14 Best Things to Do in Panama City Beach (FL)

Panama City Beach is one of the top destinations in the Florida Panhandle; it’s especially popular with nature lovers and beachgoers looking for a slower pace than typically found in many of the state’s Atlantic coast resort towns.

At the last census, Panama City Beach had a population of just over 12,000 people, but the number of vacationers from all over the country increased dramatically for most of the year.

The city’s motto is “the most beautiful beach in the world,” and those who have been there often find that an apt description.

Here are 14 things to do in and around Panama City Beach, Florida.

1. St Andrews State Park

St Andrews State Park

St. Andrews State Park, a small piece of land between the Gulf of Mexico and St. Andrews Bay, is a favorite outdoor destination for locals and tourists alike.

The park is known for its beaches, ocean views and sea breezes. For those looking for more than just sand and surf, there are a variety of multipurpose nature trails open to hikers and cyclists.

Fishing, snorkeling, and paddle boarding are also popular park activities, and admission costs less than $10, making it a great option for value-for-money travelers. The lagoon side of the park near the marina has a perfect secluded swimming area for the little ones.

2. Rixseltzer Beach

Rixelze Beach

Located on Thomas Drive in Panama City Beach, Rick Seltzer Beach is another convenient beach destination that’s closer to town than the aforementioned St Andrews Park.

There is ample parking nearby, and the beach is close to hotels and restaurants in popular areas, perfect for those looking to spend as little time in their car as possible.

In summer, the beach is staffed with lifeguards, and inland of the dunes has a boardwalk, ideal for afternoon walks.

Amenities include vending machines, gazebos and restrooms with outdoor showers to flush away salt and sand.

3. Sea People Museum

People from the Sea Museum

Humans have been interacting with the ocean in one form or another since ancient times.

Established in 1976, the People at Sea Museum is the brainchild of a former Navy SEAL and marine biologist who wanted to preserve the relationship between people and the ocean.

Filled with fascinating exhibits, maritime equipment, and first-hand accounts of ancient sailors, divers, and submariners, much of what you’ll experience is interactive.

The museum is located on the town’s Panama City Beach Drive, and most guests start their activities with an introductory film in the live theater.

See also  15 Best Things to Do in Wachula (FL)

4. Northwest Florida Science and Discovery Center

Northwest Florida Science and Discovery Center

Northwest Florida’s Science and Discovery Center is a hands-on facility that specializes in and educates young people about animals, the natural world, science, technology, culture, and history.

The center has indoor and outdoor sections and even has a playground for toddlers who need to stretch their legs.

Perennial favorites are the flight simulator, the Pioneer Village, and the snake and lizard exhibit, and parts of the center are available for rent for birthday parties and summer outings.

The center can often get crowded, especially in bad weather, so plan accordingly if possible.

5. Shipwreck Island​​Waterpark

Shipwreck Island Water Park

With hundreds of thousands of gallons of water-centric attractions like slides, wave pools, and hanging dumps, Shipwreck Island Water Park is perfect for travelers with kids looking for a change of pace at the beach.

The park has sections suitable for most age groups, some of which are restricted so older kids won’t spoil the fun of the little ones.

The park can turn into a lunatic asylum during peak hours, so if you want to avoid chaos, consider visiting during the week or when it first opens on the day.

Food and drinks are available for purchase on-site, and there are plenty of shaded places to dine and relax in the sun.

6. Zoo World Zoological Conservatory

Zoo World Zoological Institute

Many zoos today are criticized for exploiting animals for profit, but the Zoo World Zoological Conservatory in Panama City Beach is different from most.

Zoo World is primarily concerned with global animal and habitat conservation, and while they have many of the same animals as other zoos, previous visitors have commented that it has a different feel to traditional zoos.

From big cats, bears and apes to snakes, lizards and monkeys, there is something for everyone. Staff regularly host events that may include feedings and opportunities to get up close and personal with some lovely animals.

There is also a gift shop and a small café on site.

7. Believe it or not

Ripley's Believe It or Not

For lovers of all things weird, scary and surreal, there’s no better place to visit than Ripley’s Believe It or Not.

From shrunken heads and bizarre artifacts to wax figures and optical illusions, Ripley’s is part fun house, part horror store, part museum. This is usually one of the most impressive things about a trip to Florida.

See also  15 Best Things to Do in Niceville (FL)

Much of what you’ll see is hands-on, plus there’s a multi-dimensional cinema and cool mirror mazes for those who aren’t averse to getting lost.

Ripley’s is one of those rare attractions that specializes in entertaining kids and adults alike.

8. Martin Theatre

martin theatre

The Martin Theater in Panama City dates back to the 1930s, but like many independent theaters, it fell prey to changing tastes and was in various stages of abandonment and disrepair for most of its life.

It wasn’t until 1990 that the historic theater reopened, and it once again offered performance-minded guests a variety of entertainment options, including theatrical performances, live music, vintage and classic movies, and even a dinner theater.

The theater is conveniently located on Horizon Avenue near the city center. It still retains much of its Art Deco charm, but has also received a major upgrade in recent years.

9. Shell Island

Shell Island

For those who prefer a beach destination close to shopping, coffee shops and art galleries, Shell Island is not for them.

Shell Island is a long barrier island between St. Andrew’s Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, and is one of the most pristine and undeveloped coastlines in the region.

There aren’t even bathrooms on the island, but visitors can explore miles of beaches, and it’s a real hotspot for shell collectors.

Several tour options are available, including a shuttle to and from the mainland, which runs several times a day during the summer.

10. Cyberjaya

Cyberjaya

Unlike most amusement parks, Race City offers free admission to guests, who only pay for the individual rides they decide to use.

It’s a novel idea, as its name suggests, Race City is all about speed, but they have a variety of activities such as bumper cars and boats, mazes, roller coasters, and even mini golf and impressive Profound Ferris wheel.

This is a facility for the whole family, so there are plenty of rides, games and activities for the little ones too.

Plenty of food options, as well as free parking and Wi-Fi. Most guests see this as a huge bonus for their hard-earned travel expenses.

11. Bayou on the Beach Cafe

Bayou Beach Cafe

Previous guests have used words and phrases like “mouthwatering, delicious, cozy and festive” to describe their time at Bayou on the Beach Café.

Their menu includes plenty of seafood and is especially known for seared fresh tuna sandwiches, crispy puppies and tangy Bloody Marys.

See also  15 Best Things to Do in Fort Pierce (FL)

Portion sizes are larger than most guests can accomplish, and during the tourist season, as the sun goes down, they offer live music which adds to the already chilly and trendy vibe.

Bayou on the Beach Café is located on Hutchison Avenue in Panama City Beach, close to the beach and other popular attractions.

12. Russell Fields City Pier

Russell Fields City Pier

At just over 1,500 feet in length, the Russell-Fields City Pier is the longest of its kind on the Gulf of Mexico. It’s a favorite destination for walkers, anglers, and those interested in witnessing a stunning Florida sunset.

Fish, rays and turtles can often be seen in the waves below the pier, and fishermen often haul indescribably exotic and colorful catches.

The marina is adjacent to the city beach, where lifeguards are available from May to October. There’s even a beach volleyball court, which regularly attracts a young sports crowd.

Dogs are fine, but must be kept on a leash and cleaned.

13. Free concert at Aaron Bessant Park

Aaron Besan Park

Aaron Bessant Park is one of the newest event destinations in Panama City Beach, known for its free concert series.

Covering nearly 70 acres, the park includes a large amphitheater that hosts evening concerts in a variety of musical genres, from country to rock to jazz and blues.

The concert starts on the evening when the sun goes down, and most guests have blankets on the floor, folding chairs and coolers full of food and drinks.

The park’s open spaces are perfect for exercising and relaxing on days when no concerts are scheduled, and there’s a Veterans Memorial on site.

14. Protect the park

Panama City Beach Conservation Park

Covering nearly 3,000 acres, the conservation park is the largest park in Panama City Beach and includes portions of pine forest and wetlands that are home to a variety of animals.

The park has a dozen trails that meander through different landscapes, as well as a mile-long boardwalk.

Many guests carry binoculars, and it’s common to see wildlife along the trails, especially in the mornings and evenings when they’re usually most active when there’s less light.

The park is about 10 miles west of town, but that’s part of its charm because it tends to be less crowded than other, closer attractions.

Where to Stay: Best Hotels in Panama City Beach, FL (FL)
Lowest price guaranteed.