Panama City Beach is just east of South Walton beaches, across the bridge over Powell Lake. Though Panama City Beach’s wilder reputation is quite the contrast to the quiet towns that dot Scenic 30A, our neighbor to the east still shares the familiar emerald-green waters, sugar-white beaches and pristine waterways.
It’s also more diverse than you might think. Among the number of go-cart tracks, putt putt golf courses, t-shirt shops and oddities at the Ripley’s Museum are opportunities for those searching for elegance or natural beauty.
If you want to get away from civilization, Shell Island offers the perfect opportunity for seclusion on an unspoiled beach. Part of St. Andrew’s State Park, Shell Island is an uninhabited and undeveloped island to the east of Panama City Beach on the other side of the pass. Boaters and kayakers are welcome to explore the coves of Shell Island or ride over on a shuttle service offered by a number of companies. The west side of Shell Island is also a popular surf spot when the waves are up and start to break inside the channel.
There are lots of charter fishing boats that leave daily for the Gulf, and return loaded with sea critters. Leave from the marina next to the legendary Captain Anderson's Seafood Restaurant, and when you return, if you're too tired to clean and cook your own fish, step inside for a seafood feast.
Pier Park has quickly become the heart of shopping and entertainment in the area with 124 stores, including anchor stores Target, Dillards and JCPenney. There are many dining and entertainment options, not to mention the Grand 16 IMAX Theater with wall to wall screens and high back rocking chairs.
A welcome part of Panama City Beach is the Aaron Bessant Park Amphitheater, which is a towering entertainment venue that includes a stage 60-feet across and 40-feet deep. It has made Panama City Beach the new home to the very popular Seabreeze Jazz Festival, and opened the way for larger events and performances to visit the area.
The Russell-Fields Pier, also known as the City Pier, is located across the street from Aaron Bessant Park, Panama City Beach's premier festival spot. The beach is wide and open in both directions, so there should be plenty of room to find a good spot. There's usually a good crowd though, so it's not a bad idea to get there early. Fishing license is included in the pier admission fee.