This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Visit Panama City Beach. All opinions are 100% mine.
Get off the lounge chair and onto your feet (or a bike, paddle board or kayak) and explore adventure activities in Panama City Beach Florida.
Panama City Beach is known for its turquoise waters, white sand beaches and great summer weather. You could be forgiven for going there and simply anchoring a lounge chair with a cold bevvy in one hand and a great beach read in the other. But do that and you’ll miss out on the opportunity to explore the area’s nature preserves, trails and creeks.
Visit Panama City Beach on your own steam by hiking, biking, kayaking, paddle boarding and strolling it’s 27 miles of sugar-white beach. Most of the activities that follow are pretty close to downtown so you can arrange outdoorsy adventures and still have time to chill on the beach. So, craft your own active itinerary and make it yours by spending a half day doing some fun activities in Panama City Beach before hitting the lounge chair.
Biking Activities in Panama City Beach
Gayle’s trails is part of an expanding network of hiking and biking trails that wind throughout Panama City Beach. For instance, you can ride northwest out of town from Wonderworks, pedaling 9.5 miles to Deluna Place and then back again for a nice long ride through town and along the beach.
You can also take one of several loop trails through Conservation Park. The city established the park in cooperation with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. It has over 2,900 acres and 24 miles of trails. The longest loop in the park is 11 miles but you could combine it with other loops to lengthen your ride. The longer bike loop also features a cool mile-long elevated boardwalk through a cypress pond.
Tips for biking: If you just want to focus on Conservation Park, check out renting from Barley’s Bike Rental. They are located fairly close to the park entrance and rent bikes for ~$20/day. If you want to rent in town, check out Bike the Beach.
Hiking Activities in Panama City Beach
If you aren’t into biking, you can also hike any of the above mentioned trails in Conservation Park. They have shorter loops that range from 1.7 to 6.5 miles. Beyond that, there are four state parks and forests within a 35 minute drive of Panama City Beach and they all have hikes and/or interpretive nature trails. They include Deer Lake State Park, Camp Helen State Park, St. Andrews State Park and Pine Log State Forest.
Pine Log is particularly interesting because it’s the only one that is located inland. Pine Log is Florida’s first state forest and it features cypress ponds and titi swamps along with a diversity of threatened fauna such as the flatwoods salamander and gopher tortoise. The forest offers 13 miles of hiking trails with loops as short as 2.5 miles (Campground loop) and as long as 9 miles (Crooked Creek horse trail).
Tips for visiting: The forest campground area has restrooms and a picnic area. Don’t forget, it’s Florida, so bring some bug repellent.
Walking on the Beach
Before we talk about the walks, let’s talk about the sand. There are many beautiful beaches in Florida, but Panama City Beach is famous for its soft white sand. The sugary sand is made of white quartz which migrated from Appalachian mountain range, tumbling and tossing itself downstream, beating itself into ever smaller pieces before depositing itself in the Florida Panhandle where it awaits your wiggling toes.
When you visit the Real. FUN. Beach. — you’ll find twenty seven miles of it, so there is no shortage of options for a good long walk. Just head out of your hotel down to the beach and get started. If you’d like some quiet beachcombing, check out Shell Island or St. Andrews State Parks. St. Andrews has a two mile long stretch of beach and Shell Island has seven miles of fluffy white sand. Both beaches are undeveloped and are apt to be more peaceful than the city beaches.
Tips for visiting: St. Andrews State Beach Park has an $8 entry fee. They have a concession stand but not a full restaurant. Shell Island is only accessible by boat or kayak. You can get over there on the Shell Island Shuttle which is $18.95. The price is a bit steep but they also have a concession boat that serves the island.
Explore more of coastal Florida on this Gulf Coast road trip.
5 Kayaking Options in Panama City Beach
Enough with all of these land-based activities, how about having some fun on the water? Kayaking is a great way to give your legs a rest while still doing energetic activities in Panama City Beach. One option is to do the Econfina creek, which is one of the top kayaking trails in Florida. The creek ecosystem is fed by a series of natural springs and the landscape includes turtles, beavers and a lot of lush vegetation.
- Only expert kayakers should attempt the upper portion of the creek but you can DIY the bottom portion by renting from EconFina Canoe Livery. They are right at the put-in and they offer shuttle service at the end of the trip. Canoes are $50 and kayaks are $40.
- You could also do a guided tour with Cold Water Excursions. The trip takes a full day with 2.5-3 hours of paddling and tons of time to spend swimming at the springs. They also provide lunch, drinks, a loaner GoPro camera and underwater scooters. You’ll need to check their website for pricing and tour availability.
If you plan to take that stroll on Shell Island, you can also add on a kayaking option. Here are three ways to make that happen.
- The easy but more expensive option is to add kayaking to your Shell Island Shuttle service. For $55, you can get a single kayak rental for the full day and the shuttle is included. The kayaks are over on the island so you don’t need to navigate the channel to get over there.
- The concession at St. Andrews State Park also rents kayaks which can be paddled around the park or over the channel to Shell Island.
- You can also rent from Bay Point Water Sports. They are not in the state park but are located across the lagoon. They offer a half day rental for $30 and a full day for $50. You’ll need to paddle for about twenty minutes to get out of the lagoon and over to Shell Island or St. Andrews, but you do save yourself the cost of the state park fee.
Tips for renting: If you haven’t kayaked before, do the Shell Island option which will allow you to avoid the busy boat channel. Regardless of how you do it, bring your own food and water to Shell Island.
Paddle Board Rentals
If you’ve never been paddle boarding, you should definitely try it. It’s much easier than surfing but it’s still a great work-out, particularly for your core muscles. Try it on a calm water day or you’ll find yourself fighting with the waves.
If you want to go for just an hour or so, then rent while you are at St. Andrews State Park. In addition to the kayak rental, they also have paddle boards for ~$20/hour. You can also do hourly and daily rentals from Mr. Surfs. For a longer term rental, they will deliver the board to you and they also offer private paddle board lessons.
If you are interested in a guided tour, then check out Walkin’ on Water. They have several different options including a fun tour of the interior lake at Camp Helen state park, a sunset tour and one that paddles along a spring fed river. Any of these tours would provide more shade from the hot sun calm waters for when the open ocean is too choppy.
Tips for paddle boarding: Check out this YouTube video to learn some paddle boarding basics before you go.
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Three Indispensable Items to Pack for Your Active Getaway
Pack right for your Panama City Beach activities. You’ll want to have the right gear to protect yourself from the sun and maximize your fun.
- Take this waterproof phone/wallet out on the water. Using one of these means that you don’t have to worry about leaving your money, credit cards and phone on the beach.
- Wear a UV-filtering rash guard. Hey, I like getting tan too, but when you are out on the water paddling, you can get scorched very quickly. I prefer a rash guard that has a full front zipper, which is easier to peel off when wet.
- For your longer excursions to Shell Island or EconFina, pack your towel, lunch and other stuff into a drybag. I love the Sea to Summit bags because they are very durable and their thinner fabric makes them easy to compress. In fact, they are an indispensable part of all of my packing lists, including this one for Cuba which you may want to peruse for other hot weather packing tips.
Get going and plan your fun today by designing a trip that takes advantage of the very best activities in Panama Beach City. Go hiking, kayaking, paddle boarding and strolling while still leaving time for just chillin’ on the beach. Enjoy!
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