The history of Panama City Beach goes back to the Native Americans who inhabited the land before the arrival of the British. It was also an important location in World War II and some of the cannon platforms can still be found along the shores.
Each spring, college students flock to Panama City Beach for a week of fun in the sun with thousands of their newest friends. Located in the Florida Panhandle, Panama City Beach sits along the Gulf of Mexico and largely depends on its natural surroundings to draw in tourists and keep the local economy going.
Must-see Attractions in Panama City Beach
St. Andrews State Recreation Area: St. Andrews State Recreation Area is one of Florida’s most popular places for outdoor recreation. It was rated the “No. 1 Beach in America” in 1995 and is known for the 1.5 miles of white sandy beaches, natural dunes and clear waters. Here, the beaches are easy to access and many are undeveloped. You’ll want to do it all with activities to explore such as snorkeling, diving, fishing and outdoor water sports.
Beaches: There are 27 miles of sand and surf to choose from in Panama City Beach, all of which include a different experience. If you want seclusion, head to Shell Island where there’s no development or access, except by boat. Visitors will find a quiet beach escape at Camp Helen State Park and it's only a short walk away from the water. Visitors can enjoy games of beach volleyball at Schooner’s Beach behind LaVela and Spinnaker where you can grab a bite to eat and a refreshing beverage without leaving the beach. The city also offers nearly 100 beach access points, so you won’t have to look hard to find a way to the sand. Children will love building sandcastles and the adults will enjoy a day of sunbathing with the occasional dip in the water.
Dive sites: Panama City Beach features 24 dive sites for the adventurous who want to go deep under the water and get a first-hand look at the world beneath the sea. You can choose from sites like 4 Army Tanks, Chippewa, Fountainbleau Boxcars, Grey Ghost, Liberty Ship, Sherman Tug, The Black Bart and USS Strength.
Zoos: If you’re bringing the kids along for the fun, check out Gulf World Marine Park and the ZooWorld Zoological and Botanical Park. These attractions are full of marine animals and typical zoo creatures.
Man in the Sea Museum: Learn more about the old ways of deep sea exploration at the Man in the Sea Museum. There are written records, diagrams and drawings to help show what life was like for those who spent their lives below the surface in search of sea life and underwater habitats.
Shopping and Dining in Panama City Beach
Shopping in Panama City Beach: There’s no shame in taking a break from the beach to enjoy a day of retail therapy. There are boutiques that line the streets of Panama City beach as well as open-air malls near the coastline. If you want an unique souvenir to bring home, stop by speciality shops such as Pieces and Blue Heron Fine Gifts. The city’s speciality shops also feature handmade jewelry as well as antiques, collectibles and traditional beachy treats. Beach House Market is home to more than 20 vendors who sell sea-inspired gifts. Visitors to the city shouldn’t leave without shopping at Pier Park. Although it doesn’t quite fit the description of a mall, Pier Park has more than 1 million feet full of local favorites and big-name stores for you to shop until you drop.
Dining in Panama City Beach: You don’t even need to leave the beach to grab a bite to eat. Some of the best views in the city are at restaurants lining the coast. Many of the eateries offer open-air casual dining while you watch the sun set and fishermen head back in from a day at sea. Many diners go for the chargrilled grouper or the fresh Apalachicola oysters. If you aren’t a fan of seafood, don’t worry because Southern barbecue, steak and pulled pork options are also available.