Wondering what to do in Panama City Beach Florida? I was invited to experience the area recently and put together this guide to help you plan your next getaway.
Here you'll find fun things to do and a few of the best places to eat, including some Instagrammable spots!
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Panama City Beach is located along Florida’s northwestern coastline. This is a stunning place to spend time in the sunshine state. Panama City Beach weather is perfect almost every day of the year!
PCB offers the most breathtaking sunsets you’ve ever seen, extraordinary foodie experiences, and enough activities to keep you busy the entire time. Rather bask in the sun at the beach or the pool? Panama City Beach has all that, too.
This guide will show you my personal favorite things to do in Panama City Beach, Florida. At the end of this list, I’ll share my favorite places to eat and recommend a relaxing place to stay. Don’t miss my list of the most Instagrammable spots!
Fun Things to Do in Panama City Beach Florida
There are so many fun and exciting things to do in Panama City Beach, but I also found activities that were relaxing. Whatever your vacation goals, browse this list and begin planning your itinerary.
1. See Dolphins on a Sunset Cruise
The first thing you have to do when you are in Panama City Beach is to see the dolphins at sunset. It’s just breathtaking! As in any beach town, there are numerous tours. I personally have to recommend the Island Time Sailboat Dolphin Sunset Cruise.
You’ll be right on the sailboat with the best seats to watch the dolphins splash and play! As the sun lights the sky in wild shades of pink and orange, you’ll see the dolphins dance through the water. I managed to get a head-shot!
And a tail shot!
Take my advice and bring a decent camera. You won’t see colors like this sunset anywhere else.
If you're into adventure, you might want to check out parasailing in Panama City Beach. What a view that would be!
2. Take A Boat Ride to Shell Island
Visiting Shell Island really gets you away from it all. It’s seven miles of undeveloped raw beauty connecting the Gulf of Mexico to St. Andrew Bay.
If you want to see stunning sand dunes and animals in their natural habitat, this is the place to spend some time. We even saw a starfish! You may see deer, nesting shorebirds - and even Loggerhead and green turtles.
3. Hike in Camp Helen State Park
The next thing you need to put on your list if you like spending time in nature is to visit Camp Helen State Park. Bordered by the Gulf of Mexico and Lake Powell, Camp Helen State Park offers one of the largest coastal dune lakes in Florida.
With 180 acres, there is a lot to explore. Spend the day swimming, beachcombing, studying nature, hiking, or even fishing. This is one of my top recommendations of things to do in Panama City Beach with kids.
If you love history, you’ll need to see the prehistoric sites here, too. There are middens and mounts that indicate humans inhabited this area more than 4,000 years ago.
You can also see the restored buildings that were used as a company resort for employees of an Alabama textile mill from 1945 to 1987.
Camp Helen's historic district includes the water tower, lodge, rainbow cottages, duplexes, and a recreation hall, and it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Camp Helen State Park is located at 23937 Panama City Beach Parkway.
With the entrance fee of $4 cash per car, I think we can add this to the list of free things to do in Panama City Beach!
You'll see a box to the left when you drive in. Take out an envelope and place the cash in it, removing the window hanger. Place the envelope with cash in the box. This park is for day use only.
Camp Helen State Park also has special events like Movies, Food & Fun on Wednesdays at 6 p.m. during the summer. Take a look at their Facebook page for updated information.
4. Relax on Carillon Beach
The next thing you have to put on your list is spending time relaxing on Carillon Beach. This is an absolutely stunning beach with public access. You will have to ask for a pass at the gate to enter.
Once you're inside, it's worth the time to take a look around the community. There are eight Dune Walkovers that are just spectacular, each designed by the town architect Lloyd Vogt.
This beach has an intriguing history, too. There are so many stories of sailing ships that wrecked off this very coast in the 1800s.
You'll see a lodge built in the early 1900s - and it's still standing today. Carillon Beach is surrounded by Florida forests, wetlands, sand dunes, pristine lakes, and natural hammocks of native oak trees.
You'll see parking for beach access. Note, it is a long walk to the beach, so if the beach is your goal, there are closer access points in other areas of Panama City Beach. It's a lovely walk if you have the time!
Carillon Beach is located at 23011 Front Beach Road. Request a Pass from the Community of Carillon Beach for access.
5. Explore the SkyWheel and Shops of Pier Park
Put some fun into your itinerary! Spend some time at the SkyWheel and shops of Pier Park and the City Pier. The views from the Skywheel are spectacular!
There are about 124 shops here - so you might want to split this up into a few days. You might want to spend part of the day on the beach and then head to one of the many spots to eat. Or, spend the day exploring and then grab your beach chairs for the sunset. Either way, Pier Park is a lot of fun.
Sometimes this area can be busy, but there is plenty of parking. We found the best place to park is to the left of Pier Park, right behind Margaritaville. You’ll be close to places to eat and the City Pier! Pier Park is located at 600 Pier Park Drive.
6. Indulge in Wine Tasting at Panama City Beach Winery
Another thing you have to experience is the wine tasting at Panama City Beach Winery. There are complimentary wine tastings every day and no reservation is required. Panama City Beach Winery uses 100% real fruit in their wines without additional sugar or added flavors.
We tried three reds and three whites and agreed our favorite was the Key Lime. If you like Margaritas, you'll enjoy this wine, too. It's not as sweet as I expected and is perfect for a warm day.
If you like sweeter wines, you'll have a lot to choose from as the majority of these wines are on the sweeter side. Ask to try the dryer wines if that's your preference.
Panama City Beach Winery hours are normally Monday-Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. On Sundays, they are open from noon until 5 p.m. The store has a lot of cute gift items.
7. Shop on the Decor by the Shore Shopping Trail
The Decor by the Shore Shopping Trail is a fun way to find unique beach-themed decor and earn a free souvenir at the end. To earn your free souvenir, you will first need a passport. This is a way for each shop to mark that you stopped in.
Take your stamped-up passport to the Panama City Beach Visitor’s Information Center to collect your prize. You can get a passport at any of the participating stores and at the Visitor Center.
8. Play Mini Golf at Pirate’s Island
If you have kids with you or are just a kid at heart, Pirate’s Island Golf is a ton of fun. The pirate theme is really well-done here. Plus, it’s just fun to brag that you golfed at the same place Sasha Obama sunk a hole in one.
9. Spend Hours at WonderWorks Panama City Beach
Another fun place to spend some time indoors is the WonderWorks Attraction. There are more than 100 hands-on science exhibits to experience, or you can play some laser tag and do the ropes course.
WonderWorks even has a 6D Motion ride which is a completely immersive experience. Not only is it a 3D movie, but your chairs will move, you’ll feel the wind on your face, and the sounds will feel like they are all around you.
This is a wonderful place to go if you have kids with you, especially on one of those days where it rains for a couple of hours. WonderWorks is located at 9910 Front Beach Road.
10. Have a Bonfire on the Beach
A bonfire on the beach is the perfect way to end the day, but it is a lot of work! Leave the details to Endless Rentals PCB, and they will have your party waiting for you when you arrive.
This is such a fun activity for a family reunion, team building during a conference, or even for a wedding party or rehearsal dinner. Endless Rentals will set up the bonfire and deliver tents, chairs, coolers, and even hammocks.
We had a basket of s'mores ingredients and a cooler with drinks while we hung out and watched one of those spectacular Panama City Beach sunsets. Another big plus? We left the clean-up to Endless Rentals, too.
11. Eat the Local Food
There is so much good food in Panama City Beach! As I always want you to experience the local food, I'm giving you an additional list of my favorite places to eat and drink.
Where to Eat in Panama City Beach Florida
Running around Panama City Beach is sure to make you hungry. Not to worry! This area has some of the best seafood I have ever tasted! Choose from my top picks below.
We ate at Schooners because it was literally right next to our hotel. I am so glad we did! They offer local beach food. It’s not fancy dining, but it’s fun and affordable.
I ordered the blackened fish tacos - a delicious choice! If you're a beer drinker, try the Maduro Brown Ale from Cigar City Brewing, a local Florida brewery. It had a slight coffee flavor and paired well with the tacos.
A couple of days later, I ended up again at Schooner's for dinner with friends. We all ended up ordering the Gulf Drive grilled shrimp, and it was fantastic.
I'm trying to eat a little healthier, so no fries this time, but I switched out for the green beans that were prepared perfectly. However, if there are hushpuppies on my plate, I'm eating them.
I read somewhere that vacation calories don't count! SO good! Schooners is located at 5121 Gulf Drive.
Thomas’ Donuts and Snack Shop
Next, say goodbye to your diet because the donuts from Thomas’ Donuts and Snack Shop are worth every single bite.
This family-owned spot faces the beach. A doughnut shop is one thing, but finding one on the beach? That's a different story. The red velvet is a must.
If you aren’t a fan of donuts, they also have breakfast biscuits, muffins, sandwiches, and kolaches.
But do try the donuts. They have been famous for their donuts since the 1970s for good reason!
Grand Marlin of Panama City Beach
It's always island time at Grand Marlin of Panama City Beach. This laid-back, lovely restaurant on the water has fantastic appetizers. You've probably seen me write about my love for apps before, but I could just eat all my meals from the starter menu! I'd heard the Blue Angel Chips were amazing, and it was true!
The Crispy Lobster Fingers were heavenly, as well.
We were told we had to also try the Oysters Rockefeller. Another good call!
They have gulf-fresh seafood and grilled-to-perfection choice steaks. You'll find Grand Marlin at 5323 N. Lagoon Drive.
The first thing you'll notice when you arrive at Saltwater Grill is the 25,000-gallon saltwater aquarium. It extends from the lobby all the way around the bar, which is a great spot to meet friends and have a cocktail.
The menu has a lot of choices, including quite a few appetizers like firecracker shrimp and lobster spring rolls.
It was hard to choose an entree, but I love seafood and Panama City Beach serves it up as fresh as you can get it. I went with the blackened grouper and it was wonderful. Saltwater Grill is located at 11040 Hutchison Boulevard.
Andy’s Flour Power
Make plans to eat breakfast at Andy’s Flour Power. They are only open for breakfast and lunch. Since they specialize in these two meals, they do it really well!
Andy's uses the freshest ingredients for their flaky pastries, muffins, omelets, and popular breakfast potatoes. Get there early as you might have to wait. This is one of the most popular spots in Panama City Beach! Andy's Flour Power is located at 3123 Thomas Drive.
Finn’s Island Style Grub
After breakfast at Andy’s Flour Power, eat lunch at Finns Island Style Grub. They are most famous for their Finn’s Original Fish Tacos. And I can personally tell - they are amazing!
We had the Ahi Tuna Tacos and could taste bursts of flavor. There’s nothing like fresh seafood right on the beach. We also tried the Killer Carnita tacos, and I loved the spice!
Finns Island Style Grub is located at 7220 Thomas Drive.
Right next door, you'll find Finn's Barista Bar. You must order the Black Salt Mocha Latte. I'm going to go as far as saying this is the best coffee drink I've ever had. EVER.
While you are shopping and enjoying Pier Park, here are our favorite places to grab a snack and some drinks.
The Yard Milkshake Bar
Milkshakes are a fun treat when you are walking around in the sun. The Yard Milkshake Bar has some really creative and original flavors you won’t find anywhere else. Our choices were 5 PieYow (that's chocolate-covered bacon sticking out!), The Sea Turtle, and the Cookie Monster.
I also loved the signs all around the restaurant. One said, “Money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy cows and cows make milk and milk makes ice cream and ice cream makes you happy.” Well said!
This one was pretty good, too!
This place has some really fun drink options. I had a pineapple drink that was mixed perfectly - not too sweet. Plus it photographed so well, don’t you think? These are non-alcoholic drinks, so take the kids for a special treat!
Hook’d Pier Bar
Hook'd Pier Bar has a fun pirate theme and seating inside or out. We shared fish tacos and shrimp tacos, both prepared blackened. Order the black beans and rice for a healthier option. This was the perfect light lunch as we enjoyed the view.
Where to Stay in Panama City Beach, Florida
Now that you know what to do and where to eat, let’s look at where to stay. Panama City Beach is set up with travelers in mind. I stayed at Seychelles Beach Resort, part of Wyndham Vacation Rentals. With 22 stories, the views are pretty amazing.
We always like having room to spread out, and I had a one bedroom condo with stunning ocean views.
I had a full kitchen with everything I needed. I could have saved money and cooked in my condo, but I love experiencing local food, and there is so much great food in Panama City Beach!
The bedroom had a queen bed, an armoire with a TV, and a nice big closet.
Out in the hall were bunk beds, and I had two full bathrooms and a pull-out sleeper sofa. This condo could easily sleep a family of five or six, with two people in the bedroom, one or two in the living room on the sleeper, and 2 more in the bunk beds.
If you need more room they also offer two and three-bedroom condos. The living room was comfortable with a lot of seating. There was also a dining table and a breakfast bar.
The pool is beautiful and right on the beach. There's a nice gym next to the parking garage.
They even have free DVDs in the office if you want to cuddle up and watch something at night. I know when my kids were little they were exhausted after a day playing on the beach. This is the perfect time for parents to enjoy a glass of wine and a movie.
The Most Instagrammable Spots in Panama City Beach, Florida
Thomas’ Donuts and Snack Shop
If you feature #foodie content on your Instagram, then this donut shop is a MUST! Their foods are scrumptious. Not only is the food amazing, but it’s right on the beach. So you can take pics of your donuts with the ocean as the background.
Dolphin Sunset Cruise
Taking photos of dolphins at sunset is the most majestic and envy-inducing thing. Don't forget your camera. You don’t want to miss the moment the dolphins surprise you!
Finn’s Island Style Grub or Barista Bar
Your friends will be so jealous when they see the pics from Finn's! Tag Finn’s on Instagram too!
The Yard Milkshake Bar
They do crazy milkshakes at the Yard Milkshake Bar. Snap a foodie pic of your Doughnut Touch My Cookies & Cream milkshake. It’s so unique! The pint version is huge, but you can also order a quart milkshake. They were SO good, it was hard to stop!
One of the most Instagrammed places at Panama City Beach is the SkyWheel. You can grab some stunning shots for Instagram while you are on the top. Or take some pictures of it lit up at night.
Camp Helen State Park
Nature lovers, you can grab some breathtaking shots of the birds and wildlife here. There is always something captivating around you. The blinding white sands, the beautiful birds, and the rich forests all beg to be photographed and shared.
The Beach at Shell Island
Since Shell Island is physically removed from roads and buildings, you’ll find some exquisite places to Instagram. Share some pictures of the sand dollars you find, or the waves lapping on the shore. We actually found a starfish!
Visit Panama City Beach Florida
You can easily spend an entire week at Panama City Beach and still feel like you didn’t see and do it all. This is a wonderful place for families, romantic trips, or girl’s getaways.
Take some of my tips or create your own. It’s a perfect place for a beach adventure and like no other place on earth! For more great ideas, check out the Visit Panama City Beach website.