We (my husband Mike and I), have been to Panama City Beach twice. Once for our babymoon with our first child, and once as a family.
In this blog, I’ll let you in on our favorite things to do in Panama City Beach for families!
Where to stay in Panama City Beach
First, I have to talk about where to stay. I think if you are coming with young kids, you should really consider staying right on the beach. There are a ton of different condo, hotel, and resort options.
Of course, you can save money by staying a short walk or drive from the beach (as opposed to directly on it), and to me, it is sometimes worth it if we don’t have kids along.
However, trying to cross a busy road with little kids and all your gear on your walk to the beach can be stressful. Almost worse than that is having to load all your gear and kids into the car and drive to the beach, unload, and then re-load all the things covered in sand! We’ve done it. It’s hard!
This is why I think it’s worth the extra cost to stay on a beach front property!
For our most recent trip, we had a lot of family coming along, and we chose to stay at the Emerald Beach Resort right on the beach.
The resort has 2 boardwalks going straight onto the beach. It also has a Starbucks, a little diner, 2 swimming pools and a gift shop.
Emerald Beach Resort is also within walking distance of several shops and restaurants.
Things to do in Panama City Beach for Families
Panama City Beach is full of family-friendly activities for everyone!
Relax and enjoy the beach.
Obviously the number one thing to do is just relaxing on the beach and playing in the ocean!
We jumped in the waves, searched for treasures, boogie-boarded and tried out skim boarding. The kids also buried each other in the sand, flew a kite, and made sand castles.
Go fishing at the pier.
Mason, our son, was dying to go fishing in the ocean. One day, a group of us headed to the pier to let him try it out!
Fishing off the popular Russell-Fields City Pier costs $7/adult, FREE for kids age 6 and under. It costs $4 to just be a spectator, which is what I did!
Fishing poles and gear are available to rent right there at the pier.
Most of what we ended up catching were Remora (the sucker fish that stick to sharks, dolphins, and sea turtles). Although the serious fisherman call them trash fish, it was really exciting for the kids to catch them!
We also got to see sea turtles and dolphins swimming underneath and around the pier, so even if no one is interested in fishing, it’s worth a small fee to just come see what there is to see!
Go for a pirate cruise.
This activity is a bit more of a splurge than paying a small fee for the pier, but the kids loved every second of this pirate ship cruise!
Onboard the Sea Dragon, the pirates will put on a little bit of a show, and the kids get to play along.
There is a dance party, face painting, a water gun fight, dolphin sightings, and treasure finding included.
The ship also serves snacks and drinks, and sells gifts such as swords and eye patches for the kids.
Make sure you book ahead of time to ensure you get a spot! One tip for you is to skip doing a dolphin sighting cruise if you plan to do the Pirate Cruise, because dolphin sighting is included!
Ride go-karts and play a round of mini golf.
Another thing to do in Panama City Beach for families is all the different adventure parks.
There are multiple places to do these activities in Panama City Beach, including Swampy Jack’s, Kartona Electric Speedway, and Cobra Adventure Park.
Within walking distance of our resort was Hidden Lagoon Super Race Track and Golf. They claim to have the longest track on the Emerald Coast.
Kids 56 inches and up can drive alone, and younger kids, between 36 and 56 inches tall can be a passenger with a licensed driver.
Everyone had a super fun time doing the go-karts! Afterward, we did a round of mini golf. There were 2 courses to choose from, one being a little more kid-friendly- which is the way we went!
Charter a boat.
We used Lagoon Pontoons to charter a boat. Our goal was to swim with dolphins. However, the conditions where the dolphins were hanging out weren’t good to drop people into the water.
Instead, our captain asked what else we would like to do. We chose to try to see and swim with the sea turtles instead.
The water wasn’t super clear where all the little turtles were hanging out, but Mason and I were able to get in and get up close to one for a minute! It was one of my favorite experiences!
Go snorkeling at Shell Island.
Our chartered boat took us out to Shell Island, but you can do this as a whole experience on it’s own. There is a shuttle that can take you out to Shell Island a lot cheaper than chartering a boat.
Of all the things to do in Panama City Beach for families, this is maybe my #1 recommendation.
We only had about 45 minutes to snorkel here, but we could have easily spent half a day.
Shell Island is a 7-mile-long barrier island. It’s undeveloped and has a lot of wildlife. You can see sea turtles, sea birds, sand dollars, conch shells, and more. As long as nothing is living in a shell, you are free to take it home with you.
Other things to do in Panama City Beach for families
Aside from the things we did on our trip, there are many, many more options! There is the Pier Park, ZooWorld, Gulf World Marine Park, Shipwreck Island Waterpark, Ripley’s Believe it or Not, and more! There really is something for everyone!
Family dining at Panama City Beach
I am just going to include the places we have tried and really recommend. Each one is family-friendly.
- Gulf Coast Burger Company. The food was delicious. A robot brought out the kids’ shakes and they were highly entertained by that.
- Pineapple Willy’s. Listen to music and eat your seafood beachfront. Sip your drink from a Pineapple souvenir cup.
- Sharky’s. Beach views. Fresh seafood. Live music. And a pirate ship playground for kids.
- Zollo’s Pizza. This was in a plaza within walking distance of our resort. The wait for the pizza was a little long, because of the crowds, but it was delicious!
- A’More Donuts. All the different fun flavors! And they come in a cute box too!
I hope our Guide to Panama City Beach with Kids inspires you and helps to plan your next family vacation!
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