The Florida panhandle is an often overlooked area when considering family vacations. It is far away from all of the usual Florida attractions. However, these beautiful, quaint beaches can be excellent places to visit while on vacation in the Florida panhandle.
Panama City Beach
Panama City Beach is one of the more popular beaches on the Gulf Coast, known well to the locals. The 27-mile stretch of beach is well kept and full of soft white sugar sand. Panama City is the seafood capital of the south and thus there are tons of seafood restaurants to avail yourself of.
Panama City Beach is also near Pier Park, which is a large shopping and dining complex; Shipwreck Island Waterpark, a fun place for families to enjoy water with less sand; and is also a great place to schedule a dolphin tour to see bottlenose dolphins in the wild.
The entire beach area is a classic place to visit with a relaxed atmosphere. It is also a very pedestrian friendly beach town, where most any café or shop can be reached on foot.
Pensacola is a nice beach town full of a nice mixture of quiet areas and livelier areas, meaning there’s something for everyone in any mood. Because it is on a barrier island right outside of Pensacola, there are surf and sound sides to explore. There are dolphin tour opportunities, historic sites to visit, and plenty of photo opportunities.
The Pensacola Beach Fishing Pier and Observation post is nearly 1500 feet long and takes you well over the Gulf of Mexico for some great views. The entire beach is noted to be one of the best wheelchair accessible beaches in Florida, meaning more people can enjoy the gorgeous water and white sugar sand.
Henderson Beach State Park
This beach has the perfect Floridian vibes. Henderson Beach is 6000 feet of shoreline along the Emerald Coast. There are many pet friendly areas and nature trails, as well as a pristine coastal dune ecosystem. The sugar sand beach is a mile long and there are some large dunes to play around.
The waters are always pleasantly warm and the park in general has opportunities to rent campsites, go fishing, and picnic. Nearby in Destin, you can find plenty of fresh seafood that boasts being the best in the state.
St. George Island
If you are looking for a beach with less crowds, St. George Island is a great choice. You can stay directly on the island with plenty of lodging options. It is a 22-mile barrier Island that keeps the sound side beaches calm and relatively unspoiled. Early in the summer you may find sea turtles nesting in the mornings. You can also go kayaking nearby.
Nearby, you can find dining and shopping options that make the experience so well rounded you could spend an entire vacation here rather than just a couple of days.
This beach is located on Perdido Key and offers both bay and gulf waters. It is a wonderful place to see dolphins and bird watch. Avid bird watchers can spot over 300 species of birds throughout the year. Many of these birds are only seen in this area.
Additionally, the beaches are a wonderful place to relax or have a picnic. There are plenty of sunbathing opportunities, perfectly warm waters, and a gentle breeze which cools down even the hottest of days. You can also find nearby tours to add to your vacation experience.
St. Andrews State Park
This state park boasts five distinct ecological landscapes. It is a mile and a half of beach with a playground and other activities within the park. It is great for nature lovers, adventure lovers, and families because of all the different things to do there.
It tends to not be crowded and the available activities include snorkeling, surfing, picnicking, fishing, hiking, and bird watching.
This beach is like a time capsule tucked away and surrounded by pine and magnolia trees. It is a mile and a half long beach near plenty of shops, cafes, and historical spots that you can visit and enjoy. The sands are squeaky white and the waters crystal clear.
There are snorkeling and paddle board opportunities to get you into the water where you might even see a sea turtle.
Fort Walton Beach
Fort Walton Beach has pristine sands and ocean views. The water is so clear it is a great place to snorkel. You can also charter a boat or go fishing in the area if you do not want to bum around on the beach all day.
Fort Walton Beach is also near The Boardwalk on Okaloosa Island, a place full of sand dunes to explore, plus the usual boardwalk shopping and dining entertainment.
Santa Rosa Beach
Santa Rosa Beach is almost a vacation destination due to the fact that you can rent beachfront homes to stay in while visiting. The waters are clear and the beaches are well maintained. You can also have a local company called 30a Blaze cultivate a beach bonfire for your group, complete with chairs, tiki torches, s’more making and more.
While this area was completely wiped out by Hurricane Michael back in 2018, it is slowly coming back. It is a secluded, quiet spot that is great for the family. New shops and food spots are coming to the area, offering unique experiences. As it is still recovering, the crowds tend to be less. Also, there is a lot of wildlife to see and loads of beachy activities to enjoy.
Grayton Beach State Park
If you are looking for a balance of beach and nature trails, Grayton Beach State Park might be the place for you. The park itself is 2000 acres full of plenty of activities. You can rent a cabin in the park to stay at the beach all day and night, plus you can explore the four miles worth of trails before returning to the beach and relaxing.
Not to be confused with Miramar, California, Miramar Beach is near Destin and South Walton, Florida. It is a beach full of beach town vibes. There are also amazing shopping and dining locations nearby, as well as options to do water sports like parasailing and jet skiing.
The Florida Panhandle is full of beaches to explore and enjoy. The twelve listed above are only a few of the plentiful opportunities the panhandle has for your vacationing family.