There are many fun things to do in Panama City Beach, one of the Gulf of Mexico's loveliest beachfront destinations, home to more than 27 miles of pristine white sands and glistening turquoise waters. Couples traveling to the area can enjoy world-renowned scuba diving, swimming, and fishing experiences at dozens of public beach access points or peruse the trails and natural areas of the region's two lovely state parks.
Spectacular sunsets are showcased from many of the city's best waterfront dining rooms, which serve up high-quality fresh seafood entrees and delicious fried fish platters.
1. Firefly, Panama City Beach, FL
Firefly is a unique award-winning dining experience in Panama City, owned and operated by executive chef Derek Langford and restaurateur Dave Trepanier.
The restaurant, which opened in 2007, has been the recipient of many major international dining awards throughout its tenure, including the Best of the Bay Award and the Most Romantic Restaurant of 2017 designation by OpenTable.
Its dining room cultivates a Mediterranean bistro atmosphere, while its full-service bar showcases high-definition television screens and serves up top-shelf liquor and cocktails.
Elegant main courses served up throughout the evening include espresso-rubbed pork shanks, brown butter-seared scallops, and shrimp and summer vegetable pasta with artichoke hearts and sun-dried tomatoes.
Fine wine selections are offered at the restaurant's 535 Library Lounge, while raw bar offerings are served at its full-service sushi bar.
535 N Richard Jackson Blvd, Panama City Beach, FL 32407, Phone: 850-249-3359
2. Restaurants in Panama City Beach: Runaway Island
© Runaway Island
One of the best things to do in Florida, Runaway Island serves high-quality local seafood specialties for more than two decades in a bi-level space showcasing stunning views of nearby Panama City Beach.
Two floors of interior dining spaces showcase live entertainment throughout the year, while an outdoor deck connects to a boardwalk leading directly out onto the beachfront's white sandy shores.
Diners can enjoy high-quality main dishes at lunch and dinner, including seafood favorites like blackened fish tacos, grilled mahi mahi filets with tomato key lime butter, and New Orleans-style barbecue shrimp tossed in Worcester butter sauce and Cajun seasoning. Explore the best Gulf of Mexico beaches to visit on vacation.
14521 Front Beach Rd, Panama City Beach, FL 32413, Phone: 850-634-4884
3. Saltwater Grill, Panama City Beach, FL
© Saltwater Grill
Saltwater Grill is a delightful Panama City Beach dining destination opened in 2002 by executive chef Chris Joyner, home to an impressive 25,000-gallon tropical saltwater aquarium showcasing native Florida marine life.
Couples can dine in clear view of the aquarium tank while they enjoy excellent Gulf-fresh seafood entrees, paired with delicious USDA Prime steak and fine game offerings. Nightly menus include favorites like snapper Ponchartrain with Creole remoulade, sesame-seared tuna with ginger dressing and sweet soy glaze, grouper Imperial in sherry beurre blanc, and Creole-style bronzed mahi mahi in rice pilaf.
Happy hour and early bird specials are offered during the afternoon hours, including delicious drink specials for couples to enjoy. Read our free guide to the best beaches in Florida for a relaxing vacation.
11040 Hutchison Blvd, Panama City Beach, FL 32407, Phone: 850-230-2739
4. The Grand Marlin Restaurant and Oyster Bar, Panama City Beach, FL
© The Grand Marlin Restaurant and Oyster Bar
The Grand Marlin Restaurant and Oyster Bar is a beautiful restaurant located on Panama City Beach's Lighthouse Marina, opened in 2016 by restaurateur Bryan Housley and award-winning executive chef Gregg McCarthy.
The restaurant, which overlooks stunning Grand Lagoon, is known for its high-quality daily seafood specials, which are crafted from fresh daily fish catches. A raw bar serves up fine oysters sourced from Apalachicola and East Bay, shucked to order.
House specialties include dishes like Loved and Rubbed Scottish salmon, which is prepared with a housemade caramelized rub, sweet potato hash, smoked bacon, and lemon butter. Shareable delicacies include crispy lobster fingers served with vanilla bean-infused honey mustard sauce. Find out more about the best Florida Panhandle Beaches and extend your stay.
5323 N Lagoon Dr, Panama City Beach, FL 32408, Phone: 850-249-1500
5. The Shrimp Boat Restaurant, Panama City Beach, FL
© The Shrimp Boat Restaurant
The Shrimp Boat Restaurant has been one of Panama City's most popular seafood restaurants since 1950, located within the region's lovely historic St. Andrews area. The restaurant has evolved from a small 50-seat diner into a spacious, elegant 500-seat restaurant showcasing formal banquet rooms overlooking the city's waterfront area beside Smith's dock. Diners can enjoy amazing steak, seafood, and pasta selections served up by top-notch wait staff, including favorites like grouper Imperial, pan-seared jumbo scallops with smoked bacon butter, New Orleans barbecue shrimp, and Creole seafood pasta-laya with Andouille sausage and crawfish tails. Couples can also share favorites like jumbo bacon-wrapped shrimp in signature bourbon barbecue sauce, hot Cajun crab and shrimp dip, and beer-battered coconut shrimp with orange marmalade sauce.
1201 Beck Ave, Panama City, FL 32401, Phone: 850-785-8706
6. Fin's Japanese Sushi and Grill, Panama City Beach, FL
© Fin's Japanese Sushi and Grill
Fin's Japanese Sushi and Grill offers one of Panama City's most authentic Asian dining experiences, known for its high-quality dine-in and takeout service and friendly, inviting atmosphere. The restaurant prepares traditional Japanese entrees with fresh, locally-sourced ingredients, offering family-friendly ambiance for couples traveling with children in tow. Diners can enjoy delicious delicacies like sauteed beef don, shrimp or salmon teriyaki, or hibachi-style entrees served with assorted vegetables and egg noodles. Sushi combination platters are also served up, along with excellent Asian-style appetizer selections like agedashi tofu in sweet ginger soy sauce, pork shu mai, and savory gyoza. Seafood favorites capitalize on the region's waterfront location, including soft-shell crab plates, crispy crab rangoons, and coconut shrimp meals.
732 W 23rd St, Panama City, FL 32405, Phone: 850-769-0888
The 8 Best Restaurants in Panama City Beach, Florida near me today according to local experts are:
- 1. Firefly, Panama City Beach, FL
- 2. Restaurants in Panama City Beach: Runaway Island
- 3. Saltwater Grill, Panama City Beach, FL
- 4. The Grand Marlin Restaurant and Oyster Bar, Panama City Beach, FL
- 5. The Shrimp Boat Restaurant, Panama City Beach, FL
- 6. Fin's Japanese Sushi and Grill, Panama City Beach, FL
Attraction Spotlight: ZooWorld Zoological Park, Panama City Beach
Zoo World Zoological Conservatory in Panama City Beach offers visitors with a rare chance to get up-close and hands-on with wild animals. The Conservatory is an excellent choice for a break going to the beach day-after-day. Zoo World is home to several different exotic animals from throughout the world, and guests won't need a pair of binoculars to get a look at them. Among the many animal encounters available, visitors can hold snuggle with a lemur, kiss a giraffe, and even hold an alligator.
Zoo World is a dedicated educational and interactive zoological conservatory, far from your typical zoo. At the Conservatory, guests are offered the opportunity to get up-close and personal with a variety of friendly, furry, and fun critters, several of them endangered species. Situated on seven acres of land, Zoo World provides a chance to see some amazing animals outside of the wild.
Along with the up-close animal encounters, visitors can also see over two hundred animals, including lions, tiger, gorillas, peacocks, prairie dogs, a red-tailed boa, iguanas and many more species at Zoo World. While the Zoological Conservatory offers people a chance to get up-close to animals, and even feed or hold a handful of them, its main focus is still the care and conservation of the amazing animals. Zoo World is in-fact a non-profit wildlife conservatory.
Zoo World choses to provide so many different animal encounters because the staff believe it is the best way to educate guests about the significance of keeping the animals safe. While visitors will enjoy petting a sloth or snuggling a lemur, they will at the same time be learning more about how these creatures are affected in the wild by humans, and what small measures everyone can take to help keep them safe. It's recommended to allow at least two hours for a visit.
The Lemur Encounter offers a rare chance to get up-close and personal with an endangered species by letting visitors snuggle a lemur. Lemurs aren't the only animal, however, that guests of Zoo World can hold. The Conservatory also provides a more adventurous opportunity for them to pet or hold an alligator, offering a chance to get up close to one of the oldest predators in the world. The Sloth Encounter allows visitors to pet one of the world's famously slow creatures.
Zoo World Zoological Conservatory has more than one alligator encounter. The Allapattah Swamp Alligator Feeding Experience offers the chance to see over sixty alligators just waiting for food. The Budgie Bush-Walk Aviary at this unconventional zoo is a free flight aviary in which visitors can walk through while hundreds of exotic colorful birds fly around them. Budgie sticks provide a chance at an even closer experience.
The Giraffe Feeding Tower is a popular animal encounter at Zoo World. The experience brings guests eye-to-eye with extremely tall giraffes, as well as a chance to feed the giraffe lettuce leaves. Visitors will not only delight in feeding giraffe during the private tour, but they may even get a kiss from the giraffe in return.
9008 Front Beach Road, Panama City Beach, Florida, Phone: 850-230-1243
More Things to Do in Florida