Travel Guide | Florida

The Real Panama City Beach

There’s more to Panama City than Spring Break.

Panama City Beach. The words probably conjure up images of beer bonging, trashy beaches, and all sorts of college debauchery. When I tell people I hail from this giant mecca of spring break they usually do one of two things, either cringe as they assume I hang out in my bikini twerking all day after I get my morning shot of Jack or they proceed to tell me how lucky I am as “life must be one big party all the time!” The truth is living in Panama City is like one big party, but not the type of party you normally associate with this city. I’m here to tell you about the other side to Panama City, the yoga every morning, relax all day on the beach, BBQ with friends, beautiful sunset, and dare I say it family friendly party that Panama City Beach really is. So sit back and let me help you get reacquainted with this misunderstood paradise.

Beautiful Beaches

Everyone knows that Panama City Beach has beautiful beaches, hence why it has become such a huge spring break destination. However, if you’ve come during the spring break months of late February to mid-April you’ve probably been more than a little disappointed as the beach is filled with thousands of drunk college kids and is usually covered in trash. This is the image we usually see of PCB on the news. Thankfully, it never looks like that the rest of the year. In fact, out of the dozens of beaches I’ve relaxed on in numerous countries, Panama City Beach is still one of my all time favorite beaches, with powder white sand, crystal clear water, and more than enough beach for everyone to enjoy. To experience all of the magnificent beaches of the area drive down 30A from Rosemary Beach to Grayton to have your choice of unspoiled beaches. Also to experience the good life because this area is filled with Saturday markets, great food, art studios, and fun bars.

Panama City Beach, FL Image

The beautiful water colors of Panama City Beach, FL.

Fun for the Whole Family

Aside from the beach there are a plethora of other fun things to do for the entire family. Spend the day shopping at Pier Park. Be sure to stop at Kilwins for delicious ice ream and homemade fudge. After watching one of the prettiest sunsets you’ve ever seen from the pier, head to the park area for the free summer concert series that takes place every Saturday night. If you’re looking to keep the party going even later Tootsies Orchid Lounge right there at Pier Park or Spinnaker are always fun. Additionally, if you want in on some local daytime hidden treasures be sure to visit the sparkling Cypress Springs or Shell Island! If you want to enjoy Shell Island like the locals do, skip the usual day tours that visit there, and rent a catamaran instead. Once you arrive, pull your boat up alongside the others, blast your music, and enjoy a delicious BBQ on the beach.

Sunset Panama City Beach, FL Image

Panama City Beach offers some of the best sunsets around.

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Paradise Living

While Panama City Beach can be pretty touristy in many places, living here is all about relaxation and enjoyment. Surprisingly, it’s a great place to recharge your batteries as well as have an active getaway. One of my favorite places near the beach is The Studio at Zen, a yoga studio set in the middle of a beautiful, tranquil garden. They offer all types of yoga including morning yoga on the beach. After class, chat with some of the friendliest locals in all of Florida while enjoying delicious, all natural meals. The P-NutButter Buddah smoothie with cacao is a personal favorite! Other awesome activities to enjoy are paddle boarding, fly boarding over the ocean, diving, hiking the Conservation Park, and wildlife watching. You’re guaranteed to spot some type of marine life from your beach hotel, whether it’s dolphins, sting rays, and sometimes even manatees!

Food, Food, and More Food

Though it’s not the biggest city, this beach town offers some pretty delicious places to eat with some incomparable views! For some phenomenal fish tacos and laid back vibes hit up the food truck outside Mr. Surf’s Surf Shack, Finn’s. For fine dining, head to one of Panama City Beaches best restaurants, Firefly. The she-crab soup and illuminated atmosphere are unbeatable. In the morning hit up the well-known Thomas Donut and Snack Shop on Front Beach or David’s Sno-balls for giant muffulettas and beignets. Last but not least, if you’re looking for an amazing and unique dining experience, head to Just the Cook. A food boat located on the St. Andrews marina and run by Ernie, a chef that has been named one of the “Top 16 Cooks in America” by Food Network!

Fish Tacos Image

Delicious fish tacos!

Contrary to popular belief, Panama City Beach really is a beautiful beach getaway that is capable of being classy and fun for everyone of all ages. (Just not between the months of February to mid-April.) For the best ocean conditions and impeccable weather, head here between September to November or mid-April through May. There’s always fun events going on year-round, particularly the Pepsi Gulf Coast Jam in September, so please stop on by! I promise the stunning beaches and thoughtful locals will be more than enough to make you want to stay.

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Tori Danforth

University of South Florida | 7 stories

Tori is currently a senior at the University of South Florida, majoring in International Studies with a minor in Linguistics. Growing up in a family that has a serious addiction to travel and adventures has allowed her to visit twenty-five countries and live in three. When she's not planning her next trip, her hobbies include yoga, paddleboarding, telling stories, and consuming at least a half pint of ice cream a day. After college she plans to serve in the Peace Corps and become a full-time wanderer.

One response to “The Real Panama City Beach”

  1. Art Higbee says:

    Excellent article! I enjoy your work!

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