All the Ways To Soak up Some Sunshine in Panama City Beach
The perfect beach day includes grabbing fish tacos just a few steps off the sand.
After spending so much time cooped up, some extra vitamin D is 100% necessary. Luckily, there’s always Panama City Beach with its 27 miles of beach along the Gulf of Mexico, plus state parks, dog parks, and water parks, where there are plenty of places to soak up the sunshine. Whether you’re more into working up a sweat out on a kayak or just kicking back with a tiki drink, it’s all possible here. So grab the sunscreen, fold up those beach chairs, and take a trip down to PCB to hit these spots.
Take a boat out to Shell Island
Shell Island is a barrier island to the east of PCB, sitting between St. Andrews Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. It’s a place for locals and visitors to get away from the city. Manmade development is basically nonexistent here: there are no bathrooms, concession stands, or other amenities, so you’ll have to pack in everything you need for the day. Getting there is simple enough, though: a shuttle runs from St. Andrews State Park every half hour, and there are plenty of private boats that will take you there from the mainland. True to its name, Shell Island is a great spot for collecting natural treasure — if you’re looking to return home with a shark’s tooth or sand dollar, this is the place to find one.
Find your pup’s favorite beach
If your dog loves the beach and the sun, Panama City Beach has a lot to offer. The accurately-named Doggie Beach allows pets on a 400-foot stretch of sand by beach access points 56 and 57, across from Pier Park. If you’re looking for a more traditional park setting, Frank Brown Park also features a dog park and dog-friendly trail sections. Don’t forget to stop by a restaurant that will let your pup join you on the patio, like Salty Sue’s, Taziki’s, or Patches Pub — they’ll be sure to get plenty of pets from the locals.
Step off the beach for cocktails
After a long day in the UV rays, you’ll need a drink or two to cool off. Luckily, you won’t have to walk far, as there are plenty of outdoor bars beachside. Sharky’s is a favorite of both visitors and locals, and is a great stop for tiki drinks and shrimp tacos. If you’re closer to the eastern end of the beach or St. Andrews Park, there’s Schooners Last Local Beach Club, famed for the laid-back vibe. Both bars feature live bands and other events like lobster fests and car shows, so be sure to check their calendars for special goings-on while you’re in town.
Hit a shopping trail
In the market for a new beachy look for your place? PCB has you covered. Check out Decor By The Shore — a trail guide to all of PCB’s flea markets, thrift stores, and vintage emporiums — to discover all the hidden gems. Galleries like Mr. Surf’s showcase local artists’ paintings and ceramics while The Salt Shed & Co. can help you deck out your garden with plants, seeds, and more. Don’t forget to pick up a Decor By The Shore passport at participating stores or the PCB visitor center either, as you’ll get a special souvenir if you visit each venue.
Get out on the water
Paradise Adventures is a one-stop destination for fun out on the water. Whether you’re hoping to snorkel, paddleboard, or just go for a relaxing boat ride, they can hook you up. One of the most popular options is a trip out to the aforementioned Shell Island, where they’ll set up water trampolines, kayaks, and other gear to help you explore. If you’re looking for something more romantic, they offer sunset catamaran cruises, where you can just enjoy the beauty of the bay.
Haul in a fresh catch
PCB is a major hub for fishing and therefore a great place to cook up something fresh. Chartering a boat is the best way to do it, and there are endless companies that will not only get you out on the water, but get you set up with gear, licenses, and the best locations, too. Popping into a marina is a good way to get a look at the options, as places like Lighthouse Marina serve as a hub for sport fishers.
Camp at St. Andrews
St. Andrews State Park is PCB’s go-to nature destination for a reason. Besides the beautiful beaches you would expect, there’s also back trails and amenities like concession stands, showers, and playgrounds. If you don’t want to leave at the end of the day, they’ve got RV and “primitive” campgrounds to suit your preference. Keep an eye out for wildlife — as you’d expect, Gator Lake is a great place to spot one of Florida’s most well-known animals.
Go birdwatching at Camp Helen
Camp Helen sits at the intersection of a freshwater lake and the ocean, making it an important habitat for several species of birds and unique plants. That means it’s the perfect spot for some nature viewing, especially because of how untouched this area is. The name is a bit of a misnomer, as there’s no camping allowed here, but fishing, boating, and building bonfires is available in designated areas. History buffs will also enjoy the interesting landmarks, as prehistoric mounds serve as evidence that humans lived here over 4,000 years ago. With so much pristine beach, who could blame them?