Florida’s northwest corner’s translucent green-blue water earned it the nickname “Emerald Coast,” and Panama City Beach’s nearly 20 miles of golden sand put it atop best beaches lists every year. St. Andrews State Recreation Area on the eastern tip of the city offers one of most serene spots in the state. Hop a ferry from here to Shell Island for some of Florida’s best shelling.
The Panhandle’s protected coast and temperate climate make it a magnet for golfers, boaters and outdoor sports enthusiasts. Econfina Creek is one of Florida’s most beautiful canoe trails and is just right for beginners. Anglers can fish from the dock or head to the marina to book a deep-water excursion. Or strap on a colorful parachute for parasailing behind a motorboat.
There’s a bit of a carnival atmosphere to Panama City Beach’s downtown strip, which makes it a major draw for families (as well as the collegiate spring-break crowd who descend in March and April). Even if the arcades and T-shirt shops don’t appeal to you, there’s always miniature golf courses, Shipwreck Island Waterpark and the dolphin and alligator shows at Gulf World Marine Park.