Planning a trip through the Florida Panhandle? Set aside time to bask in all the best things to do in Panama City Beach, Florida. Perched on emerald-green coastline, Panama City Beach is one of the most popular seaside vacation destinations on Florida’s Gulf Coast. The unique beach town draws over four million visitors a year.
Although famed for its spring break hijinks, the Gulf Coast waterfront town has a little something for everyone. With its 237 days of sunshine a year, you can spend your days in Panama City, FL, relaxing on the beach or indulging in ocean activities. Majestic beach resorts line the white sand beaches, providing ocean views right from your room. With its warm climate, the top tourist attractions in Panama City Beach are accessible both in the summer and winter months.
Not sure what to do in Panama City Beach? Plan the perfect trip through the Florida Panhandle with this guide to the best places to visit in Panama City Beach, FL.
Best places to visit in Panama City Beach, FL
Enjoy a beach day at Panama City Beach
Don’t know where to go in Panama City, FL? Start your vacation lazing on Panama City Beach. Sprawling 27 miles of coastline and emerald waters, this beautiful beach is the perfect place to launch your Panama City, FL, itinerary.
Spend the day relaxing in the sun or go swimming or surfing in the turquoise waters. Take in the views of the calming Gulf of Mexico while you bask in a relaxing atmosphere surrounded by palm trees and sugar-white sand.
Enjoy a delicious lunch at one of the waterfront restaurants, serve fresh local seafood. In the evening, grab a drink at one of the many tiki bars lining the beach & emerald-green water. Panama City Beach offers the perfect opportunity to turn into a Florida beach bum for the day.
Alongside Daytona Beach and Fort Myers, Panama City Beach is also one of the top spring break destinations in the U.S. If you’re visiting during this time, be sure to bring patience for crowds and book your accommodations well ahead of time.
Shop ’til you drop at Pier Park
Shopping and dining on your Panama City Beach sightseeing list? Take a break from the blue waters at Pier Park. Located blocks from the beach, Pier Park is one of the best places to go in Panama City Beach for shoppers and foodies alike.
The streets around Pier Park are lined with yummy food options, including seafood and steakhouses. Entertainment options in the area include an IMAX movie theater, live music, and even laser tag. You can shop the day away at many stores including Target, Dillards, and Old Navy. There are also plenty of locally owned boutiques for special finds.
Nightlife is abound around Pier Park, too. Be sure to pop into Tootsies Orchid Lounge. At the PCB location of this famed Nashville honky-tonk, you can listen to country music while dancing into the night.
Pier Park also has local events such as concerts throughout the year. Check their calendar for updated information.
Walk along a nature trail at Camp Helen State Park
Looking to explore the Gulf Coast’s quieter side? Set aside time to Camp Helen State Park. This historic Florida State Park is on the city’s far western border on the highway towards Destin and Pensacola. For nature lovers, Camp Helen State Park is one of the best places to see in Panama City Beach.
Stretching 180 acres, Camp Helen State Park is home to nature trails, ranging from 0.5 to 1.8 miles long. Grab a brochure from the visitors center before your hike to learn all about the native plants.
While at Camp Helen State Park, take in the serenity of the gorgeous Lake Powell. Bordered by the Gulf of Mexico, the lake is the largest coastal dune lake in Florida.
Enjoy wine at Panama City Beach Winery
Need a break from the water activities? Enjoy a glass of wine in the summer sun at Panama City Beach Winery. The popular winery is unlike most in the United States, focusing on fruit wines versus traditional grape-based ones.
Panama City Beach Winery is home to an extensive wine collection made 100% from Florida fruit. Their fruity wines include Banana Wine, Blueberry and Cocoa Beach, an orange and chocolate blend. Try their infamous Key Lime wine, a Panama City favorite, for a taste of Key West and Key Largo on the Panhandle.
Visit Panama City Beach Winery to take advantage of their complimentary wine tasting. This fun activity to add to your itinerary is offered from Monday through Saturday, from 10:30 to 4:00 PM. Try all of the delicious flavors and bring a bottle home with you.
Swim with dolphins at Gulf World Marine Park
Want to add a little family fun to your Panama City Beach itinerary? Interact with the marine life at Gulf World Marine Park. The popular aquarium offers an interactive experience for kids & parents alike. At the park, you’ll learn all about its sea creatures and their natural habitats.
Gulf World is home to almost two dozen dolphin habitats, five parks, an aquarium, and a marina. Choose between three interactive programs. For a fast & exhilarating ride, opt for Swim Adventure. The Dolphin Encounter is the park’s all-ages option, letting the dolphins jump up to touch your hands.
Other than their dolphin encounters, try to catch one of the daily shows. The performances showcase marine life like sea lions, stingrays, sharks, and even birds.
Enjoy a round of mini-golf at Coconut Creek Family Fun Park
Get competitive with your family and friends at Coconut Creek Family Fun Park. The popular PCB mini-golf course offers two eighteen-hole courses, catering to all skill levels. For family excitement, it’s one of the top points of interest in Panama City Beach, Florida.
The courses at Coconut Creek excite with interesting obstacles. Grab your putter to knock golf balls around waterfalls, a rocky cave, and even through a Safari adventure.
After finishing a round, try out the Gran Maze. At the size of a football field, the maze will take some time to navigate. Seek out the four checkpoints and see who completes the maze first!
Get hands-on WonderWorks
For an educational and entertaining day in PCB, carve out time to visit WonderWorks. The 35,000 square foot amusement park showcases over a hundred hands-on exhibits.
Visit the park’s Wonder Zones to learn all about Extreme Weather, Space Discovery, and Light & Sound. At the interactive exhibits, you’ll feel the impacts and see the science first hand.
Want to get active? WonderWorks is also home to a glow-in-the-dark indoor ropes course and a laser-tag arena. Try out Space Fury 360, combining bumper cars with laser tag. The interactive programs are endless and fun for all ages. Learning about science is never boring at WonderWorks.
Go hiking at Conservation Park
Home to over twenty-four miles of trails, Conservation Park is one of the best places to see in Panama City Beach for outdoor adventurers. The popular park is known for its outdoor recreation options and wooded trails.
The fantastic wooded area you’ll get to spot wildlife while getting in a relaxing morning hike. The trails range from 0.6 miles to 11 miles, providing options for all skill levels. Some of the paths are unpaved, dirt trails while others meander along a wooden boardwalk.
Conservation Park is 25 minutes northwest of downtown Panama City Beach. Explore the 2,900 acres of this protected and breathtaking park for a perfect day away from the beach.
Ride some go-karts at Race City
Wondering where to go in Panama City Beach for family-friendly fun? Spend a couple hours zippin’ around at Race City. The amusement park is a family favorite, and one of the top Panama City Beach attractions for groups or day outings.
The popular PCB amusement park is famed for offering the fastest, tallest, and steepest go-kart track in the area. The track stands over forty feet tall, with plenty of twists and turns to keep you on your toes.
On your visit to Race City, hop onto the Hurricane Roller Coaster. The small, but fast, rollercoaster will deliver the adrenaline rush you’re seeking.
Thrill rides are located all over the park, as well as mini-golf holes and bumper boats. The amusement park is a family favorite, ideal for groups or day outings.
Have some fun in the sun at Shipwreck Island Waterpark
Looking to escape the Florida sun? Cool down at Shipwreck Island Waterpark. Located close to the beach, Shipwreck Island is rated as one of the top water parks in the U.S. For a family vacation, it’s one of the must-do activities in Panama City Beach.
Float through the lazy river or enjoy their huge wave pool. Thrill-seekers should set their sights on Tree Top Drop. This sixty-foot slide provides a free-falling experience that’s unmissable for adrenaline junkies.
Other rides at Shipwreck Island Waterpark include raging rapids or the zoom flume. It’s the perfect destination for all ages and to tough out hot & humid days on the Florida Panhandle.
After a day at the water park, head a few minutes south to the M.B. Miller County Pier. Shooting 1,500 feet into the Gulf of Mexico, this popular fishing pier offers superb views of the PCB skyline and crystal-clear waters. Visit in the evening to catch an unforgettable blazing sunset over the Gulf.
Delight in outdoor adventure at St. Andrews State Park
Looking to spend some time outside? St. Andrews State Park will be right up your alley. The park is only a short ten-minute drive south of Panama City Beach. The area is perfect for those seeking out outdoor adventure or underwater activities.
If you love cycling, rent a bike and pedal down the two-mile paved road. For the hikers, St Andrews State Park offers two trails to explore. The Heron Pond Trail winds through the forest while the Gator Lake Trail provides scenic views of the park’s stunning lake.
St. Andrews State Park is also home to sixty campsites. Campers can set up their sites in the wooded area near Grand Lagoon. All sites are equipped with electricity and bathrooms and showers on the property.
Explore Shell Island
Located across from St. Andrews State Park, Shell Island is another superb option for outdoor adventurers. Perfect for beach lovers, the 7-mile barrier island is known for its stunning beauty and white-sand beach. Exploring the island and spotting its wildlife is one of the most popular activities around Panama City Beach.
Shell Island’s beach is a great spot for swimming and snorkeling. Kayakers also fill the waterways. Rent your own kayak to explore the park’s calm waters. For larger parties, consider a pontoon boat rental for a fun day trip option.
Shell Island is only accessible by boat. You can access it from St. Andrews State Park on the Shell Island Shuttle. Alternatively, you can rent a private boat from the nearby Lagoon Pontoon in Upper Grand Lagoon.
Experience the wild at ZooWorld Zoological and Botanical Conservatory
For family-friendly adventure, pack up the kids to check out ZooWorld Zoological and Botanical Conservatory. Located just 5 minutes from the beach, the zoo is one of the top Panama City Beach points of interest for animal lovers.
For some thrills, you can feed eighty plus giant alligators. Pay for a feed bucket and throw the alligators some food to watch them chomp away. For a less nerve-wracking option, opt instead for a giraffe feeding. You can hand-feed the giraffe leaves of lettuce for a one-on-one experience.
Exotic animals at ZooWorld include sloths, kangaroos, tapirs and lions. It’s a fun and educational alternative if you want to take a break from beach activities.
Embrace the weird at Ripley’s Believe It or Not
Ready to get weird? Home to the city’s strangest exhibits, Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum is a must-see for any Panama City Beach family vacation.
Feel trippy at Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum as you walk through the funky LED light mirror maze. Or dig into quirky facts like learning all about the man known as having the World’s Largest Waist.
For a little more excitement, watch a flashy 3D movie at Ripley’s interactive theater. It’s complete with moving seats and interactive gaming, resembling a cinema combined with a roller coaster. Or test your skills on the museum’s impossible laser race, dodging laser lights along the way.
See the city from above on the SkyWheel
Looking for unparalleled views of Panama City Beach? Take a spin on the SkyWheel. This 53-meter-high observation wheel is one of the city’s most popular attractions.
Towering two hundred feet above Pier Park, the Skywheel offers amazing views over miles of beautiful beaches and the city. The wheel features thirty climate-controlled, fully-enclosed gondolas. It’s the perfect place to cool off when those hot Florida summer days hit.
Be sure to stop by the Snack Shack prior to boarding your gondola. You can bring snacks and drinks into your gondola during your ride. After the ride, continue the fun on their rope course or play a round of mini-golf.
Go Fishing at Russell-Fields Pier
Jutting out 15,000 feet into the Gulf, Russell-Fields Pier is a popular fishing destination for anglers from all over. Fish caught at the fishing pier, include redfish, blues, flounder, and hard-tails.
If you want to partake in a small fishing adventure, you can rent bait and tackle on-site. You can purchase daily fishing licenses at Russell-Fields City Pier as well.
Whether or not you’re fishing, Russell-Fields City Pier is the perfect spot for sightseeing. Walk out onto the pier to enjoy breathtaking views over the Gulf. Or visit in the evening to catch a beautiful sunset.
There’s a $3.00 admission fee to walk the pier.
Take a sunset cruise on the Gulf of Mexico
Panama City Beach is home to tons of cruising options. One of the best things to do in Panama City Beach is catching a vibrant sunset cast over the Gulf of Mexico while looking out for sea creatures.
Into sailing? Rent your own private catamaran sailing yacht for the evening. Watch wild dolphins play at sunset while enjoying a beverage of choice on a Sunset & Dolphin Cruise. It’s the perfect way to end a day in Panama City Beach, FL.
If you want more of an adventure, join a Scream Machine speedboat cruise. The high-speed ride zips through St. Andrews Bay, twisting & turning over the waves at hair-raising speeds.
For a relaxing experience, join the group tour on the Captain Anderson II, a 1.5-hour boat tour of the Grand Lagoon and St. Andrews Bay. This tour is ideal for those looking for a low-key cruise, while still catching the breathtaking views over the Florida Gulf Coast.
Become a pirate for the day on the Sea Dragon
Need to keep the little ones entertained? Spend an afternoon on the Sea Dragon. The Sea Dragon is a pirate ship experience that allows kids to spend the day in the life of a pirate.
On the two-hour cruise, you’ll enjoy family fun, dolphins, pirate activities, music, and more. You can learn how to sing like a pirate while listening to their fun and upbeat soundtrack.
Kids will be taught how to swab the deck and find sunken treasure. End the tour with a pirate dance party for the kids and adults to enjoy. No matter your age, the Sea Dragon offers an enjoyable day for the whole family.
Chill out in Mexico Beach
Need a break from the buzz of PCB? Jet down the coast to the seaside town of Mexico Beach. Located just 45 minutes away, the secluded beach community is a wonderful antidote to the untamed development elsewhere on Florida’s Gulf Coast.
Mexico Beach delivers an uncomplicated glimpse of Old Florida, offering sugar-sand beaches trimmed with sparkling blue-green water and a small beach town feel.
Spend a day lazing on the Gulf (or embarking on a sportfishing adventure) before retiring into town to explore its quaint selection of local restaurants and boutiques.
Swim with the dolphins at Water Planet
Have a soft spot for marine life? Be sure to carve a spot in your PCB trip for a visit to Water Planet. Located in Upper Grand Lagoon, the popular outfitter offers a wide range of low-impact dolphin tours and educational programs for the entire family.
Most popular at Water Planet are its variety of family-friendly dolphin swim tours. While most families on a Florida Panhandle beach vacation opt for the one-day program, Water Planet also offers three-day and one-week programs—and even dolphin therapy programs!—for a more immersive experience.
Looking to enjoy an evening on the water? Water Planet also offers a dolphin sunset cruise to Shell Island that includes another opportunity to snorkel among the gentle, majestic sea creatures.
Swampy Jack’s Wongo Adventure
Seeking out more family fun on your Panama City Beach trip? Pack up the kids and enjoy a day of excitement at Swampy Jack’s Wongo Adventure. Combining the buzz of an amusement park with an entertainment center, the popular family attraction offers a variety of exciting rides and experiences the whole family will love.
Both kids and parents alike will love zipping around on the Mario Kart-inspired Marrakesh Road Rally go-kart track. Or send your family spinning with a duel on the undersea-themed Blue Hole bumper-car experience.
For some more intense action, buckle in for a ride on the Spin Coaster, slither around on the wipeout-style Yacuma, or spin & swing upwards into the Eye of the Kraken.
Best places to stay in Panama City Beach for sightseeing
For travelers, the best places to stay in Panama City Beach lie mostly along the beachfront. You’ll also find a string of good accommodation options in Downtown Panama City, Lower Grand Lagoon, and Upper Grand Lagoon.
For great value accommodations on the beach, look no further than this waterfront hotel. Staying here, you’ll enjoy direct beach access alongside oceanfront rooms with private balconies.
Enjoy oceanfront delights with a night at this spectacular mid-range hotel. You’ll love the spacious modern rooms and superb amenities, including an outdoor pool.
Escape the beach bubble at this impressive luxury resort in the Upper Lagoon. Each room features a balcony and views over the lagoon or resort property.