These are the best things to do in Florida’s Panhandle. Boasting unspoiled natural beauty and family-friendly attractions, visitors who want to explore the laid-back towns and quaint beachside communities in Florida’s Panhandle are in for a treat. Perfect for those looking for a quiet holiday getaway, this area is home to some of Florida’s most picturesque landscapes away from the hoards of tourists.
The Florida Panhandle stretches from the state capital of Tallahassee in the east to Pensacola in the west. In between are long stretches of beautiful beaches, turquoise warm water, and plenty of fun things to do.
Here are the absolute best things to do in Florida Pan-Handle:
1) Tallahassee: Home to state capital and university
2) Marianna: Best for scenic routes and seafood
3) Panama City Beach: Best for miles of beach & family entertainment
4) Grayton Beach State Park: The most Picturesque beach town
5) Gulf Coast Islands: sandy beaches, scenic drive & warm water
6) Destin: Emerald Coast with turquoise water
7) Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park
8) Fort Walton Beach: beaches, parks, and museums
9) Pensacola: The City of Five Flags, Ft Pickens
10) Naval Air Station & Museum: home of the Blue Angels
One of the most idyllic places to explore in Florida’s Panhandle is St. Andrews State Park, a beautiful barrier island that is considered a nature lovers paradise. Its soft, white sand beaches offer an uncrowded shoreline, while the emerald green waters are the perfect place to go swimming, snorkeling, paddle boarding, kayaking, and fishing. Take a water shuttle to Shell Island, where an undeveloped seven-mile stretch of paradise awaits you.
1. Tallahassee: Home to State Capital and University
Tallahassee is home to the state capital and university. Head to the Tallahassee Museum to admire its fascinating exhibits, see hands-on demonstrations, and explore its scenic nature trails in 52 acres of untouched wilderness. Nestled next to Lake Bradford, you can even soar through the cypress swamp on a zipline adventure. Watch demonstrations that range from quilting to blacksmithing, then walk through the 1897 Concord School where freed slaves were taught, while the elevated platform offers views of bald eagles, alligators, and river otters.
2. Marianna: Best for Scenic Routes and Seafood
Marianna is located in the North-west area and it is full of charm. One of the most unique state parks in Florida, the Florida Caverns State Park in Marianna features damp caves loaded with limestone stalagmites and stalactites rising and dripping from its ceilings, which took millions of years to form. Take a tour of the caves, then spend the rest of the afternoon fishing, boating and canoeing at the nearby Blue Hole spring and paddling along the Chipola River.
3. Panama City Beach: Best for Miles of beach & Family Entertainment
Located in Panama City, Shipwreck Island Waterpark is a family-friendly attraction that is a perfect escape from Florida’s summertime heat. It’s been operating for over 30 years, testing the courage of thrillseekers with its exciting slides. Venture to the Tree Top Drop to find two slides coming off a 65-foot tall platform that drops into a gripping free-fall slide, hop on a float and cruise the lazy river, or zip line off a 17th-century sailing ship into a lagoon pool.
4. Grayton Beach State park: The Most Picturesque
Grayton Beach is an outdoor person’s dream. Lined with boutique shops and art galleries. The area’s biggest highlight is Grayton Beach State Park, one of Florida’s most picturesque beaches that features emerald green waters that are perfect for a swim. Outdoor adventurers can go kayaking on the two rare coastal dune lakes, or hop on a bike to explore the scenic trails
5. Gulf Coast Islands: Best for Sandy Beaches, Scenic drive, and Warm water
Head to St. George Island State Park to discover a nature haven nestled against the Gulf of Mexico. A perfect destination for nature lovers and families with kids, you can spend an afternoon here riding a bike along the 17 miles of paved trails, spotting over 300 types of birds along the nature trail, or setting up a blanket and soaking up the sunshine on the soft sand. If you want to see the area from a different perspective, take a guided boat tour to spot dolphins frolicking in the water or hop in a kayak for a sunset cruise of the area.
6. Destin: Emerald Coast with Turquoise Water
Destin beach, located on the Florida panhandle, is part of the Emerald Coast that is named for the blue-green emerald color of the water in the ocean. The Destin area encompasses Fort Walton Beach, Destin, and Miramar Beach.
To get to Destin you can fly into the small airport at Fort Walton Beach or the larger one in Pensacola, an hour’s drive away. From the Pensacola International Airport, you will need a car to get around the area. Alternatively, the majority of vacationers arrive by car coming from the nearby states: Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas!
The main thing to do in Destin is hang out at the beach. The clear water is calm and perfect for swimming, especially if you’re in Destin with kids. Other than swimming and sunbathing, you can also charter fishing boats or go to the fishing pier. Many residents play golf and tennis! In addition, there are lots of shopping centers in the Destin area. From beach gear superstores to outlet malls to high-end outdoor shopping plazas, there is something for everyone.
The most well-known resort in the area is the Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa. However, there is no shortage of condominium complexes and vacation home rentals. During the spring and summer high seasons, most rentals will ask for a one-week minimum, starting on Saturdays.
Destin is the perfect beach destination for families looking to spend quality time together, enjoying the white sand beaches and the sunny Florida skies.
7. Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park
Known as a hotspot for manatees seeking refuge in the winter, Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park is a picturesque area to explore throughout the area. You’ll find one of the largest and deepest freshwater springs in the world here, with a 6,000-acre park that sits atop a maze of underground caverns. Its roped-off swimming area is great for cooling off, where you can do a cannonball off a two-story tower or relax on the sunbathing platforms.
8. Fort Walton Beach: Best for beaches, parks, and museums
Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park in Fort Walton Beach has been entertaining marine life enthusiasts since 1955. The historic aquarium offers visitors a chance to observe Atlantic bottlenose dolphins, feed penguins, or say hello to spunky sea lions and seals. Kids will delight at the chance to touch stingrays, while a Kids Reptile Safari offers a gentle introduction to wildlife such as turtles, lizards, snakes, and alligators.
9. Pensacola: The City of Five Flags, Fort Pickens
Located in Pensacola Beach, Fort Pickens is one of the only forts to remain in the hands of the Union through the Civil War in Florida. Sitting at the end of a long stretch of beach in Pensacola sits the United States military fort, where you’ll find a 19th-century landmark rich in history. Take a stroll through the officer’s and prisoner’s quarters, the mine chambers, and the interior gunrooms. Climb atop the cannon, and admire the old brick walls and low arches.
10. Naval Air Station & Museum: Home to the Blue Angels
The world’s largest Naval Aviation museum and one of the most-visited museums in Florida, the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola features 150 beautifully restored aircraft. Showcasing the Naval Aviation’s rich history, you can explore exhibits and more than 4,000 artifacts that highlight the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard Aviation. Experience Flight Simulators, watch a video on the Giant Screen Digital Theatre, and pick up a unique souvenir at The Flight Deck Store.
Let me know how many things you will get to do when you visit Florida Panhandle next.
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