Things To Do In Panama City Beach

Beautiful Panama City Beach. FL

Looking for things to do in Panama City Beach? Panama City Beach has a lot to offer pretty much any type of personality out there. Whether you want to relax on the beautiful serene breathtaking beaches or have an Adrenalin induced adventure you can find it right here in Panama City Beach!

Stunning White Sandy Beaches:  One of the more popular things to do in Panama City Beach is the beaches themselves. With the slogan "Worlds Most Beautiful beaches" all of you beach lovers are sure to be in for a treat! With stunning turquoise water and sugar white sands the beaches here are absolutely incredible! In fact it was walking over the sand dunes and seeing the beautiful beaches for the first time that prompted us to move here. We went from Indiana resident to living in Panama City Beach in just three days on a whim and have never looked back. That is the power of the beauty of this place. 

The beaches of Panama City beach
The beaches of Panama City Beach

If its nature you want...

Boarded By Two State Parks: If you like nature or hiking then you should know that one unique thing about Panama City Beach is its boarded by two very unique state parks. These offer even more options for things to do in Panama City Beach!

  • Camp Helen State Park

Camp Helen is located on the west end of the city limits. It's home to Lake Powell the second largest dune lake in the northern hemisphere, and has quite the history. The land itself dates back to early native American times thousands of years ago. Sometimes when  combing the beach people have actually found pieces of native American pottery where the lake empty's into the gulf! Now that's a historic beach find worth writing home about!  There is even evidence of prehistoric  burial mounds and midges in the area.  

The area was officially first developed in 1910 and has since switched hands several times. Its been everything from a private residence to a private corporate retreat. It was opened to the public officially in 1997 as a state park.

There are lots of things to do here, but one of our favorites are the beautiful nature trails. One follows the lake around while the other goes through the woods and out to the gulf. Also, take the time to tour the historic cottages and cabins on the property.  The visitor center offers self-guided tour brochures as well as newspaper clippings about the park. The most memorable one being about a supposed Lake monster sighting! With how old the park is there is sure to be some paranormal rumors. The rangers at the lodge are happy to regale you with plenty of ghost stories about their resident ghosts that are said to reside in the park. Be sure to stop in if you are in the area around Halloween.  Keep scrolling to see more things to do in Panama City Beach!

Egret at Camp Helen St Park
Scenic fishing bridge at Camp Helen St Park
Bench along one of the many walking trails at Camp Helen St Park

More Things To Do In Panama City Beach

  • St Andrews State Park

St Andrews state park is easily one of my favorite state parks out of all I have visited. most people tend to stick to the beaches and kiddie pool  but there is a lot more to this park worth checking out. 

St Andrews has great hiking trails and wonderful opportunities for nature study or birding.  There are two designated hiking trails.

The gator lake trail goes on a loop around alligator lake. Although it's a relatively short hike be prepared for a lot of up and down fairly steep sandy hills. Besides spotting lots of alligators you can also see lots of water foul, wading birds like various herons and egrets on this trail,  as well as other small animals.

The second trail is the heron pond trail.  It meanders along the flat woods pine forest and out along the bay. There is lots of opportunities to spot wildlife especially deer and coastal birds.

 When visiting this trail be sure to stop and check out the old turpentine still at the trail head. This authentically reconstructed "cracker" turpentine still gives a glimpse into the history of the area. 

Do you like diving and snorkeling? The kiddie pool as it dubbed by the locals is a semi-enclosed area next to the jetties. It's the perfect place to snorkel for shells and see lots of tropical fish that make their home along the rocks. The gulf side of the jetties offer some of the best surfing in the area and is a favorite of locals for water sports and activities.

Saint Andrews really is a beautiful place and you can't beat the jetties for snorkeling. It's what makes it one of our personal favorite things to do in Panama City Beach.

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Heron at Gator Lake in St Andres St Park
Hiking trail at St Andrews St Park
Wild life at St Andrews Sate Park

More Hiking Opportunities

Conservation and exploration: Another great place to go to get away from the traffic and out into nature is at the Panama City Beach Conservation park. This relatively new park has over 25 miles of trails. a few of the things you might come across are alligators,  birds, snakes, wild boar, whitetail deer, eagles, woodpeckers, snakes, and lizards.

Incredible Shelling And Beach Combing

Shells I collected at Shell Island

Another one of our favorite things to do in Panama City Beach is shelling!

An Island of shells: While there is always a chance of finding seashells during your stay, one of the best places to find lots of big shells is the appropriately  named shell island. Shell island is a 7 mile long uninhabited and undeveloped barrier island and is accessible only by boat.  If you don't have your own boat don't worry you can still visit. During the summer many of the tour boats offer trips to shell island ,however, if you are wanting to stay longer then the shell island ferry or the shell island shuttle are your best bet. During peak season, they run back and forth multiple times a day seven days a week. It's as easy as hopping the first ride on and the last one back. Just be sure not to miss the latter!

For you best chance of scoring a great haul of shells plan on getting there as early as possible the day after a storm or strong waves. You will want to walk to the areas that are not as heavily trafficked by other shell seekers. 

Remember since shell island is undeveloped there are no restrooms, shade, or food vendors. You will need to pack everything you might need. Always be sure to leave only footprints. Everything you bring must be brought back with you. It's a beautiful unspoiled natural beach so I always like to bring a camera and binoculars to watch the plentiful local wildlife. If you are lucky you might get to see the local pod of dolphins or some of the manatees that frequent the area. 

Other great shelling can be found at inlet beach at Camp Helen state park near the old broken down pier. St Andrews state park has great shelling as well, especially on the bay side. Aside from shelling the two state parks themselves offer many additional options for things to do in Panama City beach. 

For The Thrill Seekers

Thrilling Adventures: Looking for something a little bit more adventurous? Parasailing offers breathtaking birds eye views of the beautiful gulf of Mexico. Some things you might spot from above are sharks, sting rays, dolphins, manatees, Sea turtles, and lots of other marine life.  Another way to see the marine life from above is via helicopter ride. Panhandle helicopter tours offer great rates and specialty tours that are a ton of fun. Heights not your thing? If you like speed the jet ski or air boat tours offer a combination of nature watching and thrills to get the best of both worlds. The Sea Screamer is a twin turbo powered 73-foot long boat that offers thrilling dolphin tours. Its a lot of fun to watch the dolphins playing and leaping in the wake as the boat rockets through the water.

Panhandle Helicopter flying off into the sunset.
Sea Screamer out cruising for dolphins

Pier Park: Looking for that perfect souvenir? Pier Park mall offers world class shopping, A mini amusement park, gourmet and casual dining, and great atmosphere. Be sure to take a stroll on the pier that is located across  the  street from the front beach road entrance. 

Ship Wreck Water Park:  If you like to do your swimming in a more controlled environment shipwreck water park is the place to go. They offer water slides, a wave simulation pool, white water tube rafting, a lazy river, and an area called the tadpole hole specifically for the little ones. 

We Have Only Just Begun

No matter what you decide to do during you stay in Panama city beach you are sure to have a wonderful time all while making lots of memories. There are so many things to do in panama city beach and I have only covered a small portion of everything that is here. I will be adding more soon so be sure to check back! Who knows, once you get here you might just decide to never leave like I did! It sure is a wonderful place to call home. I are very lucky indeed!

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Florida Gulf Coast > Things To Do In Panama City Beach