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Public Beach Guide - Panama City Beach, FL [Parking, Directions & Activities]

Suzanne Bratton

November 25th 2020

Public Beach Guide - Panama City Beach, FL [Parking, Directions & Activities]

Panama City Beach is synonymous with fun in the sun, as their glorious beaches are known for their soft white sand, emerald green waters, and outstanding outdoor things to do. And with over 27 magnificent miles of beautiful beaches, the quantity is tantamount to quality. There are over 90 public beaches in Panama City Beach to choose from!

With so many things to consider like parking, location, and nearby amenities and attractions, choosing from the seemingly boundless amount of beaches can bewilder the unprepared traveler. Luckily, TripShock has created the Public Beach Guide for Panama City Beach, FL, so you can choose the beach that’s best for you with ease and confidence!

Table of Contents

  • St. Andrews State Park
    • Shell Island Tours and Activities
  • Camp Helen State Park
  • Schooners Beach
    • Captain Anderson’s Marina
    • Party Boat Fishing
    • Dolphin Cruises and Tours
  • Rick Seltzer Park
  • M.B. Miller County Pier
  • Russell-Fields City Pier
    • Pier Park
    • SkyWheel
    • Gulf World Marine Park
  • Dog Beach

 


 

St. Andrews State Park

 

St. Andrews State Park beach in</p><p> </p><p>panama city beach
Image of the stunning beaches of St. Andrews State Park in Panama City Beach from Wikimedia

 

For those in search of the best public beaches in Panama City Beach, St. Andrews State Park is a great place to start! St. Andrews State Park offers a unique experience to travelers, with serene St. Andrews Bay on one side, and the breathtaking Gulf of Mexico on the other. Consistently ranked as one of Florida’s best and most visited parks, this former military reservation is definitely a sight to see! The park’s 1,200 acres is home to some amazing natural wonders, like the following:

  • Beautiful beaches at Shell Island
  • Rolling sand dunes
  • Maritime hammocks
  • Rare coastal dune lakes
  • Estuarine tidal marshes
  • Freshwater depression marshes

Aside from taking in all of the natural beauty this amazing park has to offer, St. Andrews State Park is packed with a plethora of fun things to do! Wildlife viewing, historic sights, and nature trails are definitely worth exploring, but the real magic happens where the sand meets the sea. Below are just a few of the many amazing water activities to enjoy at St. Andrews State Park:

  • Boating
  • Fishing
  • Kayaking
  • Scuba Diving
  • Snorkeling
  • Surfing
  • Swimming

It’s easy to see why so many people flock to St. Andrews State Park and stunning Shell Island! The gorgeous landscape and diverse flora and fauna leaves plenty to be explored. You may want to consider booking an unforgettable Shell Island tour to maximize your time there.

Hours, Location, Parking, and Additional Information

St. Andrews State Park is open daily from 8:00a.m. until sundown. The cost of admission is $8.00 for vehicles with 2-8 passengers, $4.00 for single occupant vehicles, and $2.00 for pedestrians and bicyclists. Fees include parking, and there is ample parking available onsite. For more information, please visit the St. Andrews State Park website.

Address: 4607 State Park Lane, Panama City Beach, FL 32408

Shell Island Tours and Activities

 

aerial view of Shell Island
Awe-inspiring aerial view of Shell Island’s public beaches in Panama City Beach

 

Shell Island tours and activities come in all shapes and sizes, meaning there is something for every age and interest! Not only is this a great way to ensure you’re seeing the best of what Shell Island has to offer, but it also allows you to see it in a whole new light. Some of the top Shell Island tours include the following:

  • Dolphin Swim Tours
  • Dolphin Cruises
  • Scuba Diving Tours
  • Guided Jet Ski Dolphin Tours
  • Sunset Sailing
  • Dolphin Cruises
  • And MORE!

Let’s not forget to mention some of the amazing local creatures you may encounter along the way. Dolphins, tropical fish, stingrays, and sea turtles are commonly seen on a Panama City Beach Shell Island tour! We would also be amiss to not mention the island’s namesake… shells! Shell Island is the perfect place to collect giant, gorgeous shells, and below are a few of the native shells you may find along the way:

  • Olive Shells
  • Conch Shells
  • Sand Dollars
  • Whelk Shells

{Read Reviews & Book Panama City Beach Shell Island Tours & Activities Online}

 

Camp Helen State Park

 

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Breathtaking natural beauty at Camp Helen State Park. Image from Wikimedia

 

Located on the west end of Panama City, Camp Helen State Park is a nature-lovers wonderland! Camp Helen State Park is nestled between the dazzling Gulf of Mexico and the peaceful Lake Powell, which is the largest coastal dune lake in Florida. While this park is much smaller than St. Andrews State Park at 180 acres, what it lacks in size, it makes up for in fun!

Fishing is one of the main attractions, as saltwater surf fishing is available in the Gulf, and Lake Powell’s brackish water is perfect for targeting both saltwater and freshwater fish. Other popular activities at Camp Helen State Park include hiking, wildlife viewing, kayaking, and, of course, swimming and soaking up the sun at the beach!

Another unique feature of Camp Helen State Park is that it is actually home to a historic district, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The district includes a lodge, water tower, rainbow cottages, and more. Fun Fact: Prehistoric mounds found at the park reveal that humans inhabited the area over 4,000 years ago!

Hours, Location, Parking, and Additional Information

Camp Helen State Park is open daily from 8:00am until sunset. The cost of entry is $4.00 per vehicle for up to 8 passengers, and $2.00 for pedestrians and bicyclists. For more information, please visit the Camp Helen State Park website.

Address: 23937 Panama City Beach Parkway, Panama City Beach, FL 32413

 

Schooners Beach

 

Schooners public beach in</p><p> </p><p>panama city beach
The inviting emerald waters of Schooners Beach in Panama City Beach

 

When searching for a public beach in Panama City Beach that provides a nostalgic PCB experience, look no further than Schooners Beach! This public beach is located behind Schooners, the Last Local Beach Club, which is a restaurant that has a history dating back to the 1960s. This local landmark is known for its fresh seafood and casual eats, live music, drinks, dancing, nightly sunset celebrations, and good times.

With that being said, the beach at Schooners is no different! This beach is perfect for those in search of the “complete package” when it comes to spending a day at the beach. It’s not uncommon for visitors to spend the majority of their day here playing beach volleyball, enjoying fresh oysters, listening to live music, swimming, and soaking up the sun!

Hours, Location, Parking, and Additional Information

Schooners Beach is located right next to Public Beach Access 4, behind the restaurant Schooners, the Last Local Beach Club. While the public beach is open 24 hours, please note that the restaurant is open Sunday through Thursday 11:00a.m. until 8:00p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 11:00a.m. until 9:00p.m. Schooners is closed on Thanksgiving Day.

Address: 5121 Gulf Drive, Panama City Beach, FL 32413

Captain Anderson’s Marina

Captain Anderson’s Marina is located just over a mile from Schooner’s Beach, and is definitely worth the trip if you’re looking for even more aquatic adventures! This Panama City Beach landmark is one of the biggest privately-owned marine recreational facilities in the world, offering tours and rentals that showcase the best of Shell Island, Historic Grand Lagoon, St. Andrew’s Bay, and more! Some of the top tours and attractions offered at Captain Anderson’s Marina include:

  • Fishing Charters
  • Dinner Cruises
  • Sightseeing Tours
  • Snorkeling
  • Scuba Diving
  • Gift Shop
  • Seafood Market
  • And MORE!

Party Boat Fishing

 

family fishing aboard a party boat fishing charter
Family shows off a snapper they caught aboard a party boat fishing trip at Captain Anderson’s Marina

 

No trip to Panama City Beach is complete without testing your luck on a party boat fishing charter! Party boat fishing is when multiple people or groups come together for a fishing trip aboard the same boat, making it one of the most affordable ways to fish along the Emerald Coast. Not only that, you’ll head out into the Gulf of Mexico to target coveted species such as:

  • Snapper
  • Grouper
  • Amberjack
  • Triggerfish
  • Cobia
  • And MORE!

Please be aware that certain species of fish may be seasonal, with size restrictions and bag limits set in place by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Bait, tackle, and fishing licenses are included when booking a party boat fishing charter, so you don’t have to worry about a thing! And with a knowledgeable crew nearby to assist with any fishing needs, both the novice and experienced angler are sure to reel in tons of fish and some fin-tastic memories along the way.

{Read Reviews & Book Panama City Beach Party Boat Fishing Trips Online}

Dolphin Cruises and Tours

 

dolphins spotted on a Panama City Beach dolphin cruise
One of the top things to do for couples in Panama City Beach, dolphin cruises are a great way to reconnect with nature, and your favorite person

 

When soaking up the sun at one of the marvelous public beaches in Panama City Beach, there’s a pretty strong chance you may spot a beautiful bottlenose dolphin frolicking in the distance. Dolphin sightings are a magical experience, and are a sure-fire way to brighten anyone’s day. One of the only things that’s better than seeing a dolphin in the distance at the beach, is seeing one up-close-and-personal on an unforgettable Panama City Beach dolphin cruise!

Dolphin cruises and tours are a great way to explore Panama City Beach, and see the area in a whole new way. Not only that, they come in all shapes and sizes, so finding the tour that’s best for you and your group is a cinch! No matter if you’re swimming with wild dolphins at Shell Island, or taking it slow on a sunset sail through St. Andrews Bay, dolphin cruises and tours are a great way to reconnect with nature, and bring home memories that will last a lifetime.

{Read Reviews & Book Panama City Beach Dolphin Cruises & Tours Online}

 

Rick Seltzer Park

 

Rick Seltzer Park beach in</p><p> </p><p>panama city beach
Locals and visitors alike love the sugar-white sand and crystal-clear waters of Rick Seltzer Park public beach in Panama City Beach

 

With almost 5 acres of coastal bliss, it’s no wonder Rick Seltzer Park is one of the preferred public beaches in Panama City Beach. Picnic tables, pavilions, water fountains, showers, and restrooms make this location ideal, especially for families with young children. Not only that, it’s just steps away from shopping and dining options, in case you forgot sunscreen, or need a quick bite to eat!

And let’s not forget to mention the scenic beauty this public beach in Panama City Beach has to offer! There are no high-rise condos on either side of this park, so visitors can enjoy inviting emerald waters and rolling white sand dunes as far as the eye can see. Speaking of dunes, there is a 170-foot dune system preservation on site with interpretive displays for a fun, relaxing, and educational day at the beach!

Hours, Location, Parking, and Additional Information

Rick Seltzer Park is located on the famous Thomas Drive in Panama City Beach, and is open from sunrise to sunset. Ample parking is available nearby.

Address: 7419 Thomas Drive, Panama City Beach, FL 32408

 

M.B. Miller County Pier

 

M.B. Miller County Pier public beach in</p><p> </p><p>panama city beach
Whether you decide to take it slow and relax on the beach, or test your luck behind a rod and reel, there’s something for everyone to enjoy at M.B. Miller County Pier and beach

 

M.B. Miller County Pier is one of the two main fishing piers in Panama City Beach, the other being the Russell-Fields City Pier. Often called the County Pier and the City Pier, these identical piers stretch 1,500-feet into the Gulf of Mexico, making for fantastic fishing and stunning scenic views. At the foot of the pier, however, lies one of the best public beaches in Panama City Beach!

The beach at M.B. Miller County Pier has the same white sand and clear waters that we’re accustomed to in Panama City Beach, and is a great place for wildlife viewing, as well. Aside from watching anglers reel in their catch of the day, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for dolphins swimming in the distance, sea turtles, manta rays, and more! Avian aficionados will love the bird watching here, as well, and may see awesome species such as:

  • Herons
  • Seagulls
  • Pelicans
  • Sandpipers
  • Egrets
  • And MORE!

Another fun fact about the M.B. Miller County Pier and beach is that this area is known for hosting amazing annual events! SandJam is by far the most notable. This music festival takes place every year in April, and has hosted incredible musical talents like Kings of Leon, Sublime with Rome, Incubus, and more!

Hours, Location, Parking, and Additional Information

The M.B. Miller County Pier and beach is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There is a large parking lot available on site at no cost. There is a fee, however, to use the pier. It costs $3.00 for spectators, and $6.00 for those wanting to fish. Annual passes are also available, and can be purchased at Frank Brown Park.

Address: 12213 Front Beach Road, Panama City Beach, FL 32407

 

Russell-Fields City Pier

 

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Russell-Fields City Pier as seen from the beach

 

Russell-Fields City Pier is probably the most popular public beach in Panama City Beach, as it is located directly across the street from the bustling Pier Park. Not only that, its massive pier that reaches 1,500 feet into the Gulf of Mexico attracts anglers from all over, as well as those looking for unparalleled panoramic views of Panama City Beach. No matter if you’re trying to reel in dinner, take in a gorgeous beachside sunset, or just soak up the sun on the stunning white sand beaches, Russell-Fields City Pier has got you covered!

The beaches are as beautiful as it gets, with soft sand, blue-green waters, and amazing wildlife all around! This is the perfect place to take a dip, snorkel, play beach volleyball, throw a frisbee, or just relax while breathing in the salt air under the warm Florida sun. Other amenities available at the pier to maximize your beach experience include the following:

  • Outdoor Showers
  • Public Restrooms
  • Picnic Tables
  • Concessions for Purchase
  • And MORE!

Russell-Fields City Pier is also handicap accessible, with four beach wheelchairs available to rent at no cost. All you have to do is present a photo ID to the Pier Ticket Office, fill out a form, and you’re good to go! A handicap accessible ramp can be found on the west side of the ticket office, so those in beach wheelchairs can make it safely to the beach.

Hours, Location, Parking, and Additional Information

The Russell-Fields City Pier and beach is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It costs $4.00 for spectators to walk the pier, and $7.00 for those wanting to fish. Annual passes are also available, and can be purchased at Frank Brown Park.

There is a small public parking lot located at the pier, and limited street parking is available, as well. Due to its location across from Pier Park, parking can be hectic, especially during peak season. If you can’t find parking on site, you are advised to park at nearby Pier Park.

Address: 16201 Front Beach Road, Panama City Beach, FL 32413

Pier Park

Pier Park is the place to be for the best shopping, dining, and entertainment in Panama City Beach! With over 120 places to explore at this outdoor shopping complex, there’s something to entertain all age groups, from the kids to the kids at heart. Located just across the street from Russell-Fields City Pier, Pier Park is a great way to break up the beach day with some shopping, lunch, or family-fun attractions! Below are just a few of the many amazing things to do near Pier Park in Panama City Beach:

 

Top Attractions and Things to do Near Pier Park

 

And the fun doesn’t stop when the sun goes down! Visiting Pier Park is also one of the best things to do at night in Panama City Beach. After a full day of fun in the sun, you’re sure to have worked up an appetite. Pier Park is home to tons of delicious dining options that make for a great start to an unforgettable evening. Some of the most delicious restaurants in Pier Park include the following:

  • Pompano Joe’s
  • Osaka Japanese Hibachi Steakhouse & Sushi Bar
  • Margaritaville
  • Back Porch Seafood & Oyster House

After filling up on fantastic food, there’s still plenty of fun to be had at this lively entertainment complex. If you brought your dancing shoes, then head to Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge and do-si-do the night away to some of the best country music this side of the Mississippi! Dave & Buster’s is another great option for those in search of a little late-night friendly competition… the choices are practically endless!

SkyWheel

 

SkyWheel at Pier Park in Panama City Beach
In a recent TripShock Traveler Story, one family describes the view from the top of the SkyWheel as incredible

 

Since you’ve already experienced the lovely public beaches of Panama City Beach from the shore, it’s time to see them from a whole new perspective aboard the SkyWheel. This luxury observation wheel boasts private gondolas that soar high in the sky, over 180 feet, above Pier Park. Be prepared for breathtaking views of the city, the beaches, and beyond!

This amazing attraction is located within Pier Park, less than a half of a mile from the Russell-Fields City Pier. The SkyWheel is a great way to take a break from the heat and sun at the beach, as each gondola is enclosed and climate-controlled. Perfect for families, date night, and every occasion in between, you can’t go wrong with a spin on the SkyWheel!

{Read Reviews & Book Panama City Beach ShyWheel Tickets Online}

Gulf World Marine Park

 

friendly dolphin at Gulf World Marine Park
As one of the top Panama City Beach attractions for kids, families will love a trip to Gulf World Marine Park

 

Located less than a mile from Russell-Fields City Pier, Gulf World Marine Park is the perfect place for anyone looking to take a quick break from the beach. Opened to the public in 1970, this aquarium is a Panama City Beach staple, and a family-friendly experience that is both educational, and fun! Visitors love the interactive animal encounters, as well as the dazzling daily live shows, which include the following:

  • Feather & Friends Show
  • Harbor Seal Chat
  • Shark & Turtle Chat
  • Sea Lion Show
  • Stingray Feeding
  • Penguin Chat
  • Bird & Reptile Chat
  • Bottlenose Dolphin Show

{Read Reviews & Book Panama City Beach Gulf World Marine Park Tickets Online}

 

Dog Beach

 

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Dog Beach is the perfect public beach in Panama City Beach for those traveling with their canine companions

 

Dog beach is located on the other side of the Russell-Fields City Pier, the west side, and is the perfect place for travelers with their pup in tow to visit. This 400-foot stretch of beach is one of the only public beaches in Panama City Beach that allows dogs.

While dogs must remain on leashes and under supervision, this beach is the ideal location to relax with your toes, and paws, in the sand. Pet owners may find these tips for bringing dogs to the beach useful:

  • Protect your pets from the sun by providing shade, as they can also get sun burns and are at risk for skin cancer. If your pet has short hair, light skin, or light fur, you may want to consider purchasing pet-friendly sunscreen or sun shirts.
  • Limit the amount of salt water your pet drinks at the beach, as it is not good for them, and can leave them with an upset stomach. Bring along fresh water and a drinking bowl for your pet, and encourage them to drink fresh water instead.
  • It is recommended to rinse off your dog’s coat after swimming in salt water, as well as their collar and leash. This will help prevent skin irritation caused by the salt and sand.
  • Life vests are a great way to ensure your pet’s safety at the beach. Not only are they great for novice swimmers, but they can help your dog from getting saltwater poisoning, as well. Wearing a life vest will keep their head above the water, causing them to drink less of it.
  • Last, but certainly not least, don’t forget the toys! Fido will love playing fetch or frisbee on the beach.

Hours, Location, Parking, and Additional Information

Dog Beach is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and is located on the west side of the Russell-Fields City Pier. There is limited parking available onsite, which means it can be difficult to find parking during the busy months. It is recommended to park at Pier Park across the street, if you cannot find parking at the pier.

Address: 16230 Front Beach Road, Panama City Beach, FL 32413

 


 

public beaches in</p><p> </p><p>panama city beach
One of the many picture-perfect beaches in Panama City Beach, as seen from the St. Andrews State Park Pier. Image from Wikimedia

 

Panama City Beach is the perfect travel destination to find out why they call this area of Florida the Emerald Coast! With soft, white sand, crystal-clear, emerald waters, stunning natural beauty, wonderful wildlife, and tons of incredible things to do close by, it’s no wonder millions of people choose PCB as their beachside vacation bliss, year after year. And now that you know about the best public beaches in Panama City Beach, all that’s left to do is choose your favorite, sit back, relax, and soak up the sun!

 


 

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