with human supervision, of course).
(Public Beach Access 87) Everyone seems to have a favorite stretch of beach, and at least one group has made it Facebook official. Beach Access 87 has been adopted by a group of beach lovers who call themselves the “87’ers.” While 87’ers largely consist of neighborhood residents, a quick glance at the 87’ers Facebook page reveals “favorited” hangout spots as well as striking snapshots of the beach. Have a favorite beach access of your own? Maybe it’s time you built a little community into your beach tradition!
(City Pier: Public Beach Accesses 53-58; County Pier: Not numbered) Plenty of parking, easy beach access and identical 1,500-foot-long piers are what await visitors to what locals call the “City Pier” and the “County Pier.” The Russell Fields Pier (City Pier) sits in front of Pier Park off Front Beach Road, while the M.B. Miller Pier (County Pier) is a little over 3 miles to the east, close to Shipwreck Island. Both locations have separate fees for those who just want to walk out on the pier and those who’d like to fish, so if the view doesn’t sell you, maybe the fish-filled waters beneath you will.
Another local favorite, Richard Seltzer Park on Thomas Drive, is a nearly 5-acre haven of coastline. With plenty of parking available, visitors can easily enter the park for no fee. Before setting up chairs and umbrellas, you’ll notice picnicking pavilions, public restrooms and shower stations, should you need them during your stay. Aside from a front row seat to the emerald waters, visitors love knowing that they’re just a crosswalk away from beachside restaurants and shopping. Mostly, however, you’ll want to keep your toes buried in the sand and enjoy the ultimate form of relaxation. The park is open from sunrise to sunset.
Within one of Panama City Beach’s most historic state parks are a variety of different beach experiences. St. Andrews State Park hosts over 1 1/2 miles of beach, offering the luxury of being steeped in natural Florida. While St. Andrews State Park offers gorgeous trails and campsites, many visitors flock to the park’s beaches for watersports and boating adventures. Since the park is located on a peninsula between the Gulf of Mexico and the Grand lagoon, visitors can enjoy long stretches of Gulf side beach, the protected “Kiddie Pool” behind the jetties, fishing along Deepwater Point, or strolling along the sand watching boats leave the calm of the Grand Lagoon. The park entry fee is $8 per vehicle — a terrific value for one of Florida’s most popular state parks.
At the very edge of Panama City Beach, past even public beach access 98, you’ll discover beautiful Camp Helen State Park — a site rich in history just west of the Phillips Inlet Bridge. Taking a walk through the past is just part of why visitors love the secluded beach at Camp Helen. Upon parking in the main lot, visitors take a stunning half-mile hike past a historic log cabin-style lodge, the colorful row of the Rainbow Cottages and down over a small bridge as you follow a path winding through sand dunes and along Lake Powell to a secluded beach. You’ll find the photo-friendly remains of the “hidden pier” here, which was recently featured in the Luke Bryan music video, “Rollercoaster.”