Panama City is the inland county seat of Bay County with a population of around 37,000 people. Its coastal neighbor is Panama City Beach, reputed to have one of the finest beaches in the United States, and loved for its long, wide white sugar sand beaches.
Full of amusements and restaurants for families, couples, and singles, the beach community has incredible opportunities for water sports, boat tours, and on-shore entertainment. Here are the top Panama City Beach things to do.
1. Panama City Beaches
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On the shores of the Gulf of Mexico in northern Florida, Panama City has 27 miles of lovely beaches to offer everyone who loves the sea and sand. Locals love Shell Island, accessible only by boat, and its remoteness from the mainland is a draw to people searching for a quiet spot to swim and sunbathe. Rolling sand dunes, the presence of loggerhead and sea turtles, and the nesting place for shorebirds, here is a place where all can enjoy the beauties of nature.
St. Andrews State Park is another site where visitors and locals can enjoy undeveloped beach front. Along the trails in the park deer can be spotted as well as the occasional alligator, and at the shore, visitors enjoy fishing, snorkeling, and scuba diving. There is a beach in Panama City for everyone's taste and pleasure.
Rick Seltzer Beach is a great place to go for visitors and locals who don't have beachfront access. Rick Seltzer Beach has a boardwalk across the dunes down to the beach from its ample parking lot. The beach is undeveloped and lovely, with sandbars out in the blue-green water, a marked-off swimming area, and seasonal lifeguards.
The boardwalk allows the dunes to be preserved from foot traffic, and interpretive signs along the beach are placed to help the public understand the delicate balance of sand dune eco-systems. The beach has outdoor showers, restrooms, benches, picnic facilities, and a pavilion with its own small sheriff's station and vending machines. Visitors who love collecting shells will find bounty here. Explore Panama City Beach restaurants on vacation.
2. Man in the Sea Museum
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The Man in the Sea Museum was founded in 1976 by the Institute of Diving, which is made up of former Navy Seals, and marine scientists. It is a place where the history of man's relationship with the undersea world is explored through interactive exhibits and fascinating displays.
Visitors can climb through a submarine, try on a brass diving helmet, and learn about the weird and wonderful techniques that ancient divers used for breathing and staying underwater. The museum has exhibits of submarines, diving pods, underwater living facilities, masks and helmets, and commercial and naval diving equipment. There is also an interesting film on diving that can be viewed by visitors. More info
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17314 Panama City Beach Parkway, Panama City Beach, FL 32413, Phone: 850-235-4101, Map
3. Science and Discovery Center of Northwest Florida
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The Science and Discovery Center of Northwest Florida is a children's museum designed to introduce children to history, technology, and science, in a hands-on interactive fashion. Outdoors there is a nature trail through the woods with a boardwalk over the marshy areas, a pioneer village, a toddler's playground, and a very nice shaded picnic area under the trees.
Indoors there is much for children to explore, and kids especially like the real airplane cockpit which they can investigate. Once a week there are animal encounters with snakes and other reptiles. The museum hosts summer camps, birthday parties, and is an excellent learning environment for homeschooled children whose parents wish to add more science to their curriculum. Read about the most beautiful white sand beaches in Florida.
Science and Discovery Center of Northwest Florida, 308 Airport Road, Panama City, FL 32405, Phone: 850-769-6128
4. Shipwreck Island Waterpark
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Shipwreck Island Waterpark is an activity-filled aquatics park with thrills for the whole family. Visitors can battle the waves in the 500,000 gallon wave pool, drop from the Tree Top Drop, a high free-fall slide, race other swimmers down the Pirate's Plunge Racing Slide, zipline off a replica 17th century sailing ship, and ride the rapids on inner tubes at the Raging Rapids River.
Groups can share a large inner tube and navigate the twists and turns of White Knuckle River, or, for gentler adventures, paddle along the 2000 foot long lazy river. For younger kids there is a family activity pool with miniature themed slides. Shipwreck Island Waterpark hires only professionally trained aquatics staff, has lots of food and drink kiosks to recharge after a day in the water, and plenty of shaded spots to sit in. More info
12201 Hutchison Blvd, Panama City Beach, FL 32407, Phone: 850-234-3333, Map
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5. Paradise Adventures Catamaran
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Paradise Adventures Catamaran offers Gulf Coast excursions aboard their 52 foot safety approved catamaran. Cruises leave from the Pirates Cove Marina off Thomas Drive in Panama City Beach, and groups of up to 49 people can be accommodated. Morning and afternoon adventure tours last three hours, and stop near Shell Island for a variety of activities.
Passengers can slide down the inflatable slide off the back of the boat, play on the inflatable water trampolines, try their hand at stand-up paddle boarding, kayak, and take banana boat rides. Set to a background of Caribbean music, evening sunset cruises last for two hours and are the perfect way to spend an evening while looking for dolphins. The catamaran has ample seating both shaded and in the sun, restrooms, and a fully stocked bar.
Paradise Adventures Catamaran, 4114 Jan Cooley Dr, Panama City Beach, FL 32408, Phone: 850-769-3866
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6. SkyWheel Panama City Beach
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The SkyWheel in Panama City Beach, Florida is an exciting attraction for both young and old alike. In addition to the SkyWheel observation wheel, this entertainment venue features the SkyWheel Snack Shack, the SkyTykes and SkyTrail ropes course, and an 18-hole miniature golf course. Standing almost 200 feet above Pier Park, the premier entertainment and shopping destination in the area, the SkyWheel is open year round and is made up of thirty fully enclosed, climate-controlled gondolas. This 53-meter wheel offers a comfortable, relaxing flight that provides a new “bird’s-eye view” perspective of the Panama City Beach area below.
SkyWheel Panama City Beach, 15700 L C Hilton Jr Dr, Panama City Beach, FL 32413, 850-888-0020
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7. Sea Dragon Pirate Cruise
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Out on an 85 foot replica pirate ship, kids will have boundless fun being a pretend pirate. The crew of the ship is great with children, and offers face painting, temporary tattoos, and a multitude of activities. Kids have sword fights, swab the deck, fire a pretend cannon, find a treasure map and hunt for the loot, have water gun fights, do the limbo, and enjoy pirate-themed music and dancing.
Parents and other adults can sit back and relax with a rum punch and a beautiful view. The ship goes through St. Andrews Bay and out to Shell Island, with many sightings of dolphins along the way. The 93 ton ship is entirely safe, and has restrooms and comfortable seating.
Sea Dragon Pirate Cruise, 5325 North Lagoon Drive, Panama City Beach, FL 32408, Phone: 850-234-7400
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8. Coconut Creek Family Fun Park
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Visitors looking for a way to entertain children for the day should look no further than Coconut Creek Family Fun Park. The park offers all-day tickets that allow guests unlimited rounds of mini-golf and unlimited forays into the maze. Coconut Creek Family Fun Park has two beautifully-maintained safari-themed mini-golf courses which are widely reputed to be the best mini golf in the area.
The maze is a challenge for children and adults alike, and is re-designed regularly so that it never gets less tricky to solve. The maze is the size of a football field, and teaches orienteering skills to people going through it. Snacks and drinks are available on-site.
Coconut Creek Family Fun Park, 9807 Front Beach Road, Panama City Beach, FL 32407, Phone: 850-234-2625
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9. Conservation Park
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Conservation Park is both a public park and a community attempt to reclaim the wetlands and cypress woods that have been threatened by invasive species. The wetlands have been rehydrated, and native species reintroduced. The park has 24 miles of trails, some paved, some with boardwalks.
The shortest trail is half a mile, and the longest is eleven miles, all of them are level and easily walkable. Only hikers and cyclists are permitted on the trails, and dogs must be leashed. Guided Audubon bird walks are offered seasonally. Visitors may see alligators, wild boar, lizards, and a great variety of bird life. Parking and restrooms are available. Florida state parks are a cheap vacation idea.
Conservation Park, 100 Conservation Drive, Panama City Beach, FL 32413, Phone: 850-233-5045
10. Zoo World Zoological Conservatory
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Zoo World Zoological Conservatory is a zoo emphasizing animal conservation. It contains exotic animals from around the world, including favorites like lions, tigers, and bears, along with members of the ape family and an assortment of reptiles large and small.
For an additional fee, visitors can choose from a menu of private animal encounters, including ascending a giraffe feeding tower, snuggling with lemurs, helping the zookeepers feed the alligators, or walking through a free-flight aviary. Zoo camps are available in the summer months, and teach youngsters about conservation and zoo keeping. Zoo World has a petting zoo, animal lectures, a gift shop, and a snack bar.
Zoo World Zoological Conservatory, 9008 Front Beach Road, Panama City Beach, FL 32407, Phone: 850-230-1243
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11. Gulf World Marine Park, Panama City Beach
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Gulf World Marine Park's focus is on the study and conservation of marine mammals such as sea lions, dolphins, and manatees. They present many interesting shows, including performances by bottlenose dolphins, rough toothed dolphins, and sea lions, and visitors can watch the feeding of stingrays, sharks, and turtles, and can view underwater scuba demonstrations.
The park is renowned for its dolphin encounters: Visitors can stay on land and meet a dolphin, or can get into a pool for interactive dolphin time. Opportunities are also available for those who wish to meet sea lions, stingrays, or even to be a trainer for a day. Browse our things to do in Florida guide for more ideas.
Gulf World Marine Park, 15412 Front Beach Road, Panama City Beach, FL 32413, Phone: 850-234-5271
12. Panama City Parasail
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Visitors to Panama City Beach who are looking for some excitement should look no further than Panama City Parasail. The family owned and operated company is headed by a captain who is certified by the U.S. Coast Guard, and who has thirty years of experience leading parasailing ventures. The parasailing outings are suitable for beginners and experienced parasailers alike, and launch from the back of the boat.
The company also offers banana boat rides, towed by either a motor boat or a jet ski, with riders trying to stay on the banana boat while the captain does his best to tip it. Two-hour dolphin tours are on the menu, with time to view and swim with dolphins, to snorkel, and to explore the beach at Shell Island. Panama City Parasail also rents out lounge chairs and beach umbrellas by the day.
Panama City Parasail, 14806 Front Beach Road, Panama City Beach, FL 32413, Phone: 850-234-2122
Florida beaches offer a cheap way to enjoy the state's natural beauty.
13. Russell-Fields City Pier
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Russell-Fields City Pier is right next to City Beach, and is the longest pier in the Gulf of Mexico. At 1500 feet long, the pier is wide, easy to walk on, and well-maintained, making it the perfect spot for walking and fishing. Over the edge of the pier visitors can see a variety of marine life such as fish, sea turtles, and rays of many sorts.
Sunrise and sunset are particularly lovely from the end of the pier. City Beach is the only beach in the Panama City area to have lifeguards specially trained in open water. They take a proactive approach to ocean safety, and are on duty from May to October. The beach has eleven beach volleyball courts. Dogs are welcome on the beach, but must be leashed. Read about the best Florida weekend getaways for a relaxing vacation.
Russell-Fields City Pier, 16201 Front Beach Road, Panama City Beach, FL 32413, Phone: 850-233-5080
14. Dolphin and Snorkel Tours
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Dolphin and Snorkel Tours offers private outings with a maximum of six people per boat. They are the only tour company in Panama City Beach to guarantee dolphin sightings, due to the high concentration of bottlenose dolphins near their marina. Riders are welcome to jump in and swim with the dolphins, but as avid environmentalists, the company does not try to attract the attention of wild dolphins with food as it brings about change in the dolphin eco-system.
Snorkel and Free Diving trips offer riders the chance to snorkel over coral reefs, shipwrecks, sea grass, and sandbars to see the bounty of the natural world beneath the sea. Shell Island Eco-Tours are led by knowledgeable guides who instruct visitors about the more than 180 species of migratory birds who inhabit the island. Sunset Cruises have a BYOB policy, and allow riders to enjoy the sunset and dolphins at the same time. Florida day trips offer a great way to explore nearby.
Dolphin and Snorkel Tours, Phone: 850-866-8815
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15. Panhandle Helicopter Tours
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Panhandle Helicopter Tours is a family-owned business that provides helicopter rides and other services in the Panama City Beach area. Introductory helicopter rides last five minutes and are great for first-time riders. The Miracle Strip run takes passengers past the city and county piers and often sees dolphins, loggerhead turtles, and stingrays from the air.
Shark aficionados flock to the air for the Shark Run, which gives people the chance of an aerial view of hammerhead and bull sharks. Visitors interested in shipping can try out the Run to the Pass tour, which offers a birds-eye view of the commercial jetties, barges, and fishing vessels at the port. Panhandle Helicopter Tours is also used for aerial photography, frost protection, and aerial security.
Panhandle Helicopter Tours, 15726 Front Beach Road, Panama City Beach, FL 32413, Phone: 850-230-2080
16. Panama City Beach Winery
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Panama City Beach Winery is a family owned and operated retail outlet selling wines that are made from Floridian produce in Florida. The wines are national and international award winners, and are unusual in that they are made from fruits, citrus, and berries.
Tastings are available during all of its operating hours, and are generous; visitors can sample half a dozen or even a dozen different wines, and hear about their origins from the extremely friendly and knowledgeable staff. There are a wide variety of wine flavors, including blueberry, key lime, coconut, blackberry, and even tomato! Sangrias and drink mixes are also available for purchase. Browse our best places to visit in Florida guide for more ideas.
Panama City Beach Winery, 8730 Thomas Drive, Suite 1103B, Panama City Beach, FL 32408, Phone: 850-233-5950
Schooner's is Panama City's "last local beach club," located along the city historic East End right along its beautiful coastline. The beloved restaurant is open seven days a week for lunch, brunch, and dinner service, showcasing live music performances by local bands throughout the week and opportunities to play volleyball right on the beachfront. Delicious dinner entree options include the restaurant's famed Beach Party seafood platter, which pairs redfish, oysters, and butterfly shrimp. Southern-style classics such as jumbo lump crab cakes and shrimp and grits are also served up, along with excellent signature burgers and chicken and fish sandwiches. At brunch, diners can choose from Monte Cristo sandwiches, lox and bagel platters, or homestyle biscuits and gravy paired with domestic and imported beers, specialty cocktails, and frozen tropical drinks.
Schooner's, 5121 Gulf Drive, Panama City Beach, FL 32408, Phone: 850-235-3555
18. Martin Theatre
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The Martin Theatre is a performing arts venue in downtown Panama City, Florida. The theatre originally opened in 1936, as part of a chain of movie houses, and at the time was called the “Ritz." In the early 1950s, the movie house was sold, renamed, and fell into disuse in the mid-1970s.
Re-opened in 1990, the Martin Theatre now features live stage plays, including dinner theater, musical performances, particularly tribute bands, shows old movies and cult movie classics, and is home to “Monster Movie Monday." A reception and meeting space, called The Green Room, is now part of Martin Theatre, and hosts meetings, conferences, and private dinners. The Green Room is full of windows, and is made resplendent by its lovely art deco mural.
Martin Theatre, 409 Horizon Avenue, Panama City, FL 32401, Phone: 850-763-8080
19. Sea Screamer
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The Sea Screamer is a powerful boat capable of traveling at very fast speeds. Dolphins love the wake that racing watercrafts stir up, and almost always show up to play near the boat. The two-hour Dolphin Cruises are fun for the whole family. The captain knows all about the local area, its history, and the marine wildlife, and tells passengers interesting facts while they cruise around Shell Island and along the Panama City Beach waterfront.
Kids love the tour as they are able to hold crabs, steer the boat, and have water gun fights on board. The Sea Screamer also offers snorkelling tours, suitable for all ages, which bring snorkelers near wild dolphins, and visitors are able to see a variety of undersea creatures such as sea urchins, seahorses, starfish, and hermit crabs. Inexpensive drinks and snacks are available on board, as are restrooms.
Sea Screamer, 3605 Thomas Drive, Panama City Beach, FL 32408, Phone: 850-233-9107
20. Wonderworks, Panama City Beach
WonderWorks Panama City Beach is just one in a chain of indoor amusement parks with branches across the United States. Aiming to educate while entertaining, Wonderworks has more than one hundred hands-on activities for the enjoyment of adults and children, as well as a laser tag arena and a three-story glow in the dark ropes challenge.
Visitors can ride a virtual rollercoaster, dance on a gigantic piano, try on a spacesuit, attempt to land a space shuttle, play in the bubble lab and try virtual sports, and lay on a bed of nails. Wonderworks plays host to birthday parties, is open to school groups wishing to learn about physical sciences, and has a small restaurant that serves pizza and other snacks.
Wonderworks, 9910 Front Beach Road, Panama City Beach, FL 32407, Phone: 850-249-7000
21. Race City Amusement Park
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Race City is an old-time amusement park with all the classic favorites and a couple of newer surprises. The whole family can enjoy the four different Go Kart tracks, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle ride, the Bumper Boats, and the indoor mini golf course.
For older thrill-seekers there is a huge Ferris wheel with great views of the beach, a steel-track roller coaster, spinning bumper cars, a swaying pirate ship, a scrambler, and a traditional spinning spider ride. Race City has the largest arcade in the area, with hundreds of different games. Parking is available, and there are restrooms and food kiosks on-site.
Race City Amusement Park, 9523 Front Beach Road, Panama City Beach, FL 32407, Phone: 850-234-1588
22. Todd Herendeen Theatre
One of the newer concert and music rooms along the Gulf Coast, the Todd Herendeen Theatre brings “Branson-style, family-friendly entertainment” to Panama City Beach, Florida. The main act performing and primary show at the venue is Todd Allen Herendeen, a national recording artist, and his Follow That Dream Band. Performances take place several nights throughout the week. Before the show at the Todd Herendeen Theatre, guests can dine on a meal catered by Vittles Catering, consisting of a choice of meat, potato, vegetables, dessert, and warm rolls. There’s also a choice of water, tea, or coffee. Reservations are required. Check out these fun day trips from Tampa to explore the nearby area.
Todd Herendeen Theatre, 8010 Front Beach Rd, Panama City Beach, FL 32407, 850-381-0310
23. Ripley's Believe it or Not
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Ripley's Believe it or Not is just one of many in the chain of the world-famous museum, which specializes in the odd and weird from around the world. Shrunken heads, the world's tallest man (8'5"), a 19th century vampire killing kit, and artifacts from the Titanic are all part of the Odditorium at the museum.
The museum has a laser course where visitors attempt to slide under and climb over a course of lasers, a mirror maze that can be seriously difficult to navigate, and plenty of hands-on activities, including the option to make your own wax hands. The 7D Theater is very popular, and comes with seat belts, health warnings, moving seats, and thrills during both of its digital effect films. The gift shop sells unusual souvenirs and is not to be missed.
Ripley's Believe it or Not, 9907 Front Beach Road, Panama City Beach, FL 32407, Phone: 850-230-6113
24. Frank Brown Park, Panama City Beach
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Consisting of more than 200 acres dedicated to supporting the local community and outdoor recreation, Frank Brown Park features walking trails, a freshwater fishing lake, a saltwater fishing pier, picnic areas, playgrounds, and more. In addition to its amenities open year-round to the public, the park also contains a Community and Senior Center, which hosts club meetings, classes, and special events of various interests for people of all ages. There is also a 22-acre Festival Site at Frank Brown Park's Festival Grounds that hosts many different events and tournaments throughout the year, such as the Pepsi Gulf Coast Jam.
Frank Brown Park, 16200 Panama City Beach Pkwy, Panama City Beach, FL 32413, 850-233-5045
25. Emerald Falls Family Rec Center
At Emerald Falls Family Rec Center, guests of all ages can play a round of Fantasy Mini Golf, get wild and wet on bumper boats, play games at the Alien Arcade and much more. The center features three different tracks for go-kart racing, such as the fast Formula II Track and the four-story wooden race track known as The Vortex. Extreme Rides include the SkyFlyer and the Vertical Accelerator. Emerald Falls Family Rec Center also takes guests on 360 degrees of roller coaster with the Max Flight Simulator and has rides suitable for younger visitors in Kids Kingdom.
Emerald Falls Family Rec Center, 8602 Thomas Dr, Panama City, FL 32408, 850-234-1049
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