The beautiful beaches in Panama City Beach, Florida, are world-renowned for their sugar-white sand and crystal clear, aquamarine waters. The epitome of a tropical paradise, the famed beachfront city offers endless options for the ocean lover.
Nestled on the northeastern end of the Gulf of Mexico, Panama City’s white-sand beaches have something for everyone, whether you’re traveling as a family, couple, or flying solo. Swim in warm waters, sunbathe, go fishing, kayaking, or parasailing: The choice is all up to you.
Ready to plan the perfect Florida Panhandle seaside vacation? Get going with this complete guide to the best Panama City Beach beaches.
Top-rated Panama City, FL, beaches
Panama City Beach
Located 27 miles along Florida’s Gulf Coast, Panama City Beach is the centerpiece of the popular Florida Panhandle vacation spot. There’s plenty to do along this stretch of white-quartz sand: Take a walk along the pristine beach, go fishing at the City Pier, or simply relax and get a tan.
Besides soaking up the rays, be sure to save time to explore nearby Pier Park. Indulge in retail therapy in one of the 124 shops located in the shopping complex.
Pier Park also has a playground, paved walking trail, an IMAX theater, and two laser tag arenas if you are feeling particularly energetic. Or better yet, dance the night away at Tootsie’s, a country music lounge inspired by the famed Nashville honky-tonk.
The numerous restaurants dotted all over the popular Panama City Beach entertainment complex are guaranteed to have something for everyone, even the more discerning palate.
St. Andrews State Park
Tucked away next to Tyndall Air Force Base, St. Andrews State Park is a 1,370-acre park on the eastern edge of Lower Grand Lagoon. The popular Florida state park offers visitors a wide variety of outdoor activities such as swimming, sunbathing, fishing, boating, kayaking, canoeing, and camping.
With a large campground with over 500 campsites, there are also several nature trails that visitors can explore. The most popular attraction in the park is St. Andrews Bay which offers excellent fishing opportunities.
The park is open from 8:00 am to sundown 365 days a year. Admission is free for pedestrians, cyclists, and in-state vehicles. Out-of-state vehicles are charged $5.00 per day, and campers are charged $22.00 per night.
Crooked Island Beach
Trying to get away from crowds and looking for a Robinson Crusoe-like beach day? With soft white sand and crystal clear water, Crooked Island Beach is a beautiful and relaxing beach located an hour from the heart of Panama City.
This quiet stretch of secluded shoreline is a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of Panama City’s main beaches. Snorkeling and swimming opportunities are abound on Crooked Island Beach, with no high-rise buildings or resorts to block the views.
A few small restaurants are peppered around this hidden gem, offering delicious local food and drinks for you to enjoy with your family or friends. Crooked Island Beach offers plenty of watersports activities for all ages, including kayaking, paddle-boarding, and SUP-ing.
Camp Helen State Park
Located 30 minutes from the heart of the famed American beach town, Camp Helen State Park is one of the coolest places to see in Panama City Beach. The park is surrounded by water on three sides by the Gulf of Mexico, Lake Powell, and Phillips Inlet.
The 180-acre park is only open during the day, offering visitors a choice of swimming, hiking, beachcombing, and both freshwater and saltwater fishing. Coastal dunes, salt marshes, and salt pine scrub can be found throughout the park along the lake.
With tent camping and RV sites available for overnight visitors, Camp Helen State Park provides opportunities for recreation such as camping, hiking, fishing, and wildlife viewing.
Picnic tables, grills, water faucets, showers, and restrooms are also available for use by day visitors and campers staying at the campground or in its cabin rentals on site.
Rick Seltzer Park
Through its protective vegetated dunes and interpretation signage, Rick Seltzer Park serves as an alternative to a high-rise or condo development on the shores of Panama City Beach. Advertised as a place for environmental education, it gives a glimpse of what a natural seashore might look like on Florida’s Emerald Coast.
The white sands of the park’s beach are reached by a wooden walkway, the perfect spot for sunbathing, shell hunting, and swimming. Bring your swimsuit, towels, chairs, and a good book, and you’re ready to go.
Rick Seltzer Park is one of the Emerald Coast’s best sunbathing spots. However, rough surf, riptides, jellyfish (and other marine life) may sometimes prevent an enjoyable dip. Always follow the advice of the park guards and follow their directions.
The park is open all day long and offers a sugar-sand stage for Panama City Beach’s world-renowned sunsets over the Gulf of Mexico.
There are picnic tables, restrooms, showers, and water fountains here, as well as a pavilion, picnic facilities, park benches, and a nature trail.
Located across from Pier Park, Dog Beach is one of the few dog-friendly beaches along the Florida Panhandle. This 400-foot stretch of public beach welcomes puppers on leashes. Bring your furry friend along to enjoy the sea breeze and burn off a little energy.
Like all the best beaches in Panama City, Dog Beach is lined with soft, white sand, sprawling into clear blue water. If you’re taking your dog to the beach, you’ll need a leash no longer than 6 feet. Make sure you pack everything you need for an outdoor adventure in the sun, including water for your dog (and yourself) and a set of poop bags.
Take a walk down the Russell-Fields Pier, also known as City Pier. One of the city’s two main fishing piers, it extends 1,500 feet into the Gulf of Mexico for incredible views over the emerald water.
If you intend to take your dog to the beach, be sure to stay in the pet-friendly area, as dogs are not permitted on the beach behind Treasure Island.
Adorned with sugar-white sands and sparkling clear water, Shell Island offers a chance to be one with nature without distractions. The undeveloped paradise is nestled between the Gulf of Mexico and St. Andrew Bay. Although easily accessible from Panama City, Shell Island is painstakingly preserved.
The seven-mile-long island is home to a diverse range of wildlife, promising a perfect beach holiday filled with activities for the nature-lover.
Bring your rental beach chairs and umbrellas for a more enjoyable day trip. Providing transportation to and from Shell Island, the shuttle service allows coolers and beach equipment on board. You can also rent bikes, kayaks, and other watercraft through the shuttle service.
M.B. Miller Pier
On the Gulf of Mexico, the majestic M.B. Miller Pier sits at an elevation of 1,500 feet on Panama City Beach. The pier was originally built in 1963 but was destroyed by Hurricane Michael in October 2018. Fortunately, the popular fishing pier was rebuilt and reopened in May 2019.
Anglers rejoice! This lively waterfront pier is a world-class fishing pier, offering something for everyone. It’s one of the largest fishing piers on the Gulf Coast, with nearly 1,000 feet of pier to fish from. Depending on the season, all kinds of fish can be caught, including mackerel, cobia, redfish, flounder, and hardtails.
Fishing rods, bait, and tackle can be rented on site. M.B. Miller Pier also has a large pavilion with picnic tables, restrooms, and a playground.
A fee of $3 per day is charged to visitors who wish to walk along the pier, while fishing licenses can be purchased for $6 daily year-round in the local store.
Located on the breathtaking Florida Gulf Coast just 25 minutes from PCB, Carillon Beach is an exceptional seaside community where things happen a little more slowly, and people are a little more friendly.
Carillon Beach comprises a beautiful seaside village and a quiet gated community that’s primarily pedestrian-oriented. Visitors are known to return every year to enjoy their beautiful beach and quiet, serene environment away from the bustle of the city.
The neo-traditional beach community of Rosemary Beach combines pristine beaches, a bustling town square, and award-winning restaurants devoted to New Urbanism and West Indies culinary styles.
Rosemary Beach was recently named one of CNN’s most romantic small towns. The title should come as no surprise to anyone who’s wandered its quaint streets and winding paths or dined al fresco in its inviting courtyards and patios.
A weekly farmer’s market is held weekly at the sprawling greens of Rosemary Beach. Explore Rosemary Beach’s winding streets further to discover a treasure trove of inspiring architecture and a delightful collection of sculptures created by artists around the globe.
Unwind with a cold cocktail on the rooftops of scenic restaurants—such as Pescado Seafood & Rooftop Bar and Havana Beach Bar & Grill—to enjoy breathtaking views of a blazing Rosemary Beach sunset.
Grayton Beach State Park
For its beauty and pristine conditions, Grayton Beach State Park consistently ranks among the top ten beaches in the United States. But there’s more to this 2,000-acre Florida state park than its sandy Gulf shores.
Western Lake is a great place for fishing and paddling. Hikers can explore the forest trails, wandering among scrub oaks and magnolias bent and twisted by the salty breeze.
Grayton Beach State Park also offers a wide range of opportunities for overnight excursions, from well-equipped cabins to more rustic campsites.