Panama City Beach is a waterfront town and vacation destination on the Emerald Coast of Florida. It’s known for it’s miles of sandy white beaches fronting the Gulf of Mexico, and for it’s raucous spring break parties. Popular theme parks include Gulf World Marine Park, offering swimming with dolphin experiences, and Shipwreck Island Waterpark, featuring waterslides and pools. St. Andres State Park is one of 2 protected nature preserves nearby. There is 27 miles of beaches with miles of hiking and biking trails, and 100 public beach access points. It goes without saying that there’s a lot to see and do in Panama City Beach. As you explore, you’ll find that each area has its own unique flavor and character. The waters here are famous with fishermen and scuba divers who enjoy the benefits of dozens artificial reefs located offshore, and with a coastline that angles slightly toward the west, in Panama City Beach you can watch the sunset over the Gulf of Mexico every day of the year. Our Panama City Beach Travel Guide will give you all the information you need to plan your Panama City Beach vacation. To visit all the great beaches of Panama City Beach and the Emerald Coast, click here.
Panama City Beach Weather – When to Visit
The best time to visit Panama City is from May through October. Though the area boasts an average of 320 days of sunshine per year, late spring, summer and early fall offer some of the warmest air and water temperatures. Plus, by avoiding a visit in March or April, you’ll dodge the deluge of college students who descend on the area’s ivory sands every year for spring break. You’ll save on lodging prices during the area’s low season (November to February), but it’ll likely be too chilly to enjoy the ocean.
Panama City Beach Attractions
St. Andrews State Park
St. Andrews State Park has enough attractions and activities to keep every member of your family happy. Along with a nearly 2-mile-long white sand beach, the park also boasts paved bike trails, marked hiking trails, water sports equipment rentals (including canoes, kayaks and snorkeling gear) and shuttle boat tours to Shell Island, a 7-mile long undeveloped barrier island. Additionally, the park provides a concession stand with snacks, souvenirs and fishing supplies.
Gulf World Marine Park
If you love dolphins, you’ll want to schedule a stop at Gulf World Marine Park. Though the park houses several other species, including sea turtles, stingrays, sharks and sea lions, dolphins are the main attraction here, and one of the major reasons visitors recommend spending a few hours at the park. Similar to SeaWorld, the Gulf World Marine Park hosts animal shows (dolphins and sea lions are the only animals that perform), feeding demonstrations and opportunities to swim with the dolphins and interact with the park’s other residents, including a variety of birds and reptiles.
This 7-mile-long barrier island runs east to west between the Gulf of Mexico and the St. Andrew Bay. Because it’s undeveloped, you’ll find plenty of coastal creatures and untouched vegetation, plus miles of pearly white sand to sink your toes into. Shell Island has no restrooms, concession stands, trash receptacles, picnic tables or shade pavilions, meaning you’ll need to come with everything you need. Hop on a charter to the island, which offers the best of both worlds: You’ll have access to food, drinks and a restroom on the boat, and still be able to play in the island’s shallow waters.
When you’re ready to explore more of PCB’s nature, head to Conservation Park. As a safeguard for wetlands, wildlife and pine forest, the park is a natural filter, balancing treated water before it travels to the St. Andrews Bay. This nearly 3,000-acre park features 12 different trails of varying difficultly and eight boardwalks totaling more than a mile in length. Bring binoculars – you’ll likely spot plenty of birds and wildlife in the wetlands area. Dogs are permitted on leases. No overnight stays, campfires, smoking or open flames allowed. Trails are available for both walking and bike riding.
Shipwreck Island Waterpark
Consistently described by visitors as a great place for families, Shipwreck Island Waterpark is a 20-acre facility that features a wave pool, a lazy river, several water slides and flumes, and two shallow pools perfect for novice swimmers. True to its name, it’s also home to a replica of a 17th-century sailing ship that allows swimmers to zip line off the ship before dropping into a large lagoon pool.
When you need a break from the sun and surf , head to Pier Park. An outdoor retail, dining and entertainment hub, Pier Park is home to familiar chain restaurants like Olive Garden, Subway and Five Guys, along with popular stores like Charming Charlie, Dillard’s and Old Navy, among others. When you need a reprieve from shopping, head to Pier Park Amusements, the on-site theme park. It features a giant slide, a small roller coaster and a free-fall ride, along with more gentle attractions for young children.
Panama City Beach Tours & Activities
Sunset Catamaran Sail on The Privateer
Watch the sun set and the moon rise along the Gulf of Mexico on this sunset cruise. Enjoy the scenery and peaceful calm of a late afternoon sail on board a Privateer catamaran. Stretch out and enjoy the breathtaking view. Look for dolphins, listen to tropical music and enjoy a complementary glass of wine, sangria, cold beer or a non-alcoholic beverage. Then watch a legendary Panama City Beach sunset as the sun glistens and gently settles into the water. Read more about Panama City Beach Gulf of Mexico 2-Hour Sunset Catamaran Sail
Panama City Beach Adventure Catamaran Sail
Have fun in the sun off the coast of Panama City Beach on this ultimate water adventure. This guided tour packs a lot into a short period of time. Climb on board a Privateer sailing catamaran and head out to Shell Island. Try swimming, paddle boarding, snorkeling and kayaking. Plus, there’s also a giant water trampoline, a climbing wall, a water slide, and a see-saw ball. One beverage and all the necessary equipment are included on this entertaining voyage. Read more about Panama City Beach Adventure Catamaran Sail
Sunset Sail on The Footloose Catamaran
Celebrate a romantic sunset with a catamaran cruise in the Gulf of Mexico. Enjoy a glass of wine, a cold beer, a Sangria or a non-alcoholic beverage—a complimentary drink is included—and relax to tropical tunes as the 38-passenger vessel sets sail. Watch dolphins, take in the atmospheric surroundings, and raise a toast with a signature Footloose Punch from the fully-stocked bar as you glide across the water. Read more about Sunset Sail on The Footloose Catamaran
Gulf World Marine Park General Admission
Visit Gulf World Marine Park with this all-day admission for a family-friendly experience in Panama City Beach. See marine life such as stingrays, sea lions, and turtles, watch the live shows, wander through the indoor and outdoor gardens, and more. Read more about Gulf World Marine Park General Admission
Shell Island Snorkel & Dolphin Catamaran Cruise in Panama City Beach
Cruise to Shell Island and search for wild dolphins on a catamaran sailing trip from Panama City Beach. The catamaran’s broad, stable deck makes it a comfortable alternative to smaller boats prone to rocking in the waves, and since it’s stocked with paddle boards, snorkeling gear, and a water slide, it’s the perfect base for playing in the clear water off Shell Island. Read more about Shell Island Snorkel & Dolphin Cruise from Panama City Beach
Best Panama City Beach Restaurants
Sisters of the Sea Grill $11 – 30
Shake off the sand and join them for fine seafood, delicious po-boys, and out-of-this-world specialties. Sisters of the Sea’s award-winning dishes include the Sirens’ Song, a rich broth with steamed mussels, shrimp and scallops. It took the Best of Show at the Mississippi Gulf Coast-based Chefs of the Coast. Telephone: 850-708-1890 Web: Sisters of the Sea Grill.
Firefly $31 – 60
Firefly is a unique dining experience in Panama City Beach, Florida. Their commitment to excellence shows in their ever-evolving menu, their atmosphere, and their dedicated staff. From the moment you step through the beautiful wooden doors, you know this is not your typical beach restaurant. Telephone: 850-249-3359 Web: Firefly
Runaway Island Beach Bar & Grill $11 – 30
Runaway Island Beachfront Restaurant offers local seafood specialties, live entertainment and frosty drinks all with 2 floors providing a panoramic view of the Gulf of Mexico. The outdoor deck lets you take in the Florida sun and landscape of the “World’s Most Beautiful Beaches”. All while you sit back, relax and enjoy. Telephone: 850-634-4884 Web: Runaway Island Beach Bar & Grill.
The Front Porch Under $10
Home of the best burger on the beach. Welcome to the Front Porch where they build the best burger you’ve ever had. They start with only the freshest ingredients and build it just the way you like. Make sure to make it a combo and try their one of a kind fries. Telephone: 850-276-7068 Web: The Front Porch.
The Wicked Wheel Bar & Grill $11 – 30
The Wicked Wheel Bar and Grill is home of the Emerald Coast’s Wicked Good Fried Chicken – voted Best of Bay – marinated, hand battered and deep fried in cottonseed oil. Try their New Orleans Style Thin-Cut Catfish which is sure to have you going back for more, and their delicious All-Natural 1/2 lb. Angus Burgers are a favorite with the locals. Put some South in Your Mouth with their southern sides, including beans & rice, collard greens, cheese grits & more. Telephone: 850-588-7947 Web: The Wicked Wheel Bar & Grill.
Best Panama City Beach Bars & Nightlife
Runaway Island Beach Bar & Grill
Totaling over 6,000 sq. ft. of wood, the outdoor deck lets you take in the Florida sun and landscape of the “World’s Most Beautiful Bea-hes”. All while you sit back, relax and enjoy. Great Food. Great Drinks. Great Stories. It’s all part of the Runaway Island experience. Go visit them today for lunch or dinner. After all, life is short… Run Away. Telephone: 854-634-4884 Web: Runaway Island Beach Bar & Grill.
Spinnaker Beach Club
Spinnaker Beach Club is one-of-a-kind! Right on the beach… a family friendly restaurant during the day. At night, a laid-back place to relax, enjoy live music, dancing and classic beach club entertainment. The view is breathtaking. The food is delicious. The entertainment is second to none. Telephone: 850-34-7892 Web: Spinnaker Beach Club.
Hook’d Pier Bar & Grill
Experience real Panama City Beach flavor and style at Hook’d Pier Bar and Hook’d Pier Bar & Grill is a dog friendly restaurant with a full bar, offering live music on the weekends. With superior service and consistent flavors, they have remained the locals’ dining destination with friends or family. You’re sure to find something that will suit your appetite on their menu. You won’t find anything better! Telephone: 850-233-8232 Web: Hook’d Pier Bar & Grill.
Shades Bar & Grill
With the largest selection of on-tap draft beer in the Florida Panhandle, Shades knows that whatever your drink, they’ve got you covered! They also are proud to offer the most current seasonal selections of premium draft beer including local specialty beers such as Grayson 30A Beach Blonde! Telephone: 850-231-9410 Web: Shades Bar & Grill.
The Craft Bar
Their extraordinary craft beer selections on tap include some of the rarest and most sought after beers in the nation, making The Craft Bar the only place in Northwest Florida to serve many of these special kegs. They also have an impressive bottle collection and the ability to sell beer “to-go” with their innovative Crowlers. Telephone: 850-588-7309 Web: The Craft Bar.
Best Panama City Beach Hotels
Holiday Inn Express & Suites Panama City Beach – Beachfront
This hotel offers spacious and modern gulf-front guest rooms in different layouts to suit a range of vacation needs, so whether you are traveling as a couple or in a large family the Holiday Inn Express & Suites is ready to welcome you.After a good night’s rest, come down for a free hot Express Start Breakfast in our breakfast bar to get energized for a day full of fun with the lazy river, zero depth entry pool, hot tub, and the Gulf of Mexico!
Marriott’s Legends Edge at Bay Point
Marriott’s Legends Edge at Bay Point in Panama City Beach, Florida offers stylish two-bedroom villas with separate living and dining areas, as well as a fully equipped kitchen for meal preparations while on vacation. Comfortable villas offer plenty of space for the family to spread out. You’ll also enjoy our sparkling outdoor pool and whirlpool spa, and the kids will have endless fun on the splash pad. Practice your swing at nearby golf courses and visit beautiful Panama City Beach just a short drive away.
Hampton Inn & Suites Panama City Beach
Hampton Inn & Suites Panama City Beach is a 182-room Gulf front hotel in Panama City Beach, Fla. Located in walking distance to popular Pier Park, the hotel features a beachfront pool and hot tub, fitness center, bar and hospitality room, dune walkover to the beach, Gulf front boardroom and breakfast seating.
Holiday Inn Resort Panama City Beach
The full service Holiday Inn Resort® on the sugar white sands of Panama City Beach offers gulf front rooms, lush tropical gardens, a variety of dining options, outstanding entertainment, and superior service. With the resort’s unique combination of location, activities and amenities guests have everything they need for a great beach vacation right onsite! The pool deck features a lagoon style pool with a cascading waterfall, fountain pool, over-sized hot tubs, spacious new SeaGlass Bar & Grill, seasonal entertainment, free kids’ activities, and a water playground.
Osprey on the Gulf
Set on the coastline, we like to think we’re more like your family’s beach home than a hotel. You can spend the day playing beach volleyball, visit the children’s playground, jump into our heated pools, or try your hand at ping pong. They are close to all the area’s top attractions, and have planned events each week. They have a strong history of family values that inspire them, and hope to have the privilege of your stay.