View our list below of some Panama City free things to do! The Panama City area in the panhandle of Florida offers beautiful beaches and multiples waterways. You will find this area along the waters of the Gulf. Below are some of our tops picks for this part of Florida for under $10. Don’t forget to view our interactive map at the bottom of the page to help you find some of the great locations listed.
1. St. Andrews State Park & Pier – $4-$8 per vehicle
On the coast of Panama City you can find St. Andrews State Park. The park is open daily from 8am – sundown. With St. Andrews Bay on one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other, there are numerous things to do in this park. Whether your into wildlife viewing, swimming, snorkeling or surfing this park has it all. There is a long fishing pier on the grand lagoon that is a staple for local fisherman. Forgot something? No need to panic, there is a park store for supplies (even ice cream)! If you have a furry friend with you, dogs are allowed in the picnic areas, on the trails, and in the campground. That’s right, there’s even a campground in case you don’t feel like leaving!
2. Center for the Arts – Free
In historic downtown Panama City nestled on the corner of Harrison Ave and 4th St. you will find the Panama City Center for the Arts. The building was built in 1925 and is owned by the city of Panama City. It is an art gallery but also so much more! At the Center for the Arts you can find everything from basket weaving classes, summer camp classes for kids, competition art exhibits and more. In addition, there are community events, special events and all sorts of classes held at the Center. Stop on by to see what going on. Note: the center is closed on Sundays and Mondays.
3. Camp Helen State Park – $4 per car
Located on the far western edge of Panama City Beach sits Camp Helen State Park. This 185 acre park has 5 different nature communities throughout. There are scrub oaks, flatwoods, basin swamp, depression marsh and marine substrate. The park is bordered by water on 3 sides. Home to Lake Powell, it is one of the only coastal dune lakes in the world! When the water get high enough the lake spills over into the Gulf of Mexico and creates a channel of brackish water. You can nature walk, beach comb, nature study and fish both salt and freshwater. There are prehistoric mounds in the park which suggests humans were in the area more than 4,000 years ago!
An honor box will collect your fee of $4 a car or $2 for pedestrians. If you want to splurge, you can rent a kayak or a stand up paddle board from Friends of Camp Helen Kayak Rentals right inside of the park.
Another one of the best Panama city free things to do is the award winning Panama City Beach Winery. “Home of the citrus, berry and fruit wines.” All wines here are made in the sunshine state and have won awards. Panama City Beach Winery is proud to be the only tropical winery in Bay County, Florida. Make sure you stop on by for daily wine tastings and maybe grab a gift for someone special.
5. Panama City Beach Aquatic Center – $8 adults, $5 kids
Located in Frank Brown Park you can find the Panama City Beach Aquatic Center. This is a state of the art aquatic facility. It has a 50 Meter Olympic size heated/cooled lap pool with a 1 meter springboard. It also has a spacious 5,000 square foot splash park. There are large locker rooms with heated showers, a classroom, giftshop and a concession stand. The aquatic center offers swim lessons and exercise classes.
6. Beaches – Access is free, but parking may not be
There are over 90 access points to beaches in the Panama City area, so plenty of shoreline for everyone! The trick to securing a budget friendly place on the beach is to make sure to arrive early and find your parking space. There are several areas where you can park for free, but other have a small charge.
Public Parking Areas in Bay County:
- MC Miller County Pier, 12213 Front Beach Road – Free Parking, $3 fee to walk the pier, $6 to fish
- Rick Seltzer Park, 7419 Thomas Drive – Free
- Pier Park/Russell-Fields City Pier (16101 Front Beach Road) – Free parking, pier has $3-$4 fee for adults. Fishing Gear can be rented here as well.
Free street parking:
- Street parking on Front Beach Road between Southfields Road and Shasta Street (beach access 92 & 93)
- Street parking in Sunnyside on FBR between S Lakeview Drive and Belaire Drive (beach access 85 & 86, with also what appears to be multiple trails)
- Various street parking in Laguna Beach on FBR between 12th Street and El Reposa Place (beach access 76 & 77, with also what appears to be multiple trails)
- Two parking lots near the intersection of Joan Avenue and Surf Drive behind Ms. Newby’s at 8711 Thomas Drive (beach access 23 & 24)
- Parking lot along Choctaw Street (beach access 16)
- Street parking on Crescent Drive (beach access 12)
- Street parking on Luff Street (beach access 11)
- Parking lot next to Treasure Island Resort at 5004 Thomas Drive (beach access 3A)
- Parking lot in front of Shore Shack Pizza at 4900 Thomas Drive (beach access 2 & 3)
- Parking lot behind Patches along Hispaniola Street (beach access 1)
City of Panama Beach Paid Parking areas – $2 per hour or or $12 for 24 hours:
- 9941 Thomas Drive
- 600 Henley Drive
- and 11209 Front Beach Road.
7. Pitt and Sylvan Springs – Free
Looking for a relaxing place to cool off and enjoy the day? The newly renovated Pitt and Sylvan Springs along the Econfina Creek is a good choice. This 10 acre park has 3 pavilions with tables, picnic tables and grills. There are boardwalk trails throughout the park that lead to the Sylvan Springs overlook area. There you can see the spring bubble up in 3 places, releasing more than 10 million gallons of spring water every day! The springs are great for picnics, snorkeling, floating or just relaxing.
There is also a 1 mile long connecting trail leading to Williford Spring. The park has a newly renovated canoe launch dock and separate tube dock. There is no tube or canoe/kayak rental at the park so bring your own or just off Strickland road there is a outfitter that you can rent from that offers a shuttle service that will pick you up after your paddle and bring you back.
8. Gayle’s Trails
Gayle’s Trails are a series of walking and biking trails around Panama City Beach. Frank Brown Park is the central hub for the trail system and has 3 loops that measure just over a mile. Those who are looking for a longer route can leave the park and go almost 20 miles without covering the same terrain twice. This is an ongoing project by the city but the 2 main portions of the trial are paved and done, even the smaller sections of trail are still usable, they just might not be paved yet. These trails are perfect for cycling, jogging or walking. It is a healthy and fun way to get around town!
Bonus: Shell island – Free if you have boat
Shell Island is an undeveloped natural preserve that makes up the southern part of St. Andrews State Park. It is a 7 mile long barrier island and beach with pristine white sands and beautiful clear blue waters. The island is only 3/4 of a mile at its widest and narrows down to 200 yards. You can explore, picnic, snorkel, kayak, or just lay around and work on your tan.
The waters that surround the island have some of the highest populations of bottle-nose dolphins in the world so there’s a good chance you will get to see some of these wild dolphins up close. The beaches are home to conch shells, sand dollars, moon snails, olive shells and many more. You can take shells home with you as a souvenir, but just make sure there are no creatures living in them! There is no entrance fee to the park but remember, it is an island so you will need a way to get there. Pontoon boats, tour boats and jet skis are popular ways to travel to and from the island.
Hope you enjoyed our list of Panama City free things to do! Below is a map of the various locations in the area to visit. Looking for more to do in Florida? Visit our page on Tallahassee.