Ultimate Beach Guide to Panama City Beach Florida

By
Patti Jewel
Panama City Beach

Panama City Beach stretches 27 miles along the gorgeous coastline of Florida's panhandle. The city has long been known as a top beach vacation spot and offers a plethora of activities and beach experiences. 

With public parking and pet friendly beaches, Panama City Beach is a favorite for family vacationers and locals alike. There are over 100 easy access points for beach-goers in Panama City Beach along Front Beach Road that runs along the coastline from Camp Helen State Park to St. Andrews State Park. 

Ultimate Panama City Beaches Guide

What this Guide covers

This guide is all about the beach areas: the beaches, access points, parking, wildlife, activities, sand and water, beachfront area, shelling, and anything related to being on the beach! Everything you need to know about the beaches for a day, a weekend, a quiet moment, vacationing, moving or buying in the area. 

Also see surrounding area Beach Guides and the Complete Guide to the City of Panama City Beach and find local businesses in the largest Panama City Beach area business directory (coming soon). 

 

Beaches & Activities Along Panama City Beaches

Panama City Beach area encompasses the beaches along the Panhandle east of Camp Helen State Park to St Andrews State Park. The beach access points are numbered from #1 to #96, offering an easy way to locate specific beaches. Not all access points have parking, but the ones that do have free parking. Panama City Beach, like most beach towns, has two main roads that run parallel to the beach. Front Beach Road is directly on the beach and Back Street Road aka Panama City Beach Parkway or 98 is the main roadway coming into the area.  

Panama City Beach Beaches

Camp Helen State Park

Camp Helen State Park

Camp Helen State Park is on the west end of Panama City Beach and borders the Carillon Beach Resort area. This beach area is renowned for the picturesque Coastal Dune Lake and pier pilings that still stand from an old pier.  Powell Lake is a rare coastal dune lake and is the largest in Florida. The only coastal dune lake in Bay County and the only one that allows jet engine boating. The other coastal dune lakes are to the west in Walton County.

Private Beaches of Carillon Beach, Sunnyside, & Santa Monica

At the west end of Panama City Beach, prior to entering Front Beach Road, which runs along the coast in Panama City Beach, is the Carillon Resort. This resort sits next to Camp Helen State Park and offers a gorgeous beachfront, gated community, with shops and restaurants.

Carillon Beach Florida

Turning onto Front Beach road from the west, the first beach community is Sunnyside with a long stretch of beach that is mostly private. There are a few public access points, beach access #95 - #86. 

Santa Monica is the next community with 2 gated access points for the residents and vacation rentals in the area and no public access points. 

Laguna Beach Community

Laguna Beach Florida

Laguna Beach is a quieter part of Panama City Beach with mostly condos, town homes and a few hotels along the path. If you want to be in an area away from the crowds yet still close to everything, this area just west of Pier Park is the perfect spot. There are lots of options for vacation rentals along this area. 

Laguna Beach also features several public beach access walkovers #85-#71 that provide public access to the beach. A long stretch of undeveloped beaches follow that offer some street parking with natural walkovers to the beach between access #77 and #76.

Panama City Beach

The main stretch of Panama City Beach is a mix of hotels, condominiums, townhomes and beach homes. What is great about Panama City Beach is the amount of public beach access walkovers all along the way. There are sections with private access, however, only a few blocks away there is always another public access. 

The Piers of Panama City Beach

Panama City Beach has 3 main piers on the Gulf of Mexico and one on the other side of St Andrews Park extending out into Grand Lagoon.

The Twin Piers

Relatively new, built in 2009 & 2010, these two piers are identical giving them the nickname Twin Piers. Russell-Fields Pier is the City Pier located at Pier Park. M.B. Miller Pier is the County Pier located in the older tourist attraction area of town. 

Extending 1,500 feet into the Gulf where the depth is approximately 30 feet and standing 25-30 feet (depending on tide levels) above the surface of the water, both piers offer incredible views and fishing opportunities. Less than 4 miles apart on the Gulf of Mexico, these twin piers were built to withstand hurricane damage and feature benches and accessibility for all to enjoy, with pets as an exception. No pets are permitted on the piers, however, Pier Park has a dog park on the west side. 

Both Piers offer night time access with turtle friendly lighting. Visitors can bring a chair, beverages (only non-alcoholic) and snacks as well as their own fishing equipment or buy or rent from the pier store. 

Pier Park City Pier

Pier Park City Pier Panama City Florida

Pier Park has shopping for both tourist and locals with the main strip featuring all the local gift shops, eateries, and activities, this is a fun spot to spend the day. Down the street towards Back Street road is an outdoor mall and tons of food options with chains and local choices. 

The City Pier and the beautiful soft sands are directly across the street with local food truck type restaurants and food choices.

The City Pier is typically open 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, seven days per week making it one of the few piers in Florida to allow night time enjoyment. Panama City Beach Facebook page reports updates to the pier hours if they should vary. 

This popular Panama City Pier offers breathtaking views from 1,500 feet out into the Gulf and is a beautiful spot for sunsets. Wildlife viewing and fishing are common activities. 

Access #57 - #53

Dog Beach

On the west side of the City Pier is the Dog Beach where visitors can bring their furry friends to enjoy a day on the sand. 

Beachfront

The shoreline at the City Pier is wide with super soft white sands and shallow waters to enjoy swimming, surfing and other water activities. 

County Pier

Panama City Beach County Pier

The County Pier is identical to the City Pier and stretches 1,500 feet out into the beautiful Gulf waters. This pier is located in the original tourist area of Panama City Beach near Shipwreck Island Water Park and other attractions. 

Between access points #42 & #43 

Only a little more than 3 miles down the beach from the City Pier, the beachfront features the same soft white sand and wide shoreline with plenty of room to play. 

Notable Access Points 

Access points #42 through #1 stretch approximately 7 miles of gorgeous panhandle beachfront from the County Pier to St Andrews State Park featuring the white sands, wide beachfronts, good shelling, great swimming, and family friendly beaches. All along the beachfront are hotels, resorts, condos, townhomes and restaurants. 

A few lesser known access points: 

Rick Seltzer Park Between access points #15 & #16 offers parking, restrooms and gazebo.

Pineapple Willy's Restaurant at the west end of Thomas Dr

Schooners between #5 & 6

 

St Andrews State Park

St Andrews State Park Pier

St. Andrews State Park Pier offers some of the most gorgeous views in the state of Florida.

St Andrews State Park in Panama City Beach Florida

To the east are the beautiful tall natural sand dunes and to the west is the city landscape. The walk from the pier to the park's popular jetty is about 30 minutes and offers beachgoers a natural Florida coastal landscape. 

The beachfront at St Andrews State Park is the best in the city. With the natural area of dunes between the pier and the jetty, the huge area of white sandy beach around the jetty, the shallow swimming area next to the jetty, St Andrews State Park is the ultimate beach park. 

Beach Life & Cultural Feel of Panama City Beaches

Panama City Beach Florida

Panama City Beach has a reputation of being the ultimate spring break party destination. It is a beach town where people go to have fun and party. And while the city is trying to change that reputation and many rentals will not rent to under 25, it is still a place for lots of fun. 

Pets Welcome

Compared to Destin and the communities along scenic highway 30A, Panama City Beach welcomes dogs and pets at more beaches, parks and rentals. 

For more details on Panama City Beach and things to do, click here. 

Sand, Water, Beachfront & Shoreline

Panama City Beach Florida

White soft beaches line the entire beachfront along Panama City Beach. 

The Beachfront along the entire coastline of Panama City Beach is the beautiful wide soft sand shoreline. The beaches are undergoing a restoration project to extend the beaches from September 2021 through early 2022. This will widen the beachfront more with sand brought in from offshore. 

The water reflect a gorgeous green blue color blending into a deep blue on the horizon and is warm for most of the year. 

Wildlife: Sealife and Shorelife

Panama City Beach Sand

Dolphins and Sea Turtles frequent the areas waters. Dolphin watching is particularly good during late spring/early summer and they are more active in the morning and late afternoon hours. Sea Turtle season runs from May to October

Common Shore Birds are seen all along the shoreline of Panama City Beach. Bird watchers will spot terns, gulls, pelicans, black skimmers, sandpipers, herons, egrets and other birds wintering in the area. 

Activities and things to do in Panama City Beach

Water Activities include swimming, snorkeling, body surfing, stand up paddleboarding, and boating and fishing excursions.

Scuba Diving is a popular activity in Panama City Beach. Known as the Shipwreck Capital of the South, Panama City Beach has the largest number of shipwrecks off the shores in the Gulf. These wrecks offer divers over 50 artificial reefs to explore making Panama City Beach a bucket list top item for those who like to explore under the water. 

Shell Island is a fun excursion to an island across from St Andrews State Park where shelling and snorkeling are a favorite of locals and visitors alike. 

Shelling along the waters edge is a favorite pasttime and there are always shells to be found anywhere along the coast.

Shelling in Panama City Beach

Surf Fishing is a common activity in the area. Be respectful of other beachgoers when choosing a location for surf fishing. 

Shopping is plentiful in Panama City Beach with the mall at Pier Park and lots of local shops in the area. 

See our Complete Guide to Panama City Beach for more on the City and and things to do off the beach.

Uniquely Panama City Beach

Panama City Beach offers a vast 27 miles of shoreline along some of the most beautiful and fun beachfronts in the world. Something that is unique about Panama City Beach is the 100 public access beach walkovers amidst the plethora of resorts, hotels and private communities along the coast. Panama City Beach has something for everyone and every budget. This is what makes Panama City Beach so popular with locals and visitors is the ease of access for all, including pets. 

Scenery, Sunsets and Sunrise

Panama City Beach Florida Sunset

Panama City Beach features gorgeous sunsets and sunrises. Notable places in the panhandle for both sunrise and sunsets are at St. Andrews State Park at both the jetty and pier, and at either of the twin piers. 

Where to Stay or Live

Panama City Beach

When visiting or moving to Panama City Beach, you will find options for homes, condos, town homes, hotels, and beach homes. The area brings visitors and residents who are looking for a beach town lifestyle that offers lots to do as well as a relaxed lifestyle. It is also a popular location for those who are looking for their winter home or vacation rental investments. Recommended stays are this Dunes of Panama condo with direct beachfront views near St Andrew's State Park and Wendwood Condo across from access #72 in Laguna Beach community near Pier Park. 

Click here for our Complete Real Estate and Accommodation Guide to Panama City Beach (coming soon)

For Local Businesses including Food & Drinks, Services, Health & Medical, Education, Sports & Recreation, Arts & Entertainment and more, click here. (coming soon)

Also see surrounding area Beach Guides:

Who we are

We are locals and writers who love to research, explore and share information about Florida. Our goal is simple. To share the positive (and sometimes not so positive) things that make the area unique. To be real without an agenda. And to support a strong local community. 

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