Panama City Beach: a beach for all occasions
Panama City Beach is on Florida's northwest coast -- known locally as Florida Panhandle. Here you'll find miles of sugar-white sand lapped by turquoise waters. However, being so close to neighbouring states, Alabama and Georgia, means this coastal treasure is also brimming with Southern charm.
From secluded shores to vibrant beach bars, Panama City Beach has 27 miles of award-winning beaches to choose from. Front Beach Road, the closest strip of coast to Panama City, has an enticing buzz about it, with a young crowd in March, and then a family atmosphere from April right through until October. There are plenty of shops, bars and restaurants around this area for when you want to take a break from the heat, including Pier Park, which also has an IMAX, laser tag and plenty of dining options.
To escape the crowds a little, all you need to do is drive along the coast and you’ll come across other spots on the bay that have deserted wisps of sand looking out over the Gulf of Mexico. Good spots for sun-worshipping include Carillon Beach, a planned community built behind bone-white dunes, and Camp Helen State Park, a secluded area to take a quiet dip in the sea.
The 1260-acre St Andrew’s State Park, at the very east of Panama City Beach, is an ideal spot for families with young children. There’s a rock jetty which doubles as a sedate play area with shallow waters, as well as pine woods with well-marked nature trails. There are camping facilities too, if you want to spend a night under the stars.
Just a short boat ride from St Andrew’s State Park is Shell Island, a 7-mile sliver of land which teems with wildlife. One of the world’s highest concentrations of bottlenose dolphins is found around these shores, and you’ll often see ghost crabs, as well as endangered loggerhead and green sea turtles scuttling around. Ensure you pack a cooler of drinks and snacks for your trip, as it’s very much back to basics on this undeveloped natural haven.