It's no secret that the beach is one of the best parts of Panama City Beach, but that doesn't mean it's the only way to enjoy the outdoors while you're visiting Panama City Beach. If you want to make the most of your trip to the Real. Fun. Beach., you'll want to try these top 10 outdoor activities while you're here.
A combination of surfing and canoeing, stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) is a water sport that allows you to enjoy Panama City Beach’s protected and open waters such as the Grand Lagoon, St. Andrews Bay, and the Gulf of Mexico. Calmer waters make for a relaxed experience and a chance to paddle above rays, fish, sea turtles, and other wildlife beneath the water’s surface.
There are many ways to stay active on the beach. Various beach access points and restaurants have volleyball nets that are open to the public. Grab a delicious lunch at Schooners or Sharky's then hit the sand for some volleyball. You can also go to the City Pier, where multiple nets can be found.
If you aren't a fan of volleyball, you can always grab a football to throw around or a soccer ball to kick. You might even have some locals asking if they can join in on the fun with you!
What’s the best thing about biking around Panama City Beach? The land is almost perfectly flat, so anybody can enjoy biking here.
Biking around Panama City Beach is a great way to explore and see things that just fly by in a blur when you are in a car.
Located on 2,912 acres, the Panama City Beach Conservation Park was developed to protect the area’s natural resources and to encourage Panama City Beach residents and visitors to head outdoors and enjoy the incredible scenery found in this unique part of the country. And what better way to see Gulf Coast cypress domes than to bike or walk the Panama City Beach Conservation Park’s more than 24 miles of trails and boardwalks!
For those who want a smoother, less challenging path to follow than those found in Conservation Park, Gayle’s Trails are a great option.
Set out to explore “the last undiscovered Florida coast” and find out firsthand how diverse and rare animal species and plant life make Panama City Beach a nature lover’s wonderland! With 27 miles of beach, a multitude of parks and forests, and a 700-acre natural barrier island, eco-tourists have their choice of wonderful adventures.
The Panama City Beach Conservation Park is a vast pine plantation and cypress dome restoration area. With loop trails ranging in length from 0.6 to 11 miles, the park encompasses nearly 3,000 acres of protected land featuring mostly flat paths, and boardwalks. The park is perfect for families, groups, bird watchers, flora and fauna fans, bicyclists, and serious hikers. See if you can spot the various native wildlife soaring and roaming freely, including eagles, alligators, woodpeckers, wild boar, whitetail deer, snakes, and coyotes.
St. Andrews State Park brings together the best of both on- and off-the-beach activities. The park also offers nature trails that intersect a rich diversity of coastal plants and wildlife. There are two trails in the park to choose from. The Heron Pond trail takes you on a hike through a pine forest and past a historic turpentine still. The Gator Lake trail provides a scenic lakeside view and, sometimes, an opportunity to see Florida’s state reptile.
Adjoining the Gulf of Mexico and Lake Powell, Camp Helen State Park is located in westernmost Panama City Beach. The lake is one of the largest coastal dune lakes in the world, providing visitors with a unique look at the coast’s diverse environment. From dunes and marshes to wetlands and pines, this park gives guests a snapshot of plants and wildlife in a variety of ecosystems. Along with beach access, the park offers nature trails, biking, picnic areas, and wildlife viewing areas.
Summer vacation is full of fun, and can be a great way to relieve stress. If you're looking for a way to stay zen or fit while on your vacation to Panama City Beach, yoga is a great way to do it!
Camp Helen State Park, St. Andrews State Park & The Conservation Park
Trip Advisor named St. Andrews State Park the #2 beach in the nation, but whether you're interested in sunbathing on the beach, snorkeling along the jetties, canoeing, kayaking or hiking through the forest, there's something for everyone here! Fishing from the pier or the jetties is popular, and a boat ramp provides access to St. Andrew Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. Nature trails wind through a rich diversity of coastal plant communities providing an excellent opportunity for bird-watching - You might even spot a deer! Take a boat tour to pristine Shell Island to get off the grid. The 700-acre island is home to deer, turtles, pelicans, sandpipers, gulls and piping and snowy plovers, and in the surrounding waters you'll spot colorful fish, dolphins, sea turtles, and other aquatic life. Shuttles are available to take visitors back and forth from St. Andrews State Park, and pontoon boat rentals are another popular way to get to Shell Island.
Camp Helen State Park is a hidden gem on the western border of Panama City Beach. It sits between the Gulf of Mexico and Lake Powell - one of the largest coastal dune lakes in the state of Florida. Natural areas range from coastal dunes and salt marshes along the Gulf to freshwater wetlands and scrub oak forests along the lake. Fishing areas are available for both freshwater and saltwater enthusiasts at this Florida state park. Other activities include swimming, beachcombing, and hiking.
In the Panama City Beach Conservation Park you'll find 12 looping trails ranging from 0.6 to 11 miles for walking, biking, wildlife and bird watching. The county's desire to protect and balance our natural resources while providing outdoor recreational opportunities is the driving force in establishing the Panama City Beach Conservation Park. This 2,900 acre tract of West Bay Ecosystem is being restored using reclaimed water to return a natural water balance to these wetlands.
If you are lucky enough to spend the day on Shell Island in Panama City Beach, the three most important things to bring are your family, a camera and... your sense of adventure!
This amazingly pristine, uninhabited island is just waiting to be explored. Shell Island is a barrier island, a 7-mile stretch of undeveloped land nestled between the Gulf of Mexico and St. Andrews Bay. If you are seeking a beach experience that will help you reconnect with Mother Nature, this is the place for you.
Shell Island lives up to its name. Sand dollars, moon snails, conch shells, pin shells, periwinkles, whelk and olive shells are just a few of the indigenous seashells found here. And, as long as there are no creatures living in them, there is no limit to how many of these one-of-a-kind souvenirs you can take home with you.
Shell Island's abundant natural bounty is very real. Here, miles of undulating sugar-white sand dunes dotted with swaying sea oats, scrappy scrubs, towering pine hammocks and a serene coastal lake are a haven for hundreds of species of plants and wildlife. All kinds of wildlife- from docile deer, nesting shorebirds and elusive ghost crabs to a host of endangered coastal creatures call Shell Island home.
You don't need your own boat to get to Shell Island, there are plenty of other ways to get there. For a full list, click here.
Snorkeling or Diving
If you’re seeking adventure on your next park outing, but don’t want to deal with the gear needed for surfing and scuba diving, grab a mask and flippers and give snorkeling a try instead. The jetties at the St Andrews State Park serve as an underwater wildlife refuge and harbor an incredible variety of species. Think of the jetties as the area’s first artificial reef. The Gulf ’s excellent water clarity, which gets even better during the fall months, allows for plentiful encounters with starfish, crabs and other crustaceans and dozens of varieties of fish. Snorkelers may choose to slip over the rocks into the pass of St. Andrews Bay and inspect fish that prefer to operate in waters with a swift current. They are likely to include schools of mullet that nibble on the grasses that cling to the rocks; or sheepshead.
Adventure seekers and diving enthusiasts are often finding themselves wanting inspiration on where to go for their next diving trip, but they don’t have to look too far. Within the 27 miles of Panama City Beach, there are many spectacular locations to explore, which has gained the area the reputation of the “Wreck Capital of the South”. From inshore to offshore, there isn’t an artificial reef or jetty not worth “diving” into!
Many of the dive sites are historic wrecks and are known for being an excellent adventure for anyone looking for an exciting diving experience. The warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico provide the best environment for rapid reef growth and are home to a breeding ground for all types of interesting sea life. The best times to plunge yourself into the sea and discover these underwater creatures is between the months of April and September. Here are a few of the hottest sites for both locals and visitors diving both inshore and offshore:
- El Dorado
- Liberty Ship
- Grey Ghost
- Spanish Shanty Barge
- Life Boats
Recognized by Golf Digest Magazine as one of America’s top three golf towns, Panama City Beach has affordable greens fees paired with award-winning course design. Tee times are available year-round, with an average annual temperature of 74 degrees and an estimated 320 days of sunshine.
Course choices include:
Slowly easing up on a school of redfish on a flat calm morning in the shallow waters of the bay. Cruising the Panama City Beach coastline, hoping to hook a tarpon and experience the silver king’s stunning acrobatics. Hovering over an old shipwreck, now an artificial reef teeming with red snapper.
Those are just some of the angling adventures you can experience in Panama City Beach. Inshore, offshore, up in the creeks, under the bridges or off the pier – where there’s a bite, you can fish.