Florida's coast is ringed with fantastic beach destinations, but the Florida Panhandle resort of Panama City Beach is easily one of the best of all. This beach paradise has everything beach vacation fans could ever desire.
If all that matters to you is finding your own patch of sand to sunbathe and enjoy the Florida climate, Panama City Beach has 27 miles of beautiful beaches to explore. Golfers can test their skills against superb resort courses like Bay Dunes, while watersports lovers can rent everything from surfboards and sailing craft to scuba equipment.
When Spring Break comes around, no city in northern Florida is as lively as Panama City Beach. There's always nightlife to enjoy, but at other times of the year, the resort is as peaceful as they come. Whether you are a party animal, a couple seeking seclusion or a family in need of a sunshine getaway, few destinations can beat Panama City Beach.
The primary reason for most visits to Panama City Beach is obvious - the 27 mile long beach backed by cocktail bars, hotels, wild dunes, golf courses and roads that make each square meter accessible by car.
Golf is another major draw in Panama City Beach, allowing some family members to hit the beach, while others hit the fairways. With challenging, yet friendly, courses like the Meadows and Bay Point, you can easily spend all week golfing if you desire.
If the beach doesn't keep your family happy, waterparks like Aqualand and Shipwreck Island will. Failing that, the area also has amusement parks like Pier Park and the go-karting tracks at Race City.
Panama City Beach lies on the Gulf of Mexico, which means that it's guaranteed to offer fantastic seafood, and local restaurants don't disappoint. You'll find first-class seafood for bargain prices at Saltwater Grill and Bishop's Buffet.
Panama City Beach has accommodation to suit all budgets, travel parties, and tastes. If you want to stay in luxury suites, Shores of Panama will be ideal. But you can also find comfortable self-catering homes and affordable family-friendly resort hotels like Aqua Resort too.
Take the Grand Lagoon Bridge to Saint Andrews State Park. With more than 1200 acres, the park offers 176 campsites equipped with electricity, water, grills, and picnic tables. The grounds are also spacious enough to accommodate tents, RV's, and automobiles no bigger than 40 inches long. If you love water sports, you'll be in sea-heaven. Go deep-sea diving or snorkeling and meet Florida's marine beauties. For a bit of cardio, go kayaking, canoeing, or swimming on the calm blue-green water. The park offers two nature trails with coastal plant habitats that house birds. Afterwards, catch a fish from one of the two fishing piers and make a delicious lunch at the picnic pavilion.
If you are a fan of dolphins and other sea creatures, you must visit the Gulf World Marine Park. The marine park offers exciting live shows and interactive tours for the entire family. Meet the dolphins, sea lions, reptiles, and tropical birds during the daily live shows. From there, stroll over to the indoor and outdoor gardens where you'll peruse the diverse exhibits. During the showcases you'll get to see penguins, flamingos, sharks, alligators, and sea turtles. Then, go on a Royal Swim with a dolphin or enjoy a Stingray Snorkel for a thrilling first-hand experience.
Located northwest of Florida, Panama City Beach is a waterfront town flocked by tourists every year. The beach consists of miles of white, marbled sand surrounded by clear turquoise water. In addition to its beaches, Panama City Beach is home to Saint Andrews State Park and the Gulf World Marine Park. Whether you have a craving for fishing, scuba diving, or just soaking in the hot sun, Panama City Beach has something fun for you.
This shopping center houses over 124 retail stores such as Target, Marshalls, and Dillard's. Visit the mall and purchase a nice piece of jewelry or a new swimming suit. If you don't feel like riding in a cab, take the Town Trolley from the beach to Pier Park. After an adventurous day at the beach, relax at one of the many restaurants and enjoy the sunset.
Shell Island's 7 miles of uncultivated land is huddled between Saint Andrews Bay and Mexico's Gulf. The island houses sand dunes, pine hammocks, and a lake that supports its inhabitants. Deer, majestic shorebirds, ghost crabs, and many tropical endangered species such as Choctawhatchee mice nest on the beach. As you stroll on the sand, you'll be surrounded by a plethora of impressive conch shells, whelk, and all types of seashells. You may get lucky and come across a sluggish Loggerhead or breathtaking Leatherback turtle.
There aren't many bad times to visit Panama City Beach, but there are particular times many visitors may prefer. For example, Spring Break in March is great for younger party fans but won't suit families as much. The middle of summer in July and August is ideal for people who don't mind large crowds, but the best times to go are the start and the end of the season. So, try a vacation in April and May or October for great weather, smaller crowds and plenty of attractions.
Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport is the nearest place to fly into, and is served by airlines like Delta and Southwest. From there, the best way to get to Panama City Beach is via airport shuttle companies like American Eagle or Ride on Shuttles, but there are also limousine services and taxis. Another option is to rent a vehicle from outlets at the airport, including Avis, Enterprise, and Alamo. Expect to pay around $30 for a taxi to the resort.
The closest Amtrak station is probably Mobile, which is on the Sunset Limited route, providing a connection with New Orleans and Los Angeles. From Mobile, you can catch daily Greyhound connections, which take a couple of hours.
If you are driving from the west, take I-10, then change onto regional highway 98 at Pensacola, which runs straight into Panama City Beach. Those driving from the north can take I-65, then switch to I-10 at Mobile or I-75, and then change at Lake City.
If you want to take the bus, the nearest bus stop is in Panama City, a few miles away from Panama City Beach. Panama City is on the regional Greyhound network, so plenty of connections are available.
The majority of the accommodation options in Panama City Beach are, unsurprisingly, very close to the seafront, and there is a choice of family-oriented or upscale resorts. Families might enjoy Sugar Sands Inn, which provides activities like scuba diving and fishing. The Osprey on the Gulf Hotel is a smaller, family-run place that suits couples, while Edgewater Beach Resort features an on-site spa and luxury accommodation, making it an excellent upscale alternative. Cheaper options are available in nearby Panama City such as the American Quality Lodge, which is close to family attractions like Shipwreck Island Waterpark.
Downtown Panama City Beach – Located along Front Beach Road, the seafront is the heart of Panama City Beach, and it's home to many of the major hotels including Shores of Panama Resort and the Sunbird Beach Resort. It's the venue for most of the town's Spring Break events, but most of the year just offers a beautiful stretch of sand that sunbathers and swimmers will adore.
Panama City – Panama City itself is a substantial town located across a bridge from the beach resort. It's close to the beach (particularly if you rent a car) and also provides easy access to family attractions like Gulf World Marine Park and the Miracle Strip Amusement Park.
Lower Grand Lagoon – If you follow the coast southeast from Panama City Beach you'll reach Lower Grand Lagoon. Smaller than Panama City Beach and less heavily developed, you can find more seclusion and quieter hotels in this part of the peninsula, which may be handy for families when party season is in full swing.
The only public transportation option in Panama City Beach is the Bay Town Trolley, which runs to West, Middle, and East beaches and costs $1.50 per journey. Day passes cost $4, while one-month passes are $35.
Many people rely on taxis to get around Panama City Beach, and they are a handy option for late night returns to hotels or hops between beaches. Typical rates will be around $2.50 as the basic meter drop, then $2.50 every mile after that. Uber does not currently operate in the resort.
Panama City Beach is the ideal place to rent a vehicle and cruise up and down the coast of the Florida Panhandle. With your own wheels, you can get into Panama City to shop or visit family attractions, transport bikes or surfboards and set your own schedule. Getting around is simple. You can reach most seafront hotels or beaches via Front Beach Road, and there's ample parking in the town center.
Panama City Beach seafront is packed with stores and boutiques, and it's definitely worth walking the length of the promenade if you love window shopping. There are beach apparel stores like Alvin's Island, souvenir vendors like Heron Fine Gifts and a range of surf stalls at the Beach House Market. For malls and major stores, head to nearby Panama City, where locations like the Panama City Mall feature chains like American Eagle Outfitters and J.C. Penney.
If you are staying in self-catering condos or beach bungalows, shopping for groceries isn't a problem, with local supermarkets including Publix and Walmart. Food costs shouldn't be too high. Expect to pay around $1.55 for a pound of apples and $10-12 for a bottle of wine.
Panama City Beach is on the Gulf of Mexico, and delivers exactly the kind of high-quality seafood and Cajun cooking you'd expect from one of the region's leading resorts. Dee's Hang Out is the place to go for Cajun BBQ; Saltwater Grill is the best fish restaurant in town, Bishop's Buffet offer all-you-can-eat seafood lunches that blend value and quality, while Capt. Anderson's Restaurant and Market has won awards for its fish and shellfish. Expect to pay $13-15 for a meal at most local eateries.