On the Gulf of Mexico, in northwest Florida, Panama City Beach is a beautiful waterfront town and a popular vacation destination. Its miles of golden sand and great year-round weather attract visitors from all over the country. The soft and warm water of the Gulf is a dream to wade in, and the summer atmosphere creates a classic beach town experience.
Beyond the shore, all travelers, young and old, will find themselves with a lot of things to do in Panama City Beach. There are plenty of outdoor adventures and fun to be had from state to amusement parks. So, if you ever grow tired of the beach, you can jump on a water slide or go for a hike.
12. Russell Fields City Pier
One of the highlights of your beach days will be Russell Fields City Pier. Known simply as City Pier, this marks the most popular beach spot in Panama City Beach. It’s the longest such structure along the Florida’s west coast and runs 1,500 feet into the Gulf of Mexico.
The wide pier is a joy to walk along, providing excellent views back to Panama City Beach. Views that grow grander the further you go. Throughout the day, you’ll find local anglers casting reels into the ocean hoping to catch one of the many fish that swim below. Come golden hour, the pier’s end is a gorgeous spot to watch the sun go down.
11. Gator Country Alligator Park
Spread across West Bay Creek, Gator Country Alligator Park takes you on a thrilling ride across the water to meet alligators in person. Similar to gator tours on Florida’s east coast, the park is home to Airboat Adventures, who sweep you up and take you along the local rivers and marshlands on a search of the majestic beast.
On your guided tour, you’ll get to know the area in great detail, along with the many gators you may see along the way. Above, herons and bald eagles fly and soon your boat slows down as your guide points out a set of eyes hovering on the surface. Later, on dry land, have a chance to feed baby alligators.
10. Conservation Park
Beyond the zoos and marine parks, Conservation Park is a true gateway to nature around Panama City Beach. Protecting large swaths of land, Conservation Park is a free ticket to wetlands and forests where you’ll find wildlife and birds playing among the treetops.
There are a dozen trails that snake throughout Conservation Park. These come in a variety of difficulties, with some short and longer treks. There are also accessible boardwalks that bring you to viewpoints and popular spots to see the local bird life.
The park is 10 miles west of Panama City Beach and the short drive brings a lack of crowds and the perfect escape from the bustling coast.
9. Gulf World Marine Park
Offering up-close experiences with a variety of marine life, Gulf World Marine Park is one of the best family activities in town. They offer free daily shows and interactive activities that will give you a front-row seat to dolphins, sharks, alligators, manatees, and more.
One of the highlights is the stingray pool. Here, guests can sign up for a hands-on adventure where they can step into the pool, swim alongside the beautiful creature, and even pet them.
The most popular thing to do here, however, is to swim with the resident dolphins. Although you can stay on dry land and say hey from afar, it’s an amazing opportunity for an interactive experience.
8. Coconut Creek Family Fun Park
Home to two golf courses and an enormous maze, Coconut Creek Family Fun Park offers fun for all ages. Whether you’re looking to keep the kids entertained or searching for a casual date idea, then you’ll find all you need right here.
Mini golf is the highlight of the experience. There are two 18-hole courses to choose from (you can also do both), and either take you on a memorable adventure through wild Africa. You’ll feel you’re on a safari as you put your putt-putt skills to the test with water features and animal statues. Later, complete the Gran Maze, that is the size of a football field.
7. Ripley’s Believe It Or Not
There aren’t too many tourist destinations these days that don’t have some version of Ripley’s Believe It Or Not. But even if you’ve seen one before, it still makes for the perfect rainy-day activity, or an alternative to the beach if you’ve gone too hard on the suntanning.
The odd and wacky experience begins from the car park as you gaze upon a sinking ship soaring out of the tarmac. On the inside you’ll discover an odditorium home to four major areas. Beyond the shrunken heads and classic head-scratching artifacts, you’ll find the 7D Moving Theatre, a mirror maze and an obstacle course made from lasers.
6. Shipwreck Island Park
When the sun is beating down on Panama City Beach, a swim in the warm Gulf may not sound like the best way to cool off. To do so, you should book a day at Shipwreck Island Park. The park features all the classic water park rides and more, creating an exciting and refreshing family day out.
At Shipwreck Island Park, you’ll find an enchanting lazy river, several thrilling water slides and a 500,000-gallon wave pool. The latter creating waves up to three feet. But the highlight of the park is a recreation of a 17th century ship. From the ship you can zipline across the sky before falling into a spacious lagoon.
5. ZooWorld Zoological Conservatory
Featuring hundreds of different animal species and interactive experiences, the ZooWorld Zoological Conservatory is a fun nature experience. If you want to switch things up, the zoo makes for a great alternative to another day on the sand.
Here, guests can get up close to wildlife from across the globe, such as lions, kangaroos, and adorable sloths. You’ll also be able to interact with some of them, by feeding giraffes and alligators or holding a lemur or sloth. Afterwards, take a walk through the aviary to discover a world of tropical birds flying through the canopies.
Keep in mind that many of these experiences are not included in the entry price.
4. Dolphin Tour
Facing the Gulf of Mexico, the calm, balmy waters of Panama City Beach are a haven for dolphins. There are multiple ways you can interact with the majestic creatures, including at Gulf World Marine Park. But for the ultimate experience, travelers must sign up for a dolphin tour.
There is no shortage of tour outfits to choose from. In fact, even Panama City Parasail gets in on the action with a two-hour trip. One of the most highly rated local companies is Dolphin and Snorkel Tours. These offer small group tours (up to six) meaning you could easily turn it into a private session.
Dolphin and Snorkel Tours depart from Bay Point Marina at the southern tip of Panama City Beach. Due to this, they are the closest tour to Shell Island where the bulk of dolphins are found.
3. Pier Park
Right behind the most popular stretch of sand in Panama Beach is Pier Park. The entrance is marked by an arched sign that runs from one side of the street to the other. At night, the neon lights drag you in to a world of entertainment, dining, and shopping.
But beachgoers will always hear the park calling their name. When the clock ticks over to midday, it’s the place to go to get a break from the sun and enjoy a lunchtime meal. The majority of dining options also come with outdoor sections that are swept with a salty sea breeze.
The convenience of Pier Park is only matched by its array of fun activities, including Pier Park Amusements that comes complete with an IMAX theater and thrilling rides.
2. St. Andrews State Park
On the southern end of Panama City Beach, St Andrews State Park showcases a beautiful untouched world. It’s a glimpse into the Gulf Coast prior to development, where marine estuaries and coastal hammocks led to shell-laden shores.
Visitors will be able to experience a variety of outdoor activities. Here, the unspoiled beaches harbor excellent shelling and revitalizing swimming away from the crowds in the heart of Panama City Beach. Bring along your snorkel gear to explore a vast underwater world with brilliant clarity.
Afterwards, venture across the channel to Shell Island via the ferry or a rented pontoon boat. Walk along the nature trails to discover a wild barrier island. If you can’t bring yourself to leave, stay overnight at one of the 60 campsites in the park.
1. Enjoy the beach
Having been named after its soft golden shores, no time in Panama City Beach would be complete without a day by the water. Whenever the sun is out, and even on those moody mornings, locals flock to the beloved beach to hang with friends, dip into the Gulf and bathe under the sun.
The beach stretches for a stunning 27 miles along the Gulf of Mexico. The ample room means you’ll get a private patch of powdery sand, and the water extends shallowly from the shore, providing pleasant swimming for young and old.
The heart of Panama City Beach is City Pier. Large crowds congregate, creating a boisterous atmosphere where the volleyball flies over the net and beachgoers stretch their legs with a walk along the wooden pier.