Panama City Beach Travel Guide

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

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is St-Andrews-Park-300x124.jpgSt. 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.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Gulf-World-Marine-Park.jpgGulf 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 image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Shell-Island-300x175.jpgShell Island

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.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Conversation-Park-300x225.jpgConversation Park

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.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Shipwreck-Island-Waterpark-300x200.jpgShipwreck 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.

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This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Pier-Park-300x100.jpgPier Park

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.

Booking.com

40 Comments

  1. EJ

    Hello Leahrae, BEAUTIFUL in every way, your website itself, the images of beautiful locations in Florida, the foods, entertainments and the comprehensive information. WOW!
    Anyone desiring to go to Panama City Beach and find your site, will be very happy with your all inclusive information.

    I smiled when Sea World was mentioned. I had the pleasure of being there and seeing the antics of the sea lion, dolphins and their trainers – what fun and laughter it was! This made me remember!

    Thank you, this was well thought out and presented.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Thank you so much EJ, glad you enjoyed!

      Reply
  2. Kevin McNamara

    Hi Leahrae,

    I love your website! Panama Beach City sounds amazing. I love American burgers so must check out the cafes you mention.

    Bed and breakfasts are a great way to holiday so I am going to check out the B&B’s you mention here. It sounds adorable. I live near the beach and its where my fantasies take me haha. Thanks for enlightening me,

    Kev

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      You are very welcome Kevin. I love the beach as well, and that is where I am the happiest. Thanks for visiting Panama City Florida Tourism Guide.

      Reply
  3. Edwin P.

    Hi Leahrae, i really love reading your information about all these places, and Panama city Beach sure looks like a place where I would enjoy visiting and having such a great time. There are a lot of things to do! Not sure a couple of days will be enough. I hope I get the chance to go there one day. Thanks for such wonderful posts and guides. Greetings.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Thank you Edwin for visiting Panama City Florida Tourism Guide. Yes, you would want to visit for at least a week to relax, soak up the sun, and visit some sights!

      Reply
  4. Dan

    Mmmm the food sounds really good there and my wife would love the dolphins. Are you able to swin with the dolphins? That has always been a dream of hers

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Yes, Dan she can swim with the Dolphins 🙂 You would really find this to be a great beach vacation for both of you.

      Reply
  5. Yvonne

    SO much to do and see and so little time! I’ve never been to Panama before so this guide is really useful. I think my kids would love the Shipwreck Island Waterpark. Panama City Beach looks great!

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Yes, you need at least a week really to enjoy the beach and see the sights. Shipwreck Island Waterpark is for all ages 🙂 Thanks for visiting!

      Reply
  6. C Aino

    Wow Leahrae. Let me first say that i love travelling and what a nice tour guide. The article is simply amazing and the information is sufficient for any vacationist. Have one small question though, like many tourist destinations there is always an Ugly side brought by people with bad intentions; On the scale of 1-10 how safe is it?
    Thanks a bunch and stay blessed.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      I am really going to rank this high at a 9 for safety. I find absolutely no issues when I visit here. It might be a different story during Spring Break with the rowdies. I have traveled then too, and it is just obnoxious college kids. Thanks for reading!

      Reply
  7. Francis Donaghy

    Wow, you have an impressive list of comments, blogs and action on your website Leahrae.
    have you done anything in Hawaii?? Been there a couple of times- Real paradise.
    Now, I’m biased, as Northern Ireland has some fantastic beaches. Only problem is bbbbbrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr the waters are soooooo cold!
    Anyway, success to you!

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      You have it all wrong! The water is not cold on the gulf side of Florida, only on the Atlantic side 🙂 The temperature is way different, and yes I do have posts on Hawaii 🙂 I am glad you like Beach Travel Destinations, thanks for visiting!

      Reply
  8. Noody

    You’ve definitely made me place Panama City on the to-do list!

    Naturally, the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Florida is the beach, but you suggested some destinations that seem like they’re great.

    How long do you think it would take to experience all the attractions that you suggested? A weekend, or a week?

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      You definitely need a week, gotta have some beach time too! And the beaches of the Emerald Coast, well the sand is snow white and it is beautiful!

      Reply
  9. Arta

    Hey
    You are really an expert in travel destinations. I am a keen traveller and enjoy exploring new destinations. Up to now – Florida wasn’t included in my list yet but after reading your thorough post – I have to change my list and include it as I feel really tempted to go there due to variety of entertainment options. From my experience I know that it is much more convenient to book hotel in such like tourist attractors in advance – long in advance in order to get better prices and better places to stay (especially if one wishes to stay somewhere near the beach). Is it the same with Panama City?

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      No, you do not have to reserve so far in advance. For a place like Las Vegas, yes, but no where in Florida do you need to book that far in advance. Thanks for reading and glad you enjoyed!

      Reply
  10. Riaz Shah

    Hey Leahrae,
    I’ve never been to Florida but I’ve always wanted to! Mostly because I have a girlfriend who lives there who I met here at work.

    Panama sounds great and reading your article makes me want to go there, especially to the beach. Are there specific times that we need to stay away from the beach though? Helpful when I’m planning my trip 😀

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      I’d say the water is pretty chilly from the end of October thru February. Any other time, it’s great 🙂

      Reply
  11. Tasleem

    Hi,

    This is a really informative post. I have never been to Florida but it seems like this could be a great family vacation. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Thanks for reading and glad you enjoyed!

      Reply
  12. Sho

    Your Site is REALLY well Done…the back pages are a bit affiliate like and your First page is REALLLLLLLLY long, but Very good information…
    I love the Descriptions and the pictures with each but the Comments Section makes scrolling take a Bit. Would be nice to section it off a little.
    I know the product pages are the Hook, but if you could stagger the pictures a bit would be a little more appealing to me…

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Thank you so much for your constructive comments 🙂 …and for visiting Beach Travel Destinations.

      Reply
  13. AJ

    Runaway Island beach bar grill????

    O man, that sounds sooooooo good. I love bbq, and being somewhere exotic and having food like that just seals the deal for sure. If your traveling, you might as well travel in style and eat at the best places. Thanks so much for this.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      I agree 100% and you will find all of that in Panama City Beach!

      Reply
  14. Brent

    Once again, you are awesome!! And I see you made it back to the U.S.!! I love how you cover all aspects of the city you review. Panama City looks pretty cool. but then you make all the cities look great. Incredible work.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Thank you so much Brent, I am glad you are enjoying Beach Travel Destinations!

      Reply
  15. Kay

    Such an informative post. My family and I visited the emerald coast two Christmas ago and we absolutely enjoyed it. However, I wish I had this wealth of information before we visited. We have could have really benefited from it. We plan to visit again this year and I will definitely check out some of your recommendations. What is your favorite restaurant in Panama city?. You list so many options but I curious to know which one you like best.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Definitely Dee’s Hangout. You have to go there. Wonderful food. Panama City Beach really is a great place with so many things to do. Thanks for visiting my Panama City Tourism Guide.

      Reply
  16. Gladwell

    Hallelujah!
    Thank you for the post, its going into my face book. I feel like this is definitely on my bucket list now. You have everything needed for a vacay! I have a little one and visiting the Gulf world and shipwreck park sounds perfect. I have everything I need on this article, I had never thought of visiting panama city until now.
    The best part for me is the weather, seems like a great place to visit during spring or fall, summer seems too hot.
    But this was superb! I like that you have covered everything from dining, fun to transportation.
    Kudos!!!

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Thank you and am glad it is useful for you. Please let me know if you have any other questions.

      Reply
  17. Gina

    You are seriously an expert on the Panama City lifestyle based on your page here – I am impressed! I have been to several parts of Florida, but never here. (That may change soon! With all you have to offer from bars and night life to conservational parks, travelers can find something to do in all their respective interests. If/When I decide to vacation here, I will be sure to reference your page! Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      I think that Panama City Beach has it all. It has the gorgeous beach as well as a lot of other activities to keep you busy. Thanks for reading Gina!

      Reply
  18. Cheryl

    Hi, have just checked out your page and have to say I was very impressed with it. I have never been to Florida or ever had the inclination to go but for anyone who is looking to go you have such a great page that reads great and has so much relevant and important information that people would find very helpful and all your links are great too. I had a look at a few other pages on your site, especially the beaches at Adelaide and your pages on Tenerife.

    I have been to Tenerife 4 times and am due to go again at the end of April. A girly holiday to Costa Adeje and the last four times I stayed at the Bahia Principe Costa Adeje which is a beautiful hotel and very clean. Would recommend it to anyone and would go back again and again.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      I love Tenerife as well 🙂 I am glad you enjoyed reading about Panama City Beach. I hope you visit soon!

      Reply
  19. JeffWA

    Hi again Leahrae,

    In previously reading another article at your excellent travel site which focused in on all that is offered at Daytona beach, by comparison considering the many things that are offered Panama City seems a more ideal place to visit. Especially if you’re not a stock car racing fan which to me is one of the main highlights of visiting the Daytona Beach area.

    You mentioned the active night life, destination for college kids on spring breaks and partying! I also noticed a vast number of restaurants, nightclubs, places for family activities on the surrounding beaches and waterfronts, plus the large number of hotels.

    I can assume that the weather is about the same in terms of quality with Panama being on the western side of Florida versus Daytona being east and on the Atlantic Ocean.

    Can I assume only visiting Florida once and in April that considering more the humidity that mid-summer it might not be fun for everyone, especially if they’re not used to the hot Florida heat versus say a spring visit?

    Panama City indeed looks like a place for practically everyone. It would be hard to get bored visiting that city on a vacation.

    Thanks for the thorough review, Leahrae, something I have always seen on your website!

    Jeff

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Yes, Jeff I would agree that April would be better…less heat, less humid for sure. And less people. And yes, Panama City Beach has something for everyone. Thanks for reading Beach Travel Destinations.

      Reply
  20. Debra

    I’ve been to Florida many times – mostly Daytona Beach, Sarasota and Clearwater. But I’ve never been to Panama City, and judging by your article, I’m missing out! Thanks so much for all the information – you’ve included absolutely everything a person would need to plan a FANTASTIC vacation at Panama City!

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Thank you so much and I am glad you found the information useful. You will have to go to Panama City next 🙂

      Reply

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