Panama City Beach Travel Guide

Panama City Beach

Although Front Beach Road is lined by high-rises (about two dozen in total) built mostly during the early 2000s, Panama City Beach's ample 27-mile coastline still gives you opportunities to avoid the crowds and congestion. Tighter restrictions have pretty much eliminated the shenanigans of college spring break, making PCB more attractive to families seeking a PG-rated spring vacation for their school-aged children. The one constant in this ever-changing cityscape is the area's natural beauty, which, in many areas, helps you forget the commercialization in others.

There's definitely a busy section of Front Beach Road, but there also are two undeveloped and fully protected state parks and their equally beautiful beaches. The shoreline is so long that even when a mile is packed, there are 26 more where you can toss a beach blanket and find the old motels that have managed to survive. Or you travel inland toward West Bay and find even quieter quarters, including expanses of undeveloped pinelands and a city park with ample biking trails. What's more, the beaches along what used to be called the Miracle Strip, with their powder-soft sand and translucent emerald waters, are some of the finest in the state, so it's easy to understand why developers wanted to build here.

The busiest season stretches from spring (when college students descend en masse from neighboring states for spring break and a lot of raucous partying) to summer (when families and others come for the warm Gulf waters and beautiful beaches). Come before mid-March, when the temperatures can still be chilly and definitely not conducive to water activities, or after Labor Day through October, when the water is still warm and inviting, and you will find a much quieter vacation destination.

Cabanas, umbrellas, sailboats, personal watercraft, and floats are available from any of dozens of vendors along the beach. St. Andrews State Park, on the southeast end of the beaches, is treasured by locals and visitors alike. Camp Helen State Park, on the northwest end of the beaches, is a popular wedding venue with an incredible beach. In the 18 mile-stretch in between, there are nearly 100 public beach access points. The beautiful white sands, navigable waterways, and plentiful marine life attract families, the vast majority of whom hail from nearby Georgia and Alabama. When coming here, be sure to set your sights—and your GPS—for Panama City Beach. Panama City is its beachless inland cousin.

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