Panama City Beach, referred to by locals as PCB, is a firm favorite for those seeking an affordable beach vacation – couples, families and people of all ages – and a popular retirement destination. There’s an international airport only 20 minutes away.
A 2020 citizen survey revealed the following ratings in the “good or excellent” category:
- Place to visit – 89%
- Place to retire – 69%
- Place to live – 75%
- Quality of life – 71%
Nestled midway between Orlando and New Orleans, this gem on the Emerald Coast offers you 320 days of sunshine per year, and 27 miles of beautiful beaches – 9 miles in the city and another 9 miles each west and east of the City limits.
The summer season runs June through August but because is the time of year with the most rain, you can often negotiate the best deals with hotels. During these months the chance of rain is 41%.
But why allow wet weather to dampen your spirits? No matter your age, there’s much else you can do and discover on those days when the beach isn’t an option.
Here is a selection of attractions in PCB which should encourage you to explore more, because you’ll never run out of things to do in and around the city.
#1 Panama City Beach
The clear sea and soft white sands are a treat for East Coasters used to rougher Atlantic shores and gravelly beaches.
You’ll find nearly a hundred public beach access points along the coastline. Some provide public parking while many don’t. Either way these access points guarantee free public access to the beach.
#2 St. Andrews State Park
On a peninsula three miles east of Panama City Beach, with the Gulf of Mexico to your south and Grand Lagoon to your north, St. Andrews State Park is a great place for campers or day trippers.
If you plan to stay overnight, you can choose from 176 campsites with water, electricity, picnic tables and grills. For non-campers, the park closes at sunset.
This is the most popular state part in Florida which stretches across 1200 acres. It offers two nature trails, a jetty, two fishing piers and a public access boat ramp—plenty opportunities for anglers. You can indulge in swimming, snorkelling, diving, kayaking or canoeing or just laze on the beach soaking up the sun without your mask on, and pack a picnic lunch.
A few areas of the park are under construction. Check here for full details.
#3 Shell Island
Boat tours to Shell Island, a popular destination, are available during spring and summer. The island is an undeveloped 7-mile long barrier island and beach at the southern end of St Andrews State Park, and not to be missed. You can reach it on the Shell Island Shuttle and enjoy the pristine beach, swim or snorkel. Another choice is to hike inland and explore rare Florida coastal plants, birds and wildlife in their natural habitat or go on a shell collecting expedition. Maybe you’ll spot dolphins, too.
Check this website for renting a boat, booking a dolphin tour, and more.
#4 Pier Park
This is a 900,000 square-foot shopping center smack in the middle of Panama City Beach. Here you’ll find the big-box retail chains, restaurants, sweet shops and souvenirs as you navigate the boardwalk layout. Kids will love a ride aboard the little red train, or the small amusement park with family-friendly rides.
Full details here.
#5 Gulf World Marine Park
This is an educational facility and home to bottlenose dolphins, California sea lions, harbor seals, penguins, stingrays, sea turtles and African penguins. You can wet your hands in the touch tank or swim with dolphins. Take a walk through the lush tropical gardens for a close encounter with colorful cockatoos and macaws.
Booking and show details here.
#6 Panama City Beach Conservation Park
The Conservation Park is a vast outdoor recreational region encompassing 12,900 acres offering enjoyment for hikers, cyclists and nature lovers. This is a favorite destination for locals and tourists alike, open from sunrise to sunset.
There are eight boardwalks where you can get an excellent view of the wetland areas. Or you can choose one of 12 trails ranging from 0.6 miles up to 11 miles, where you can see native wildlife roaming free.
Don’t forget your binoculars and cameras!
You’ll find trail maps and other info here.
#7 Summer Concert Series
The City of Panama City Beach has announced the return of the Summer Concert Series, a much-loved summer tradition held at Aaron Bessant Park, which was cancelled last year.
Aaron Bessant Park lies next to Pier Park at 500 W. Park Drive and boasts 70 acres of velvety lawns calling you to kick off your shoes and walk barefoot, or take a stroll along the walking trails. The venue for the concert is the state-of-the-art amphitheatre, which opened in April 2013.
"We are extremely pleased to bring this very popular Summer Concert Series back for our residents and visitors. This is a great family-friendly, dog-friendly event in an open amphitheater venue. The series draws thousands of music fans every year and it continues to gain in popularity. We encourage everyone to come out on Tuesdays and enjoy a variety of music for a fun night."—Mayor Mark Sheldon.
These 10 free outdoor concerts begin July 6 through September 7, on Tuesday nights from 7.30-9.30 pm at Aaron Bessant Park. Bring your chairs, blankets, coolers, food and pets.
Click here for the schedule of bands.
The park hosts events throughout the year, so if you’re in PCB sooner, visit UNwineD, a two-day Southern garden party scheduled for June 4 and 5.
#8 Family-friendly places to play and eat
If this is your first visit to Panama City Beach, these are worth a mention too.
- WonderWorks—an interactive kids’ science museum with 35,000 square feet of “edu-tainment” and over 100 hands-on exhibits.
- Ripley’s Believe It or Not! sits directly across the street from WonderWorks, with a building resembling a partially sunken cruise ship. Free for kids under 5.
- Shipwreck Island Waterpark
- Coconut Creek
- Bayou Joe’s waterfront restaurant:
- Andy’s Flour Power for Belgian waffles
- The Wicked Wheel—home of Wicked Good Fried Chicken
- Kilwin’s Chocolate & Ice Cream at Pier Park
Summer will never be the same, and you’ll want to return to Panama Beach City again!